31 May 2012

ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE - GABRIELLE ZEVIN

SUMMARY
Sixteen year-old Anya's parents have been murdered because her father was the head of a notorious underworld gang. Now she is determined to keep herself and her siblings away from that world. But her father's relatives aren't so keen to let them go. When Anya's violent ex-boyfriend is poisoned with contaminated chocolate - chocolate that is produced illegally by Anya's criminal family - she is arrested for attempted murder. Disconcertingly, it is the new D.A. in town who releases her from jail, but her freedom comes with conditions. The D.A. is the father of Win, a boy at school to whom Anya feels irresistibly drawn. Win's father won't risk having his political ambitions jeopardised by his son seeing a member of a crime family. She is to stay away with him. Anya knows she risks her freedom and the safety of her brother and sister by seeing Win again. Neither the D.A. nor the underworld will allow it. But the feeling between them is so strong that she may be unable to resist him...

REVIEW
All These Things I've Done is a fast-paced story about a family struggling with loss and the weight of reputation. Set about 80 years in the future the world is a vision of a dystopian future. Manhattan has become a grey, desolate wasteland where everything is rationed by vouchers, including water. It is more importantly about a loss of childhood; the three Balanchine children are forced to grow up quickly and understand everything that has happened to their family. It's a darkly humorous whirlwind through the life of a teenager who has to struggle with both the normal teen processes of falling in love, but also the adult burdens of being born into a dangerous criminal underworld.

Anya is the (now orphaned) daughter of a 'mafiya' crime boss who was murdered in his home. Her mother is also dead and she is now under the guardianship of her aged grandmother who is only being kept alive by machines until Anya is eighteen and able to take guardianship of her siblings: Natty, her younger sister, and Leo, her brother who has slight learning difficulties that means he is vulnerable and easily manipulated.

24 May 2012

GRAVE MERCY - ROBIN LEFEVERS

SUMMARY
Young, beautiful and deadly. Trained as an assassin by the god of Death, Ismae is sent to the court of Brittany, where she finds herself under prepared - not only for the games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death's vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart? This is a dangerous romance full of intrigue, poison and ultimately finding one's way.

REVIEW
Grave Mercy is the story of a girl bought from humble, abusive beginnings who is sent to a convent for the Daughter's of Death. Those that Death has somehow sired himself. These girls are then trained as Assassins, or 'Handmaiden's of Death' to kill upon their God's orders sent to them through the convent. I loved this concept! Although it wasn't quite what I expected when I read the Press Release sheet that came with this copy (i.e. a hooded grim reaper duelling with the main character in order to teach her how to use a sword) I wasn't that disappointed either.

The fact that it is an Historical novel I have now decided is a good move for YA and a direction that I originally was withdrawn about. I don't normally enjoy Historical stories that much, (not including Deborah Harkness' Shadow of Night, that's in a league of its own) but I really warmed to this. It's in the vein of Philippa Gregory and perhaps a younger version of Tracy Chevalier. The fact that it is set in the 15th Century means that it implies much about the treatment and abuse of women at the time, which may not make it completely suitable for younger teen readers. Obviously with Ismae as the main character the inclusion is necessary and adds historical depth.

I didn't initially like Ismae. I'd been shown the hard life she had come from but I still didn't warm to her straight away. I found her cocky and overconfident and didn't sympathise with her situation as much as I should have. However her character goes through an amazing journey and really does grown and develop, which is the sign of a great series in-the-making.

23 May 2012

THE PLEDGE - KIMBERLEY DERTING

SUMMARY
Words are the most dangerous weapon of all...Seventeen-year-old Charlaina knows she has exceptional but perilous powers. In the far future, in a land controlled by an aged and ruthless queen, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. Even acknowledging a member of the ruling class while they are speaking their native tongue is punishable by death. Charlie can understand all languages, a secret she must protect to stay alive. When she meets the alluringly handsome Max, who speaks in a language she hasn't heard before, she is intensely attracted to him. Max believes that Charlie is the key to something bigger and he pledges to protect her. But as war descends, can she trust him?

REVIEW
This is another book I've picked up in order to fuel my obsession with Young Adult Dystopian novels and, thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. The main gist of the story is that Charlaina, the main narrator, is born with the power to understand any language. This is especially significant as the story is set in a country that specifically rules its class hierarchies through language. It is also reminiscent of the story of Anastasia and the Russian Romanov family (without giving too much away).

The Pledge has a very easy narrative, and I absolutely flew through it. It wasn't perhaps the most exciting book I've read so far this year but it did keep me on my toes. It successfully did what any Dystopia should do - kept you guessing where the characters loyalties lay. Was Charlaina about to be taken advantage of and duped, or is she actually playing a smart game? Being able to understand anyone puts her in the best position for gaining information to use for her advantage.

16 May 2012

DEADLY HEMLOCK - KATHLEEN PEACOCK

SUMMARY
Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered. Since then, Mac's life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac's hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy's Killer: A white werewolf. Lupine Syndrome -- the werewolf virus - is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control and the Trackers are determined to stop those with Lupine Syndrome, at any cost. Unwilling to work with the brutal Trackers, but desperately wanting to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy's murder herself. But the deeper she delves into the mystery behind Amy's death, the more secrets she discovers lurking in the shadows of Hemlock. Secrets that should have been left untold. Secrets that will change her life forever.

REVIEW
I really liked the initial premise of this story; supernatural elements mixed with a murder investigation, but the actual story didn't really read like this. The blurb does fit it but makes it sound a lot more exciting than it is. I didn't really dislike the book, there wasn't a time when I didn't feel like reading through to the end, but I felt that it didn't take enough time to initially introduce the characters, and because of this I was regularly confused as to which of her many men Mac was talking to.

As a narrator and main character Mac is ok. And really, just ok. I didn't really care that much what happened to her. She seemed to spend a lot of time being blind to everything that was actually going on around her, especially the affection of the two main men in her life, Jason and Kyle. She jumps to conclusions that I felt were way ahead of the narrative, like going straight to the idea that her friend's girlfriend must be pregnant because she looked a bit bedraggled. I didn't feel like I had enough context about the couple to guess it (whether it is true or not) or to even look back and see the clues. I suppose what I mean is that I felt there were parts of the story that were missing, or unnecessary. 

12 May 2012

BEAUTIFUL CHAOS - KAMI GARCIS & MARGARET STOHL

THIS IS BOOK 3 OF THE CASTER CHRONICLES AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF THE FIRST TWO.

SUMMARY
Ethan Wate is in love with a caster girl. When he looks at Lena, it's like there's no one else in the world. But Ethan is mortal, and on her seventeenth birthday Lena made a choice that changed everything. The girl Ethan loves has broken the world with the supernatural powers she is struggling to control ...Now, if they are to fix the chaos Lena has caused, one of them must make a terrible sacrifice. Sometimes there isn't just one answer. Sometimes there's no going back. And this time there won't be a happy ending. This is the third installment of the spellbinding love story that began with "Beautiful Creatures".

REVIEW
I have loved this series from the beginning. Sometime a series can falter, stumble and fail as it gets this far in, but for me the Caster Chronicles just gets stronger. There are so many books where the characters lose their personalities and just become stock pawns for a standard storyline. This is where Beautiful Chaos sets itself apart. From the very first book the reader watches the characters change, evolve both mentally and physically without becoming unbelievable. The children have matured, the adults changed by emotions and events and they feel so real. So real that I care about them, to the point where I cried at the ending.

In this, the 3rd book in the series, Lena and Ethan must face the Eighteenth Moon, but who's it is is still in question. Since Lena's claiming went wrong the Order of Things has been broken and Gatlin has been in a state of looming Apocalypse. They must find a way to put things right. However, things are happening behind the scenes that neither Lena nor Ethan know about or can control. They must find out what their places are in the prophecy before they can make any changes.

10 May 2012

FATED - ALYSON NOEL

SUMMARY
Strange things have been happening to Daire Santos. Animals follow her, crows mock her, glowing people appear from nowhere. Worried that Daire's having a breakdown, her mother sends her to stay with the grandmother she's never met, who lives on the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico.There Daire crosses paths with Dace, a gorgeous guy with unearthly blue eyes. Her grandmother recognizes Daire's episodes for what they are - a call to her true destiny as a Soul Seeker, a person who can navigate between the living and the dead. Guided by her grandmother, Daire must be quick to learn how to harness her powers, because Dace's brother is an evil shape-shifter, out to steal them. Daire must embrace her fate as a Soul Seeker and discover whether Dace is the guy she's meant to be with ...or if he's allied with the enemy she's destined to destroy.

REVIEW
I wasn't the biggest fan of Noel's previous series, it felt naive and amateur, the writing a little weak, so I was weary when beginning to read this one. Actually, it was ok. I warmed to it more and more as the story evolved. The writing seemed brighter, stronger somehow. I found the characters more rounded, less stock pawns for the storyline and more like real people.

The basic storyline follows 17 year old Daire; a sweet girl, quite grounded and actually very likeable. Her mother, whom she refers to by her first name, Jennika, is a make up artist for Hollywood movies and therefore they both travel to wherever her skills are needed. When Daire starts to see grim visions she is sent to live with her grandmother in the town of Enchantment, New Mexico. 

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