29 February 2012

Angelfall by Susan Ee

Angelfall Bookplate

It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back. Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel. Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl. Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.
Angel books, they are so difficult to review. This one is especially hard. It had great pacing. It’s the kind of book that picks you up in the first chapter and you just can’t put it down until you get to the end and even then you want more. I loved how the plot slowed at just the right points to keep the reader wanting more, and sped up when it needed to but not so much that it left the reader behind. The climax is particularly well paced, with a series of mini-climaxes that hit at just the right spots. Even the cliffhanger ending is so well done that I’m not as mad about it as I am about some books. There is obvious resolution and yet also an obvious need for the characters to continue the story. The character development works well, too. I identified with Penryn almost immediately. She is resourceful, tough, and loyal to her sister. It is a little hard to contrast with her relationship to her mother, but I can see how her mother’s illness and history with Paige has made their relationship more strained. However, my major issue with this book is with the angels. Raffe is fully fleshed out as a character, but he doesn’t fit into the angel mythology. It’s very hard for me to believe that beings who are without sin can curse or be agnostic or be as aimless as the angels in the story. Even without the voice of God to tell them what to do I can’t believe that angels would go on a killing spree. And it is with the angel mythos that the worldbuilding fell apart for me. The angels just seemed too human, with human motivations and politics and pettiness. It’s as Penryn thinks in the book "The thought of superhuman beings with human temptations and flaws sent a chill through me." But angels are supposed to be different from humans. They’re not supposed to have human temptations and flaws. If Ee had claimed the angels were actually alien beings directed as an army and their communication with their home planet was cut off I think the story would have worked out. However, Ee takes all the angel mythology as it is and just takes out the part where angels cannot commit sin. For me, taking all the mythology as true except for one part and never mentioning why that one part is untrue just doesn’t work. If something is discarded from myth then it needs to be explained somehow. I’m sad that it wasn’t, because this was a really, really good book but that flaw ruined it for me. However, I will pick up anything that Ee writes and devour it because her writing is so superb, but it may be me over in the corner pouting and grumbling about angel mythos.

28 February 2012

Soul Thief / Forbidden by Jana Oliver


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.

WARNING: Review contains SPOILERS for The Demon Trapper’s Daughter (also published as “Forsaken”).

Another great book and a great sequel, I couldn’t wait to devour Soul Thief after I finished The Demon Trapper’s Daughter. Riley is a remarkably likeable character. Even though she has demons after her and some kind of huge destiny looming she still deals with things like bills, boy troubles, and the misogyny in the demon trapper guilds, and it makes her very relatable. And although bills and misogyny are problems for Riley this book slows down in order to really be all about the boy troubles. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of demon hunting, killing, and side issues for Riley to deal with. But I also like how the romantic plots developed along reasonable, realistic lines. I really liked how the realism wasn’t only a realistic relationship, but also realistic for a girl of Riley’s age. It seems that sometimes adult authors put too much of their current relationships into books and forget that when you’re a teenager romance is different and permanence seems like such a tenuous thing.

I liked the relationship with Simon. He seemed like a nice, normal boy that was safe and relatable for Riley. A relationship like that is something that every teen girl needs, and it’s nice to see her get in a few relationships before she finds that head-over-heels forever kinda love. I can really understand how Riley could see the forever kinda love staring her in the face and run away to a safe, boring relationship because she’s just not ready for commitment and scared of forever at that point in her life. I’ve been there, and even if Oliver has not she’s got the feelings and actions down well enough to make Riley very convincing at it. The ending to their relationship is also logical, and I like how Riley still has feelings for Simon while she’s also developing feelings for Beck and while Simon is having serious doubts about her (and trying his hardest to hurt her in the process in order to push her away). Beck is also great, you can see his conflict between his developing feelings for Riley and his desire to honor and avenge the memory of her father. Ory, though, I just don’t know about. Although he puts himself out as Riley’s protector there is something suspicious about him that makes me not trust him as a romantic interest. Perhaps it is because I suspect he is more supernatural than he lets on, and I just don’t want the series to turn into a demon/human or angel/human romance thing. I really like how romance isn’t a priority with Riley, and I hope the series continues to be about her problems with demon-hunting and her relationships only form a side-plot.

The only real problem I had with this book is the twist ending. It was brilliant move, totally in keeping with everything before it and yet entirely unexpected, but it makes me way too anxious for the next book! I’m also a little upset that the series is being republished under different names and covers, but that’s just because I like my book series to be the same and I’d rather not repurchase books just to get covers in the same theme. I may, though, if I ever get to see Jana Oliver again. I’m very glad she attended Dragon*Con last year because it made me pick up her books, and I only regret that I had to lecture myself during her signing in the dealer’s room and wasn’t able to get her to autograph the books. I’m rather sad that I can’t go back to Dragon*Con next year, because I seem to find the best books and authors by just walking through the dealer’s room or sitting in the Young Adult Literature track and hearing them speak about what’s good. I can’t thank them enough for Diana Peterfreund and Beth Revis, and now I also owe then for Jana Oliver. Hopefully soon WorldCon and Dragon*Con will diverge again and I will be able to come back.

Waiting on Wednesday: Loss by Jackie Morse Kessler

I'm going to start participating in Breaking the Spine's Waiting for Wednesday, where bloggers post about a book they just can't wait to get their hands on! 
Loss by Jackie Morse Kessler
March 20th 2012

Fifteen-year-old Billy Ballard is the kid that everyone picks on, from the school bullies to the teachers. But things change drastically when Death tells Billy he must stand in as Pestilence, the White Rider of the Apocalypse. Now armed with a Bow that allows him to strike with disease from a distance, Billy lashes out at his tormentors...and accidentally causes an outbreak of meningitis. Horrified by his actions, Billy begs Death to take back the Bow. For that to happen, says Death, Billy must track down the real White Rider—who is lost in his memories.

In his search, Billy travels through White Rider’s life: from ancient Phrygia, where the man called King Mita agrees to wear the White Rider’s Crown, to Sherwood Forest, where Pestilence figures out how to cheat Death; from the docks of Alexandria, where cartons of infested grain are being packed onto a ship that will carry the plague, to the Children’s Crusade in France—all the way to what may be the end of the world. When Billy finally finds the White Rider, the teen convinces the man to return to the real world.

But now the insane White Rider plans to unleash something awful on humanity—something that could make the Black Death look like a summer cold. Billy has a choice: he can live his life and pretend he doesn’t know what’s coming, or he can challenge the White Rider for his Crown. Does one bullied teenager have the strength to stand his ground—and the courage to save the world?

If you haven't been around here for long you can go back and read my reviews for the previous books in this series, Hunger and Rage.  Or you can trust me and go out and buy all three because they are simply AMAZING!!!

27 February 2012

The Shattering by Karen Healey


Seventeen-year-old Keri likes to plan for every possibility. She knows what to do if you break an arm, or get caught in an earthquake or fire. But she wasn't prepared for her brother's suicide, and his death has left her shattered with grief. When her childhood friend Janna tells her it was murder, not suicide, Keri wants to believe her. After all, Janna's brother died under similar circumstances years ago, and Janna insists a visiting tourist, Sione, who also lost a brother to apparent suicide that year, has helped her find some answers. As the three dig deeper, disturbing facts begin to pile up: one boy killed every year; all older brothers; all had spent New Year's Eve in the idyllic town of Summerton. But when their search for the serial killer takes an unexpected turn, suspicion is cast on those they trust the most. As secrets shatter around them, can they save the next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?
This was a very difficult book for me to read. The discussions of suicide survivors hit me very close to home, and the difficult topic overshadowed a lot of the book. I also come from a very small, dying town in Kansas, so the struggles of Summerton were very relatable as well. The other problems I had were with the plot line. The first half or so of the book reads like a contemporary YA book about suicide, something I usually avoid reading because I dislike it. There’s also a strong disjoint in the front of the book because the switching narration between the three lead characters and the tenses that are used (Keri is first person, Sione and Janna are third) that makes it harder to identify and relate to them and thus get invested in the plot. In the second half they discover magic and the book starts turning into a fantasy story. At this point I’ve seen enough of each person to become invested in Keri, Sione, and Janna despite myself and the story starts to move quicker. Although I won’t spoil the magic in the book I will say that I loved how it was a modern twist on a very ancient tradition and the permutation is as logical and relatable as it is chilling. This makes the plot a little predictable, but it’s well handled so it doesn’t feel as foreshadowed as it could. There are parts, however, where the plot seems to drag, and it really messes with the tension in the story because by the time the kids get to a mini-climax the section before has taken all the drive out so the climaxes seem like a laundry list of tasks, not a real climax. However, at the end my heart still bled for Keri, and I can’t really say why other than her first person narrative and her development made me feel for her, and that was the true gift of this book.

24 February 2012

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney


FREAK. That’s what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna’s own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma. When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.
This book was a fast read, and it was good but not great. I found the alchemy angle on magic kind of interesting. It is different to have magic that is crafted rather than learned or from an innate power. The plot had some good high points, but the pacing seemed really off and it could jump from very slow to very fast and full of tension without any ramp up which left me kind of distracted and alienated from what was going on.Donna is a well-crafted character, and I really felt for her when she felt alienated from her peers and had only Navin for a friend. Navin was a little two-dimensional to me, though, and Xan barely registered. The love between Donna and Xan didn’t really spark for me either. Xan seemed way too invested in Donna and got nothing really in return. I don’t like it when romances in books cause a character to make huge gestures of undying love that just can’t be present in such a short time. Perhaps that is because Xan was barely present in the book, and as they grow in subsequent books perhaps it will become more convincing. I at least hope that there doesn’t end up to be a Navin-Donna-Xan love triangle, but it doesn’t seem like Mahoney is setting that up. I will pick up the next book in this series and hope for the best.

21 February 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer


Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
There’s really only one thing I can say about this book: WOW! I loved every part of this cyborg retelling of Cinderella. The worldbuilding seemed more extensive than we got in the book, and what’s there is good: there are people on the Moon, they have strange powers due to generations living on the moon, people enslave cyborgs because they’re not really people, and there is a strange, deadly illness much like the boubonic plague going around killing people. In the midst of al l this, plus the threat of a war between the Earth and the Moon, the Prince must throw a coronation ball. Cinder the cyborg gets caught between all this. Cinder is a very intriguing character. Much like The Adoration of Jenna Fox this book forces you to think about where the line is drawn between human and machine. Cinder is a 36.28% cyborg. That means that the augmented leg, arm, and spinal cord she has from an accident as a child are 36.28% of her body. To the future society in Cinder this means she is a slave, purchasable and sell-able just like a full android. However, she has a brain, independent thoughts, and emotions. However, so do the androids around her. Does that mean they are human, even though the only part of them that came from a human is their programming, their personality chip? In a world like this can a prince even fall in love with a girl who is thought of as a machine? Will his country let him, politically? This book doesn’t answer all the questions, ending in a great cliffhanger for book 2, but I didn’t even mind that because I was so enamored with the rest of the book that I gave it a pass. Everyone should go out and get it today!

20 February 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson


Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.
I feel so sad that this book sat on my shelf for so long. I was finally encouraged to read it after seeing all the good reviews about it, and I’m so glad I did. This was an excellent book, one of the best reads of the year. Elisa is a very relatable princess. She wants to be a good person and a good ruler, but she was raised as the second to a perfect child and never taught how to rule or pushed to realize her potential. Combine that with the fact that she’s considered a treasure – the carrier of the Godstone – and you can see how she’s never struggled to do anything more than learn religion. When things happen, though Elisa learns that she has gifts too, gifts that can help her find value as a ruler and as a person. It is this basis on excellent character development and Carson’s worldbuilding that makes the book so good. There are other well-developed characters in the book (Cosme, Ximenia, Rosario) and some not-so-well crafted ones (Alexander, Arina). Since the cast of characters is huge, though, I excused this because it’s impossible to develop so many characters in detail. Speaking of the world, although I think it has fantasy climatology the development of the religious systems are very intricate and make the plots and issues surrounding Elisa more rich and believable. The plot follows well, using Elisa’s characterization as the driving force, and has many twists and turns. In fact, I feel like I picked up on a lot of clues that weren’t discussed in the book, like it is book one of an epic series (it may be, there is a sequel coming). My only problem in the book comes with Elisa’s character arc. In the beginning she is a sheltered princess who admits she is fat and likes food. As she gains a purpose, though, she grows skinnier and stops eating so much. I don’t think this is a good thing. There are so few overweight heroines for girls to look up to, I feel it’s a problem to tell girls that Elisa is only fat because she’s lazy, if you stop eating you will be skinny, and Elisa is only considered worthy when she is skinny (as a part of the skills she gains during the book). The rest of the book, though, is excellent, and worth reading.

14 February 2012

Blood Red Road by Moira Young


Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back. Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization. Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.
This book was hard to get into at first. I’m not sure where an Australian writer living in England learned an Ozark accent, but she had it down pretty well. That was really what was so harsh about this book: the voice of the narrator, Saba, is written in accent as if she was speaking to you. There are no quotation marks, only ‘But no I said.’ Add in the grammatical idiosyncrasies and a liberal dose of misspelled words and the result is a book that’s very difficult to get into since it’s not the way we’re used to reading books. As you read, though, the strangeness of the narrative voice forms a strong basis for the character and development of Saba. It turns from a strange way of writing to an quirk of the lead, something that shows where she came from and how much she has overcome to get to where she is. After I got over the narrative voice and started to appreciate it I found a really interesting story. Saba is harsh, uneducated, mean and unfair to her younger sister, and downright rude to most people. Somehow, though, we grow to love her anyway. I love how the narrator gives her a pet crow, Nero, from the beginning of the book. He is so loveable and smart that the reader can’t help but like Saba for his sake. Her quest to rescue her brother in the harsh, post-apocalyptic world drives the reader to look towards Lugh as well and forgive Saba of any small mistakes along the way. After all, she’s got bigger things to worry about than offending a crazy man on a boat. As Saba fights in gladiatorial battles I am still somehow rooting for her. After I met Jack I started rooting for him, too. The Free Hawks also get two thumbs up. I love a good tale of smart warrior women. In fact, I think the only thing I didn’t like was Saba’s treatment of Emmi. I loved seeing Emmi grow as a character, and even though Saba tried to deny it and hold her down as much as possible Emmi keeps rising to the occasion and showing that she’s got just as much grit as Saba does. There was also the problem with the Pinches. They didn’t seem incredibly realistic, and once you’ve reached the end of the books a lot of their actions seem insensible and illogical, making them seem more like plot devices than real characters. However, once I got past the language that is my only real complaint, which means this is an excellent story with no major drawbacks, a few different but equal examples of strong females, and an excellent romance story. I highly recommend it to everyone who can get past the writing style.

13 February 2012

Legend by Marie Lu


What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets. Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.
This book started out kind of confusing. It took me a while to catch on that we were switching perspective between Day and June, and not that June was secretly Day. That made it very confusing when talking about Day as a boy, I kept expecting them to reveal him as a girl in disguise even after I had gotten the Day/June part straight. However, even with that confusion I really liked this book. I really got into the character of June, she sounded so realistic, and I felt for her as she started having doubts and liking Day. I didn’t identify as much with Day’s point of view, but I never identify with male characters as much as females. Day did provide some much-needed exposition, and his point of view as a poor criminal was needed to show the dystopia for what it was. I liked that Day had a female friend that didn’t have any romantic relationship with him and that June didn’t really care, either. In fact I think this book is worth reading for the character’s relationships. June and Day have a very healthy relationship built on each others’ strengths and supporting the other’s accomplishments. Although June suffers from no-parent syndrome (a common trope in YA literature) her older brother Metias seems to encourage her more than shelter her, and only keeps secrets from her that he was keeping from everyone else, too. Even June’s relationship withThomas shows that the dystopia Lu has built has a very realistic gender parity, and although Thomas is power hungry and his attempt at a relationship is not good or healthy it is colored by the power differential of status, not gender. I did feel that although this aspect of the worldbuilding of Los Angeles was interesting the rest of the world seemed sparing, as if Lu only invented what she needed, but that could be because the book concentrated on characters and not place, or because to reveal to much is to spoil the future. Either way, I can forgive and I will be placing the sequel on my must be read list!

Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce


Collected here for the first time are all of the tales from the land of Tortall, featuring both previously unknown characters as well as old friends. Filling some gaps of time and interest, these stories, some of which have been published before, will lead Tammy's fans, and new readers into one of the most intricately constructed worlds of modern fantasy.
This anthology of short stories by my most favorite author ever, Tamora Pierce, came out early in 2011. With the Hugo awards coming up I wanted to be sure and review it because I will be nominating one of the stories for an award and I think other people should consider the stories when making their nomination choices.

Student of Ostriches: To be honest this story wasn’t one of my favorites, but I think that is because it is a reprinting of a story included in the Young Warriors anthology so I have had a few years to read and absorb it. I like the idea of following a female trying to become a Shang warrior, though, and it gives me hope that some day Pierce will write a set of books based on a girl (or even a boy) training to become Shang.

Elder Brother: This is the most intriguing story in the book. When Numair turns the rogue sorcerer Tristan into a tree in Wolf-Speaker he said that the rebound of the spell was that somewhere a tree turned into a man. Qiomis that tree. This story is the sad, funny, emotional tale of his first days learning to live not as a tree but as a man. It also introduces the harsh muslim-like culture that will feature in Hidden Girl.

The Hidden Girl: A story of a girl traveling with her preacher father and her attempts to educate women in religion just like her father educates her, and to take his place after he dies. This is a very interesting story to compare with current events in the Middle East and the efforts of women there.

Nawat: This is the story of Nawat Crow, the bird who took human shape for the love of a girl, and a story about that girl. Nawat and Aly have gotten married, you see, and Aly is about to have children. Told with Nawat’s voice, the story illustrates how difficult it was for the crows-turned-human to integrate their crow society into human society and how their animal instincts still cause them to do animal things like Nawat’s nesting and pestering of Aly before she gives birth. After the children are born Nawat is faced with a horrible choice, and the result is heart-rending no matter how you look at it. I will be nominating this story for a Hugo.

The Dragon's Tale: This was one of my favorite stories in the book. It is hard to remember that Kitten, Daine’s baby dragon companion, is a sentient being that just cannot communicate vocally yet. This story took Kit’s voice, which Pierce crafted as delightfully shrewd and yet playful, just the personality a baby dragon should have. I loved watching Kit work out how to accomplish her task, and although the end ing was a little deus-ex-machina it left me smiling.

Lost: This is the story of a girl with a gift for math. I liked how Pierce used the Tusiane society to parallel some of the things that girls face nowadays when they decide to put serious study into the maths and sciences. The introduction of new Darkings is also a delight as always.

Time of Proving: This story shows a great logic fallacy that I’ve always found funny: why does a rampaging dragon want virgin sacrifices anyway? In a funny story about a cloth merchant Pierce explores this common fairy tale trope with a fun new twist.

Plain Magic: I loved the premise of this story: who in the world thought that dragons needed a virgin sacrifice, and how stupid is that? Tonya is a great girl, and in the tradition of Pierce’s female leads she knows what she wants and figures out how to get things out of the way so she can have it. The old peddler, Lindri, also had me smiling with her practical manner and her kind demeanor.

Mimic: I thought this was one of the few so-so stories in the book. Perhaps that is because I didn’t really have a clear indication of where the book was set. It seemed to be in Tortall, but the dragons didn’t work in the same way, which confused me the whole way through the story (I had almost convinced myself that Mimic was a basilisk). It didn’t end badly, but my confusion left me feeling less than favorably about it.

Huntress: I downright disliked this story. The premise was nice: a scholarship teen tries to fit in with her rich private school classmates and is saved from bullies by the goddess her family worships. The way it worked, though, with kids killing homeless people and the goddess killing them in turn, seemed really unnecessary. It was too violent for my liking.

Testing: I’ve met Tamora Pierce. She is very short, very soft-spoken, and yet has very strong opinions and looks like she can be tough-as-nails when she needs to be. She reminds me very much of my grandmother who was also short, soft-spoken, and yet willing to wrestle a 3’ snapping turtle when necessary (yes, there’s video). This made the story Testing a lot more interesting to me. I could imagine the reactions to the mischiefs of the girls and see the twinkle in Pierce’s eye as she got them to come around. In all this book was great. I love seeing Pierce’s craft applied to shorter snippets of work. I also really liked getting some stories in a male voice, something I think Pierce does well but has been scarce in her book series. As I said above I was absolutely delighted with Nawat and I think it is one of the best stories to come out this year. I suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Pierce’s work or to someone who has heard of her and wants to taste her writing style.

08 February 2012

all these things i’ve done by Gabrielle Zevin


In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family. Engrossing and suspenseful, All These Things I've Done is an utterly unique, unputdownable read that blends both the familiar and the fantastic.
Throughout the book I identified most not with Anya, but with Scarlett. I like how she’s a loyal friend and is present throughout the book, not just as the plot needs her. That doesn’t mean that Anya is a bad character, though. On the contrary, she is smart and crafty, always thinking five steps ahead of everyone else and never giving in to impulse. I think this is why I didn’t identify with her as much as Scarlett because Anya seems to have super-human restraint, something that I don’t care for much. However, I like how Win is Anya’s only weakness, which makes her seem at least a little more human, and how he tries to win her over in a way that is not stalker-y or threatening but is sweet, patient, and normal for a teenage boy. I also like how he in the beginning he is willing to give up if that is what Anya wants, showing that Anya is not the beginning and end of his whole existence but just someone cool he would like to hang around with. The plot of the book is rather difficult to deal with. Anya lives in an apartment with her ailing grandmother, a mentally injured older brother, and a twelve year old sister. Add in the common YA trope that her parents are dead this makes Anya a wise-beyond-her-years teenager as well as caretaker of her family. I find it a little unrealistic, though. If Anya’s father was the mob leader and her grandmother is the mother of the current mob boss I don’t think the mob would leave the family alone as much as the Balanchines ignore Anya. It’s intimated many times that Anya’s maturity means she would be a much better mob boss, and I wish Zevin had explored this a little more in the book. Perhaps she’s saving it for a sequel. If she is I’ll be buying. This review was of an ARC I got through a YA blogger trade. I received no compensation for this review.

05 February 2012

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan


Seven half-bloods shall answer the call, To storm or fire the world must fall. An oath to keep with a final breath, And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death. Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa tol him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem - when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for and evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams. Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery - although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially infront of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely - enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart. Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes od Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.
This book marks the triumphant return of Percy Jackson to Rick Riordan’s books. Honestly, though, I think I’d rather have left him at the last series. While The Lost Hero had some life injected into it by the introduction of a new main character The Son of Neptune seemed to just be rehashing the same story from its previous book. I know that Percy is supposed to parallel Jason’s experiences at Camp Half Blood I think it would have made for a much better story if there was one book switching back and forth between the two perspectives rather than two books that read so alike. It is also a little disappointing that Jason’s friends parallel Percy’s: a token girl who has a fighting skill but is mostly a thinker who will provide exposition and keep Percy out of trouble, and a clumsy companion who will put Percy in trouble by bumbling into it. I really would have liked to see a more different set of companions to make the stories less obviously alike, especially since Greek and Roman mythology seem to mash together in most Westerner’s minds nowadays anyway. Putting my issues of parallelism beside, though, the book wasn’t bad. It was classic Rick Riordan book full of adventure and excitement that hides a good lesson in classical literature, history, and ancient religions. The characters develop in ways that readers can identify with them, and Riordan is good at writing a despair of loneliness into Percy. The plot once again centers on the character’s knowledge of mythology and clever problem solving as it does their brute force, and it has a fast pace that keeps things moving quickly past the expositional- and teachy-bits. In all, I think if you loved the Percy Jackson series you’re probably already reading this series, and if you were only so-so on the series you should skip over to Riordan’s Egyptology series instead of investing in this one because you will get a new and exciting world to play in.

03 February 2012

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett


Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety. So when a ship arrives one spring day, bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, Ariadne sneaks out to meet it. These newcomers don’t know the ways of Krete; perhaps they won’t be afraid of a girl who will someday be a powerful goddess. And indeed she meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more. Yet Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the Minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that "monster" is Ariadne’s brother . . .
This retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth is an interesting take on bringing the story to life. Theseus is the life of this book. I liked the description of how he came to meet his father and how the court twists his tale into a great heroic adventure. The need to get rid of him is also well done, and his character follows logically as someone who is more analytical then physical. Ariadne is an interesting character. Her longing for and yet fear of her future creates an interesting duplicity that helps to bring the character to life. Barrett well portrays her solitary position in the palace and why she might go looking for companionship amongst slaves. I really liked how Ariadne and Theseus don’t have a romantic relationship, as it made it easier for me to like Theseus since I knew that he ends up marrying Ariadne’s sister. Ariadne’s mother, She-Who-is-Goddess, is well portrayed as a woman with much religious power as well as being a Queen of her lands. My major problem with this book, though, is this religion. Like many of the “moon goddess” religions it seems scantily sketched out, stale and yet full of holes that are explained by calling them “mysteries”. The religion is such a heavy plot driver in many points, so its shallowness can make the plot seem contrived and, in places, slow. In fact, I think this whole book reads rather slow, like a history rather than an adventure story. I don’t know how, but it needs more life injected into it. Perhaps it is that the adventurous roles in Barrett’s books are held by the lead men and I just don’t connect with the male characters enough to get the thrill and excitement. Or perhaps it is just that I need to stop reading Barrett’s books, as they clearly aren’t for me and this second try at her work had the same result.

02 February 2012

New Hunger Games Trailer Y'all!!!

Still gives me chills and makes me tear up! I can't wait!

01 February 2012

Going Bovine by Libba Bray


Can Cameron find what he’s looking for? All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.
In a book less dark than her X series, Libba Bray creates a psychologically deep book that is also a very entertaining read. Going Bovine is full of the fantastic: a fairy/angel character as well as a talking yard gnome, and yet it could also be read as an entirely realistic contemporary fiction book. All these doubts in what is going on center around the narrator, Cameron. Cameron is a normal boy when he starts getting hallucinations. He finds out he has a rare form of Mad Cow disease and sets off to find someone who can cure him before he dies. Cameron is an (understandably) driven character in the book, a kid who still has some sarcasm left in him but is also overcome at many times with fear and longing for a normal life. His “imaginary” friends Dulcie and Balder, are well developed as well and you feel they are along for the ride for a purpose and have good reason to help Cameron. The plot moves well, with a few slow spots for exposition but mostly moving along nicely thanks to Cameron’s drive and softened by his sense of humor. The ending, though, is amazing. It feels like you have been watching a semi truck come towards you for what seems like ages only to be hit from the side by a bus right as you’re bracing for the semi’s impact. And it is a hell of a bus, too. Bray has us questioning what of Cameron’s quest was real and what was fake, and does it really matter what the difference is in the end? This is a great stand-alone book that deserves a thorough reading.