Monday, May 27, 2013

Chaos Walking short stories

The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness is one of the best series I have ever read. It is both action packed and full of raw emotion; it makes you think about life as it is and how it could be. The writing is amazing, and the characters all dance in the shades of gray between good and evil. In a word, BRILLIANCE.

If you haven't already read this series, get on it as soon as possible! The books are called The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men.

If you have already read this series, here's some exciting news! Patrick Ness has written new short stories to go with the new editions of the series. The first is called The Wide, Wide Sea is set in the past and is about Mistress Coyle, and Snowscape is a story that takes place after Monsters of Men about Wilf and Lee. There's also a prequel to the series called The New World (this one has been published for a while). You can get the stories for free here. Happy reading!


Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Legend

Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: YA, science fiction, dystopian

Rating: 5/5 stars


I was feeling a little down one week, wandering aimlessly around campus, when it hit me that the best way to cheer me up was probably to get my hands on a book. There were a lot of books I could have chosen to buy, but I picked this one up because I had heard many good things about this series and I've always been a sucker for dystopian novels and science fiction. I wasn't disappointed.

Legend takes place in a future where people take a test at age 10; either they pass and are assigned to a position in the military or the elite, or they fail and are sent to labor camps. The United States is part of a mythical past, now separated into the Republic and the radical Colonies. The Republic is at war with the Colonies and the rebellion they stand for, but things aren't going so well on the home front. Plague threatens to wipe out the population, especially the poor who have no access to vaccines. 

June is the genius who is the only one to pass the examination with a perfect 1500. Day is the notorious criminal whom no one has seen and know one knows the identity of; he's a blight on the Republic's immaculate plan for its society, and the military will do anything they can to stop him. In an interesting turn of events, one of Day's robberies goes wrong and ends up leaving one person dead. That person just so happens to be June's older brother and guardian, Metias. June swears to avenge her brother's death, but along the way she discovers that there are secrets and sinister motives she never imagined.

I really enjoyed the fast-pace of the book and the way it rapidly shifted between June and Day's perspectives. Both characters were incredibly smart, and it was refreshing to see their witty interactions as they played cat-and-mouse. Both characters had a lot of courage and loyalty, and they grew quite a bit as the story progressed. The fast pace kept things suspenseful, and I raced through this book. It may not have been very long, but I still felt this novel had impact.

I also liked the darker element to the novel. Some of the secrets are a bit expected (having read Atwood's The Year of the Flood and Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl, I don't think any novel can make things more shocking or disturbing), but they are still very sinister.[Show Spoiler]

This isn't my favorite dystopian novel; not by a long shot. It's still a fun, fast, intelligent read, and I enjoyed it. It got me out of my sadness slump, so I suppose I will always remember this book fondly. I'm looking forward to continuing this series!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: Perception

Title: Perception
Author: Lee Strauss
Genre: YA, Science fiction

Rating: 1/5 stars





I hate giving books one-star ratings - there is usually a lot of work that goes into writing a novel, and I try to respect that by trying to look for something I liked or at least appreciated in what I'm reading. Unfortunately, I didn't find that something in this book.

The premise seemed right up my alley. Zoe Vanderveen is a genetically altered person (a GAP - cheesy name, but I can overlook that) whose brother goes missing. After a rather sinister turn of events, Zoe is no longer sure who to trust and who to believe. She ends up relying on Noah Brody, a "natural" whose grandfather initially collaborated with hers to create the concept of GAPs, but spoke out against it for ethical reasons.

All of this sounds quite intriguing, but the novel itself failed to deliver. The characters were very flat, and I could not find any redeeming qualities in Zoe. Not only was she naive, she was terribly vain. She is condescending and intolerant of people and cultures that don't fit the supposedly superior "blonde hair blue eyes" theme; at one point she mentions how surprised she is that people still find her attractive when she has brown hair and brown eyes. Everything about her was very superficial; she was constantly tossing her blonde hair or fluttering her eyelashes in hopes of getting people to do what she wanted. If all else failed, she'd offer money from her endless financial resources to get the job done. I wouldn't have been bothered so much by Zoe if she had grown or become less vain and superficial as the story progressed. Although she mentions towards the end of the book, "I'm not like those girls. I've changed!", it's clear that she hasn't. She still thinks she can use her pretty face and cash reserves to get things done, and is still heavily influenced by the stereotypes and behaviors she claims she has abandoned.

None of the characters really had much depth. Liam disappears, and the parents are numb but don't really do anything to help the situation or comfort their daughter. Zoe grieves for two seconds before deciding to find out what happened to her brother. Jackson had a major hand in Liam's fate, and his revelation is a 30 second conversation with Zoe. No shock, no raw emotion, no depression, nothing! There were a lot of chapter endings that seemed very abrupt. Someone would say something offhand, and then the chapter would end. There was not much sense of an emotional impact or rising tension, and the consequences of what people do are hardly touched on.[Show Spoiler]

I felt that the change in POV towards the end of the novel was unnecessary. Again, there was so much potential in this situation, but instead it became a creepy guy kidnapping the girl he supposedly loves (I say "supposedly" because he decides to go after her by throwing a dart and seeing if it hits the mark...). As I mentioned earlier, there was no real sense of consequence or emotional trauma. Noah does some creepy stuff and Zoe magically believes all the stories he tells her.

Finally, the science and faith debate seemed very contrived. Rather than showing multi-layered viewpoints or presenting questions for the reader to answer for themselves, the novel's take on the debate was a series of five sentence conversations. The conclusion of these appears to be something along the lines of "You may be genetically engineered but you still have a soul and I love you!"

This novel could have used with some more editing as well; I caught a couple of misplaced punctuation marks. 

I'm very disappointed in this book because it had so much potential but did not deliver.

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review*

Friday, May 17, 2013

Laini Taylor's new book!

I'm so excited! The title for the third book in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy has just been released. There's no cover art yet, but there is this teaser:




For those of you who haven't started this series, now is as good a time as any! The first book in the series, Daughter of Smoke, follows the story of the blue-haired girl Karou and how not all is what it seems in her world. The second book is Days of Blood and Starlight, and is much darker but also much more complex and magical. If you enjoy stories that include magical creatures (seraphim and chimaera, in this case), humor (Zuzanna!), lots of love and friendship, war in all its horrific glory, betrayals, mysteries about the past, romance, and  above all utterly gorgeous writing, you will love this series. There is so much complexity to this world and to these characters, and the detail and care with which Laini Taylor has created this story blows me away.

Here is what the author has to say about the new book (spoilers for the end of Days of Blood and Starlight, for those of you who haven't read it yet):

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can fans expect from Dreams of Gods & Monsters?
LAINI TAYLOR: Dreams of Gods & Monsters picks up where Days of Blood & Starlight leaves off, and you can expect to see: seraphim in the human world (which will never be the same again), scientific excavation of “the pit”, enemy armies trying to fight side by side, the possibility of love rekindling, and … new threats that make Jael seem but a minor nuisance. At the barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of?

(Go here for more)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: Clockwork Princess


Title: Clockwork Princess
Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: Historical fiction, YA, steampunk, fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5



This was a very satisfying end to the series. Everything I enjoyed about the first two books was still there in this one, and the characters grew on me more and more as the series progressed. I loved the Victorian setting and the love and loyalty all the characters had for one another. It's rare that all the characters treat one another with such compassion and respect, and I was moved by how much people were willing to sacrifice for people they loved. Although Tessa, Will, and Jem were wonderful, I felt like the minor characters were the stars of the show. I got to see a lot more of Charlotte and Henry, Gabriel, Gideon, Magnus, and Cecily.

I really appreciated how the focus of the novel was friendship and family. Although Tessa and her little love triangle was a big part of the series, I felt like the friendship between the three was more important, especially the parabatai bond between Will and Jem. Both the guys loved each other to death, and that made this love triangle work - it wasn't just two completely different guys who hated each other/avoided each other/were jealous of each other fighting over a girl. Charlotte and Henry's relationship was adorable, and I loved Henry's well-intentioned but often mishap-inducing inventions. [Show spoiler]. I thought Gideon's scone incident was the sweetest thing ever, and Gideon and Gabriel's letters made me laugh out loud. There were just so many moments in this book where I'd just smile to myself because someone just did something remarkably endearing. I want to hug all these characters!

The reason I didn't give this book five full stars was that I felt like it focused a bit too much on personal lives and not so much the big picture. Don't get me wrong - I loved the little moments and the relationships and dynamics between each of the characters , but I wish there had been a bit more urgency throughout the book. I felt like Mortmain disappeared for half the book, and then suddenly it was giant predicament that cannot possibly be solved except for the giant realization that someone in the group has superpowers! Well, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but that bit was hard to swallow.
I still can't decide if I like that ending or not. [Show spoiler].

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The 5th Wave

Title: The 5th Wave
Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: YA, science fiction, dystopia, post-apocalyptic

I haven't actually read this book yet, but it sounds amazing!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Doesn't this sound terrifying in a wonderful, spine-tingling way? Just reading that synopsis makes my heart beat faster with anticipation.

It gets even better! The Midnight Garden is hosting a giveaway of The 5th Wave. You can find the link here:
http://www.themidnightgarden.net/2013/05/the5thwave.html

This book was just released this week. Go forth and get your hands on it!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: A Storm of Swords

Title: A Storm of Swords
Author: George R.R. Martin
Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars



As I said in my review of A Game of Thrones, I stepped into this series with some trepidation. I wasn't sure I would like it, because usually when half the world is in love with something, I'm in the camp that isn't all that impressed. While I was pleasantly surprised by the first book, each successive book has been slightly less enjoyable. By the end of A Storm of Swords, I have decided that I am probably not going to continue this series.

It's not that this book is terrible so much that everything I liked about the first book is absent. One of the reasons I really liked the first book was getting to know the characters, especially the Starks. And well, let's just say there aren't very many Starks around anymore. This wouldn't bother me so much if so many other people weren't also dead. I feel like this book just cut the list of major characters in half, and hardly gave importance to characters whose stories I wanted to hear. Instead, I got long-winded stories about characters I once liked, but now no longer connect with (Jon Snow and Arya, that means you). I did like seeing things from Jaime's perspective, because he's not quite the monster he has been made out to be by everyone so far. I also thought Sansa's story took an interesting turn, and she has grown so much since the first book. Still, the number of disappointments far outweigh the good parts.

Another complaint I had was that the plot was very convoluted. While there were many points of view in the first two books, the plot kept moving and every chapter moved the story as a whole forward. In this book, there were a lot of unnecessary or weak chapters that either showed what I already knew from a different perspective or didn't go anywhere. There is so much happening with so many people that many stories take a giant back seat to others. I wish there had been more of Bran and Daenerys in this book, and less of Jon Snow and Tyrion. I do like Tyrion's chapters, because they are always interesting and unexpected, but I really don't think he should be the focus of the novel.

I distinctly remember saying about the first book that while the women were pretty messed up and weak, the men were flawed too and so I did not take offence on the feminist front. This book made me pretty angry though - almost all the women are pawns who are manipulated (usually through political marriages) or forced to do things they don't want to do. The women were objectified and used, and the men just went about their business as if it was perfectly normal to do so. Yup, I'm definitely offended now.

The last straw for me was the epilogue. People who are dead should stay dead - it's a major pet peeve of mine when people come back to life (be it zombie, spirit, or other form).

Perhaps if these books weren't so long, I would consider finishing this series, but seeing as I have four 1000+ page tomes (two of which won't be published for quite a while), I think I will just end things here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Clockwork Princess

I finally got my hands on the final book of the Infernal Devices trilogy! I'm excited - this is probably the first and only steampunk series I have liked, and the characters are just so lovable. I have my fingers crossed that this series ends on a good note (cough cough Mortal Instruments cough).

I'm about halfway through, and I really like all the forms of love and friendship are portrayed in this book and this series as a whole. People have such love for those around them, and they are willing to sacrifice so much for each others' sakes. There is a sort of quiet strength and courage to many of the characters, and hidden kindness in even the outwardly callous.

Also, can I just say that I love how there's an epigraph at the beginning of each chapter quoting Victorian literature? They are so fitting and poetic, and I really love this time period.

I hear the ending is heartbreaking and bittersweet. So far, the whole book has kind of been that way, so I can't even imagine how it could become moreso. I will find out soon!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Storm of Swords

I'm reading the third book in the Game of Thrones series (technically, I suppose it's the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, but I think you know what I mean), and it's taking quite a bit of effort to finish this thing. The first book was very fast-paced, shocking, and intriguing; the second book was a little slower and had more tiresome politics, but it was entertaining enough. The third book is just dragging.

I'm not sure I want to continue this series anymore, because most of the characters I liked in the first book are either dead, in pitiful/pathetic situations, or no longer very likable. And while I said I didn't take much offense at the supposed misogynistic slant of the first book because both the men and the women were messed up, it's starting to shift so that the women are becoming more and more like pawns and possessions of the men.

I'm about halfway through Storm of Swords, so I will see if this series is worth continuing. For some reason, I never see it as a waste of time to leave a series half-finished. There was definitely some entertainment value in the first two, so I don't think it's a total waste of my time to abandon the rest of the books.


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