Friday, February 27, 2015

Stardust

Stardust is an adult fairytale by Neil Gaiman.

When the beautiful, unattainable Victoria states that the only thing Tristran Thorne could do to win her hand would be to bring her the star they watched falling from the sky – Tristran is determined to do it.

However, this means venturing beyond the relative normalcy of their village Wall and slipping into the unexplored, magical faerie land outside it.

Past the ancient wall that has guarded their town from the oddities and dangers of the enchanted realm, Tristran must keep his head as adventures and perils meet him that he could never have imagined…

Stardust
was my first Neil Gaiman book!

I’ve heard of Neil Gaiman forever – and being a lover of quirky, clever books I thought it was about time I tried him out.

I have to say – Stardust was a bloody, unique, adventurous adult fairytale that was quite interesting and very good. I wouldn’t say it was as FANTASTIC as I expected – but that could be partially because of my high expectations.

For example, I wasn’t terribly invested in Tristran – not to say I didn’t like him, I did.

However, Stardust was very enjoyable with a fresh twist and prose that swept you away to what felt like a fully realized faerie world.

I fully enjoyed Stardust with its romance, danger, creepy villains, inventive creatures and character advancement.

A good first foray into Neil Gaiman’s works, I would say. I also have a copy of his middle grade novel Coraline – which I’ll get to one of these days.

I am most certainly charmed enough in Gaiman’s writing style to read more – and possibly fall in love with time.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys)

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) is a YA contemporary novel by Amy Spalding.

Catching her best friend and bandmate Lucy with fellow bandmate Nathan caused a ripple of shock in sixteen-year-old Riley and Reid.

Suddenly painfully aware of their naiveté, lack of experience and romantic prospects, they strike a deal with each other. They will Make Something Happen and document their experience in a shared notebook.

While Reid struggles with insecurity and the moral issue of pretending to want to adopt a dog to spend time with a girl who works at an animal shelter, Riley tries to figure out how to make progress with cute, quiet, possibly slightly nerdy Ted Callahan.

Yet, when Riley is confronted with other cute boy options – how can she turn down the experience?

But is she getting in over her head?

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) was a modern, fun book with, at times, laugh-out-loud first-person, present tense narration.

Full of awkward brimming high school romance, loads of poor decisions and likable, approachable (so to speak) characters, it was very enjoyable to read – and definitely a quick read!

However, the twist with the notebook near the end, I felt, was pretty predictable from the get-go. I did appreciate the way the characters handled it – certainly more straightforwardly than in past versions of storylines like this.

Yet I still felt like Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) could have done without this particular twist – and kept the whole book more original.

Plus, as swoony and awesome as the end was – I did feel it was too fast and easy. Not to mention, I would have liked more focus on Riley’s fractured friendship with her friend Lucy than 97% romantic entanglements.

Don’t let these quibbles give you the wrong impression, though! Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) was truly an entertaining, great read – I just felt it may have been able to hit an even higher note, potentially.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Autumn Falls

Autumn Falls is a YA contemporary novel with a fantasy twist by Bella Thorne and Elise Allen.

After a tragedy strikes sixteen-year-old Autumn and her family, their planned move to Aventura suddenly seems less traumatic, though still terribly difficult.

Being the new girl with flaming red hair and a penchant for clumsiness, it’s not long before Autumn catches unwanted attention at her new high school.

However, she also makes friends and all would be improving if it weren’t for the fact that the uber-popular queen bee seems to have a target on Autumn’s back, due to the fact that cute, sweet Sean seems to be possibly interested in Autumn.

So, when Autumn begins to write her feelings into a journal from her late father and events begin to take place that seem eerily similar to personal wishes she’s jotting down… is it coincidence?

Or is this her chance solve all her problems?

Autumn Falls was a very quick read – and pretty entertaining!

I wouldn’t say it was terribly original – and I personally didn’t like the way Autumn even considered revenge with her “magical” journal – but it definitely entertaining.

As a fun, fluffy, easy read Autumn Falls succeeded – and I will likely read the follow-up novel. I can’t help but hope, though, that the plot trends more toward the mature or unique next time.

It actually – go figure – felt quite a bit like a Disney story, despite some older teen themes and occasional swearing.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mistborn

Mistborn is the first book in the high fantasy epic The Final Empire trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.

Sixteen-year-old Vin knows that you cannot trust anyone. Her mother tried to kill her. Her brother abandoned her. And now, in order to survive, she works with a group of poor Skaa thieves – the group leader utilizing her as a sort of “good luck charm”, due to her strange ability to be able to make people less scrupulous than normal.

Kelsier is a Mistborn that Snapped after a sequence of terrible incidents. Now he’s using his abilities and brash confidence to begin an uprising against the tyrannical thousand year reign of the Lord Ruler. But how do you get a people – the Skaa – to stand up and fight after they’ve no will to do so any longer?

When Vin meets Kelsier, her life dramatically changes. She is roped into their planned rebellion – a scheme that is so outlandish to Vin she can hardly believe they’re attempting it – and is told that these odd powers she has are actually the result of being one of the very few, very rare Mistborn.

Becoming part of something bigger than her – something with a purpose – is intoxicating.

Yet she can’t quite let go of the belief that no one is to be trusted…

Wow.

First off, this is a big book.

At over 600 pages, this is quite a start to a trilogy!

Brandon Sanderson has created fascinating, original concepts of magic – involving metals and “burning” them to utilize different abilities. Also, another type of magic too, that was only semi developed in Mistborn but is equally refreshing.

This hefty novel features likable, complex characters that are fully fleshed out and made to be three-dimensional. The plot is detailed and intricate with an engrossing slow build that allows the reader to witness every facet of a daring revolt in the works.

Definitely nerve-wracking. Definitely innovative. Definitely high-quality high fantasy.

And, golly, the twists!!!

When a book is as massive as Mistborn it needs to be good – and, thankfully, it was very good!

I will look forward to reading book two.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Night Circus

The Night Circus is a historical fantasy romance by Erin Morgenstern.

When Prospero the Enchanter is presented in 1873 with a surprise, young daughter – possessing natural magical ability that is as of yet untrained – he sees a perfect opportunity for a new game.

Reaching out another enigmatic man, they agree to terms and the competition selects a young orphan boy as his participator in the game.

The two children grow up knowing very little of what the game means – no rules or clear instruction is given – and their preparation of their magical skills are very different. They do not even know who their opposition is.

Then comes the venue: the night circus.

A stunning, black-and-white feat of the imagination, the adult Celia and Marco are placed in their prospective positions – with still no understanding of what is expected of them.

Yet it is a dark game – a game in which only one of the two can be left standing. They do not know this.

But as Celia and Marco begin to fall in love, the devastating results affect not only them – but everyone who cares about or is involved in the circus…

What a pitiful synopsis of such an exquisite book!

I had been waiting to read The Night Circus for what felt like forever!

There is a lot of hype surrounding it – which can be worrisome.

Yet, here, it did not hurt the novel at all – in my opinion.

Instantly, The Night Circus is mesmerizing and hypnotic – the phenomenal writing style bringing about a tone that is disturbing, ethereal, gorgeous and extremely visual. It is imaginative and transporatative – pulling us into this era, this place of magic and secrets, of love and hope.

Erin Morgenstern created a novel that is long-ranging and patient – skipping back and forth in time, piecing together a complex narrative that is consistently lovely, intriguing and suspenseful. Beginning with the two main characters childhood, she got me invested very quickly – and that never changed.

The Night Circus
has an epic, breathtaking slow build that sweeps from euphoria to heartbreak to horror. I was very apprehensive to find out how it would all end!

That, of course, will not be revealed here.

But – wow – what a book!!!

Extremely satisfied and looking forward to re-reading!!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Dresden Files: Grave Peril

The Dresden Files: Grave Peril is the third book in the adult urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher.

To get the maximum reading enjoyment, I suggest reading these books in order – therefore reading Storm Front first and then Fool Moon.

I wouldn’t say that this review will really spoil anything from the first two books, but you can never be too careful!!!

Ghosts are going haywire lately.

Becoming more menacing, more violent and more… more… Harry has his work cut out for him lately.

Unfortunately it’s not the paying kind – it’s the moral wizard responsibility kind.

But when Harry and Michael – a knight, literally – attempt to rid yet another location of an unruly ghost, it becomes clear that someone is causing this.

Someone is stirring up trouble purposely.

And the fact that many of the victims have ties to Harry cannot be ignored…

As I’ve said before, I loved the TV show The Dresden Files – based on this book series.

I’m still not feeling as much love for the book series… yet.

I’m still hopeful that it will just come with more installments, since there are a ton of books in The Dresden Files.

I will say that I felt Grave Peril was much better than Fool MoonFool Moon, for me, was just TOO hectic and non-stop to ever just stop and enjoy the story.

Grave Peril is still more frenetic than I’d prefer, and very action-packed, but it started to grow on me. The fact that the story is full of likable characters helps!

I liked the inclusion of Michael, the knight, and more involvement of the vampires – which are WAY worse than the TV show ever had them be.

I don’t always like the male perspective in narration – for example, their seemingly natural inclination to notice the female form of nearly every woman they come in contact with. Harry is, overall, a gentleman and honorable – yet I would like less descriptions of the feminine body peppered throughout the story thankyouverymuch.

From some other reviews I’ve perused, I’ve seen this is a general area of annoyance from most of the female readers. Hopefully it lessens as the series continues.

Grave Peril, however, has some great fantasy detail and where the non-stop plot had me feeling distanced from the novel for quite some time, once I saw all the pieces come together it won me over.

In the end, I liked it more than I was starting to fear I would and I am looking forward to book four.

I would just like more of Bob, Murphy and other character staples!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Frostfire

Frostfire is a contemporary fantasy by Amanda Hocking, as well as the start of the Kanin Chronicles.

As an outcast in the powerful troll tribe of Kanin, her half-breed heritage betraying Bryn with something as simple as her blonde hair, there has been one thing she has been determined to do: climb up the ladder of success as a tracker to eventually become one of the King’s Guard elite.

When a shocking attempt on her father’s life occurs during her first official tracker duty, that aim is met with another strong aspiration – to catch, and potentially kill, Konstantin, whom before the startling incident was a rising star in the King’s Guard and a secret crush of Bryn’s.

Now, four years later, Bryn and all of Kanin are rattled by the kidnapping of changelings.

And when a connection to Konstantin is made, will Bryn sacrifice one of her goals for the other?

Frostfire appears to be a spinoff of a successful prior Amanda Hocking series called the Trylle Trilogy.

I have to say that after reading Frostfire, I just may have to look into those books…

There’s a learning curve entering into the book at first – but learning about the rich, unique troll mythology is interesting and refreshingly different with a strong modern spin.

Frostfire is funny, intriguing and likable with some serious romantic heat between Bryn and her and, let’s be honest here, hottie friend and boss Ridley. Combine that with some truly titillating political dynamics and suspense and you’ve got a fast-paced page-turner!

Then Frostfire ends so SUDDENLY that I actually turned the page and stared at the blankness – confused. I thought to myself, “Is this a mistake?”

Nope, that’s just Amanda Hocking utilizing her powers for evil.

So, um, yes I want more! It’s fairly addictive – and I want to know what happens next!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Season

The Season is a YA Regency-era romantic mystery by Sarah MacLean.

It is time for seventeen-year-old Lady Alexandra Stafford’s first season – and she is not pleased about it.

Less than thrilled about dress fittings, balls and the generally encouraged feminine pursuits, Alex’s opinionated independence sets her apart.

And she is not in the slightest bit interested in finding a husband.

However, she and her close friends Ella and Vivi are thrust into the London season and manage to keep each other amused enough to prevent from being bored to death by the safe, respectable suitors being pressed upon them.

Yet behind the scenes of the glamorous gowns, dances and dinner parties, there is espionage and murder occurring.

Unintentionally finding themselves caught up in the intrigue, Alex, Ella and Vivi find their season turning far more interesting – and dangerous.

And most unexpectedly yet – perhaps some true romance is around the corner also…

The Season was a fun read!

It’s not Jane Austen – but it’s also not the type of cringe-worthy attempts at being Jane Austen that I’ve seen before.

This is a light, entertaining, diverting novel that mixes in a decent setting of the Regency era, Regency gowns and customs with some, at times, quite good dialogue - and then mixes in some mystery!

Not a combination I can complain about!

The Season was a fast, easy read that had a likable romance, likable characters and a vibe of appreciate for the period.

Was it a book I’m going to jump up and down about? Not really.

Did I think it was spectacular literature or incredibly unique? No.

But The Season did exactly what it meant to do – provided a frothy, pleasant distraction with a few relatively decent twists.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Antebellum Awakening

Antebellum Awakening is the second book in the YA fantasy Network Series by Katie Cross.

I would strongly recommend that readers read Miss Mabel’s School for Girls before this – and warn that this review will contain inevitable spoilers for the first book. Therefore I recommend not reading this review until you’ve read Miss Mabel’s. Feel free to read my review of that first book here.

Half numb from the events at the end of Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and in deep mourning for her mother, Bianca finds herself suddenly at Chatham Castle – her father’s break in tradition in having a family known by all – and many not with a favorable outlook.

Though she’s surrounded by her friends, nothing can distract her from the uncontrollable chaos her powers have become since her mother’s murder. She’s putting everyone is danger by just being present.

Yet the most daunting thing is that she only has six months left before her seventeenth birthday – the day that her Inheritance Curse will kill her, as it’s killed others in her family.

Unless she can somehow break the contract with the cunning, powerful woman who killed her mother – her former teacher, Miss Mabel…

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls was very impressive to me – a suspenseful mix of intrigue, danger and magic. It was included on my Stand-Out Books of 2014, as you lovely bibliophiles know.

Antebellum Awakening was still good… but didn’t stand out to me as much.

It was still good and intriguing, the Network world is fascinating and I always want to know more about it, but the setting of Chatham Castle just wasn’t as gripping as the school in book one.

Whereas in the first book Bianca was in a sort of espionage position, confronting her enemy head on and having to be very sneaky to get away with it – this second novel is more focused on Bianca’s grief and education on controlling her powers.

This doesn’t mean it wasn’t good – it was! Great character development, definitely sympathetic and it’s realistic that Bianca would need to go through this – rather heartbreaking, really.

It just wasn’t edge-of-your-seat exciting and nerve wracking like Miss Mabel’s School for Girls was.

So, don’t expect the same level of suspense – but some relatively good development on the overall plot and a few new details about the Network and what was around before the Network came to be.

I’ll still be interested in book three.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Violet Eyes

Violet Eyes is a YA retelling of The Princess and the Pea, one of the Once Upon a Time books, by Debbie Viguie.

Contented, simple farm girl Violet’s life is made more complicated when she and her family take in a wounded stranger – who turns out to Prince Richard of the realm.

Once he is returned to full health, he’ll have to head to the kingdom after a year abroad locating princesses for his parents, the king and queen, to enter into a competition for his hand in marriage.

Reluctant to do such a thing, Richard instead finds himself intrigued by Violet’s straightforward, strong personality and they quickly fall in love.

Yet in order to have a chance to be together, Violet will need to compete against the many princesses in odd, enigmatic tests that range from the ridiculous to the dangerous…

Violet Eyes moves swiftly, as it sort of has to since it’s just shy of 200 pages.

I’m never a fan of love at first sight – finding it superficial, improbable and irritating – but for the case of a little book like this, I set that quibble aside to enjoy it for what it is. Thankfully the characters aren’t hopelessly mushy about their feelings.

The interesting twist, where the princesses have to compete for the prince’s hand rather than the other way around, made me more willing to play along. It definitely becomes increasingly fun to read as the competition begins!

There were a couple smile-worthy little allusions to Viguie’s other books in the series – Midnight Pearls and Scarlet Moon – when mermaids and werewolves are referred to.

Violet Eyes happily shows that there is more to the strange royal competition than you initially think – making for a good little story with a decent plot and execution.

If you want to divert your attention for a short period – maybe after an emotionally draining novel – this could be an affable choice