Friday, November 29, 2013

Faerie After

Faerie After is the YA post-apocalyptic fantasy conclusion to Janni Lee Simner’s Bones of Faerie trilogy.

Of course, you want to read Bones of Faerie and Faerie Winter before Faerie After – click on the titles to read my reviews.

In my opinion spoilers are never good, so even though it probably wouldn’t be dire to the overall story, I recommend you don’t read my review/synopsis of Faerie After until you’ve read those first two books…

Liza has been away from her home, learning more about her magic from Karin over the last few months. Though she misses her mother, Matthew, Kyle and others at home, life has been steadier than it was for quite some time. And the spring seems strong.

But when Liza stumbles across a new danger – piles of ash where living creatures once stood – Liza comes to the realization that both the world of Faerie and the human realm are still deteriorating since the War.

Everything will eventually turn to dust.

Searching for a solution may mean crossing over into Faerie – and putting all she knows and cares about in danger.

Will Liza sacrifice herself to heal both worlds and save her family and friends?

Faerie After is a sad, complicated yet straightforward conclusion.

The entire Bones of Faerie trilogy has a sweet, slow building romance that never takes center stage but manages to be very effective. Anyone who has read the books knows what I’m talking about. It’s a subtle but lovely side story.

In the world Simner has created, magic has morose consequences. In this world, she shows how people (and faeries) can be both terribly cruel and beautifully courageous.

At times I felt like this final novel was a bit of a jumble, in and out of various circumstances, but still good. There were moments that were heart-wrenching. It cannot be denied that Simner creates a gorgeously told narrative, a dark faerie tale with strong characterizations.

I also appreciated what ended up being a very cool, meaningful twist and revelation near the end.

And despite my misgivings at times of Faerie After truly meeting its full potential, by the end, what do you know? I felt like sobbing. And I was covered in goose bumps!!!

The goose bumps don’t lie.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves is an incredible YA contemporary fantasy, the second in The Raven Cycle, by the ever-awesome Maggie Stiefvater.

The Raven Boys, the first book in this cycle, is undeniably fantastic – so if you have yet to read it, check out my review here and then go grab a copy, you crazy person!!!

In other words, you may want to avoid this review of the second book until you’ve already sunk your teeth into book one. Only looking out for you, bibliophile!

Final chance to turn away…

Blue and her Raven Boys all have secrets.

Ronan’s is that he can steal things from dreams.

While Blue, haunted Ronan, damaged Adam and the always-charismatic Gansey continue their search for the dead king Glendower amidst the enigmatic ley lines of their small town, Ronan begins to realize that his ability to take things out of his dreams may be an ability sought after by others.

And may be connected to his father’s brutal murder…

Okay, this synopsis is pretty bare-bones, I agree.

But, really, if you read The Raven Boys (um, you better have since you’re reading this!!), should you really want more?

All I knew is that I HAD TO READ The Dream Thieves.

It almost wasn’t a choice – more of a bibliophile compulsion.

Anywho, Maggie Stiefvater has done it again. She is now firmly cemented in my I-have-to-read-everything-by-her-no-matter-what category.

The Dream Thieves is written in words that wrap you up into them. There’s a sensation of magic, of mystery, of longing. The characters can be dark – a few of them have been through very dark things – and they are oftentimes deeply flawed, but oh so sympathetic and real-feeling.

Presenting switching viewpoints keeps The Dream Thieves moving, while maintaining a carefully moderated pace – never ceasing to be magnetic and utterly compelling.

Personally, mixing mythology and fantasy elements with such a purely character driven yearning, friendship and romance is irresistible – when done so very right, as it is here.

I was already anticipating book three before book two was over!

The Dream Thieves is heartbreaking, upsetting, but oh-so-well-written, hypnotizing and stunning.

Give. Me. Book. Three.

Please???

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Spark Unseen

A Spark Unseen is a YA historical suspense novel by Sharon Cameron, as well as a sequel to The Dark Unwinding.

You know what I’m going to say. If you haven’t yet read The Dark Unwinding, you should avoid this review for potential spoilers of the first book. Read my review of The Dark Unwinding here.

Last chance to avert your eyes before the synopsis begins!

Katherine Tulman has been in life threatening situations before.

That’s why when she wakes in the middle of the night to hear strange men’s voices, she is instantly alert.

It doesn’t take much to deduce that they want to kidnap her uncle – a man with childlike innocence yet a mind with genius enviable by nations at war.

Katherine’s Uncle Tully’s sprawling manor Stranwyne Keep is not as secure as they need as the Crimean War creates an ever stronger desire for his elusive inventions.

So, Katherine decides to have them flee to Paris.

And while she is there she will search for Lane – the young man who knows her Uncle Tully even better than she – the young man that she’s given her heart to – the young man feared dead.

But as Katherine is swept up into the political intrigue of Napoleon III’s court, she finds herself quickly in danger once more…

I very much enjoyed The Dark Unwinding, so I was thrilled when I found out there was going to be a sequel!

As in the prior novel, A Spark Unseen presents us with strong, smart women in a glorious time period (in my opinion).

Here we are provided with suspense, nail-biting political intrigue, surprises, heart break, and a wonderful sense of family and of mystery.

I have to say that I did not find A Spark Unseen to have as much of a gothic or steampunk tone as The Dark Unwinding, however – which was too bad.

Yet, even still, A Spark Unseen – with its spunky heroine and gripping story – was a good sequel!

Monday, November 18, 2013

When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears

When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears is the third and final book in the YA contemporary fantasy trilogy The Goblin Wars.

I am absolutely serious when I say this trilogy is far too remarkable to spoil yourself by reading this review – or book – without reading the first two books.

So, if you are a lucky duck and haven’t yet read The Goblin Wars novels, therefore getting a chance to experience them for the first time, you can check out my review of Tyger Tyger here and In the Forests of the Night here.

Don’t go perusing this review and ruining any surprises!

They are TOO excellent for that!!!

Okay, now on to When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears:

Teagan has declared war on the Dark Man – knowing that her family will always be hunted unless she faces those who wish them harm head-on.

But the danger is very real.

Creatures of destruction and death are spilling out of Mag Mell into the streets of Chicago, Teagan’s little brother Aiden has been marked with a new song that is frightening him, and Teagan finds herself facing the fact that she is now almost all goblin in DNA – and fighting it.

Not to mention that her relationship with Finn, the Mac Cumhaill who is bound to fight goblins, is riddled with the concerns over her very ancestry being a wall between them.

Yet as Teagan finds the Dark Man pulling her and her loved ones into a life-threatening trap, she knows she must find a way to destroy him once and for all…

Oh my goodness!!!

I finished the last pages of When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears in the lunch room of my workplace and had to hold back some serious emotion.

As any fan of The Goblin Wars would agree, I’m sure; Kersten Hamilton has created a charming, eccentric, truly lovable group of people. Teagan’s strong love of animals is only part of the deep compassion rooted in the trilogy – there’s also a marvelous sense of family at its greatest.

When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears is the conclusion to what is in its entirety a beautifully original fantasy, mixing Irish mythology with contemporary humor and nail-biting suspense. Of course there’s also the romance aspect, which is nothing to scoff at either.

There’s so much I could say – but I dare not give anything about this conclusion away. There were moments that my heart was so terribly saddened, other times I laughed out loud, and almost always I felt a sense of understated, soaring emotion from the excellence of the storytelling.

To me, it is a mark of an honestly great book, when I feel so incredibly touched multiple times. I cared, and still care, about these characters. Because of that, Kersten was able to break my heart – as well as make me feel joyful.

This is not a conclusion to miss!!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gorgeous

Gorgeous is a YA contemporary fantasy by Paul Rudnick.

When Becky Randle reaches her eighteenth birthday, life isn’t so great. Her mom has died, and she won’t be able to afford the trailer she’s lived in all her life if her fast food job lays her off.

Then she meets Tom Kelly.

A recognizable name to almost anyone in the world – Tom Kelly has a hand in almost any industry, but primarily is known for fashion – and being insanely wealthy.

He offers to make her three dresses – one red, one white, and one black. He tells her that by wearing these dresses Becky will be transformed into the most beautiful woman in the entire world.

Thinking he’s insane, but not seeing a better offer, Becky accepts.

And Becky becomes Rebecca – gorgeous, stunning, publicity-hounded Rebecca.

Underneath, though, isn’t she still just Becky?

First off I want to say that the cover of Gorgeous, I think, is very pretty and eye-catching. Agree?

Second, what was the first thought that came to mind when I finished Gorgeous?

I’m glad it’s over.

I know! It’s terrible!!! As a bibliophile, I really hate giving negative reviews (seems to be happening more lately, been having a ho-hum streak), and I never want to dissuade readers!

I also want to be honest.

For me, even when Gorgeous was trying for an optimistic tone, it was pessimistic. There was a lot of negativity, mostly through gossip. I know that Paul Rudnick has written for Entertainment Weekly, and at times it almost felt like I was reading a book length rant on social commentary or something. Not pleasant. I usually skip those articles anyway.

Also, there’s a TON of swearing. Listen, I deal with swearing – I get it, people swear. But, really?! This was pretty much every single page – excessive! The Lord’s name was taken in vain a TON, too. Again, I have to deal with this in novels, but my goodness! Talk about pushing the boundaries on what is tolerable! This language limitation only spurred on the negative vibe Gorgeous gave off.

Then, there’s the fact that Gorgeous has long winded, purposeless narration. We read pages of gossip-column like “memories” or information on fictional celebrities. It just went on and on. Again, felt more like a long, real-life gossip column than a book.

For me, the story was not that original and was full of crass, crude moments – sucking the class out of what little was redeeming about the novel.

You know, I hate to disagree with Meg Cabot – who has a praising blurb on the book and a high rating for the novel on Goodreads – but Gorgeous was NOT a book for me.

Maybe it will be for you?

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a YA contemporary fantasy novel by Holly Black.

In Tana’s world, Coldtowns exist.

They are walled cities in which quarantines were set up to house the monsters that came into the spotlight long ago – blood thirsty vampires, and the humans that are desperate to be them – or were trapped behind the walls when they went up.

With a tragic past that left an ugly scar on her arm, Tana knows the effects of getting Cold, the vampire infection that occurs when you are bit, first hand.

When one morning Tana wakes up, disoriented after a long night of partying, she finds herself surrounded by corpses. Everywhere she looks she sees people she’s gone to school with for years – bloody and lifeless.

A vampire attack.

At first it seems she is the only survivor of the massacre, but then she finds her ex-boyfriend tied up in a room, fighting the first impulses of going Cold. He was bit.

With him is a painfully gorgeous, terrifyingly dangerous vampire – also tied up, and seeming in need of rescuing just as much as they.

Against her better judgment, she gets all three of them out of the house.

The only way to save them is to go to Coldtown…

This is the first Holly Black novel I’ve read. I’ve heard of her, of course. But really I was intrigued by the title of this novel and decided to give it a try without even bothering to pay much attention to what it’s about.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was fantastic!!!

It’s immediately fascinating, extremely original and very, very suspenseful. Holly Black puts a new twist on vampires, vampire lore, and a picture of what maybe the world would be like if vampires did all of a sudden become a real thing in the present-day world.

I was engrossed incredibly quickly and hungry for more after only mere pages. I loved the brisk, genuine, contemporary way it is written – and the fact that there is a dark, desperateness to Tana that makes her character interesting, disturbing, and altogether likable.

Revealing, flashback-like chapters give more insight into vampires, Tana’s childhood and psychological state and Tana’s friends and family – all of which is insightful and compelling.

Though seductive, alluring and increasingly romantic with time – the focus of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is never ROMANCE. And I have to say thank God for that, because doesn’t that get old??

No, the focus is SURVIVAL.

There’s never a slow second, whether we’re seeing character growth or plot growth – and I LOVED it!!!

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a refreshingly DIFFERENT vampire story – and I was glued!!!!!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Path of Names

The Path of Names is a middle grade contemporary fantasy novel by Ari Goelman.

Dahlia Sherman doesn’t want to go to a sleep away camp highlighting learning Hebrew and focusing on her Jewish roots.

She loves magic – magic tricks, sleight of hand, math and video games.

Yet her parents did not give her much of a choice when they dropped her off at Camp Arara.

Amidst her glowering and sulking, Dahlia can’t help but acknowledge that there are a few things of interest going on. Such as two little girls who appear to walk right through the wall of a cabin.

Also, she starts to have vivid dreams of a young Jewish man decades ago being chased through New York. Someone she’s never seen in her life.

Not to mention a huge maze with a mysterious caretaker that won’t let anyone near it…

Dahlia figures she can manage a few weeks at Camp Arara if she has something to do.

The Path of Names lacked the humor, zaniness and quirkiness I expected from the cover and premise, sadly.

It focused a lot on Jewish mysticism but didn’t make it compelling – in my opinion.

Plus, I can’t say Dahlia was the most likable character either. She doesn’t seem all that nice to her brother or her parents – and is often moody. Again, this was just my view.

I ended up skimming The Path of Names after giving it over 100 pages to grab my interest – and didn’t. It just wasn’t as fun as I expected!!

Of course, there are many bibliophiles who will gobble it up and be great fans of The Path of Names, though!

So check it out for yourself and see what you think!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Half Lives

Half Lives is a YA sci-fi apocalyptic novel by Sara Grant.

It was an ordinary day for Icie.

She was being consoled by her best friend over the break-up text message she had gotten when her parents started to urgently reach out to her – telling her she had to get home immediately.

When she did, she didn’t expect to be strapped with cash and given a backpack full of survival supplies – but that’s what happened.

Then the gravity of what her parents were telling her started to sink in.

They were privy to knowledge that a major, world-changing bio-terror event would be happening very soon and they wanted to get to a bunker in Vegas before it happened.

Or rather, get Icie to a bunker.

Getting there and then staying there ends up being more terrifying than she could imagine.

Hundreds of years in the future, life has changed. People live and worship in the very bunker Icie is desperate to reach.

They don’t leave. They fear terrorists.

Their leader is Beckett, a teenager that has ties to Icie.

Generations apart, Icie and Beckett face the threat of extinction and the fight for survival…

For me, reading Half Lives was a given after having read Sara Grant’s debut, Dark Parties, a while back and LOVING it.

Here, though, I wasn’t as in love…

I was much more captivated and interested in Icie’s story than Beckett’s.

The future that was being presented was confusing and felt a little familiar – and its use of bizarre new vocabulary made it hard to take seriously at times.

Then when it came to Icie’s story there was a thrill, a danger, a horror that was represented well as we see the world swiftly fall apart and her try to follow her parents’ wishes despite it all. Yet… even her story began to wear a little thin.

I kept waiting for a bit more to happen. Though there were moments Half Lives still managed to give me chills and touch me, I never felt it reached its full potential.

The alternate point of view in the future really didn’t connect with me, which I think was one of the main reasons I had issues with it.

After giving it my best try, I finally began to skim the future side of things.

Sadly, I didn’t feel Half Lives was nearly as powerful or original as Dark Parties.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Watcher in the Shadows

The Watcher in the Shadows is a YA supernatural thriller novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

In the summer of 1937, fourteen-year-old Irene Sauvelle’s family has moved to the coast of Normandy for a fresh start.

Still mourning the death of her father, they are struggling to find happiness once more – a new normal.

When Irene’s mother receives a job offer from a wealthy, reclusive toymaker she takes it. The toys he makes are automatons – some of which almost appear to have a life of their own…

Their slowly healing family gets a shock when a young girl is found dead in the forests surrounding the toymaker’s mansion.

Suddenly all of the ghost stories they’ve heard since moving to their foggy home become more possible.

It seems that there is an evil – and a mystery surrounding it – pervading their new town.

In order to keep her family from undergoing yet another loss, Irene knows that she must figure out what it is…

The Watcher in the Shadows is very successful at being quietly suspenseful, creepy and atmospheric. It also has a strong sense of summer, and memories.

However, I was concerned very early on that I was guessing the big twists to come.

In the meantime, the story told itself very smoothly, keeping a tense yet calm-before-the-storm vibe throughout.

I do wish that animals did not so often pay a price in horror stories. But I digress.

Sadly, the smartest decisions aren’t always made in The Watcher in the Shadows but I did feel pulled into the supernatural tension. And really the premise is pretty hair-raising. Respectably chilling.

I’ve never been one to deny being freaked out by, say, ventriloquist puppets. Automatons are right there. Almost worse, because they can and do move/talk on their own. They are fascinating, though.

The Watcher in the Shadows is darker that what you would expect for younger readers, but it’s a good ghost story.

Unfortunately, my concern that I was correctly guessing the big twists? Well, I was right.

So, it was predictable, and not altogether original – but decent.