Saturday 30 June 2012

Review: Forgiven

Title: Forgiven (The Demon Trappers #3)
Author: Jana Oliver
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Released: 27th March 2012
Rating: 4/5

Having enjoyed the first two books in this series, I hoped that Forgiven would be just as good. It didn't disappoint.

Riley Blackthorne is in a heap load of trouble. She owes favours to both Heaven and Hell, and the demon trappers are after her. Ori won't keep out of her head and somehow she needs to resolve the issue of the fake Holy Water. Normally she wouldn't mind kicking a little demon butt, but now she's more than ready to just sleep, drink some hot chocolate and spend time with her dad. Not necessarily in that order.

Something that struck me when I was reading this was how Riley had changed. While we see much of the teenager side to her that is prevalent in the other two books, there are also glimpses that show her to be older than her years and changed by her experiences. She stops rushing into situations impulsively and therefore making mistakes that way. Instead she chooses to listen more and argue less. I liked that she learned from her experiences and had become stronger. There were times when I thought that instead of complaining she didn't want to do something, she should just get on and do it becaue everyone else was doing things that they didn't want to but were necessary. But to be fair, there was definitely progress in her character, and it made her all the more relatable.

This character development didn't just hit Riley. We saw it with Beck too. After becoming increasingly frustrated in Forbidden with the stops and starts and misunderstandings between him and Riley, I was both relieved and delighted to see them make some headway. Finally he opened up some more and we got to see some touching insights. It took a lot of work for several people to open Riley's eyes and convince her that Beck did in fact love her, but then there were sweet scenes between them. His behaviour towards her changed and vice versa. All was going well...until the very end. I'm not even going to go anywhere with that.

Besides the characters, I loved all the actiony bits. These were pretty fast-paced. I'm not sure whether I should really mention this - I'm sure I already seem crazy enough as it is to those who know me - but for some reason, when it got to the battle at the end, I had the Matt Smith theme tune running through my head. Weird, I know. Maybe because it was the whole good vs evil thing. In any case, the battle scene was incredibly engaging, with even a bit of plot twist to hold our interest that much more. And the thing about the demons? Definitely an interesting idea, as well as somewhat amusing.

Overall, Forbidden more than lived up to my expectations. Before I read this I found out that there's actually a fourth one, which I am absolutely looking forward to. This book was fun and engaging, presenting us with other aspects of several characters. There was even more of Magpie! I know he's only a tiny little character, if that, but I adore him and love the connection between him and Riley. If you haven't read this yet, please do so as soon as possible. And if you haven't started the series yet...well. You're missing out, is all I can say.

A huge thank you to Sam for lending me her copy.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1)
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
Released: 27th September 2011
Rating: 4/5

Well, that was different.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is definitely unlike any other YA book I can remember reading. It's darker, creepier, and there are abolutely no mythical creatures to speak of. That's not to say the only YA books I read are supernatural, but you get what I mean. That difference made itself known from the very first page - the very first sentence, in fact. And with that sentence, igniting that first spark of curiosity, of a need to know more, you find yourself trapped in Mara's world.

Mara Dyer wakes up in hospital to learn that her three friends died in an accident - an accident which should have killed her, too. The price of living is that she can't remember anything about what happened. To get away from it all - or rather, to ease the weight of Mara's mother's constantly watchful gaze - the family move. But it's not the new beginning they're hoping for. Instead Mara finds herself haunted by nightmares and hallucinations that aren't actually nightmares and hallucinations. And that's not even counting the dead bodies.

The first thing I liked was the way the author interwove the past and present. I loved seeing the flashbacks, acquainting us with her past and memories as she herself recalled them. It gave a more complete view of the situation and Mara's life without feeling disconnected or disjointed. Mara's state of confusion also came across really well, right from the beginning. We were able to empathise when she didn't understand what was going on. When the lines between reality and dream blurred, I felt just as confused as she did. I say confused like it's a good thing, although for me there were times when it also made my enjoyment for the book slip. Sometimes the transitions didn't work, instead making me wonder what just happened. However, generally the panic and uncertainty was really well crafted. Something that bugged me was the way her family treated her. While I understood their concern, what I didn't understand was their need to treat her like she couldn't make her own decisions or be her own person. They didn't trust her strength or ability to handle things. The way Daniel intersected with his private conversation with Noah meant that he was giving away a piece of her that wasn't his to give away. Between him and his mother, I felt very frustrated.

I didn't feel any connection to Noah at first - and when I say at first, I mean at least the first half of the book. He was just an arrogant guy. Who smoked. Who was nowhere near as amazing as Jamie. But then we get to know more about him, about the guy he really is, about the fact that despite his reputation, this time it's different. He had his own vulnerabilities, his own insecurities. And while I didn't agree with some of the things he'd done, he also recognised that they weren't exactly things to be proud of. It was sweet to see how his feelings for Mara changed him, and touching to see how much he cared for her. I loved that he was so willing to be there for her and to help her where others would simply have been disgusted. I loved that he tried to reason with Mara and keep her from changing herself irrevocably. The last few scenes between them were heart-rendering. In the end, he turned out to be strong, serious and adorable.

The end. How. Amazing. Was that. Like a few others, I found my attention waning for a chunk of it, but then BAM! Out of nowhere comes this...this...awesomeness. First there's this incredibly intense scene between Noah and Mara, and then confusion and stuff is happening and you're wondering what's going to happen now. Then this beautiful presentation of Mara, detached, but broken, her voice coming across perfectly. Then her heart-breaking sacrifice, and then that cliffhanger. Where did that come from?

There. That wasn't too spoilery, was it? ;) (I hope not, anyway.)

Overall, this was an intriguing read. I did toy with the idea of giving it 3.5 stars, but then the ending came along and upped it. It's dark, engaging, and perfect if you're looking for something different to read.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

An Unmissable Giveaway

Hey guys!

Soo, for some lucky people, school's over!  And by lucky people, I mean Mimi Valentine.  No more, exams, no more homework, sleeping in...while some people still have another three.  Long.  Weeks.  Oh, the unfairness of it all.

Anywayys, to celebrate the end of another year, Mimi is having a giveaway, which you can check out here. You have until the 20th July, so if you miss out, there are NO.  EXCUSES. ;)  The winner gets their choice of summer release from the Book Depository, as long as it's under $20.  So don't miss out!


Waiting on Wednesday (#1!!)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we're looking forward to.  Mine this week is:

Title: What's left of me
Author: Kat Zhang
Publisher: Harper
Released: 18th September 2012

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t…

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable–hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

Summary taken from GoodReads

Doesn't this sound amazing?  Different?  And just look at that cover!  What do you think?  Does it sound like your kind of thing?

Sunday 24 June 2012

Review: Insurgent

Title: Insurgent (Divergent #2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released: 1st May 2012
Rating: 5/5

How do you write a review for a book that takes your breath away?

Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t.  Not a coherent one, anyway.  So I’ll just scribble my thoughts down and hope for the best.

After the horrors of the simulation attack, Tris no longer feels the same – she isn’t the same.  Wracked with guilt and sorrow, she becomes more reckless with her life, making it increasingly difficult for her to settle into what remains of her society.  However, it is not long before Tris discovers that none of it is over – instead, it’s about to get worse.  She must prepare herself if she wishes to learn the shocking truths and survive what is to come.

This was an intense read from the start.  Everything, from the events, to the relationship between Tobias and Tris, to Tris’ ordeal, to her very character, swallowed me whole.  There were moments when I was literally holding my breath and forcing myself not to squeal or jump up and down.  I was so desperate to find out what would happen next I had to force myself to slow down and read it all word for word. 

Tris’ character development here was amazing.  She has to be, by far, one of the best, if not the best heroines of all time.  Her psychological and emotional states were crafted perfectly.  Yet despite what she has suffered and continues to suffer, she remains strong; she fights to survive even when she believes that all she wants is to die.  There were a couple of times when I wanted her to pull herself together, but perhaps I was being too harsh on her.  She is only human, after all.  Her perceptiveness, courage and determination, combined with her vulnerability and flaws, all add up to one incredible protagonist.

Tobias is as amazing, heartthrobbing and heartbreaking as he is in Divergent, if not more.  We get to understand more about his life and gain a deeper insight to him.  Surprisingly, I grew accustomed to reading him as Tobias, though I still think I prefer Four.  I loved the times when he became Four, pushing Tris and forcing her to do what she needed to, exactly as he had in Divergent.  Also like Divergent, he simultaneously managed to remain soft, gentle and understanding towards her.  The incredible strain of their circumstances reflected in their relationship, giving it a thick dose of tension; but despite that, both refuse to let that strain rule them completely and so they listen to one another, eventually regaining that trust which slipped every now and then.

Insurgent is, overall, incredibly powerful and moving.  It does, beyond doubt, exceed any and all expectations.  Veronica Roth’s writing style is overwhelming, successfully developing the world-building and our view of each of the factions – not just them, but the factionless too.  Circumstances and their effects on Tris are reflected perfectly and touchingly through her perspective.  This truly has to be the best book I have read so far this year.  Please.  If you haven’t already, go out and get a copy.  It will take your breath away.

Friday 22 June 2012

Review: Fire Study

Title: Fire Study (Study #3)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Publisher: Mira Books
Released: 1st March 2008
Rating: 3.5/4 stars

After being a little disappointed with Magic Study, I hoped that this one would finish the series the same way it started it: brilliantly.  Unfortunately, it didn't quite manage to do that.  Fire Study and I got off to a little bit of a rocky start and there were hiccups along the way.  Having said that, this book was still pretty good.

Fire Study picks up where Magic Study left off.  Soulstealer Ferde has escaped and First Magician Roze is looking for any opportunity to have Yelena executed.  Yelena must find a way to recover Ferde and keep the two nations from becoming embroiled in war, all the while ensuring that she herself does not end up in prison.

I had a few issues with this book, most of which had seeped through from the second one.  Actually, they didn't just seep through; they had a very thick presence.  One of these was the transition of events.  Things would suddenly happen, or Yelena would be suddenly be in a different place, or Valek would suddenly appear, with no details to smooth it over.  Because of that, Synder skipped over key information which I felt should have been focused on more compared to other, minor details.  We also lost Yelena's emotional responses in the process, which detached me slightly from her character.  It made for quite a disjointed book.

Something that really frustrated me was Valek and Synder's portrayal of him.  In Poison Study he was an amazing character, with so many different facets that I was forced to surrender a piece of my heart to him.  He played a significant role within the book and the relationship between him and Yelena was present and flourishing.  But in Fire Study his presence was sudden and minimal, and we only saw one side of his character.  Don't get me wrong, I love the way he's so willing to help Yelena and just generally be there for her.  But I missed seeing the other sides to him.  And anything that Yelena couldn't solve, he became the solution, a way to help her solve the situation.  It was all very convenient.

Another convenience was Yelena's magic.  This was an aspect of her I found a little irksome.  I realised way before she did that she relied on it far too much, and was consequently neglecting all the other skills that we saw in the first book, all of which made her a great heroine.  This was something I found difficult to come to terms with.  I loved who she was in Ixia - independent, resourceful, strong yet vulnerable.  In Sitia she transformed into being dependent and someone who took too long to accept her responsibilities.  While I felt sorry for her because of all the expectations people had of her, I felt she took too long pushing people away and refusing to act on the reality that those same people were looking to her for action and a continuation of the strength and courage she had so far possessed.

However, it wasn't all bad.  There were some brilliantly-crafted action moments, and the ending was beyond satisfactory.  Every time I thought this book was an OK read and nothing more, she surprised me with something fast-paced, energetic and engaging to read.  Because of that, she managed to conclude this series very well.  By the end of it she almost had me squealing with delight and reawakened my love for Valek.  I also loved seeing Ari and Janco again.  These two hadn't changed a bit from the first one, and had me smiling and laughing along with them.

On the whole, this was a good book, though sadly not of the high standard that this series started out with.  Information that I thought would have been good, if not important, to include was skimmed or skipped over.  We don't get fully reacquainted with Valek when he suddenly appears, nor do we see Yelena's reaction on seeing him for the first time in ages.  The book was somewhat disjointed and the protagonist's character not quite what it had been originally, as with Valek.  Yet for all that, the book was interspersed engaging sections that heightened my appreciation for it.  Plus, the ending more than made up for the bad parts.  Overall, it's definitely worth the read; I just wish that Snyder's ability to craft something engaging at the very least was constant.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

First Day!

Hey guys!

Wow, this is a completely new experience.  I'm really not an IT person - my IT skills are horrendous - but I figured I'd give this a try.

I first started getting into reading blogs and so on on GoodReads.  Yes, I'm a hopeless addict.  But it let me explore books that I never considered reading before, and it also introduced me to some amazing blogs out there.  Before then, I'd never even thought about them.  Reading them then of course led me to thinking about actually creating one.  I have no idea how far this is going to go - the odds are that it probably won't go far at all.  But we'll see what happens.  If it doesn't work out, at least I tried out something new, right?

So.  If you're still here, and you're curious to know more about this crazy person, feel free to check out the About Me tab.  I promise to do my best to update this regularly.  Thanks for checking out my blog!