Sunday, July 29, 2012

Showcase Sunday #4

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Books, Biscuits, and Tea, inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and The Story Siren. Its aim is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week.

 I only got a couple of books this week, since my TBR pile is huge. Like, huuuuuuge. 

Struck, by Jennifer Bosworth
Something Strange and Deadly, by Susan Dennard
The Assassin's Curse, by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Thank you to Netgalley and Angry Robot for sending me an E-ARC of this for review. I can't wait to dig into this book, it sounds fantastic! 
I've seen mixed reviews of Struck on Goodreads, so I'm not sure I'll like it, but I'll give it a shot. The concept of a girl addicted to lightning sounds interesting. 
Anyway, what did you guys get this week?

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Release date: June 5th 2012
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’re sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her . . . and only she can save the future.

There's something incredibly refreshing in reading a well written fantasy book. Maybe it's the fact that the author has created a whole new world in which you can loose yourself in, or maybe the characters are so different from what I'm used to, yet I'm able to relate to them completely. Well, both happened while I was reading Shadow and Bone. I wasn't sure whether I would like this novel - usually, I'm afraid to read books that have a lot of hype - but Leigh Bardugo enchanted me with her fantastic writing, realistic world, and human characters.

Don't get me wrong - it's not like this novel doesn't have any flaws. It's just that the good things about it has captivated me so thoroughly I forgot about the bad aspects of the story as I was reading. It was like a balance - the negative was cancelled by the positive. Take it the romance, for example. I hated that Alina seemed so obviously in love with Mal since the first chapter. It felt like insta-love, and that's something pretty much unforgivable these days. However, as the plot progressed, and we got to see how deeper the connection between these two characters ran, I understood every little aspect of their love for each other, especially on Alina's part. It was fantastic.

I fell in love with them, with the way they were so passionate and human about what happened around them. How, even though they made mistakes, they tried to be better and do the right thing. It's pretty ridiculous, I know, but this tiny thing made me happy. I'm tired of stupid heroines that make stupid decisions and it's up for the heroes to save them. Instead, here we have a young man and woman determined to make the best out of the situation they're currently in, regardless of the specifics. I feel like I could on and on about how realistic and heart-warming they were, but that would spoil the best part.

And the best part, I feel compulsed to say, it's the world itself. In the beginning, I was lost - I mean, what is the Fold? How did it come to be? As Alina got lost in world of the Grisha, however, her surroundings felt like home to me, and I began to understand exactly what Bardugo created here. Language, mythology, geography, magic, politics - that's the best part of a fantasy novel, and Shadow and Bone has it all. Bardugo's writing style was adorable, full of descriptions that weren't tiring.

Shadow and Bone is a lovely fantasy novel, and I can say for sure that I'm looking forward to reading its sequel - though I have no idea what Alina's next adventure is gonna be like. Leigh Bardugo has captived me in every way, and I'm eternally grateful for that. And if you're asking yourself: Does this book really lives up to its hype?, well...

More about the book:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #1

Feature and Follow Friday is a meme, hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read, that gives bloggers the opportunity to meet other bloggers, and gain followers :D
I've been wanting to participate for a while, but only got the courage to do so now.

Q: Summer Reading. What was your favorite book that you were REQUIRED to read when you were in school?

Well, this is an interesting question. My favorite book was, hands down, The Obedience Drug, by Pedro Bandeira. I just love the whole mystery that Pedro created, and though it's quite juvenile, it still manages to entertain me.

In an environment filled with mystery and suspense,five students - the Heads - face a macabreinternational plot: the sinister Doctor I.Q. intends to subjugate humanity to his evil designs by administeringa dangerous drug to the youth! And this drug is already being experimented on students from the best schools in São Paulo. Michael, the leader and idealizer of the most read about group of adolescents in Brazil, must take the lead in this electrifying fight! This is a job for the Heads: the inverse of the old, the opposite of the nerds!

What about you, what was your favorite book that you had to read when you were in school? Leave me a comment, or a link to your own Feature and Follow Friday post :D

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Golden Lily, by Richelle Mead

- Bloodlines #2
Release date: June 12th 2012
Published by: Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

This book is also known as "the book in which all my expectations are met, and destroyed at the same time". So much has changed in this series, and so much is still the same. I don't even know where to begin. Maybe I should do so by saying that The Golden Lily surprised me immeasurably. It's like Richelle Mead heard my screams over everything that went wrong in Bloodlines, and decided to fix all of them in The Golden Lily. Seriously, every single thing that I disliked in Bloodlines was non-existent in this novel.

Take Sydney, for example. She was boring in Bloodlines - boring as hell. I didn't like hated her as a main character, with her brainy observations and arrogance over her own knowledge, and how, because of her, I was always away from the action, because Syd wasn't a fighter, and how everything fell into a dull, lifeless rhythm when I was seeing things from her POV, and... well, you got what I mean. She was a poor excuse of a main character, especially since my only experience with the world Mead created was Rose Hathaway, whose point of view, let's admit it, is far better - and more exciting - then Sydney's. So you can only imagine how surprised, and pleased, I was when Mead took a different route with Sydney's character, and showed us a different side of her in The Golden Lily.

The Syd I knew was changed over what happened in the ending of Bloodlines, and I loved that. She was intelligent without being arrogant, and fierce without having to fight. Her weapons were her words and her own experience as an Alchemist. I was still able to catch a few glimpses of ol' Sydney everytime she freaked out over something as simple as sugar count, or corrected someone automatically, or started to explain things that were totally out of context, simply because someone expressed curiosity. I loved that more than I thought I would, and more important, I was able to relate to Sydney and what she was thinking most of the time.

As with the plot... well, like I said before, Mead took a different route to everything in this novel, so the plot should be no different. The mystery wasn't as obvious as it was on Bloodlines - though it was still pretty easy to identify the villain. A novel like this, in which intelligence and quick thinking are some of the things that are highlighted the most, because of Sydney herself, the plot shouldn't be this predictable. It was better than Bloodlines, but it still wasn't as good as it should be. However, the secondary characters more than make up for the lack of a great mystery. Eddie, Angeline, and Sonya are fantastic characters, and I was more than glad to see their potentials explored. The relationship between them is promising as well, something that we can see through Sydney's eyes, but don't actively participate in.

And I won't even get started on Dimitri. I wasn't just glad to see my favorite character in the Vampire Academy series - not to mention my biggest crush - back in action. I was overjoyed. When he appeared for the first time in The Golden Lily, I swear I sat up straight and had to control my nerves not to start acting like a fan-girl. Him acting like a secondary character was disappointing and surprisingly nice at the same time. I just wanted to see more of him, to know more of him. I love Dimitri, but I also missed Rose in this novel. It'd be wonderful to see a Rose/Dimitri scene from Syd's POV - or that's what I tell myself. I wouldn't be surprised if my subconscious missed Rose and Dimitri as well, and only wanted a scene with them.

I know this review is insanely long, but before I'm done with it, I have to express my crazy love for Adrian. I never loved him in the VA series, but now? I'm all for you, Adrian. His relationship with Sydney is incredibly heart-warming - and frustrating, since their interactions are limited to a fair amount of talking and cute moments on Adrian's part. This is a typical Richelle Mead romance, full of chemistry and affection and protectiveness. I love it, and I can't get enough of Syd and Adrian. I'm really looking forward to reading The Indigo Spell - you know, scratch that. I'm dying to read The Indigo Spell. Richelle Mead just proved why she's one of the best authors I've ever known, and the Bloodlines series definitely has my attention now. It's still not as good as Vampire Academy, nor does it have the same deep relationships that VA had, but Bloodlines has its own potential, a potential that I can't wait to see explored thoroughly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #13

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week, I'm anticipating:

Legacy of the Clockwork Key, by Kristin Bailey
Publication date: March 2013 by Simon Pulse
Add it on Goodreads

When a fire consumes Meg's home, killing her parents and destroying both her fortune and her future, all she has left is the tarnished pocket watch she rescued from the ashes. But this is no ordinary timepiece. The clock turns out to be a mechanical key-a key only Meg can use- that unlocks a series of deadly secrets and intricate clues that Meg has no choice but to follow. She has uncovered evidence of an elite secret society and a dangerous invention that some will stop at nothing to protect, and that Meg alone can destroy. Together with the handsome stable hand she barely knows but hopes she can trust, Meg will be swept into a hidden world of deception, betrayal, and revenge. The clockwork key has unlocked her destiny.

I recently saw this on Dazzling Reads, and now I'm really looking forward to it. This novel sounds awesome and I love the cover - but the wait is so looooong... 8 months till it comes out. It'll be hard, but I can only hope it'll be worth it.

What about you, what are you antecipating this week? Leave me a link, or just tell me in the comments :D

Quick review: Throne of Glass novellas, by Sarah J. Maas

 I don't know if this is common knowledge, but I'm not really into novellas. They don't have enough character development, something that I treasure in a full-lenght book, and everything just happens too fast - there's no climax scene, since there isn't a context for one, and I get angry at the rushed dialogues. However, the Throne of Glass novellas surprised me. I read them in order, one after the other, with no time in between, and it felt like I read a normal novel, since Celaena went through a lot of adventures that changed her, and those around her, without any of the elements that I mentioned above.

Celaena herself was a surprise to me. She wasn't the fierce, strong girl I encountered in the first chapter of Throne of Glass - she was a ridiculous, selfish girl, who used her reputation to do whatever she wanted, and to mistreat whoever she wanted. I tolerated her in the first novella, but by the time I was almost halfway through the last novel, I couldn't stand Celaena. I wanted to her to die, period. She was incredibly shallow with those who loved her - especially with those who loved her - and she worried about such petty things, like whether her soap was expensive or not, that I began to wonder how the hell she managed to survive for so long. However, by the ending of the last novella... well. Things went downhill, and Celaena's life shattered - everything she knew was thrown to the wind, and she was broken, horribly broken. It was on that moment of pain that I could finally create a connection between both sides of Celaena - the one before this big twist happened in her life, and the one after that, the Celaena that I'll know when I start reading Throne of Glass.

Her character development was great, and very unique for a novella. Like I said, these four novellas together almost form a full novel, since everything, from world development to a romance, happens. The writing doesn't feel rushed, and neither do the dialogues, fortunately. I feel ready to read Throne of Glass. It's like I've explored Celaena's life so thoroughly, have seen so many different sides of her personality, that I know who I'm dealing with, now.

I'd definitely recommend these four novellas to anyone who hasn't read Throne of Glass yet. And if you have read it... well, it's still worth a shot, but I'm afraid you won't have the same reaction in the ending that a person who hasn't touched Throne of Glass had. Sarah J. Maas knows how to write smoothly, in a way that the story flows before your eyes without you noticing.She explored everything that Celaena's adventures has to offer - friendship, betrayal, partnership, love, bravery, pain, and heartbreak. I look forward to reading Throne of Glass. Now that I've got a taste of what the book is gonna be like... I'm ready for more!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Timepiece, by Myra McEntire

- Hourglass #2
Release date: June 12th 2012
Published by: EgmontUSA
Genre: Young Adult
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon 

A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...

Hourglass proved to be the most refreshing time-travel novel I read in 2011. When the cover for Timepiece came out, I was excited to see more of Emerson and Michael... and then I read the synopsis, and I found out that the story was going to be narrated by Kaleb. Well, that didn't go well. It took me a month to be brave enough to read it. It's not that I don't like Kaleb, but his POV wasn't exactly welcoming, either.

Surprisingly, though, seeing things through Kaleb's eyes was a hell of a ride. This character has a lot more depth than Emerson lets on, people, and that really showed on this novel. I related to Kaleb's - and Em's - fragile state of mind a lot more than I thought I would, and that fit the tense setting in which Timepiece takes place. The Hourglass is issued an ultimatum, and a single decision can either save everyone's lives, or destroy them. It's up for Kaleb and the rest of the gang to solve everything, and it'd be unrealistic if there wasn't some personal drama thrown in the middle. Myra McEntire delivered this well enough, and I got a pretty good sense of all the characters, including Lily, Em's best friend.

However - and that's where the negative points of this review start - the writing worked only when it came to the subjective. When Kaleb was suffering, or using his power, or thinking something over, the writing was smooth, and very thoughtful. When it came to dialogues, and action scenes, everything fell apart. Things appeared out of nowhere without a good reason, and disappeared just as abruptly. For example: Kaleb would be talking to Lily, and Michael would suddenly appear. I could've used a lot more details - how did he appear? Did he just materialized out of thin air, or he just came around the corner, too slow or careful for you to notice? It may look a little weird, but those things bothered me. I never got a really clear picture of what was happening in my head, because there wasn't enough description. 

That's possibly a consequence of the writing, but the plot was also never even. There wasn't a slow beginning, an engaging "middle", and a climax scene. Everything was blend in, thrown together with random action scenes, and slow dialogues that took forever to end. Because of that, Timepiece didn't give me a sense of finality - but then, neither did Hourglass, so that was... fine. The romance was greatly developed, though, and that was a relief, something I could hold on to as the writing ironically got worse. Kaleb and Lily's witty remarks and banters felt natural, and that really added up to the story as a whole.

Timepiece was an enjoyable read, but not a flawless one. I could probably point a few more things that bothered me, but frankly, I think I've done enough. I won't rant, and I tried not to be harsh, because despite these aforementioned flaws, Kaleb's story was great... just not as good as I was hoping. If you have read - and liked - Hourglass, then this is definitely a must-read.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Showcase Sunday #3

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Books, Biscuits, and Tea, inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and The Story Siren. Its aim is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week.

So, it's been a while since my last Showcase Sunday post, but to be honest, I wasn't in the mood. I did get a couple of great books this week, and I'm excited to share what I got with you :D


The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #0.1)
The Assassin and the Desert, by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #0.2)
The Assassin and the Underworld, by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #0.3)
The Assassin and the Empire, by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #0.4) 

Shadows Cast by Stars, by Catherine Knutsson
So Close to You, by Rachel Carter
For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Darkness Before Dawn, by J.A. London
The Golden Lily, by Richelle Mead
Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller
The Demon Catchers of Milan, by Kat Beyer (from Netgalley)

I really can't wait to read all these titles, especially the Throne of Glass novellas. I recently heard they were all out, and I had to read them. Hopefully I'll get to know the characters better before Throne of Glass comes out. 
Unfortunately, I can't say I'm that excited to read The Golden Lily. Vampire Academy is one of my favorite series of all times, but Richelle Mead disappointed me in Bloodlines. The story was so... so boring, and I disliked Sydney as a main character. I really hope I'll like The Golden Lily better, but I'm not very optimistic. 
Anyway, what did you get this week? :D

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

 Release date: June 14th 2012
Published by: Dial Books For Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary (YA)
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.

A lot of contemporary novels came out this year, but I didn't love any of them - except, maybe, Catching Jordan. I had high expectations for My Life Next Door, because of the lovely cover, and the simple, yet very eye-catching, synopsis. I can't say this novel was absolutely fantastic and that I loved every part of it, but it was as close to being my favorite contemporary novel of all times as possible.

The premise of a rich girl that's been fascinated by her neighbors' big family her entire life was, perhaps, what really caught my attention. And, fortunately, the story delivered exactly what I looking for - a cute summer romance, a reliable main character, and a swoon-worthy, sweet boy. Samantha and Jase were great to read about. They had distinct personalities that, despite their financial differencies, fit in a way that I hadn't seen before. They had chemistry, yes, but there was also that unmistakable air of reality that allowed me to love them, but not forget everything else about the book, like the secondary characters and their respective plotlines.

While that can be a good thing, it didn't quite work for me, in a way. Had I been falling head over heels in love with Jase and Samantha, I wouldn't have noticed Nan's lack of characterization, and so, I would've enjoyed this novel a lot more. But I did notice it, and it was a big fail. You see, Nan is Sam's best friend, and Tim is Nan's brother. He's on drugs, and his parents want to send him to a military school (why they didn't send him to rehab, that's something I'll never know). Nan is, of course, hesitant to let her brother go to such place. I understood her, really... but when she started to cover up everything that Tim did, it felt like she was crossing a line I would never cross.

And she didn't cover up something simple... oh, no. She covered up the fact that Tim almost got her and Sam killed in a car crash, because he was stoned. And when Sam tried to talk to her about it, maybe make her see reason and tell her parents what had happened to them, how Tim couldn't go on and do these things without horrible consequences (like, say, wrapping his car around a tree and getting himself killed), you know what Nan said? That there was no way she'd do that, because he was already on so much trouble, and military school would destroy him. Are you kidding me? Not to mention that when Sam asked how Tim was, here's what she said:

“He’s fine. Let’s talk about what really matters. Which wasn’t important enough to tell me. Why?” --- (Refering to the fact that Samantha was dating Jase and didn't tell Nan about it)

I can't even put into words how much this bothered me. Nan was a brat. She was supposed to be Sam's best friend, and while I understand that she envied Sam because of her "easy life" and her money, Nan doesn't care about her brother and Sam at all. At all. I kid you not. She spent her whole life pretending to love Sam, when she only cared about herself. I hated this girl so much she could've died and I wouldn't have cared. Look, I used to envy one of my best friends. She had everything I wanted, and she didn't ask for it. She had the perfect life and the perfect hair and the perfect parents, and I didn't. But that didn't stop me from loving her, and from supporting her and rooting for her. Despite my personal feelings, she was my friend, and I never abandoned her. Ever. But Nan?

So... my fierce hatred for this selfish character notwithstanding, I loved the romance, and I loved the twist in the plot towards the ending. It was realistic (though a little convinient) and it added a ton of tension in the story. It offered me a view of who the Garretts really were, and how much they struggled to sustain their huge family. The author used a lot of stereotypes (especially regarding Southern people, and rich mothers), but they didn't feel forced. In fact, it fit Samantha's world.

My Life Next Door was an enjoyable read, one full of fluff and romantic scenes, but also filled with realistic problems, and reliable situations. Huntley Fitzpatrick created a fine balance between what's right and what's practical. She dealt with issues that I wasn't expecting, like drugs and pregnancy and sex, that added a deeper layer to Samantha and Jase's story. Overall, an enchanting debut. I'll finish this review with one of my favorite quotes:

"The right thing to do is so easy to see when you are seventeen years old and don’t have to make any big decisions. When you know that no matter what you do, someone will take care of you and fix everything. But when you’re grown up, the world is not that black and white, and the right thing doesn’t have a tidy little arrow pointing to it. Things happen, adults make decisions, and that’s the bottom line.”

Waiting on Wednesday #12

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week, I'm anticipating:

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
Publication date: August 7th 2012
Add it on Goodreads

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Words can't describe how freaking anxious I am to read Throne of Glass. I read the first and second chapters, and now that I saw how it's gonna be like, I'm even more impatient. This book just looks so good. Fantasy mixed with magic and a little romance thrown in the middle... what's not to love about that? ^-^ Fortunately, it's going to be published a few weeks from now, so I don't have to wait a lot of time. I've read a lot of good reviews about it, so hopefully I'll love it :D

What about you, what are you anticipating this week?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

- Seraphina #1
Release date: July 10th 2012
Published by: Random House Children's Books
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

It certainly wasn't easy to read Seraphina, especially the first and second chapters. The writing was sloppy, full of short sentences and weird phrasings and expressions, and most of all, the narrative was as confusing as one can possibly be. I almost stopped reading right there. However, I had read several positive reviews last week, and all of them mentioned Rachel Hartman's beautiful and thoughtful writing style. As the story progressed, and we, as readers, get more comfortable in the world Seraphina lived it, the writing abruptly changes. It transforms, indeed, into a narration as beautiful and delicate as the main character herself. I had to keep a dictionary at my side, for Rachel's use of vocabulary was... eccentric, to say the least.

You know that protagonist that feels human, and is so solid it's like she's close to you at all times, when you're reading a book? That's Seraphina. She's intelligent, talented, compassionate, caring, and most of all, smart. She makes mistakes, of course, but none that made me want to pull my hair out. Phina, though a half-breed, was the most human character in this book - and that's saying a lot, since all the characters created by Rachel Hartman, from Phina's father to Lucian Kiggs and the Queen herself, are solid and well constructed.

A fantasy novel - especially one that deals with creatures such as dragons - has to have a dense world-building, enough for me to create in my head a layout of what the author intended. That, in my humble opinion, was the only aspect that was missing in this book. Of course, we get to know everything about the city, the races, the dragons, the characters, the Treaty between humans and dragons... but what about the world itself? What's it like? Many times I simply had to imagine it, and though it worked (kind of!) it was a gap in the story that was never fulfilled. This is the first book in the series, and I sincerely hope Rachel Hartman will offer us a deeper insight of her novel in the next installment.

As for the romantic element in Seraphina... well. It was subtle and suave, consisting of smart dialogues between Phina and Lucian that began to deepen more and more as the story progressed - and as Phina's secret almost surfaced. The romance developed slowly, and by the time I was on the last chapter, I was begging for more. One of the things I liked most about it was that the author didn't write one single cliché. It wasn't like Lucian fell to his knees and said "I can't live without you". The characters were so well constructed it would've been ridiculous, had something like that happened. This particular quote jumped at me: 

"If we were to go forward from here, we would proceed not rashly, not thoughtlessly, but Kiggs-and-Phina fashion. That was the only way it could work."

If everything I said in this review wasn't enough, here it is: I loved Seraphina. It was refreshing, and at the same time incredibly complex. Christopher Paolini saying great things about it should've been a tip of how unique this novel is. After the Inheritance Cycle (that's still my favorite series about dragons, hands down), Seraphina is the best fantasy novel I've read. It has the writing, the characters, the mythology, and the story necessary to grab thousands of readers out there and never let go. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Once, by Anna Carey

- Eve #2
Release date: July 3rd 2012
Published by: Harper Collins
Genre: Dystopia (YA)
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

*This review will probably have spoilers of the first book in the trilogy, Eve.

When you're being hunted, who can you trust?

For the first time since she escaped from her school many months ago, Eve can sleep soundly. She's living in Califia, a haven for women, protected from the terrifying fate that awaits orphaned girls in The New America.

But her safety came at a price: She was forced to abandon Caleb, the boy she loves, wounded and alone at the city gates. When Eve gets word that Caleb is in trouble, she sets out into the wild again to rescue him, only to be captured and brought to the City of Sand, the capital of The New America.

Trapped inside the City walls, Eve uncovers a shocking secret about her past--and is forced to confront the harsh reality of her future. When she discovers Caleb is alive, Eve attempts to flee her prison so they can be together--but the consequences could be deadly. She must make a desperate choice to save the ones she loves . . . or risk losing Caleb forever.

I read Eve last year, a couple of months after it was released in the USA, and though it was an enjoyable story, I didn't quite love it. Anna Carey tried to captivate me with her characters, especially Eve, but it just didn't work. It took me four days to finish it, and that rarely happens. However, Once captivated me in ways I can't explain. 

I should start with Eve, of course, since she's the main character. In Eve, I hated her, to be honest. She was so naive, so innocent and reckless that it infuriated me. Her actions hurt so many people, mostly friends and allies, throughout the novel, that it was hard to sympathize with her decisions. In Once, though, she was a different person altogether. It's crystal-clear how what happened to her in the wilds affected her, and that really shows in the way she speaks, how she cares for her friends in a deeper way, and how she stands for what she thinks it's right. I actually grew fond of Eve, and I was surprised to see that by the end of the novel, I wanted her to succeed.

The romance is also developed. In Eve, I had a feeling that part of Caleb and Eve's relationship was pure insta-love, but in Once, that changed. As much as I loved Caleb, I started to see him in a different way, just like Eve did. Instead of thinking about how hot he was, Eve thought about how he held her, how he understood her, how they talked about so many things that would've been weird with someone else, but that just felt right with Caleb. I loved this aspect of their relationship, and I think the fact that they're together relying not on lust, but on comfort and love (and that they show this affection with a touch, a conversation, and a kiss, and not only on make-out sessions), says a lot about how much Anna Carey changed the romance, and how this enhanced the feeling that Once really is a sequel to Eve. 

As always, Anna Carey's secondary characters are enchanting, each one looking just as real and solid as Eve. Her writing flows really well, even with the slow-paced scenes, and that's part of my liking Once. Not all of it was action, and Anna's writing held the plot together as weeks passed around Eve, and nothing new happened. I was never bored while reading Once. Also, I felt like the world-building was a lot more solid in this installment. With Eve growing up and becoming a mature woman, she gave us a new perspective of what was happening in the society itself, and while in the first novel, I felt like I was diving in the dark, without knowing where I was going or what to expect, in Once it was like I was just looking through a binocular, simply expanding what was already there.

To say that I liked Once is an understatement. I loved this novel, and I'm glad I picked it up. Without reading a few positive reviews, I'd never feel encouraged enough to buy it and continue this trilogy. Now, however, I'm dying to get my hands on Rise, the last book. Anna Carey proved to be a very talented author.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Last Princess, by Galaxy Craze

Release date: May 1st 2012
Published by: Poppy
Genre: Young Adult 
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

Happily ever after is a thing of the past.

A series of natural disasters has decimated the earth. Cut off from the rest of the world, England is a dark place. The sun rarely shines, food is scarce, and groups of criminals roam the woods, searching for prey. The people are growing restless.

When a ruthless revolutionary sets out to overthrow the crown, he makes the royal family his first target. Blood is shed in Buckingham Palace, and only sixteen-year old Princess Eliza manages to escape. Determined to kill the man who destroyed her family, Eliza joins the enemy forces in disguise. She has nothing left to live for but revenge, until she meets someone who helps her remember how to hope-and love-once more.

Now she must risk everything to ensure that she does not become . . 

I must begin this review by saying that I had high, huge expectations when I started reading The Last Princess. The premise sounded absolutely beautiful, though a little eerie. A princess determined to kill the man who'd murdered her family and took over her country, with (hopefully) a little romance thrown in the mix. Who isn't captivated by that? I certainly was, and now, I want to kill myself for it.

Like I said, the premise of this novel is wonderful, but the book itself doesn't live up to its hype. Eliza's story is set in the future (when, exactly, it's never mentioned), and England is falling apart. People are starving, there's not enough safe places to hide, and the monarchy is the only thing still left intact. And why, for God's sake, is England falling apart, you may ask? Well, that's something I never really understood. Eliza talks about the Seventeen Days, when everything was destroyed, but how the hell that happened is something I just didn't understand. If you're gonna create a dystopian society, then explain it. I need a context, I need a world-building solid enough for me to understand what's happening. And in The Last Princess, I got neither of these things, and that pissed me off.

The lack of a very important element in this book wasn't the only thing that put me off this story. The characters were just so unrealistic and flat, especially Eliza. She just lost her entire family... her situation should've made me sympathize with her, but instead, I wanted to shake her all the time. Your parents have been killed, and your siblings are prisoners... it's obvious you want to destroy this guy with your bare hands, and that's pretty understandable. But why the hell would you join this guy's army? Why would you go through the extremely difficult process of becoming a soldier, one of his pawns, knowing that only officials, and sergeants, have access to him?

Eliza is a princess. She spent her childhood playing in the garden and riding, learning how to behave properly and have manners. She's never starved. She doesn't know how to kill someone. Eliza's not tough enough to succeed in a army, to become a general, a high position in which she could have access to Cornelius and then kill him when he was unprepared. Eliza, of course, go through with this fantastic plan, and when things go downhill for her, and she really begins to see what it's like to be in the army, she just runs away. It was just so unnecessary for her to be there to begin with.

But that's not the only thing that made me dislike her. When you're in the middle of a battle, and your friend gets hurt, you try to aid her, of course, but... do you get off your horse, kneels near your friend, and starts to scream for help? In the middle of the freaking battle, in which you're fighting for your country's freedom, literally??

And don't even get me started on the romance. Holy crap, this was one of the worst love stories I have ever read. Eliza is in Cornellius' army, like I previously mentioned, and this certain Sergeant starts to pay attention to her. Wesley helps her when she goes off hunting, he saves her life, he gets her out of the army when she tries to flee... that's okay for me, really. They just met, he knows who she really is, and he's helping her. Then Wesley kisses her five pages after that, and this is what Eliza thinks when she wakes up and abandons him to continue her quest of revenge:

"Somehow, the memories already felt far away, but they gave me the strength I needed. They gave me the hope that love still existed in this dark world, that it would exist even after I was gone."

 Love? She doesn't even know him. She barely talked to him. It just doesn't make any sense! This, to be precise, is the entire romance in this novel. In the ending, he saves her again, they stay together, and that's it. The whole thing is so raw and poorly developed, I wanted to kill myself.

The writing is another thing that bothered me. It screamed "self published novel" everytime there was a transition of scenes, or the passage of time. Not to say it's also completely devoid of emotions at certain parts, and it was full of repetitions. Also, everything was just so convenient for Eliza. If she wanted to see her siblings one more time before she was killed, of course the guard would've been kind enough to take her to them. If Eliza were freezing, of course a homeless person would give her some clothes. If she were about to die, of course someone would appear just in time to save her. This kind of thing happened all the time, and it was so unrealistic that it gave the sentence "damsel in distress" a whole new meaning.

I feel like The Last Princess had a lot of wasted potential. The story would be amazing if the author knew how to execute it well enough, but sadly, that didn't happen. I don't like to write negative reviews, and I tried to do it without offending anyone, but to be honest, I had to put all of this out of my chest. My ebook is full with angry notes and ranting. However, I do know a lot of people loved this novel, and maybe, if you give it a shot, you may like it too. For my sake, though, I'll stay away from The Last Princess.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Release date: July 3rd 2012
Published by: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4/5 stars
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything--her family, her future--to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

Tiger Lily was one of the books I was most looking forward to in July. I mean, seriously, a book about Tiger Lily and Peter Pan? The synopsis looked interesting enough, and after watching the book trailer, I was eager to get my hands on this novel. I've always been a fan of Peter Pan, and though it always made me happy to see Peter with Wendy, a love story with Tiger Lily, of all people, was a differente experience altogether. 

Jodi Lynn Anderson took a lot of risks in this book. Not only because of the romance, the setting, and the mythology behind it, but because of the narration, as well. Tiger Lily is narrated by Tinkerbell, our most beloved faery, and while I found that curious, and more than a little weird, her point of view was perfect. Tink isn't an active character, exactly, but she's not entirely passive either. She likes to watch what happens around her, and her sensibility about other people's emotions let us know exactly what Tiger Lily was feeling (most of the times, that is). The writing is unique, filled with observations, and Tink's thoughts on the matter. It fit the book perfectly, and though I didn't like it at first, the narration grew on me.

Since most of what happens is told instead of shown to us, the story is slow-paced, which can be pretty boring, if you don't like the characters and the setting itself. However, the descriptions were enthralling, even without action scenes or anything significantly fast-paced, and that made me appreciate all the details in Neverland, as well as the characters' personality. Speaking of the characters, they're unique, just like everything else in this novel. Tiger Lily herself was a mystery to me during the whole story, and though her quiet behavior grew on me, and I found myself loving her more and more, I still didn't quite understand her. Peter Pan was just as criptic, but for once, this didn't anger me. When their feelings for each other deepened, so did my love for them. It was a delicate balance, but it worked. 

I can't say I loved this novel, but I did like it. Perhaps it's because I didn't connect with the characters the way I use to when a read a stand-alone, perhaps it's because of the heart-breaking ending, but I enjoyed the story, overall. Tiger Lily is a quick read, and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves Peter Pan, and a light, yet full of meaning, love story. Jodi Lynn Anderson is a talented author, and I look forward to more of her work in the future.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One Foot in the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost

- Night Huntress #2
Release date: April 29th 2008
Published by: Avon
Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Adult Fiction
Rating: 5/5 stars
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

*In this review, there will be mild spoilers of Halfway to the Grave, the first book in the series. 

Half-vampire Cat Crawfield is now Special Agent Cat Crawfield, working for the government to rid the world of the rogue undead. She’s still using everything Bones, her sexy and dangerous ex, taught her, but when Cat is targeted for assassination, the only man who can help her is the vampire she left behind.
Being around Bones awakens all her emotions, from the adrenaline rush of slaying vamps side by side to the reckless passion that consumed them. But a price on her head – wanted: dead or half-alive – means her survival depends on teaming up with Bones. And no matter how hard Cat tries to keep things professional between them, she’ll find that desire lasts forever … and Bones won’t let her get away again.

As much as I loved Halfway to the Grave, it's clear how much the series, and the characters developed in the second installment, One Foot in the Grave. First of all, Cat. She was a remarkable character in the beginning of the series, but now? Now she's in another level. Leaving Bones, and being forced to work for a secret unit of the government as a measure of protection for her loved ones made Cat look at things differently. Now, hunting vampires isn't just a hobby, or something she did to please her mother and easy her guilt... it's her work, and she's so concentrated on it that she's now known as the Red Reaper in the undead world. 

But badass skills aside, Cat isn't completely satisfied with her life. Memories of a certain vampire, and of a long-lost relationship, haunts her, even though she does everything possible to let it go. When Bones finally founds her, after 4 years looking for her, Cat's past threatens to unbalance her newly established work. Jeaniene Frost managed to fill in 4 years of Cat's life in less than 10 pages, without making it look rushed, or unrealistic. We get to know how Cat's been dealing with her personal life, and that info is proved to be necessary when Bones returns.

Cat and Bone's chemistry explodes in this novel, and what they really feel for each other is a lot easier to see. It's usually hard to see a relationship this deep look natural in the second book, but of course, Night Huntress is nothing but unusual. Cat's impulsive personality keeps colliding with Bones' protective instincts, which makes their dialogues drip with irony and vehemence, not to mention the really romantic scenes. 

I'd say One Foot in the Grave is a perfect sequel to Halfway to the Grave, and though I would've liked to see more of Bones' search for Cat (maybe in a dialogue, or even a novella), it doesn't disappoint in the least. Everything feels different, but the essence of Frost's writing, and the character's personality, is the same, which I loved. Well done again, Mrs. Frost :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Halfway to the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost

Release date: October 30th 2007
Published by: Avon
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 5/5 stars
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father—the one responsible for ruining her mother’s life. Then she’s captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unholy partnership.

In exchange for finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She’s amazed she doesn’t end up as his dinner—are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn’t have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her newfound status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side... and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.

After reading Once Burned, I realized that it's been years since I've read Night Huntress (the first novels, anyway), and I decided to re-read the entire series, just for the sake of doing it (it is my favorite series of all times, after all), and to write a proper review of each book. I first read Halfway to the Grave in 2010, and I admit I was a bit afraid to re-read it now and just don't find it as appealing as I had. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

Halfway to the Grave introduces us to Cat Crawfield, a half-breed that's been hunting the undead since she was sixteen, right after her mother told her about Cat's heritage. Cat, in my humble opinion, is the best heroine I've ever encountered, YA or Adult Fiction, simply because she's realistic. Sure, her humor can be a bit too snarky sometimes, but she's a solid character, with a reliable point of view and a fierce personality. She isn't submissive, and she sure as hell isn't a Mary Sue. Cat is strong, tough, and caring... to put it simply, she's human, her father's non-beating heart notwithstanding.

To create a dynamic story (and add a romantic element to it) we have Bones, and no, he's not Edward-esque at all. In fact, I'd say he's the exact opposite of every hero I've ever read about. Bones is shameless, cruel, honest (a little too much, in fact), and so badass that to call him a "bad boy" would be an understatement. Bad boys are attractive, and mean trouble. Bones is trouble. And just like Cat, he's perfect in every sense of the word. If Bones says he's going to rip your head off and use it as a soccer ball, you better run, because he means it. That's one of the things I love most about him. He's honest to the core, and while that can be a hell of an inconvenient. it's also pretty damn reliable.

With two main characters as unique as these, I don't have a lot more to say. Jeaniene Frost writes wonderfully, in general, but in Halfway to the Grave, especially, her writing skills are clearly raw - maybe because that was her debut novel. This is, perhaps, the only mildly negative point of this book. The pace is fast, the action scenes are engaging, and the romance is developed slowly, accompanying the plot and the character development. Even the mythology involving the vampires is good.

In general, Halfway to the Grave is a brilliant start to a great series. It reminds me why Night Huntress is so easy to devour, even after two years. The story is growing on me even more than it previously did, and while I'm finding little negative aspects about it, I'm also loving each character a lot more.