Thursday, May 31, 2012

Darkness Falls: review

Title: Darkness Falls (Immortal Beloved #2)
Author: Cate Tiernan
Genres: ya urban fantasy, magic
Summary: You can run from your past, but it will always catch up.

Nastasya has lived for hundreds of years, but for some reason it never seems to get any easier. She's left behind her days of debauchery to find peace and forgiveness at River's Edge, a safe haven for wayward immortals. There she's uncovered her family's epic history, reclaimed her magickal powers, and met Reyn, whom she dubs "the Viking god. " Just as she settles into her new life, Nastasya learns that her old friends might be in town....

Reuniting with her gorgeous and dangerous ex-best-friend, Innocencio, Nas wonders if she'll ever be truly free of her dark legacy. Is Incy dangerous, power-hungry, and wicked? Or is he the only one who truly understands Nas's darkness? Either way, Nas is desperate to find out who she really is-even if the answer kills her.


Not *quite* a huge 5 stars like the first. Maybe 4.6. :)

Click here to see my review of the first book in the series, Immortal Beloved.

I surprised myself. Usually it takes me months for me to get to a sequel, even if it's already out. But I just had to get it!!




It started out just a little slow, because of the recapping. Then the pace picked up, and it was exciting. :) About halfway through though, it dragged just a TINY bit. Because the setting changed, and Nasty got into the almost-self-pity mode....and then came right back out of it in a Moment of Epic Awesome. You'll know what I'm talking about when you hit it.

I love Reyn. He is in Darkness Falls about the same amount as the first (aka, not enough!), and I think the part that bothered me most about the whole thing was the head-smacking amount of sexual tension between him and Nasty. XD But I have a feeling he will be in the last of the trilogy a lot more, because Nasty's finally gotten out of her stupid and insecure setting.

Also speaking of Reyn. Ever since my friend (you know who you are) had to say, "He reminds me exactly of Thor!!!"...well, now I think of that too, every time he appears. Because of the way he is described, it's not that hard to make the connection. Nasty does call him The Viking God pretty often.

I can easily see some people complaining about the amount of action in Darkness Falls. But I think if you didn't mind the calmish mood of Immortal Beloved, (meaning more introverted battles, than physical encounters, yanno?) then this isn't too bad. I could say there is actually more action in here, you just have to wait for it.

Still really liking the back-flashes into Nasty's ancient existence! It's fun to go back in time here and there, to see what awful things she did in her former lives. And now she looks at these past events differently, instead of just accepting the misfortune of others as part of life as an immortal, she thinks "Huh, maybe instead of coming upon a train wreck and looting all the dying people's bags...I could have helped save a few of them." That sort of thing. See? She is growing.

And the way immortals can be killed is cleared up more. Yay! :) Apparently you can kill them by beheading them. Ouch. Or by magickly sucking all their life energy/force. Yick. 

So Nasty's brittle attitude and snide comments are still aplenty, and I just really like how reading the writing is like talking to Nasty herself, she has such an interesting internal dialogue. I would never want to know her in person.

I can't wait for the last installment, Eternally Yours! It comes out in November! So long to wait...



So I'd like to do a cover comparison now, because there are SO many! And they're all very different.


The first one, above ^^ is my favorite. It's the sideways words that does it for me. Takes a step outta the norm. It's the US hardcover edition. And the colors are like my favorite colors, so that helps too.






I don't like this one as much. It's pretty, but doesn't really fit the dramatic mood of the story? Feel free to disagree. Still has the same color tone, to identify it's the second book, but if I was browsing the shelves, my hand might, just might, pass over it instead of lingering a little. And speaking of lingering, it reminds me of the Shiver trilogy style covers. This is the US paperback edition.
This is the French cover...yeah not liking it so much. The title is "La Traque" meaning "The Hunt" which makes sense. But wait, do you see the title? Or just "Immortels, tome 2"? That means it's the second volume in the series. Is there a purple glowing planet in the series? I can't recall.


Kidding. No there is not.


Spanish edition! "Oscuridad Inmortal" is "Darkness Immortal". Just think, "obscure" which sounds darkish. Lovely font, still same color theme, but why hands? It should be a neck if anything, because of her scar or something. And is that a celtic knot? Nasty's Icelandic! Better than the French one though.
























Why is this so tiny? Best one I could find. This has to be third favorite, this German version. I don't know why, I just think it's good! "Ersehnt" is "Longs" so maybe it means "Longing" or something? Not sure. Maybe I translated it wrong.














I. Do. Not. Like. It.
At all.


It's the Italian edition, "Abbraccio Immortale" means "Eternal Embrace" which I have to admit, IS kind of a cool title. But this is my least favorite cover. I mean, are they underwater?? o.O


























Well that was fun! I love to rant. Thanks for reading!


-Jane

Monday, May 21, 2012

Masque of the Red Death: review


Title: Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1)
Author: Bethany Griffin
Genres: dystopia, steampunk, ya
Summary: Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.



Masque of the Red Death is pretty short, under 350 pages, and it’s a quick, not-to-miss read this year. It starts out slightly confusing, because you're kind of thrown in without much background for Araby, our protagonist. About a third through, you get a kind of back story for why she acts certain ways, and after that I found it much better.

I did read Edgar Allen Poe’s original story before reading this book. It's pretty short, only a few pages, but it’s awesmome, and dark, and made me even more excited to read this retelling. Bethany Griffin did a great job capturing the mood of his story, and I imagined a heavy fog settling over the scenes, along with some slow violin music playing in the background.

Lots of it can be considered steampunk, but that only extends to the mere mention and quick appearance of steam powered vehicles and a huge amount of fancy dresses. I expected more in depth in the clockwork technology itself, so I hope she expands that knowledge in the following books in the series.

Of course there are plenty of clich├ęs in here, like love triangles, boys who are good with incredibly adorable kids (really loved Henry and Elise!!), and a few selfless heroic moments…but she surprised me by managing to write them to be not so run-of-the-mill, and made those parts and characters just a touch out of the ordinary.

I was confused on the physical descriptions of the masks themselves.
Made of porcelain.
That’s all the specific information I was able to get. They cover most of the face, but how much? You can still see the eyes through it, but how do they stay on? There is a sort of filter built in, how does it work, what does it do? I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to just accept things; I want to know what makes it go, or given the chance to try to understand. :)

The cover is pretty! I also like the German cover >>. (Does it remind you at all of Die for Me by Amy Plum?) But it’s not as steampunky as the American one. It sounds like the "Status of Rotten Toads." I wish I spoke German. The translation is: "The City of the Red Death, The Girl with the Mask" and the 'Roman' says it is 'a novel'. For all my German readers, hopefully I didn't mess that up!


The ending came before I knew it. I seriously turned the page, and the next one was blank. Really?? I wasn’t ready for it to be over yet!!!

A solid four stars!

-Jane

Should I do more foreign cover comparisons?





Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Insurgent: review

Title: Insurgent (Divergent #2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Genres: dystopian, action, adventure
Summary: I'm not going to include one. Sorry, but it's for your own good. :) Now read on!


(Warning, this review obviously contains many spoilers for Divergent. But really, if you haven't read that by now, you should. It's brilliant.)



Where to start, where to start...let's start at the beginning, a very good place to start.

Before I forget, backing up a little, here is the link to the recap of Divergent that Veronica Roth wrote, in order not to gunk up the beginning of Insurgent. THANK YOU SO MUCH VERONICA ROTH. That move alone made me even more sure that Insurgent would be just as good as the first. I had just reread Divergent a few days before she posted that, to get my own recap. But that's just because I have way too much time on my hands. I highly recommend you do one of those two options though, because from the first sentence onward, she just dives into the story headfirst and you need to remember who is who.

Insurgent starts only a few hours after Divergent ends, so it's incredibly easy to just pick up where you were left hanging, with Tris and co. on the train heading to Amity. And by the second line, I figured out what the tagline means! And the back of the book too. (That always just makes me smile a little.)

One choice can destroy you

(on the back)

A choice
becomes a sacrifice
a sacrifice 
becomes a loss
a loss 
becomes a burden
a burden
becomes a battle
one choice 
can destroy you


Yes! It can! And it would destroy me too.

It seems so obvious now. But I'll let you quickly figure that one out if you haven't already.

Okay, sorry. Too excited and keep getting sidetracked. I didn't read the summary of Insurgent, (okay maybe just a quick skim/glance but it really doesn't give much away) which is a great way to read it. I HIGHLY recommend just picking it up, and starting it. It's better that way. That's also how I read Divergent. The first time I had actually picked up a book without knowing what the heck it is about first.

The characters:

Four. Ah, yes. As much as I love him, his physical descriptions still make me shake my head sometimes. It's like he is written to intentionally not be normally attractive. You'll notice the numerous descriptions of his "hooked nose" and "sticking-out ears"...and I kind of admire her for making him like that--breaking that particular stereotype from the ya guys so common at the moment. So I'm not complaining at all, just pointing out. And you learn lots more about his background; realizing alongside Tris, just how little you know him.

Tris. My opinions about her kept changing drastically (up and down and up and down) throughout Insurgent, from Divergent. I still LOVE how she is totally kick-ass and brave and selfless and everything. But, she makes many decisions that, when I put myself in her place, I find I disagree completely with her reasoning. Like deciding whom to trust, or where to go. Where before I related to her more, when she had to prove herself to survive the Dauntless initiation etc, now I'm not sure I feel that close to her as much. She is supposed to be like that though, I think, and that makes you as the reader believe she is very real, making real decisions, not just the ones you want her to make. I have to say though, by the end, I leaned back toward relating to her more. Just a rough spot in the middle. Her Abnegation side emerges way more than I expected in the second half too, which made it quite interesting. More on that in a bit.

Four and Tris's relationship. I am impressed how it's progressing. At times it's harsh, realistic, not always kind, and that's the way it should be. Not going to say much more than that, just that there is no love triangle. You have no idea how entirely happy that makes me feel. Seriously. You can start cheering with me now.

Supporting characters. Are very well fleshed out in this sequel. Whereas I thought I knew half of them, like Peter, Christina, Caleb, and even more minor ones that grow into bigger roles, I learned so much more about how they think, and most importantly, where their loyalties lie. Because that's a main problem in Insurgent. You think you know people...

Other good stuff:

Faction dynamics. It's fascinating the way the factions ally with each other. Something that changes every dozen pages or so. I guess it's hard to explain, but when you imagine Amity and Erudite together it's a reassuring thought, because it's like peaceful exploration of knowledge in the world. On the other hand, Dauntless and Erudite together kind of makes you want to go hide. Combining violent tendencies and  greedy power-hungry techies? Not good.

And so what happens when a faction like Dauntless splits in two, and you suddenly have the Dauntless traitors, and the loyal Dauntless, old friends siding with your enemies and changing every day? Throw in some alarming number of Divergent and the forgotten-about factionless? Then you have Insurgent. Lot's of problems arise!

Also, one of my hopes that Insurgent fulfilled was that I got to see the headquarters for Candor and Amity! Well, I guess you will too, when you read it. They are both really awesome, and described wonderfully. Candor's bluntness scared me stiff, and I felt right at home in Amity's beautiful sanctuary. (Even though I'm still Dauntless at heart.)

A HUGE part of Insurgent is Tris's guilt for killing Will. It has hit her incredibly hard and I totally understand. Because when that happened in Divergent, I practically yelled What the hell! NO! STUPID TRIS! Still, I understand the situation and such, but it was a big blow for me as well as her. And with that, and her parents both recently dead in order to save her, she can't forgive herself...that leads to some death-wish/semi-suicidal activity on her part. Four isn't a big fan of that, seeing he is in love with her and everything. There is a line between being brave and selflessness, and acting stupid and reckless. Tris crosses that line a couple of times.

There is a part in the middle of Insurgent, maybe 60 percent through or so, that surprised me. It wasn't something that Tris's does, so to say, but what happens to her.

Insurgent is a lot darker than Divergent.

Lots of people die.

I actually cried a few times, completely catching me off guard. I think I let myself become too emerged into the story, but some really terrible things happen to Tris and her friends. Mainly Tris. So my stomach clenched constantly and my eyes burned now and then. I'm not coming up with a good word to describing it, and that has been bugging me all day, so I'll just say despairing for now. It's a nice sized chunk of the book, and you'll know when you hit it, and you'll know when it's over So, I guess that was just a kind of warning? Still very enjoyable, just hard. And I didn't expect it to be like that.

On a lighter note, by the endish, leading up to the climax, life looks a little bit brighter to Tris. And that may not make much sense, but really, that's a good thing. It's still plenty suspenseful and exciting! Just not despairing. I was able to breath a little easier.

I promise I'm almost done.

Actually, I'll stop now because that ended up WAY longer than I meant it to be. And even though I guessed something similar in the way it ends...I am SUPER SUPER PSYCHED FOR THE LAST BOOK. You know why?

It has an awful cliffhanger. Your breath will stop.


Happy reading! You will NOT be disappointed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Scorpio Races: review

Author: Maggie Stiefvater 
Genres: mythology, fantasy, magical realism
Summary: It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

It took me about 160 pages and a whole month to like this book. After that, I finished it two days. My thoughts are mixed and still not final, but here they are as of finishing it five minutes ago, so bear with their slightly scatteredness...

I didn't really look at it twice for a long time. I kept seeing the cover at bookstores but didn't get what the hype was about. In fact, I read the backslap of a galley months before it came out and decided it sounded very lame. Then my friend goes, out of the blue, You have to read this amazing book. You'll love it like I do. But I get Sean. Just like that, in italics and everything. I could hear it in her voice. And she's more careful with her recommendations than I am. She also pointed out to me right after, that I was already familiar with the author, Maggie Stiefvater, from the Shiver trilogy. Ohh...well I suppose I could give this a shot.

So I bought The Scorpio Races, suddenly excited to read this strange random book, but I became immediately disinterested. The more I tried to read it, the more my eyes slid off the page, and it seemed as if I was being introduced to the entire town of Thisby in one day, and nothing made sense at all. Books with two different POVs, in my experience, rarely ever turn out good. I felt really unattached to both Puck and Sean, because it was annoying that they didn't even interact at all. But then all the sudden-I don't even know why or when it happened- it became super duper good. That's when I couldn't put it town and my hands started to sweat and I didn't ever want it to end. But it did, and now I'm writing this.

One of the main problems I had in making it grab me, was the setting. I finally dubbed it magical realism because I seriously couldn't categorize it and I needed that grounding: knowing where the hell Thisby is,  and when the story took place! They seem to live on this small island and trading with a kind of coin, but then the tourists come in squeaky clean white tennis shoes, and reporters surge in with huge flash bulbs on their cameras. When that happened, my image of that particular scene turned sepia against my will. To make myself feel better reading it, in my head I came up with a little background: Thisby is a small island off of Ireland. The story takes place in the 1920's. There, all better now.

How old is Puck? I couldn't get a clear picture of her. Though, I loved the fact that she was the first woman to ever ride in the races, especially since she isn't on a capall uisce (CAPple ISHka-water horse), but her own small and normal horse, Dove. She doesn't enter the races for the normal reasons, but she is incredibly brave and sticks with what she thinks is right.

Sean I felt like I knew my entire life, his character development is outstanding, one of the best I've ever read, and I got him the way you're supposed to. Which means kind of all at once and not at all. ...That made better sense in my head. Anyway, viewing the world through Sean, it's truly deep and makes you think. Also his connection to Corr is beautiful.

Recently, I read one of Ursula Le Guin's essays, Stress-Rhythm in Poetry and Prose. (If I'm remembering the correct one.) About two thirds through The Scorpio Races, I felt myself remembering that essay, noticing how well everything was being said. These descriptions placed perfectly with too few commas, and every single thought Sean had, carefully calculated to make you feel something. It worked. The rhythm and organization of everything, it's like magic. 

The legend the book is based on, water horses, was completely unfamiliar to me before reading, so I didn't have any idea what to expect, especially from the vague summary we're given. But she does a good job explaining, so pay attention in the beginning, because I didn't and now want to go back and reread the parts I kind of skimmed over.

I don't think I'm forgetting to mention anything...I'm still in that high you get after reading a great book. I may add to this later, because right now it's really hard to explain why I like and dislike many parts of it.

Maybe this won't be your type of book. I don't even like horse stories. But the mythology is definitely a pull, once you understand it. It's worth giving a try. The Scorpio Races is on a whole other level than her Shiver trilogy, and I wouldn't have even guessed by the writing or genre, that the same author wrote both.

-Jane

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Immortal Beloved: review



Title: Immortal Beloved (Immortal Beloved #1)
Author: Cate Tiernan
Genres: magical. fantasy.
Summary: Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.

Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.


(Note on cover: I've never seen someone sideways before, on a book cover. Have you? It's sort of weird, but I like it. There are at least three different covers for this book. This isn't the edition I read, but it's the one that made me click on the book. Yes, I do judge books by their covers...lots of people do! I might post a cover comparison on this one though, they're all very different.)


Immortal Beloved starts out a little rough, honestly. And the reason I stuck through the first...35 pages or so? is because I read another review saying it's worth trying past that first part. Yes, it totally is. And after a certain point, (after she leaves her friends) I found myself enjoying it a whole lot more than I expected I would. Then I culdn't put it down.

Nastasya's voice is really strong, and distinct. I immediately liked her. She's annoying, unfeeling, and I would almost say witty...but it's more of a snarky kind of humor. Attitude. She has lots of attitude. It's absolutely hilarious, so my kind of book. The way she is described, physically and personality--it leaves an impression. I found myself laughing or smiling at almost every page.

Every now and then, while at her stay (rehabilitation) at River's Edge, Nasty backflashes to her old lives (life?), over the past 450 years she's lived. She isn't some silly teenager like in most YA, though she may act stupid sometimes. Over the ages, she has married and had kids and lived through famine and wars and everything in between. Nasty has experience, and that makes her a more valid character, I think. It's cool following her in her path to become a better person though, (as in not constant partying for the past few decades and remembering how to care again) because she seriously needs it.

A few things I hope gets addressed later in the trilogy are Reyn, and the Immortality:

Reyn: is the totally awesome but amazingly subtle love interest. Aka, the Viking God, as Nasty likes to call him. This story isn't much about him, but Nasty's actual bildungsroman...with him on the side.
(My internal dialogue)
Wait, you mean her whole world doesn't slow to sparkling skin and stupid adjectives about the hot dude's amazing amazingness?
No!
Such a nice break.
I know.
Unfortunately, he is slightly underdeveloped.
Yes, but I'm sure that will be expanded in the second one.
I have no doubt. Because with that last third of the book, he needs more words.
*eyebrow wiggle*

Immortality:
What a cool concept, and the way she creates her twist on it, and history (my favorite part!) is very neat. Instead of showing the light side of Immortality (you get to be with your spouse FOREVER and EVER), you see what it actually does to you centuries later. Human lovers don't last more than a few decades, and children that don't end up immortal die too. If you marry another Immortal, imagine living for them forever...yeah that takes a LOT of commitment. I agree with Nasty's opinions on that completely. Bella, you might need a back-up plan if you ever get tired of Edward for a few decades in never-freaking-ending bliss. It's unnatural.
Haha. :P
Anyway, the only thing that just wasn't as explained out as I wanted it to be, was how they DIE. Yes, apparently they do. These "immortals"...
...but that's all that's really said. I think at one point, she says "yeah we do die, but it's really hard and rare, but it is possible." Huh? Please explain more? I'd like to understand it better.

The genre confused me a little bit at first, because it's paranormal, I mean she is immortal but it's really off the beaten-paranormal-path. Almost "magic" but not "witches" No magical creatures besides them though. And they are just lucky humans that live forever. I just happened to stumble upon this while browsing Goodreads, so I ordered it from the library, but I'll definitely be buying it and the sequels. Paperback. I am so happy to find this indie-like series, and I really look forward to reading more of Cate Tiernan's books, maybe the Balefire series next. Immortal Beloved didn't have a cliffy, but all the same I can't wait to get my hands on the next one, Darkness Falls.

One of the best books I've read this year so far! 5 stars, but as for as recommending it, I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. It's an odd book. For someone who's looking for something out of the norm, you'll love this.

You might also like: Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus.

-Jane