Friday, December 27, 2013

The Offering: review

Title: The Offering (The Pledge #3)
Author: Kimberly Derting
Rating: 4 stars
Summary: True love—and world war—is at stake in the conclusion to The Pledge trilogy, a dark and romantic blend of dystopia and fantasy.
 Charlie, otherwise known as Queen Charlaina of Ludania, has become comfortable as a leader and a ruler. She’s done admirable work to restore Ludania’s broken communications systems with other Queendoms, and she’s mastered the art of ignoring Sabara, the evil former queen whose Essence is alive within Charlie. Or so she thinks.

 When the negotiation of a peace agreement with the Queendom of Astonia goes awry, Charlie receives a brutal message that threatens Ludania, and it seems her only option is to sacrifice herself in exchange for Ludanian freedom.

 But things aren’t always as they seem. Charlie is walking into a trap—one set by Sabara, who is determined to reclaim the Queendoms at any cost.

I finally figured out the genre of the Pledge series: medieval dystopian. I mean, Queendoms, old technology, magical powers...totally fits, right? Also, I really need to stop giggling when I read the word Queendom. It's awesome, and why haven't I read it anywhere else before.

All in all, The Offering is a great ending to the trilogy. It doesn't go on too long, things get figured out and I'm really happy with how everything turned out. But the whole romance in here irked me. There wasn't much Max and Charliana interactions, actually, but when there was...ahh let's just say unfortunately there was the "It's perfect." beat. "You're perfect." moment which just made me cringe so badly...but I got over it. Mostly the whole thing was gushy and annoying, but that's just me.

Cliche numero dos was Charliana valiantly going by herself (et sidekick) to turn herself in to the other Queen Elena that was so predictable, and really why do you have to do that, Charlie. After everything though, it wasn't some stupid selfless act; I liked how it played out. AND she let someone get sacrificed for her in the process. That's some strong Queenness, that is. War isn't pretty, duh.

Even though Charlie is Queen of her country and has like a hundred guards, I strongly supported her want of self defense lessons and hand to hand combat training. I didn't understand why this was so frowned upon, why she had to hide it. Wouldn't you be more comfortable if you knew your awesome queen was able to defend herself against possible traitors nearby, or out in the battlefield if that's where she ended up? Sure, her friends could be surprised at her for wanting to learn in the first place, but guys, get over it and support her. They did, it just took a little longer than I expected.

There is more technology and dystopian-hinted gadgets and ruins in the second book, and I missed that in here, we just got a few battles instead, which is okay. I really liked Caspar and his crew too, the forest dwellers.

If you're anxiously awaiting the release of the last book in the Pledge trilogy, don't worry, if you choose to pick The Offering up the day if its release, your new year will begin with a great, page-turning book.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Venom: review

Title: Venom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1)
Author: Fiona Paul
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: ya historical fiction, mystery
Summary: Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancĂ©, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin... and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancĂ©, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.

My review: 

It did take about 80 pages till I could really get into Venom. But once those dead bodies started showing up, I couldn't put it down.

The setting is different; Renaissance Venice. It's beautifully described, but realistically, not an ideal picture of the place, which made every scene that much more believable. With all the mention of different Pilazzos and the island she resides on, I did have a hard time mapping the place together. (also, I haven't been to Venice yet.) Maybe a map would have been good to have in the front of the book.

Yes. There is a love triangle. Thankfully that awful thing wasn't used much in Venom because one of the guys isn't really present until near the end. Unfortunately that might change in Belladonna. But who knows. I can say Cassandra's feelings and situation made her stand out from other love triangles I've scorned in the past. So I give the author kudos for that.

Besides the love triangle issue, guys this book is a murder mystery! And it has no supernatural beings!! Isn't that awesome? So rare nowadays. I love how Cass is superstitious, probably how I would be in her position. And Falco is all, don't be foolish, there are regular evil humans who exist. You have no idea how happy I am that this didn't turn into a paranormal. Historical fiction! One of the best ya hist-fic I've read.

My one concern is I can't really get a grasp of the ages of our characters. Was there a mention of fifteen early on in the book for Cass? It's sort of disorienting, and I don't know the time well enough when one girl would become engaged. Fifteen indeed, or more like eighteen? If anyone caught that, let me know.

I'm so glad I already own the second book!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Help my local indie bookstore!

Hello bookish people! Something exciting is happening: my indie bookstore needs your support! :)

Changing Hands Bookstore is the oldest and largest bookstore in Arizona, and the only independent bookstore around me. I spend way too much time there and buy all my books from them, know everyone who works there, and they even have programs for younger teens to read ARCs and review them in the store. I especially have that program to thank, for without it I would not have thought to start this book blog. They also have authors come frequently to talk and sign books, which is so cool for fans and bloggers and people who like signed books. (Who doesn't?)

Their 40th anniversary is coming up in the spring, and some great news is they have expanded to a second location which should be opening up in a few months. It is deeper into the city, and they are even building a cafe/bar into it which is so super cool. But they need your help! Changing Hands has started an IndiGoGo campaign to help build the store, and for donating even the small amount of $10 you can get neato bookish perks.

There's only 12 days left but they're more than halfway there! And they only get the funds if the campaign reaches its goal. If you want to help decrease world suck by supporting an independently owned business, I really suggest clicking this link to even just take a look at their hilarious video.

Here's the page: Frank 'N Moby Build a Bookstore

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and hopefully you can help my bookstore out! :)

Share the awesome!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Iron Knight & MaddAddam: mini reviews

Title: The Iron Knight (Iron Fey #4)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Source: Changing Hands Bookstore
Rating: 5 stars
Summary: To cold faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing any gentler feelings the Winter prince might have had. Or so he thought.

Then Meghan Chase; a half human, half fey slip of a girl; smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer fey can survive.

With the unwelcome company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through to its end: a quest to find a way to honor his vow to stand by Meghan's side.

To survive in the Iron Realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. And along the way Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice.

My Review:

Wow, well, this was like a billion times better than the first three books in my opinion. I am so glad I stuck with the series. It's never been one of my favorite series, but I bought all the books, so I stuck them between other reading this past year. 

I am so glad this book exists, and is in Ash's pov because he really needed some peace of mind, or whatever you call it. The Iron Knight is certainly your old-fashioned tale of dashing princes, epic trials, soul-searching, and most importantly, comic relief. Maybe my problem with the previous books was that I just couldn't ever completely like Meghan. So since she wasn't really in much of this, I was able to focus on the rest of the supporting characters, and actually pay attention to them.

Also, great middle-epilogue. We manage to get a HEA without all the cheesiness. So glad! But the actual ending was sort of bittersweet. I think it's easy to say Puck and Ash's relationship is my favorite in this series; it's so complicated and true.

If you thought the ending to The Iron Queen was good, the ending to The Iron Knight is fantastic.

I'm not sure I will continue on to the sequel series, but if I do, it will be after they're all out, like I did with this one. And only if I'm reassured that's all she's going to write. I can't have her go all Cassandra Clare on me, one is certainly enough. ;)

(Um, small use of language below, in case that offends. But if you're used to reading Atwood's books, it probably wouldn't.)

Title: MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3)
Source: Changing Hands Bookstore
Rating: 5 stars
Summary: A man-made plague has swept the earth, but a small group survives, along with the green-eyed Crakers – a gentle species bio-engineered to replace humans. Toby, onetime member of the Gods Gardeners and expert in mushrooms and bees, is still in love with street-smart Zeb, who has an interesting past. The Crakers’ reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is hallucinating; Amanda is in shock from a Painballer attack; and Ivory Bill yearns for the provocative Swift Fox, who is flirting with Zeb. Meanwhile, giant Pigoons and malevolent Painballers threaten to attack. 

My Review:

What captures me most in this trilogy, now more than before, in MaddAddam, is the unconventional narrative style. It reads like a story, as in storytelling, not in book-reading, if you follow me. With the complexity of the characters lives twined together throughout years of events, much of the book is told in dialogue and flashbacks. Our main point of view is from Toby, though it's third person, present tense. In my opinion, that is probably the most horrible viewpoint decision, but because of the whole storytelling thing, it's really the only way to go, and I think it worked for the most part. Near the end that all got very different with Blackbeard (one of the Crakers) narrating and helping out due to Toby's deterioration, but nevertheless still as captivating.

Oh the slang/lingo/language she came up many strange combinations of words and play on words...I can't even begin to list them, but one that was most intriguing was the Church of PetrOleum and the entire belief system related. The creativeness impressed me most definitely.

For one final small thought, one of my favorite Craker understandings was this: When Snowman-the-Jimmy started to recover, he realized some things and naturally when bad things happened, he would cry, Oh Fuck! and the Crakers would pester: Oh Toby, what is this Fuck? Who is it and where is it? She had to give some reasonable reply, so she said, "Fuck is who we call on when we need help and are desperate; Fuck flies through the air and gives aid to who needs it." The definitions she had to create for the Crakers...they really make you think about what we say every day.

MaddAddam answers all those questions and whereabouts of people that were introduced in the first two books, and it ends well, but with lots of bloodshed. I would recommend reading "Oryx and Crake" and "The Year of the Flood" before MaddAddam, but it doesn't really matter what order you read the first two, but this one really should be read last.

Hm. Those didn't end up to be mini reviews, did they?
-Jane :)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Across A Star-Swept Sea: review

Title: Across A Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars #2) (but can be read as a standalone)
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Changing Hands Bookstore
Summary: Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.

Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

My review:

Recently I've been in a YA book slump. I was starting to think I had outgrown any YA book I attempted. So for the past few weeks I've been distracting myself with non-fiction and classics, but finally I felt the need to read something lighter, something I could lose myself in. And if you're having the same problem, I suggest you pick this book up. It's definitely the cure.

From the first page, you'll get lost in the stunning, over-the-top costumes and luaus of Persis' island home. Though it was essential for Persis to have all this excessive luxury to help disguise her personality, I couldn't help but be awed by every bizarre creation. From her gengineered 'sea mink' to the choice of hair color, and even the whole concept of 'flutter notes'. Throughout the entire book, new tech is introduced. (In an odd way, the majority of Albions reminded me of citizens of The Capitol, and I mean that only in their fashion choices.)

Persis Blake may only be sixteen, but she has to be one of the most clever YA characters I've read in a while.  She has taken on a hugely difficult role, and pretty much has to sacrifice her personality to almost everyone she knows, in order to keep them off her tail as the Wild Poppy. Persis "Flake" is what everyone associates her with now. She's an airhead who is Princess Isla's best friend, and foremost fashion advisor. Anyway, most assume the Poppy is a man.

For those who have read For Darkness Shows the Stars…don't worry, there are cameos! I mean, they're not secret or anything. Essential to the plot line. It sure was nice to see Kai and Elliot again!

I don't want to write an overly long review of every single thing I liked about this book and all the great and important supporting characters, because I'm sure you'll just agree anyway when you read it. (It is not too late to add to your Christmas list, remember.)

All in all, Across a Star-Swept Sea is a fantastic and well-written retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and I'm just as impressed with it as I was the first book, a retelling of Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars. I dearly hope Diana Peterfreund decides to write more retellings in this dystopian world of hers; there's so much potential. But either way, I've had a hell of a toe-curling read thus far.


I suggest reading the prequel novella The First Star to Fall, and my review of the first book is here.