Thursday, 21 July 2011

Review: Paranormalcy

Title: Paranormalcy
Author: Kiersten White
Series: #1 of Paranormalcy
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Age restriction? None
Published: 31 August 2010
Recommended for: Fans of lighter YA or spec fic
Buy: Paranormalcy @ Amazon

Stellar book with fun characters, original concepts and a great story. A MUST READ NAO book.

DESCRIPTION (via Goodreads): Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal. 
REVIEW: I loved this book. Loved loved loved it. Not only were the characters fully rounded and incredibly engaging (even the "bad guys", I love that!), but the main character, Evie, goes through several upsets during the book changing her entire life and the way she views the world. 

While there are your stock paranormals kept at the Center, White also invents a couple as she goes along (including the two main characters), which I found very well-done and enriching. While it may be said that the paranormals the Center pursues are "underpowered", in the context of the book it made a lot of sense - if they were invincible and there were that many creatures all around us all the time, human population would have died out long before the IPCA or the APCA could have been started to contain them. The moral and ethical implications of containment and "neutering" the PNs are also beginning to be explored towards the end, which I found added an unforeseen level of depth to an already exciting and fresh plot.

Speaking of plot, this book's was perfectly paced, leaving you to wonder at the right moments and offering (some) explanations only when you need them.

Paranormalcy was, in my book, almost perfect. It was great fun to read, you really come to care about all of the characters and the story was engaging and original. I had to wrack my brain to come up with something I didn't like, and the only thing I could get was that Evie named her taser gun. Tasey. Yah.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Any fans of spec-fic or YA, and anyone whose soul sometimes craves for just fun and something non-angsty. This book is pretty light and fluffy, so there are no age constraints or worries and is just a general feel-good book. I guess if you think the light side of life and people having fun while in danger is all unicorns and rainbows and stupid, you might want to first lend it from the library or a friend.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Review: The Vampire Diaries: The Fury and Dark Reunion

 Title: Vampire Diaries: The Fury and Dark Reunion (Goodreads)
Author: L.J. Smith
Series: #3 & #4 of The Vampire Diaries
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Vampires
Age restriction? Teens, 12+
Published: 26 December 2007
Recommended for: Teens who like the vamps, fans of VDs (that's Vampire Diaries, not Venereal Diseases), younger teens or those who haven't read a lot of spec fic.
Buy: The Vampire Diaries: The Fury and Dark Reunion @ Amazon

The Fury was a great ending to a fine series but Dark Reunion? Ugh. Avoid.
DESCRIPTION: The completion of the Vampire Diaries. After all that's happened, Elena is still caught between Stephan and Damon and her life had definitely taken a turn for the "interesting".

REVIEW: The Fury was great. A fabulous, heart-wrenching ending to a great trilogy. Sacrifices are made, plots are resolved, centuries-old vengeances are enacted. Dark Reunion? No thanks. This was a tack-on to keep the series going even after a great end. SO unbelievable - especially the first quarter. I was like WTF for most of that time, it was that absurd.

Once again, even in Dark Reunion, Meredith and Bonnie saved the story for me. I enjoyed reading about them so much, and although the story itself was far-fetched bordering on the ridiculous, I did appreciate the inclusion of a relatively unknown mythology (the Kitsune).

Recommended for: The rating should actually be two and a half, but I'm keeping to the Amazon and Goodreads standards. 
Those who read the first books will need to read The Fury. Dark Reunion: Only try it if you've got nothing better on your TBR pile, or if you simply cannot bear to leave the universe created.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Review: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11)

 Title: Dead Reckoning (Goodreads)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Series: #11 of the Sookie Stackhouse books
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Adult
Age restriction? (Much) Older Teens, 16+
Published: 3 May 2011
Recommended for: Die-hard fans of Sookie and/or Eric and/or Beel
Buy: Dead Reckoning @ Amazon

Disappointing. Weak story, weaker characters, lots and lots of telling. I wouldn't bother unless you're already a fan.
DESCRIPTION: Well, if you need a description, you probably don't want to read this book. Seriously. Sookie and Eric have trouble in their relationship. Sookie messes up. Lots of people (and non-people) are out to kill Sookie. Vampire Politics Plot. Fairy Politics Plot. Cue Curtain.

REVIEW: Dead Reckoning left me feeling flat. I've enjoyed all the books in the series so far (yes, even 9 and 10, which fans bitched about), but this? This was beyond pale. Weak, flat story with no real action, danger or mystery. Predictable to the extreme and all of it told instead of shown. No character development at all. 
A flicker of interesting happened when Sookie went with Hunter to size up his new school, but once again, everything was told and then it's the last we hear of Hunter (whose relationship with Sookie could be a really invigorating change to what's become a plot-by-numbers series). When I say "everything is told", I mean "everything is told". Almost zero showing going on. Like with Tara's baby shower, we are told there are some women and a few names are mentioned, and we are told Sookie is told a really nice story about her gran and we're assured that this makes her feel better. 

Yeah. The whole book is basically like that.

I don't know, it's as if the TV series has sucked the blood and originality out of the books, which is funny considering that they're only similar in an "inspired by the books" kind of way, and it's almost as if Charlaine Harris herself is getting bored with it all.

Still, I did find it intruiging enough to finish, and it had one or two fun moments, so two stars it is.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Die-hard Sookie book fans (not the series, the books), who hope that the next one will be better or will finally end the damn series.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Read-a-Thon: Wrapup

Once Upon a Read-a-ThonSorry for the late update - I was too busy reading to blog, hahaha. I had such a blast with the read-a-thon, can't wait for the next one. So, my update:

Books read between Monday and Wednesday:

As you can see, I started out fine on track, but the moment I read Evermore (and had access to the rest of the books, of course), I abandoned the rest of my TBR list and pursued the Immortals series. I know, sad, isn't it? ;p

(I would have done the same if I had Supernaturally in my possession after I finished Paranormalcy by the way.) Plus, I had so much fun!

Books read: 6
Hours read: About 25 hours
Pages read: No idea. Rough estimate at 200 pages per book it'd be 1,200
Mini-challenges done: 4/6

So really, thanks to everyone involved, this was a great way to get back into reading and blogging.

Review: Before I Fall

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Series: Stand alone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Age restriction? Teens, 12+
Published: 2 March 2010
Recommended for: All teens, those who like contemporary YA fiction, those looking for a soul-moving read.
Buy: Before I Fall @ Amazon

An unexpectedly fabulous read with a great story and REAL characters that suck you in and won't let go. 

DESCRIPTION: What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? ...more

REVIEW:  I have to admit, I went into Before I Fall with a very "bleh" attitude. I was still on a high from reading the Vampire Academy books and I did NOT feel like some mushy, anst-ridden, "oh no, existential anxiety plus moral lesson" book.

I was pleasantly surprised, however.  I found in the prologue everything I feared the book would be: Angsty, over-written guiltfest. Ugh. I even thought about just shelving it and trying something else, but I hate leaving books unfinished, so I resolved to stick it out until at least the second chapter or the first twenty pages, whichever came first. I fully expected to have to drudge through that before being able to give up with a sigh of relief and a "at least you tried" backpat.

However, when I started with the book itself, I literally couldn't tear myself away. I didn't take any bathroom breaks, I didn't eat anything, I drank the coffee that my husband brought to me and nothing else. It's lucky for my kids I started reading this on a Saturday morning, because I was incapable of looking after them or even getting them some juice. (Luckily their dad is great, and a reader himself so he understood. Love ya!).

The character of Sam drew me in immediately. I liked her, even though she was everything (and everyone) I hated in high school and after - fake, does anything to fit in with the popular kids, quite frankly a jerkass asshat of the nth degree. I really cannot pinpoint why, exactly - she's just that well-written.

And that's the strength of the story. All the characters but especially Sam is so well written that you happily relive the same day seven times with them all, seeing how they react, how they change, discovering their secrets and their fears.

This book blew me away, although the prose was pretty purple at times and by the sixth day I was getting impatient with Sam's not-getting-it-ness. Still, a great read and one I wish every teenager going through popularity drama (either being unpopular or popular, or just struggling to be themselves in general) would read. I know it would have changed my world as a teenager, and I plan to make it required reading for my three children.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Teens. Even though there's some smoking and swearing and talk about sex, I really don't think it's anything anyone older than 12 or so wouldn't be able to handle. Also, anyone who still sometimes feel their inner teenager/child rebelling, or just plain likes reading damn good books. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Title: Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between
Author: J.A. Saare
Series: #1 of Rhiannon's Law
Genre: Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Age restriction? Yes. One explicit sex scene
Published: 30 April 2011
Recommended for: Fans of Urban Fantasy, fans of snarky main characters, vamp lovers and those who just enjoy a great story
Buy: Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between @ Amazon

Excellent read with a strong plot structure and incredible characters. Highly recommended.

DESCRIPTION: One bad corpse can ruin your whole day.

No one knows that better than Rhiannon Murphy.

She left behind the flash and sass of Miami for the no-nonsense groove of New York City, eager for a clean slate and a fresh start. A bartender by trade, a loud mouth by choice, and a necromancer by chance; she managed to keep her nifty talent hidden from those around her—until now.

REVIEW: I liked this book WAY more than I thought I would. At first I was like: girl with special powers, check. Sexay Vampire Dood Love Interest, check. Badass badmouthin' attitude-slinging asskicking heroine, check. However, I was very soon surprised with how much depth the author managed to put into the characters and their interactions. She took familiar tropes and went above and beyond to make them personal and fresh.

The plot is well structured, although I found that there were awkward moments. One of them is the way in which Rhiannon reveals the abusive past she'd been hinting at from the first chapter. I was seriously like OKAY WHUT?, not at what she revealed (heart-breaking stuff) but at the how of it. Clumsy plotting, the kind of thing a good editor would have picked up on.

Another thing that slightly vexed me was that there were two or three scenes (one chapter) that were completely unnecessary. This is something I'm particularly sensitive too, since it's a huge flaw and struggle for me in my own writing as well (I either over-compensate by making it All Action All the Time or I'm left with chapters and chapters describing mundane, unimportant crap, so I really have a lot of sympathy with this flaw). 

Other than these two minor things, I was ALL OVER this book. Unlike many people, I wasn't upset with the "cliffhanger" ending at all. The plot arc for this book was done, it was just a teaser introduction to the next book's premise. 

However, the best part of the book for me? The "romance" aspect did not dominate the plot at all. I found that SO refreshing and incredibly satisfying and I simply can. not. wait for The Renfield Virus - out in AUGUST!  

Who would like this book: Older teens, fans of any form of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.

Waiting on Wednesday #5

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we just can't wait to get our grubby fingers on.

This week, I'm anxiously awaiting:

Vampires, and werewolves, and demons, oh my. 

I  don't want to post the entire description here, since it will spoil the first book which you have to read. Review coming later today or tomorrow, but now I can not WAIT until this book's release. Unfortunatly, it's only in August :(

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Read-a-Thon: Mini Challenges 3 and 4 plus UPDATE

So, the Read-a-Thon is so much fun! More than even I thought, and I had high expectations. Here are mini-challenges three and four, update at the end of the post.

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon 

Mini Challenge from YA Bliss:  
So, for this one you will have to post on your blogs your top 3 LOVE TRIANGLES.

Great concept. Good love triangles, where you can't decide who to root for, are so hard to find! Nonetheless, here are my 3 faves:

1. Archer vs. Cal in Demonglass.
2. Eric vs. Stu in the Katie Connor books (reviews to come!)
3. Eponine vs. Cosette in Les Misérables

All of these I simply could not decide who should get the girl (or guy), since I loved both characters.

Mini Challenge from The Bookish Type:

Pick any book from your readathon pile and write a fake synopsis based solely on the cover. The synopsis does not have to be related to the actual book at all, just the pretty, pretty cover.
First of all, what an AMAZING idea! I love it, thanks so much! So, my entry:

When Nua Carter is sent to a secretive and elite university by the father she had never seen, her entire life and everything she knew starts unraveling before her eyes. Nothing is what it seems and Nua learns shocking truths about her father, her mother and her destiny. Because Nua is special, Nua is needed and the task that Nua must preform will save the world - and unravel Nua's very existence.

And now I have inspiration for a new story! Yay! Thanks!

RaT UPDATE: Finished Impulse and Paranormalcy, starting Evermore.

Current book: Evermore (Immortals #1)
Books read: 3/6
Hours read:  +-17
Pages read: 818
Mini Challenges completed: 4

Let me know how your challenge is going!

Monday, 11 July 2011

RaT Mini Challenge #2 and update

Mini-challenge hosted by IBBookblogging

So here's the chellenge:

Mini Challenge Question 1:
What is your favorite type of myth (Greek, Roman, Egyptian etc)?

As a scholar in Latin, I have a deep and abiding love for the Greco-Roman mythos so that will always be my first choice. However, I've always been intrigued by far-eastern cultures, although I know next to nothing about them. Also, I found Celtic and Norse mythology through reading and I love it.

Mini Challenge Question 2:
What is your favorite book with some type of mythology in it?

Difficult question, there are so many, some with made up in-world mythologies and some drawing from known traditions.

Interpreting the question as "known traditions", I think I'd have to go with a series, The Fionovar Tapestry. It takes together all of the main mythologies into a "master" world where all myths and legends originates and is the richest and most complex exploration of mythologies I've yet seen.

Edit: Of course, made from scratch mythologies goes to Terry Pratchett. Obvs. If I were a Discworld goddess, I'd BE Annoia.

UPDATE: I'm done with Dead Reckoning and it turns out that Impulse is written in verse and was a quick read. I'm on page one of Paranormalcy now - can't wait to read it!

Yay Read-a-Thon kickoff!

Yay, it's time for the Read-a-Thon! If you haven't already, click on the pic to sign up and read, read read!

Books I plan to read:

This is the first time I'll be doing a read-a-thon, so I'm sooo excited. I'll keep you updated as I finish my books and the challenges (I plan to do them all, how's that for overly ambitious?), and the twitter hashtag for this is #OUreadathon, if you want to hang out.

What are you doing for the read-a-thon?

Review: The Vampire Diaries 1 & 2

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle

Title: Vampire Diaries: The Awakening & The Struggle
Author: L.J. Smith
Series: #1 & #2 of The Vampire Diaries
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Age restriction? Teens, 12+
Published: 26 June 2007

Overcoming an incredibly unlikable main character to become a mediocre yet satisfying girl meets vampires story.

DESCRIPTION (via Goodreads:): Elena: the golden girl, the leader, the one who can have any boy she wants.

Stefan: brooding and mysterious, he seems to be the only one who can resist Elena, even as he struggles to protect her from the horrors that haunt his past.

Damon: sexy, dangerous, and driven by an urge for revenge against Stefan, the brother who betrayed him. Determined to have Elena, he'd kill to possess her.

REVIEW:  I almost threw the damn book right across the room. I think if I hadn't already been invested via the TV show, I would have, so word to the wise: Don't expect book Elena to be anything like show Elena. At all.

Elena was really that annoying in the beginning, so fair warning. She's the blonde beauty, the ice princess, the Queen Bee and knows it, and when she meets Stephan, who is trying to outrun his past and find his humanity, her resolution to get him has nothing to do with love initially: she's just pissed that a guy is not showing interest in her.
Yuck, right?

Luckily, it improves dramatically. Through the course of the first book, Elena changes her attitude drastically, which meant I finally got to relax and enjoy the story. So, the plot is nothing new, except for the bizarre bit with Katherine looking exactly like Elena, and I quite enjoyed the deviation from the TV series in that Stephan spends most of the first book wondering if it was him killing those people after all. Good times.

I've always been a sucker for ye olde siblinge rivalry, so I enjoyed the story arc with Damian and Stephan's relationship immensely. I also appreciated the way they were total polar opposites - though sometimes the author intrudes grossly to point out just how different they really are. 

I think one of the real saving graces of the series, for me, was Meredith and to a lesser degree, Bonny. They are so much fun and very well-rounded and real. They made me giggle at inappropriate times and often provide Elena with opportunities to redeem herself.

All in all, fun to read and enjoyable, though not exactly what you'd call breakthrough or original.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Back from Vaycay, AKA Let the Games Begin Commencing

Yay, vaycay is over. It was great, I did a lot of reading (when I wasn't working through the nights, that is) and I got a lingering flu. At this stage, I think this flu has decided that we were Meant To Be Tee Em, so it's taken my voice in trying to get me to submit. Or something.

So, reviews coming up:
  • Dead Undead
  • Vampire Academy
  • Before I Fall
  • Kate Connor series
  • Vampire Diaries series
See ya during the week!