Sunday, November 16, 2014

Heir of Fire, By Sarah J. Maas - Review

From Goodreads:
Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

This series is intriguing to me, it sways back and forth a little between being powerful and being a bit silly at times, and I think it has a lot to do with the scope of it. Maas has said recently that it was sold as a six parter, which is awesome, but does mean there are lots of middling parts where things are being set up and developed. To me this is where things can get a bit silly sometimes. Rowan, for instance, is a perfectly good character with a strong reason for being included, but all the bits where Celaena contemplates his body or ponders their strange intimacy (they've seen each other pretty much buck naked but aren't sexually attracted to each other) are both unnecessary and a bit weird. It's an element I feel wouldn't be there if their "training" storyline wasn't quite so long. It was a similar trap I felt Maas fell into a bit with the first book with the somewhat pointless love triangle, and the rather self defeating "romantic" moments that often ended up nulling out some of Celaena's so-called awesome skills (remember how many times both Dorian and Chaol were able to sneak up on her?).  I think this series would be considerably stronger if attempts weren't regularly being made to shack Celaena up with someone.

However, outside of the Rowan weirdness, this was a great book. Maas branches out into multiple POV's, including an unexpected bad guy, making  a slower growing pains book, much more page turning then it might otherwise have been.

Chaol and Dorian are perhaps the biggest surprise for me.  I didn't think following them in the wake of Celaena's abrupt departure would be overly interesting, and at first it was not, but their path is the truly startling one, and where all the shocks at the ending were felt the strongest for me.

Although I wasn't left as much on the edge of my seat as last time, I am looking forward to part four with enthusiasm. It makes my book saturated heart happy to see some epic fantasy, with a long reaching storyline take a foothold in YA.  May it's success lead to more.

Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury, Sept 2, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers, Review and Giveaway!

From Goodreads:
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

Every book in this series has been more impressive than the last, and after Dark Triumph I was both elated by the prospect of Annith's story and worried she couldn't possibly top Sybella's story. In fact, Dark Triumph was such a phenomenal story I couldn't ever seem to do it justice review wise and eventually just gave up.  So let me just take a moment to say that it was a dark triumph of writing and a spectacular book that deserves every ounce of praise it received and then some. However, I needn't have worried, Annith's story was the icing on the His Fair Assassins cake, in every possible way.

There are many aspects I loved about this series. It was a unique mix of folklore, history and fantasy, it has fabulously broken girls who kicked ass in all regards, it uses three very different personalities to flesh out so many views and experiences of religion and belief, and it tells a sweeping and engrossing story.  The way the three books came together in the end was extremely satisfying, watching each girl come into their own and take hold of their destinies was cathartic and exciting, and LaFevers threw in enough reveals and surprises to keep you on your toes throughout.

I particularly liked the way Anniths story intersected with the other gods and revealed more about the mysterious other disciples and groups. Although it's hard to say where she could take it, I would love to see LaFevers explore more of this world from other view points.

I won't say too much more, for fear of spoiling something, but Anniths revelation about Mortain is by far my favourite, and definitely fitting for the final piece in this highly enjoyable series. I can't rave about these enough to do them justice, but if you're looking for a story with both heart and some of the toughest female leads since Katniss, well then, look no further.

Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers, November 4th, 2014
My Copy kindly provided by the publisher
Buy Mortal Heart on Amazon

Haven't had a chance to check out Mortal Heart yet? Have a Canadian address? Well then, this is your day! Enter to win a copy and wait no further to dive in.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Belated winner announcement!

I would be a huge liar if I didn't admit that 98% of my life is belated now that I not only have a wee child but also am back to work, full time! I know, so not an issue for the average joe, but I am a spoiled girl who was working 3.5 days a week for several years now, and so have been used to lots of time to getting life things done in. Sigh.

But the good news is flowing tonight! I have a winner for the Spooktacular Giveaway hope which had over SEVEN HUNDRED people enter! Barring a non-answer from her, the winner is......

Check your junk mail for an email from me!

I also have belated halloween pics for you as well. Because how could it ever be halloween without cats in costumes, I ask you... honestly, how could it?! Oh, and the furless child as well.

Que jaws music...Is that...????
Yup, Thurman!

Joined by Bat Opal
she was rather fond of her costume.

I mean, who wouldn't be?

Cheddar was less impressed with his.

Oh right, then there was the furless child.

She was prodigiously talented at Trick or Treating.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop!

Oh it is that time of year again! And although I didn't do my usual month of spooky reads I just couldn't give up the best hop of the year. I mean, we can't trick or treat anymore, so we might as well trick or tweet.

Two of the best creepy books I've read in the past while have both been Holly Black books, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and Doll Bones, so this year I'll be giving the winner their choice of those two books. Shipping to anywhere the Book Depository ships. Nothing required to enter, short of your goodwill and loving attention,( I am unworthy, I know), but for a bonus entry feel free to tweet this contest with the hashtag #FaveCreepyRead. Now sally forth and win all the loot!

But don't stop here! There are 293 entries to go!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare- Review

From Goodreads:
From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.

From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will -- is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that? It's a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.

Ok, for starters I hate this description of the book.  It's an ad, not a description, however I am far too lazy these days to ever write my own blurbs. Suffice it to say, this book has been described by the authors as "What if Tom Riddle wrote Harry Potter?"...
I want to pause a moment and let you ponder what that means, because it is a really, really cool concept. And it's also a cool concept written by two really stellar writers, so to say it's brimming with promise is to put it lightly.

The good news is it is really full of potential. The world is fascinating and has an intriguing scope, the set up is good and if you compare this book (book one of 7, just like HP), to the first HP, then it is fairly on track.  Obviously the big reveal at the end isn't as big as it could have been since they've campaigned on the twist, but it still works.

The bad news is that I expected some amazing things from these two writers. I expected Holly's dark, twisted world building and tragic characters that still shine with promise and verve. I expected Cassie's witty repartee and character building.  Granted I imagined it would come together slightly different then when they write separately but Holly is an old hand at corroboration and I just assumed she would have them sharing penmanship gracefully right from the get go.  The fact of the matter is, if I hadn't been told they were co-writing this project, I never would have guessed that either of them had a hand in it, just from reading it.

Part of the issue is a lot happens in a fairly short space of pages, so there just isn't the room for these characters to develop as much as I would want. Since there are six more books I imagine it's a problem that will be rectified by book the second, however it certainly dampens my need to read book the second any time soon.  But I worry that Black and Clare are either being too cautious or just don't pair well together writing wise, because I really didn't seen any of either of their styles in the pages of this book, which was really disappointing for me.

Possibly I read this book with too much excitement for it's potential, and too soon after the disappointment of Clare's final Mortal Instruments instalment.  Possibly it's just a mediocre book that's just fine if you don't read it too close to anything really good. Possibly, it needs book two before these authors catch their stride and start making magic happen. But possibly it's book one of a less than stellar 7 part series. I reserve judgment until I have more to judge.

The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Published by Scholastic, September 5th, 2014
My copy kindly provided by the publisher

Monday, September 15, 2014

Becoming Fierce- Anthology, Blog Tour Review

From Goodreads:
Life is fierce. But so are you.

Sometimes it totally sucks being a teen. Trying to fit in, dealing with bullies, a changing body, and the feeling that no one really gets it. It’s hard on the head and often seems like no one else understands.

That’s what Becoming Fierce is all about. Those not-so-fun times that come with being a teen but also how others have gone through similar things and made it to the other side. New and established Canadian authors share experiences from their teen years that have stuck with them. Some of the stories are dark and heartbreaking while others are lighthearted and grin-worthy. Regardless, they all have something in common: while things may seem like an epic fail now, they do get better.

There are several reasons I wanted to read this anthology despite the fact I'm not generally a short story person.  

Reason one: I love Susin Nielsen, who has done the forward to this book.
Seriously. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen was an astounding book (you should really really read it. If you have already, then you really, really need to read it again.). So if she's onboard, how can I not be?  

Reason two: Part of the proceeds go to the Kids Help Phone.
I mean honestly, is there anything better than a book that is trying to help teens see past all the hard parts (god, some really, really hard parts! I cringe for my daughters future) and show the glimmer of hope on the horizon? It's called making it to adulthood alive and sane, spoiler alert.
The answer is yes, there is, when they're also providing some of your money from the purchase of the book, into funding another outlet for helping those who need extra help to make it through.  Basically you're doing a good dead just by buying the book, no matter how long it ends up in your TBR pile.

Reason three: I greatly enjoy this publisher. This Canadian publisher. This recently started, during the decline in publishing, independent, small press publisher. Co-founded by a book blogger and animal lover. The reasons are legion to support this press, however, so far the books have been so astounding I haven't needed any of them as excuses.

Reason four:
The stories are extremely readable, even when some of them are incredibly dark. 

Not a fast read or an easy read. Not a beach book or something to take on the subway with you to work. This book is made for quite reading with processing time, and sometimes with chocolate and kittens to lighten your spirits. Thought provoking and true to it's subject, Becoming Fierce is an excellent example of what anthologies can do best, highlight a subject from every angle.

Becoming Fierce, by Fierce Ink Press
Publishing September 23rd, 2015

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson- Review

From Goodreads:
After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory's brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she's become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades--the city's secret ghost-fighting police--are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it's too late.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what to make of this series. Book the first was creepy and enjoyable, but there was a longish wait for book the second and an enormous break between 2 and 3, and I lost my motivation to dive right in, so I didn't buy it right away and after I did, it then sat on my shelf for months. Now to be fair, I had a baby, so I haven't been as prolific as normal and things languish a bit, even if I am dying to read them. 

 The Madness Underneath lacked all the creepy atmosphere that book the first had for me, it also completely moved away from the Jack the Ripper story line which was part of what I had loved about the first book. Instead, this part of the book seemed to be a continuation of Rory's adventures with ghosts, and a discovery book about where this would lead her life (spoiler alert! nowhere near what it had been before, that is exactly where it's leading her, so if you particularly liked the boarding school aspect then you, my friend, are sh#t out of luck, as they say).

Because I like Rory's personality (it is very Maureen Johnson, if you read Johnson's twitter then you know what you're getting into here. Rory even refers to her JimJams), and because I find Johnson is very capable of a fun, quick read, I still really enjoyed this book.  But let's be honest, as a series that was built heavily on the Jack the Ripper bit, it really breaks away into something other.  It's turned into a modern, YA, ghostbusters, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I'm guessing those of us who were in the initial read group are standing around thinking "umm, what?". Granted, I'm guessing the group is small- in publishing sales standards- as this series has had a makeover (always a sign of lagging sales) and the paperback of the second book has a "preview" of The Name of the Star.  Let me just digress for a minute, can you IMAGINE, how obnoxious that would be, if you read all the way to the end of book two, only to realize it's the SECOND BOOK?! Really weird, I mean, why didn't they put the "preview" on the front of the book so if you had missed it (which clearly they think you have) you'd have the opportunity to correct that mistake before reading the second book. Apparently this is why I would never succeed in publishing.

It took most of the book to get to, but I have to say there were two twists at the end which blew my mind a little. I hadn't expected either of them, and they both shift the story line in a way that, once again, completely changed Rory's story. I am very intrigued as to where Maureen is taking this series, and am looking forward to February when I can find out.

The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson
Published by Putnam Juvenile, February 16th, 2013