Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fury of the Phoenix

Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon

So, pardon me, but this is completely a reader error on my end. I didn't realize that Fury of the Phoenix is apparently a sequel to Silver Phoenix. Again, my bad. So if you don't mind, I'm going to stumble through this a lot.

I had an inkling of a suspicion that this was a sequel through the first few chapters as it kept referencing past events as if I should know them very well. Obviously, I don't. Anyways. Inevitably, this will probably contain spoilers to Silver Phoenix and I have no idea what's a spoiler and what's common knowledge, so read at your own risk.

So we have three main characters: Ai Ling, Chen Yong, and Zhong Ye. Ai Ling is a young girl who seems to have a supernatural ability described as a spirit that originates in her navel (it reminded me of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, which makes me wonder if navel abilities are becoming a trend). From what I can tell, she can sense other people's emotions, and even control them. She also seems to be able to use it to overhear conversations as well. Anyways, so from what I gathered, at one point Ai Ling was married to Zhong Ye who is an incredibly bad guy and killed him on their wedding night. Also, Ai Ling seems to have tried to resurrect Chen Yong's brother which is a bad thing since it's a dark art and hasn't told Chen Yong about it. From what I've gathered, Ai Ling used to be chosen by an immortal, but lost favor after she tried to resurrect Chen Yong's brother. She apparently cut out his heart, tried to call him back from the Underworld, but either failed or lost her will to do it and burned his entire body. They also have a big belief or accepted fact of the reincarnation cycle. So when Ai Ling did this to Chen Yong's brother, she might have screwed up his chances to be reincarnated. Maybe. I'm not certain.

Chen Yong is a young man who is leaving the country of Xia in search of his father in Jong (I might have spelled that wrong). He's very good at languages, writing, some form of martial arts where there's a bunch of different stances, and seems to dabble in art. He is either Ai Ling's childhood friend, or something because the two of them are very close. Since we have the narration from Ai Ling's point of view, we know that she's desperately in love with him, but is unsure of his feelings since at the beginning of the book we find out that his mother has betrothed him to some other lady. So that's interesting.

Zhong Ye is our other narrator (AND THIS WAS EXTREMELY CONFUSING UNTIL ABOUT 3/4 OF THE WAY THROUGH THE BOOK) who narrates when is nineteen years old and explains his life in the palace, how he met an alchemist from a different country that sought a spell for immortality. Now Zhong Ye appears to be a very scheming man as he sets himself up to be in better standing with the emporer, and gains the confidence of the foreign alchemist. He doesn't seem like a bad man, just ambitious. He lives in the grounds where the concubines are kept since he's a eunich and one night the emporer requests a new girl for his bed and Zhong Ye scrambles around and finds Mei Gui who is attended by Silver Phoenix. Gradually, Zhong Ye falls in love with Silver Phoenix. It's quite cute.

So the confusing part is, is that Ai Ling married Zhong Ye when he was older, and this probably took place maybe less than a year after she kills him. But, the other narration is from Zhong Ye when he's nineteen and just beginning to become tangled in the immortality spell with the alchemist Yokan.

So, in Ai Ling's narration we see Chen Yong and her travel together on a boat from Xia to Jong (again, pardon me if I spelled that wrong, names of places has never been my forte), and when they arrive in Jong and what happens from there.

In Zhong Ye's narration, we see what led him to the path of evil so to speak and what turned him into a man that Ai Ling would need to kill.

It's really interesting and it makes me tremendously wish I had read the first book initially. At this point, it seems that I've pieced together most of the first book based on what I read in the second book so I am reluctant to go back and read it. It did take me a bit longer to get through the book than normal as I kept having to stop and puzzle and try to piece together the first book. It made the read challenging, but the writing was so crisp and enriched that I couldn't very well put the book down either.

So all in all, Fury of the Phoenix was good. I don't know if it was a good follow up sequel to Silver Phoenix since I didn't read the first book, but Fury of the Phoenix was a good book.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Last Little Blue Envelope

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

The Last Little Blue Envelope is the the sequel to Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, and I implore you to not read this entry if you have not read Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. The sequel begins as a spoiler to the end.

Now it's been awhile...a long while...since I've read Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes but I recall loving the story as it was one of the best coming of age stories I've probably ever gotten my hands on. I was very hesitant to pick up The Last Little Blue Envelope since I did not want it to ruin the first book.

It didn't.

The Last Little Blue Envelope begins with Ginny trying to figure out what to put down for a college application essay. While she's busy procrastinating, she receives a mysterious email that claims someone has found the last little blue envelope; the one that was stolen from the last book. Apparently, this mysterious someone had bought her backpack from the thieves and almost all the contents were included. Ginny immediately signs up to return to her Uncle Richard's. Once she arrives, she spends some time with her Uncle before she meets up with Keith. Keith is still quite lively and enthusiastic about life and Ginny is quite excited. The last we knew of their relationship was that they kissed and she went back home, since that time they had been chatting on the internet and established there was something between them, they just didn't know what. But quickly, Ginny meets Ellis and based on both Ellis and Keith's actions, she puts two and two together and figures out that Ellis is Keith's girlfriend. So Ginny throws herself into seeking out the adventure of the last little blue envelope. She discovers that Oliver wants to come along on the journey though. That Oliver had actually memorized the letter and is not going to give her the last one (he returned the other twelve) until after they retrieved her Aunt Peg's finally artwork and sell it; him going away with half the profits. Needless to say, WHAT THE HECK OLIVER. So Ginny tells Keith, Keith goes all furious, and BAM! The Last Little Blue Envelope gets a terrific blast off into adventure with Aunt Peg's presence doting the story.

Despite my hesitations about reading The Last Little Blue Envelope, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I do still like how the first book ended with no concrete answer, with the implication that there is no end to a wonderful journey just constant new beginnings, and oh so much glorious philosophical splendor. I think Aunt Peg continued to be fabulous in this book as she did put the artistic spin on what it means to live life. It's eye-opening, inspirational, and so sad. There were a couple times where I had to put the book down and blow my nose and wipe my face clean just so I could see to keep reading on.

When a book can emotionally move you, it's a wonderful thing. I encourage readers to seek out Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, and it's brilliant sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope.


In the end, Ginny winds up with Oliver (if you've read the book, then you should know why; GUYS THE SPOILERS, THEY'RE COMING) and decides to not return to America. Well, it's implied she returns to America but only after she makes plan to go back to Europe. I don't like the implication that someone other than her Aunt Peg had to push her in the direction of following what she wanted to do, what would make her happy, rather than keep doing what she felt she had to do. Sometimes it makes all the sense that everything falls into place and just 'clicks' for lack of better terminology. This time, I really wanted it to be all Ginny. I wanted her to kind of take a deep breath and have an epiphany that was mostly influenced by her Aunt and her own discoveries. Arguably, Ginny didn't have someone throw it in her face, but there was a drastic HINT WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE GEEZ WHY WON'T YOU GET THE POINT moment after the art sold. Granted it was one of her Aunt Peg's more exotic friends, that did buy the last art, but at the same time, COME ON GINNY.

But I guess that can also be a humanity commentary; sometimes we do need just a little push in the right direction. Sometimes we need that external voice to give a bit of encouragement so that we can push through all the hesitation and fear and do something truly wonderful and courageous.

Again, I highly recommend this book. That is all.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Under The Never Sky

Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

I'm obsessed. I almost immediately started to reread this book after I finished it. First, I had to look up to see when the sequel is coming out (freaking January 2013, FOUR MONTHS! OYE!), and then I had to make myself write this blog post. Dedication. What what!


So Under The Never Sky is about Aria and Peregrine (or Perry). They're the narrators of the book that's told in third person. Let me set the scene. It's a futuristic sci-fi book that is grounded in real elements of the world. Clearly, an apocalypse happened of some sort which forced people to live in pods. Everyone who doesn't live in a pod is referred to as outsiders (or savages), all areas that are not in a pod is referred to as 'The Death Shop'. Everyone inside the pods has a little screen that attaches to their left eye where they can go to 'realms'. Realms are places that are virtual worlds except with integrated senses. So say you want to go to the opera, BAM! Opera realm. Curtains, horrible seating, etc. All through a screen on your eye. Also, you can change your physical appearance in the realms too. There seem to be a limitless amount of realms, although I'm not quite sure. Eh. Whatever, realms = cool. Enough said.

So in these pods there is a central dome that's the biggest where most of the civilians reside. They have little other domes that are connected to them where the government does it's business and where they grow food and all that good stuff. So the book literally starts with Aria in a damaged pod with four other people. They shut off their eye gizmos, get in because one dude is the son of the head of security, and things go horribly wrong. The boys build fire, and a savage breaks into the pod. Aria is almost raped by one of the boys but the savage throws him off and kills another. The savage rescues Aria by putting her in a connected room.

The savage turns out to be Perry.

We learn more about how the death shop operates and about different tribes of the savages and etc. The system is interesting, so I won't spoil it for you to encourage you to read the book. ;) Eh eh?

Anyways, so through unfortunate events, Perry is set off into the open lands in search of his nephew and meets up with Aria after she got banished from her pod. She was banished as the fire that the boys started in the damaged pod was blamed on her. And she wasn't so much as banished as they told her they were taking her to her mother in a different pod but basically just dumped her out into the death shop.

I really enjoyed this book for the gripping voices from both narrators and I extremely look forward to a second book. I don't want to say too much about this book as I feel like I wouldn't be able to stop.

Although I will say on the back of my copy it reads after a brief excerpt from the book, "In a world of danger an unlikely alliance breathtaking adventure and unforgettable romance!" Usually, that kind of ambiguous message deters me since I've always felt that if you can't give me something a little more solid on the back of the book, why would I want to read the contents of the book? But still, this was pretty damn good.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Ascend by Amanda Hocking

First off, I did not stay up last night and finish reading this book, I might have just devoted most of my day to it. Because I'm cool like that.

Inevitably, this will contain spoilers for the two books preceding this book in the series (Switch & Torn) so if you want to read those without any spoilers, I would strongly recommend not reading this post. Unless you want to know the series was worth it. It is for the record.

So in Ascend, it starts off with everyone floundering about what to do about the Vittra. Instead of attacking the Foren(I have no hope of spelling it right, we're calling it Foren), the kingdom in which Wendy resides with her cast of characters, the Vittra go after the changelings that are out in the world. So Wendy sends the trackers out to get them to come back or at least protect them. Then the Vittra get all sneaky and attack another Tyrelle colony because when they had made the deal in Torn, the treaty had specified they'd leave Foren alone. Not all of Tyrelle.

So the Vittra really suck. By the by.

So Wendy actually is pretty cool as she handles not only the queen being ill and Wendy taking over her responsibilities, but she also gets married to Tove. Then as she's struggling to figure out what to do about the Vittra, she tries to send out a rescue party to help the other Tyrelle colony, I think the name is Oscilina, somewhere in Northern Michigan. Anyways, the attacked colony, the rescue party happens upon the Vittra who attacked and try to overcome them but walk away with casualties and no victory. The chancellor dies (which is cool because he was awful) and so does a Markis (one of the Tyrelle nobility).

Again, all of this happens within the first quarter of the book. If anything can be said about this entire series is that it all moves at a great pace.

SPOILERS. Spoilers from here on out. Stop reading if you don't want spoilers please.

I don't like what happened to Wendy to get her to where she needed to be romantically. She marries Tove, but on the eve of her wedding night, Finn makes a move on her and she rejects him because she's always heartbroken. Finn is still over protective and jealous but becomes somewhat more reasonable to deal with. Then there's Tove who's gay, so when she married him, nothing happened. They shared maybe two kisses to which Wendy inadvertently went "ugh". One before the wedding ceremony after a snowball fight, and the other at the wedding ceremony. At the reception for the wedding though, Wendy dances with Loki and she knows she's in love with him.

So when they go to rescue the attacked colony, people come back injured, Wendy goes out and makes a deal with the Vittra to get them to back off, and when she was queen they could have her kingdom. She wanted to spare the lives of her people, reduce bloodshed, etc. Smart. She then tries to figure out a way to kill the leader since one of his gifts is 'immortality' and he's a horrible man. So when they finally manage to aid the attacked colony, Tove & Wendy use a lot of their abilities to help move rubble and generally clean up the city. Tove goes a bit crazy because he's used too much and he hits Wendy. Loki happens upon them and makes Tove go to sleep with his ability and they get Tove's mom (a healer) to stay with him just in case. Loki then whisks Wendy off and spends the night with her where she's all I LOVE YOU, they sex, etc. and Wendy basically tells him it can only be this one night.

So what I struggle with from all that is Wendy didn't feel guilty enough that she cheated on Tove. She knew she was entering a loveless, not intimate marriage, but I still feel like cheating is awful. She kind of had a few lines of, 'Oh how will I tell him?' but that's about it. When she does tell him he's all 'Wow, I should be jealous, but I'm totally not. Thanks for telling me.' Granted, he was already set to divorce her.

BUT STILL. Cheating isn't cool. Yep.

So all in all, I guess I liked how it felt a bit realistic despite dealing with Trolls and abilities and what not. But from the way Wendy acted, it felt realistic as in how a teenager would go about handling the situation. Kind of like a coming of age story of sorts. Although she started at 17 and we saw her probably until halfway through her 18th birth year.

There is a cool epilogue at the end of my copy which I appreciated (which normally I loathe since I think where the story stops should be where the story freaking stops. If you want to write more than make more book) since we find out about her life with Loki and what happened to everyone. I thought it was cute that they were like HELL NO to their kid being a changeling. And Matt stuck around which is cool. I like Matt, kind of.

All in all, it was a good read.


Torn by Amanda Hocking

Damn it. Damn it damn it damn it.

So I didn't like the first book in the series, Switched. Note, this will inevitably contain spoilers about Switched as Torn is the sequel.

Then suddenly, I really liked Torn.

I'm still stuck wondering if I like it so much because I pretty much loathed ANGST, I mean Wendy in the first one and in the second book she's actually truly grown and developed as a character?

However, there are some faults I still found with the book. In Torn, it's explained to us FINALLY about why the opposing trolls to the Tyrelle (the Vittra, not to be confused with the Volturi (see what I did there? LOLOL...anyways)) were after Wendy so much. It turns out that Wendy is the King's daughter. Now we were completely thrown off the trail of this inevitable outcome because in the first book, Wendy's mother Elora was hell bent on being a very frigid queen. She didn't tell Wendy 'anything' but she had told Wendy that her father was dead and Wendy believed she saw remorse in her mother's eyes; so Wendy didn't question her.

A-ha! Wendy is still foolish! Well, when she did question things, no one really gave her a straight answer for a long time. So maybe that's a little unfair.

So the book starts out where Switched left off; Rhys and Wendy escape back to Wendy's old home where they meet up with Matt who's all super angry because you know, he's Matt and that's what he does. He goes into over-protective mode extreme since Wendy was gone for two months without a real explanation. So there's a bunch of talking, Finn and Duncan tailed her to her house (we just meet Duncan in book two) and they leave after Wendy's all "I DON'T WANT TO BE A PRINCESS, WAH!" Then Wendy, Matt, and Rhys all get kidnapped by the Volturi, I MEAN VITTRA (LOL), and Wendy finds out that she's the daughter of the King of Vittra. The King of Vittra also happens to be a really brutal guy and often goes for violence before conversation. He's just not a nice dude. So Wendy, Rhys, and Matt escape when Tove, Duncan, and Finn come to rescue them. However, Loki (Vittra dude that helped in the initial kidnapping) was there and didn't try to stop them. Questionable. I would like to point out that Wendy had an opportunity to escape on her own, kind of, but wouldn't leave Matt and Rhys behind. So score some points for Wendy.

Also, all this happens in like the first three chapters. Maybe four. I know, it's a little intense. about this, ALL OF THE SPOILER ALERTS.

I got really disappointed with Wendy in the end because she blew up at Finn (her love interest from book one), made out with Loki (a Vittra dude who helped her escape, oh yeah she was kidnapped), and agreed to marry Tove (other Tyrelle royalty who Finn outed as gay. Wait what?). Also, it seems like Tove is gay only to thwart Wendy's attempts at happiness. There was no indication of this anywhere in book one or book two really. It also seems to give Wendy some sort of an excuse to seek a lover and also have the support of a husband. Could it be a gateway to her and Finn doing something? Or is Loki going to win her over with his very weird charm? Very weird charm. Not so much as charm but more of a, "Hey, what are you doing? Hehe, no really what are you doing? OMG WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?" He just escalates quickly.

I'm a little tempted to stay up and read the third book. Damn it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Switched by Amanda Hocking

I have come across a book that instead of periodically crying, "Foul!" it screams, "ANGST."

In the field of young adult literature, there seems to be a select few books that have this strong notion that all teenagers are angry, they don't make sense, they act the way they do for illogical reasons, and have a childish element to them. After reading this book, I would be inclined to put this book into that category.


So a brief summary, we have our main character ANGST, I mean, Wendy who we find out her mother tried to kill her when she was six. Her mother, Kim, also decided since the day Wendy was put into her arms at the hospital that Wendy was not her real child. A little unstable.

So Wendy was saved by her big brother Matt from her mother, and she now lives with Matt and her aunt Maggie since her Dad died when she was five or something.

Matt is a super over protective brother who's way too engrossed in his little sister's life. It's kind of creepy.
Maggie is a fun aunt who tries to help Wendy as best as she can in whatever way she can. She pretty much just the 'responsible' figure though and doesn't have a lot of active parts in the book. It's just kind of acknowledge that she's responsible for the bills and feeds Wendy.

Wendy on the other hand has these great lines about her school life like, "I don't know what it is but everyone always dislikes me," or, "I could do without school because it's so boring," and she falls asleep in class. She basically is super whiny. ALL THE TIME. Come to find out she's also a super picky eater and is essentially on a vegan diet because she doesn't like meat, she also doesn't like to wear shoes. And she probably couldn't logic her way out of a box. She could angst out of it most likely, just remind her about school and she could probably angst thrash her way out.

Now Wendy is actually a changeling child (her mother, Kim was right, although killing her was a bit extreme) and she finds out from Finn who is a tracker who has come to find her. Also, Finn informs her that when she thinks commands at people (she does this at least once before we meet Finn) it's called persuasion, a troll ability.

Anyways, the part of this book I did enjoy was the concept of trolls. Hocking managed to re-imagine trolls in a way I found believable and slightly enjoyable. I could have done without so much senseless angst from Wendy, but the other characters saved me into reading the whole book. So the difference between Hocking trolls and other trolls are as follows. Hocking trolls look like humans, they often put their babies into human society so that they can be raised comfortably and when they reach around the age of 18, they start to develop abilities so they're picked up by trackers and brought back to the troll community. Some trolls have an odd green hue to their skin but it's not as if they're GREEN, it's just a tinge from my understanding. Also, some of the abilities they develop can be persuasion, future seeing, telekinesis, control of the wind, control of fauna, and a bunch of other stuff. Basically a lot of things to do with nature, or the nature of people/trolls. When the changelings are brought back to the troll city, they go through a christening and get to choose a new name to reflect their new life.

I don't remember at exactly what point is halfway through the book, so I'll stop here. I'm going to read the second and third book in the series because I happened to get them all from the library on a recommendation. It'd also screw up my reading system if I skipped over them.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

United States Presidential Election 2012

EVERYONE. With the upcoming election, I thought this would be a great reminder for all of those who live in Michigan, US.

Election Dates & Deadlines 

Oct. 9, 2012 - Register to vote
Your application to register to vote must be postmarked by this date.

Nov. 3, 2012 - Apply for an absentee ballot
Your application for an absentee ballot must be received by 2:00 PM on this date.

Nov. 6, 2012 - Return your absentee ballot
Your absentee ballot must be received by 8:00 PM on Election Day.

Nov. 6, 2012 - Election Day
The polls will be open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

If you live in the US but not in Michigan, here's a great google tool to find this data as it pertains to where you live.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Goddess Test, The Goddess Interrupted

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
The Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter

I'm cheating with this one. You'll see why in a moment.

Do you ever read a book that you know will be silly, but read it anyways? It becomes sort of a guilty pleasure?

Well, these books were not it.

Both books center on Kate Winters becoming Hades' new wife and all the struggles. There really isn't much more to it.

Clearly the author has found a way to slightly twist the myth of Hades and Persephone so that it no longer makes sense. She made the twisted myth the basis of the series, and oh goodness me, screw up all the Greek myths everywhere! For two books! And a third on on the way!

These books were an unclever way to get a lot of people to be angry over one girl. Because oh my god, center of attention, unnecessary emotional turmoil, men fighting over me, and other women being jealous? LOL I WANNA BE A GREEK VERSION OF TWILIGHT! Oh, and also add immortality. YAY. GREEK TWILIGHT COMPLETE. QUICK, TRY TO SELL MILLIONS OF BOOKS.

Yeah, I finished both books. But I utterly resent Kate and these were my last two books that I brought with me on vacation.

Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Alina Starkov is an orphan from war and is raised in a Duke's home along with many other orphans. She befriends Mal, and together they grow up and enlist in the army. Aline becomes a cartographer apprentice and Mal becomes a tracker. So one day their unit is deployed to cross the fold. The fold is a place that's coated in a swallowing darkness and has really creepy vicious creatures dwelling within. Super dangerous. Well they start to cross the fold and get attacked, Mal becomes hurt and is about to be offed by the creatures when Alina tries to shield him and bursts into light when she gets hit.

So she faints, and upon awakening the Grisha (this books version of magic users) are all in a tizzy about her and the darkling (a powerful Grisha that amplifies other Grisha's powers while having a litany of his own powers) reveals she's a sun summoner. Alina gets whisked away to the Little Palace (empire headquarters for Grisha) to train her newfound powers, and Alina gets taken away from Mal.

I really enjoyed the straight forward nature of most of the characters and I liked to see what happened between Mal and Alina. It seems like a very natural friendship, especially because we got to see bits of their childhood.

I also felt the we got just the right amount of politics based on Alina's interest in it.

I usually loathe when an author puts a cheat sheet of foreign words or a hierarchy form in the back of the book, but I would have liked to see it in this book. There was a great detailed map in this book (my copy at least) and I would have liked to see a cheat sheet of the Grisha. I sort of made myself a cheat sheet, but it feels a little incomplete as I'm not certain if I'm missing anything.

Overall, I enjoyed Alina's attitude, the entire climate (setting, consistency, etc) of the book was great, and I'm really hoping there's a second book. Fantastic with a little sense of Gothic to it.


Defiance by CJ Redwine

This book is set in kind of a Medieval post-apocalyptic world. People are in isolated cities surrounded by giant walls and live under the protection of the city leader. The societal structure is rather archaic and so is the city layout and the economy, but there is a prevalent presence of technology. The technology has nothing with the advancement of communication but more rudimentary uses such as tracking, stealth, and blowing things up. But it doesn't seem like technology is available to every citizen. Also, women are raised to be meek minders of the homestead and can only move about in the city with their protector (usually a male relative, close family friend, or an appointed male).

Now this story is told with two narrators; Rachel Adams and Logan McEntire. These are also the only two characters with last names. Well, a few other last names are mentioned, but they are very minor characters that don't speak. The format narration jumps between Rachel and Logan every chapter, sometimes one of them gets a few chapters in a row depending on where the drama is.

Now there seems to be a handful of jobs where you can work for the Commander (City ruler). Rachel's father, Jared, is a courier for the Commander. He delivers messages or small parcels to the other cities. The book starts off with Jared having gone missing for 60 days and he gets deemed dead per the Commander's protocols. They bust out his will and discover that Logan (19) has been declared Rachel's protector rather than Oliver (Rachel's second father, older man who is a baker). Everyone's all stunned especially because Logan was Jared's apprentice and grew up with Rachel after Jared made him his apprentice. Oliver also had a hand in raising the both of them.

Again, it seems rather archaic with the social system and dictatorship and what not especially because this is the future (?). Also, everyone has been mysteriously branded so that if a guard uses some sort of device they can discover who's where in what building and who they're with, etc. Weird and disjointed. The technology seems to thrive around 'security' and there seems to be a hint of 'big brother' paranoia wrapped around the idea of technology.

The biggest qualms I have with this book is that they spend most of it squabbling, freaking out, reeling from events, etc. It's very reactive. Also they spend the first half of the book in the city and while in the city they spend most of their talking about Jared and venturing into the Wasteland (everything that's not part of a city).

They also frequently reference the cursed one without seeing it for the longest time. It became kind of like a 'boogie-man' to me.

I just think there was too much buildup before it finally took off. This is clearly a first book in a series though, so maybe the next one will be better. I'm still a little on the fence if I'd recommend it to anyone or not. I mildly enjoyed it more than I disliked it.

Shade's Children

Shade's Children by Garth Nix

Dear Garth Nix,

Thank you for almost never disappointing me with your wonderful additions to the literary world. Shade's Children is a wonderful addition to your already very creative collection.

<3 Liz


Shade's Children is set in the future (?) where one day, suddenly all of the grown-ups are simply gone. Some of the children are changed and have an extra ability that they may or may not be able to control. The children were rounded up and put into dorms where they endured many challenges before a "sad birthday". On their sad birthday, the children are taken to a meat factory where they are turned into machines and essentially lose their humanity and any sense of themselves.

Unless they escape the dorms.

Once they escape, they are mercilessly hunted by all manner of monsters. So, an AI has managed to set up camp in a submarine and hides children from the monsters. The AI is Shade. He trains the children, equips them with weapons, provides food and shelter to them.

Let me backtrack a little bit. The event that wiped out adults/grown ups (well 16 years old and up) is referred to as 'the change'. There are four main human characters that seem to have the underlying goals of survival, survive to undo 'the change', and find other survivors.

Really, the only thing I would ask for would be to witness the dorms and a child escaping the dorms. It was alluded to, recounted, but we were never placed in the moment. We never saw first hand what the dorms were like.

I also enjoyed how effortlessly we saw through the eyes of the different children and also the brief chapters of Shade recording them or interviewing himself. I also enjoyed wondering if Shade was good or evil throughout the book. He straddled the gray area as long as we weren't allowed to look at his character too closely.

I think the monsters, the world, and the entire feel were set up beautifully.

I couldn't put the book down; excellent read.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Carnival of Souls

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

I'm a little stunned. I can't quite make heads or tails of this book. It's a nice disorientation really.

I've read a couple books from The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr and I'm always amazed at how intricate and straightforward her characters interact with each other. She seems to have an uncanny ability to capture the attitude's of a character and maintain that for the course of the book no matter how weird the fey may be. It's stunning really. In this case it's witches/daimons/humans but the point still stands.

So, to get my bearings a bit, a brief synopsis.

There's the human realm and The City (which is the Daimon realm). Witches and humans tend to live in the human realm and Daimons with very few witches live in The City. The whole Carnival of Souls is a place in The City where you can buy anything for the right price. There also happens to be a competition to get a seat in The City's government; the competition is won by fighting, and the fights in the competition are won by an opponent's death or forfeit.

The story launches with Mallory's mother Selah (who is a watcher Daimon) seeks the aid of Adam (a crazy powerful witch in the human realm) to protect her daughter Mallory (who is also the daughter of Marchosias - the badass who runs The City). They make a pact/vow thingy that's binding as long as both of them hold up their end of the deal. Mallory was a baby at this point. We're then launched 17 years later (because growing up is boring right?) where we find that Mallory has been trained to defend herself against Daimons since she was 7, her mother inexplicably left her on her eleventh birthday (Mallory misses her greatly), and her 'Dad', Adam, is overprotective like WHOA.

A little overwhelming.

Let's ignore Mallory for a bit because she doesn't know who her biological father is, what she is, she's all angsty and full of rebellion but is spelled by Adam to be a good daughter for her protection. WHATEVER.

Enter Aya, a lethal/intelligent/high caste Daimon who's entered the death tournament competition thingy to win a seat in government so she hopefully doesn't have to breed. Oh yeah, in The City, Daimons are expected to breed at age 18 and Aya REALLY doesn't want to. Also, Aya rocks at fighting.

Enter Belias, a gentlemanly high caste Daimon who was Aya's betrothed for a while until she went all NO at him since she doesn't want children and he has an obligation to his family and The City to make an heir with his wife. It really seems like a population control deal. So Aya goes NO at him about their betrothal, effectively breaking it off, and enters the tournament. Belias goes WTF since she's obligated to make children too and enters the tournament too. Then he bribes people so they fight each other. Angst for everyone!

Then there's Kaleb and Zeri. Kaleb is a cur Daimon which is basically the equivalent of a sentient stray dog. So is Zeri. They're a pack which is basically family but without being blood related. They still function as family and love each other, etc but it isn't weird. Kaleb has been hired by Haage (Machoasis brother) to spy on Mallory in the human world and kill her if the time comes. In the meantime, Kaleb has also entered the death tournament competition thingy to rise to a higher caste so he didn't have to do crap jobs to support himself and Zeri. Whew.

All of these characters get very mixed up and entwined with each other in very intricate ways. The book is written in such an artfully complex manner that even after I've finished it, I'm still very stunned by it. I drew myself a diagram of all the complicated ways everyone seems to be tied together and speculated motivations. It's a pretty giant spider web that expanded out over three pieces of paper.

Still, the puzzle and mystery of each character and the intricate rules, social obligations, etc that are set up absolutely fascinate me. I really just wish the next book in the series would come out already! I also would have liked to see more humor in the book and much less of angsty/confused Mallory. But we'll see what happens in the next book.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Immediately and with no remorse we are dunked into a political marriage with religious connotations everywhere. We find that Elisa is a second princess of a country and is being married to Alejandro for a supposed treaty that she's never heard of before.

On a side note, every time I read 'Alejandro' Lady Gaga's song ran through my head. It made the book a little more entertaining. Anyways.

In the first chapters, she kills a man, loses a lady in waiting to an infected wound, and finds that her new husband want to keep their marriage a secret until further notice.

First, I would like to state that I was drawn to this book because there was a quote of praise on the cover from Tamora Pierce. I loved almost all of Pierce's book, except the Terrier series, freaking diary format can suck it. I don't care but no one can remember verbatim a three page dialogue word for word. No no. ...anyways, so I picked the book up and discovered that on the back of it was praise from Veronica Roth (author of Divergent & Pandemonium) and more praise that put Rae Carson on the same level as Kristin Cashore (author of Graceling, Fire, & Bitterblue, all books I adored), Megan Whalen Turner (no idea who this is), and Tamora Pierce (see previous statement above). I was already a little resigned to reading it, and when I read the back, I kind of reacted, "Well this won't be so bad..."


I absolutely despised this book at first. Elisa told us (without really proving it) that she was smart, knew three languages, and was chosen by God. Yeah, whatever Elisa. Tell me another.

I would like to spend a few moments clarifying this Godstone business as it was very confusing at first and doesn't get much better as the book goes on. It is revealed that the Godstone is a blue stone that is in her belly button permanently. Unless she dies, it gets cut out, or she fails in her mission of God. I'm a little confused if there's a difference between if she fails her mission the stone stops doing things or she has to die to fail. There are a lot of things unclear on that. Also, when she prays the stone gets warm and when she attends religious meetings the stone gets all blitzed out happy. When there's danger nearby it gets super cold. It's like a really crappy spider sense. There's also an air of mystery and sorcery around the stone as we learn that Elisa is kept in the dark and also that so little knowledge about Godstone bearers is available. We get random snippets of "so and so was a Godstone bearer, didn't you know?" in very flippant ways. It's tedious and frustrating to read. Also, every monk/religious/holy man has an innate dowsing rod for Godstones that are attached to people. Oh and there's a difference between living Godstones and 'dead' Godstones. I don't know what except the 'dead' Godstones seem to be able to blast people with fire if blood is shed and the living Godstone acts like a spider sense. Also, five is a magic number. I don't know why, it's never explained. It just is.

Now I despised the book at first because Elisa is so unsure of herself and immediately is mush under the husband's attention that she just met. She has these horrible, "I'm a woman, uh...what now?" moments. Like being a woman has rendered her useless. Like being a Godstone bearer is useless. For a while I really wanted to slap her silly and shout, "SUCK IT UP!" Her attitude was atrocious. She would talk like she was helpless, yet she had pulled herself out of a burning carriage, pulled her lady in waiting to safety, and saved her husband's life by killing a man. Yet she still thinks she's helpless. Did I miss something?

Then she starts to seek out information, learns, gets kidnapped, doesn't really mind that she's kidnapped (which still perplexes me, she literally brushes it off with a few vague thoughts that her husband will save her and she wishes she could let her maid/guardian/friend thing know she's okay), and then starts to really show she's smart. She just REALLY lacks confidence. EVERYWHERE. Only as the story progresses does she get a little confident and suddenly she's bursting with confidence. Like someone flipped a switch. She just stops doubting and starts going. She's careful, but no longer helpless. Which was very refreshing after reading her being all, "Woe is me! I need to make a decision! I'm so useless! How do I handle this? How do I handle myself? WAH!" ...about that.

I'm still obscenely reluctant to like the book as it's religion and politics are too tightly woven together for my tastes. It also took me too long to even remotely like Elisa (I'm talking like 3/4 of the way through the book), and really I managed to persevere through the book to the end only because some of the authors I liked like it.

I'm also still struggling with the way Elisa handles her weight and her constant battle with food. I did not like that only as she began to lose weight did she become confident. Only as she began to lose weight, did she feel beautiful. Really don't like that one bit.

There was a nice little blurb from the author at the end of my copy of the book that explains she wanted to portray the struggles of overcoming the prejudice set up by men. But Elise is primarily putting up barriers for herself and everyone else is trying to overcome them.

Also, I still find it disorienting that her husband wanted to be her friend, and never acted on that statement. Not truly. I mean he seemed to throw her a bone of sorts every now and then, but never anything with real conviction.

Also, what was up with Humberto? Seriously, what the heck?


Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Fair warning, this is the sequel to Divergent, and if you don't want Divergent spoiled, please do not read the following.)

I don't really want to say too much about Insurgent one way or the other as I'm still unsure of what to make of it.

Insurgent picks up right where Divergent leaves off and we're still tumbling through a revolution with Tris as our focal point. I am a little annoyed with Insurgent because it had one of those awful campy moments where a side character kind of goes, 'LOL INSURGENT. This is how we get the name of the book in here.' And main character obligingly responds, 'Yeah, that's cool.' And done. Book title.

Moving on.

The struggle I'm having with Insurgent is that Tris does a lot and the rest of the world is reacting or almost waiting for her to do things. When she's kind of removed from the action, her opinions are still drastically taken into consideration. AND she seems also adamant on ignoring what she's accomplished. And only (SPOILER) when her life is threatened FOR REAL, as in a danger shes not going to escape at all, she suddenly values her life again. In about a five second epiphany about everyone who's died for her is really encouraging her to live for them.

However, I do like how fraught and haunted she is by Will's death and also how she manages to begin the process of overcoming it. I enjoy how she continues to weigh each decision and can consider the perspectives of other factions. I do think it was incredibly wise of her to distrust Evelyn immediately.

I also like how the author has not included a love triangle while romance with Four (Tobias) is there, it doesn't stop her or hinder her. Otherwise this story would be a little too close to Hunger Games for my taste.

I do wish that there were more Divergents figuring things out and acting upon it so there was less of a Tris band wagon, but there's still hope for the third book.

Overall, I obscenely enjoyed Insurgent even if Tris got a little angsty sometimes. I thought it was hilarious when she was drugged at the Amity compound and also how accurate her resentment towards any serums became.

I also like how she wrote off Candor as useless. It feels accurate based on everything that transpired in Divergent and Insurgent.


Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (This has many spoilers about both books in the series.)

First off, I enjoyed Delirium (which is the first book in the series). I thought it was an interesting view on a fundamental of society, love, and all of the negativity that surrounds it. The society acts as a jaded spinster with a philosophy of "If I can't be happy, no one can be happy," except replace happy with love. Give the spinster science that takes away love and then put her in charge of government.

BAM! Delirium.

Lena enters the scene and has a lot of experience with the delirium already. Her mother could not be cured and committed suicide, her father's dead, her older sister was infected and then cured, and she lives with an Aunt and Uncle who are very dull (and cured). The cure seems to make everyone dull and like robots or unnecessarily cruel. Anyways, Lena has her enabler crazy friend Hana who seems to be on the same page with her against Delirium) before she says some not so with the program things. Hana starts to delve into the forbidden music/texts that seems to encourage the uncured towards love.

And then there's Alex. He's cured of Deliria and so Lena spends a lot of time with him, and might fall in love. Now Pandemonium starts where Delirium left off, so sadly I need to spoil a bit of Delirium. In the end Alex and Lena try to escape from society and into the wilds so they can love each other and have a harsh freedom.

Except, Alex doesn't make it and Lena watches him be shot and become a bloody mess before his last shouts to run sink and she bolts into the woods.

Now Pandemonium explores Lena's life in the wilds and shows how a different kind of cruelty exists. It shoes the cruelty of nature and illustrates just how warped "society" or as they refer to it as Zombieland is.

In Pandemonium though, the first part of the book we have chapters that take place in the present and chapters that take place in the wilds. It's a little disorienting because the chapters in the wilds holds an air of 'Will Lena live?' even though we know she does because we see her living in New York City. But the same goes for all the characters we see in the wilds. We know a handful of them live at least because they appear in the city chapters. Because I was already offered the knowledge of knowing some of who lived, I found it excessively difficult to try and be emotionally invested in the wilds chapters. Yes, I found it interesting to see how Lena recovered and changed in the wilds and to understand how people survived but I found myself getting bored with the Wilds, especially as it didn't directly relate to the city. It was harder to read the Wild chapters as it left me in suspense of what was happening in the city.

Yes, it is important to understand everything that Lena went through in the wilds to understand how she was functioning in the city. However, I think the book would have had more cohesion if it was written chronologically and did not skip back and forth in the beginning.

Alternatively, when we finally got city chapters and only city chapters, I started to get annoyed with Lena because she became a 'everything's HARD' character. Yes, she persevered through a lot but this hard, strong personality that she was proud of having developed in the wild and then refined with her time in the city started to melt away. She openly admits at one point that she's becoming the old Lena again. This is also the time that she gets confused and begins to remember her love for Alex rather than feel it. She also begins to fall in love with Julian who is a focal point of a crusade against being uncured and a big deal in politics (figures).

Could this be a point of Deliria though? Is this a statement that Deliria renders you to be who you are rather than who you should be or want to be?

We witnessed Lena become strong enough to leave her home/safety/security/society because of her love of Alex in Delirium. In Pandemonium, we witness her to be this very tough, strong person because of her love for Alex. Because she loved him so much, she had to continue for him.

But as she begins to love Julian and remember Alex, she gets a case of the 'Too HARD' while she's underground with him but becomes strong again for him later.

So the question can be raised that does love (Deliria) make you weak in the beginning and then stronger? Also, the author seemed to get a little bored with politics and used the politics to get the characters into situations that as the situation continued, the political implications of them disappeared.

And then there's a Santa Claus type of moment where it's all made to be clear and everything wraps up like a Scooby Doo mystery.

Overall, I was not as impressed with Pandemonium as I was with Delirium as Pandemonium came across as the same story, just a different book. However, I will pick up the third book in the trilogy in the seeking of Pandemonium's redemption and the hopes of seeing more about the world of Delirium and Pandemonium with Lena as the guiding catalyst rather than a stagnant, "This is a common incident" feeling that she gave off in the end.

Story of my vacation

So I went on vacation for eight days in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so I brought along 8 books figuring that a book a day and I should be okay.

Wrong. WRONG.

I finished them in four days. Then I got...bored. Kind of.

So I wrote a bunch of 'blogs' while I was up there and will be publishing them this week. So that's why there was no posts for a bit, and then there will suddenly be a lot.

And then I'll be playing the crap out of Borderlands 2 a lot this week, but when I take breaks from that I'll probably finish another book.


Thursday, September 6, 2012


Divergent by Veronica Roth

The world of Divergent  was absolutely fascinating to me. The social structure was split into five different factions, and the factionless. The factionless were essentially the homeless. Each faction has a role in the society that plays upon their strengths. Now the five factions each had a strong trait to them and when the youths reach age sixteen, they get to chose their faction. Until they are sixteen though, they stay with the faction they are born into and learn that faction's ways. Some stay in the same faction, others move onto different factions. There's also a test that is administered to help the candidate discover what faction they belong to. The tests almost always indicate one faction.

That is, unless they're divergent.

Beatrice Prior who later dubs herself as 'Tris' is such an excellent character to navigate this world with because with each choice she faces, there's no clear option. She weighs her decisions carefully and starts to figure out long-term what is really going on with her world. However, the thing I enjoyed the most about her character is that she would logically analyze each choice, yet still throw herself to the wind. There was an unstable balance of emotion vs logic and it was gripping. I enjoyed that the character was not rendered indecisive, but rather wise yet still retaining a young voice.

There's also a colorful cast of characters submerged into the world and there are elements of romance, a strong connection of friendship/family, and an interesting curiosity held by the world itself. I also found it curious that there seemed to be quite a few hints that this world was a post apocalyptic one of today as it seems to take place in a broken Chicago.

I also loved seeing Beatrice turn into Tris; it was like watching a caterpillar that struggled with wanting something more and finally taking a chance to get more turn into a fierce lion.

It's action packed, gripping, and I immediately picked up the sequel, Insurgent, as soon as I could. From my understanding Divergent is the first one in a trilogy. I'm already halfway through Insurgent, and it doesn't disappoint.

Happy reading!

The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

For a while, my love of reading had dwindled as I had trundled through book after book craving something that could hold my attention span.

When I picked up The Name of the Star, I got tunnel vision.

I've read books by Maureen Johnson before such as The Key to the Golden Firebird, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Devilish, Suite Scarlett, and Girl at Sea. I'm familiar with her works.

Just a brief summary that does not give away any sort of ending so we can get on with the show. The book centers around Aurora 'Rory' Deveaux who is from Louisiana, and due to her two parents doing a sabbatical teaching in Bristol, Rory moves to London to do her senior year of high school. Eerily enough though, as Rory starts her senior year at the boarding school Wexford, someone in London appears to be recreating the murders of Jack the Ripper.

Rory's attitude really shaped the book for me as she handled situations in the fantastic "Not-going-to-freak-out-but-I-should-totally-consider-freaking-out" manner. I enjoyed seeing her realize what really sharing a room with someone else meant, what really sharing a bathroom with thirty other girls would mean, and the rush of schoolwork. Also, hockey was never a fun sport for me, and to see Rory go through it was exciting. I also enjoyed the confidence of her character, the relationship she developed with her roommate Jazza, and the curious way she handled Jerome (her love interest).

I enjoyed the humor that was sprinkled throughout the book, the interesting characters that seemed to chime in, and overall I really couldn't put the book down until the last page. This story was great for young adults who are curious about what a college experience could entail, and also for those who want to dip their fingertips into the supernatural.