Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Lost Prince (review)

2.5/5 stars

I hate to do this to a Julie Kagawa book.  Against my normal tendency, I really enjoyed The Iron Fey series, especially loving when she switched to the male POV with the last book.  Then against normal tendency again I liked her vampire novel The Immortal Rules.

I was excited about her new book.  Set in the Iron Fey world and with a male protagonist I felt sure I would love it.  But I just couldn't connect with The Lost Prince.  The first couple of pages, where Ethan is all brooding, moody and with a few piercings I was excited.  Then as the book went on I became less and less invested.  I've spent a few days trying to understand why this book frustrated me so.

For me the problems started when Kenzie was introduced.  She's little, cute and spunky.  Normally I like spunk.  But this just felt like a "try too hard" spunky character.  She's the intrepid reporter trying to interview the new troubled kid, everyone in school loves her, she's smart and always calls Ethan "tough guy."  Really when all that's added together it feels a tad like a Mary Sue.  Sometimes characters are just so perfect that they're more of a caricature than a person and that's the case with Kenzie.

Ethan is supposed to be this brooding troubled youth.  But almost immediately when he meets Kenzie his heart starts fluttering.  He continually talks about how small she is, how he wants to protect her, his slim body against his, etc etc.  It just got obnoxious.  I don't like the emphasis on Kenzie's petite frame or Ethan's need to protect her.  Even though it's not instalove, the relationship doesn't have the build up or emotional resonance that it needed.  It's just kind of there annoying me through the whole book.

The foreshadowing felt a bit overt in this book.  There were "twists" that I picked up on almost immediately while Ethan spent nearly the whole book oblivious.

As always Kagawa writes some of the best fight scenes in YA books.  That has not changed.  The problem is the characters have.  Maybe that's why the Iron Fey worked and this did not.  It had a humor and levity brought by Puck.  He makes an apparence in this book, but it's way too brief and too much of a reminder of why this book doesn't work.  I know a lot of people will like this book.  But Ethan and Kenzie fell completely flat for me.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Throne of the Crescent Moon (review)

4/5 stars

Guys, can Middle-Eastern fantasy be my new thing?  I know I've only read a grand total of two or three Middle-Eastern fantasy books but I kind of love them.Throne of the Crescent Moon is a solid high fantasy.  While it may not doing anything groundbreaking or different, what it does, it does well.

One of my favorite things about this book is the humor, the little teasing jabs between friends.  I always like characters who can make jokes while saving the world.  They're much better than the heroes who take themselves too seriously.

I want to talk about romance in fantasy a little bit.  Theres a right way and a wrong way.  The wrong way is particularly popular in YA right now, the love story because the central and overwhelming plot despite life-threatening world-destroying dangers going on outside of the relationship.  The right way is in the background, where there are two characters who obviously like each other but are too busy saving the world to deal with that right now.  This book has a very sweet first crush.  They are young gifted warriors and they're in such denial that it's adorable. When romance is background to the fantasy storyline, it gives the reader something to root for.  You want the world to be saved, peace to reign so that main characters can finally get their kiss on.

For me, the characters and their relationship with faith is where this book shines.  Raseed is a young overly pious holy warrior, who is working with Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, a somewhat sacrilegious ghul hunter.  Adoulla serves God by fighting demons, but breaks other rules whenever he wants to.  Raseed struggles with loyalty and faith.  Raseed serves Adoulla, who saves lives and serves God.  But in a lot of ways Adoulla is rather unholy.  Adoulla obviously believes in God, but struggles with the sacrifices he's made in his life as a ghul-hunter.  It's an interesting dynamic, faith and disobedience intertwined in a way that feels very realistic.  People are rarely completely good, usually even people of faith pick the rules they follow and the rules they choose to disregard.

This book is a great adventurous tale with ghul hunting, magic and conspiracy.  But it also has a little bit of first-love and questions of faith to give it a little more depth.  I wish more books were this fun to read.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Follow Friday - What irks me

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What writing devices or tricks irritate you most when reading a book?
Oh goodness I have so many pet peeves.  Once I started making the list it kept just getting longer and longer.  I feel like the more you read the more aware you become of what you like and don't like.  So here is my rather long answer to the question....
  1. Weak female heroines.  Neither a device nor a trick, but my ultimate pet peeve.  These characters are usually recognizable because their idiocy  as well as their tendency to focus on romance when the world is exploding around them.
  2. Overused words, especially strange words.  For example, Switched by Amanda Hocking used the word "foxy" until I started wanting to stab my eyes out.  Unacceptable and obnoxious.  (I know that sometimes repetition can be cleve and cute, but unless there are special circumstances and explanation normally it's not).
  3. Trying to infuse meaning into everything.  Sometimes things are deep and meaningful but sometimes a rock is just a rock.
  4. Heroines who never call the cops.  I don't know if this counts as a device but I just want to throw it out there anyways.  In mystery books characters ALWAYS find a way to break into the killers house or sneak through a crime scene, and it is ALWAYS a terrible terrible idea.  If there is a crime why not just call the cops?
  5. Switching narrators just for convenience.  I feel like sometimes authors like to hop around in different characters heads a little too much.  I've noticed a few books that way till the book is nearly over and then hop into a random character's head for the first time just to reveal a clue.  Authors need to be very intentional about the narrator and not just hop around to make storytelling easier.
  6.  While we're on the topic, alternating narrators for 2 romantic leads. I've only liked one book that used this technique.  Mostly it makes me feel stabby.
  7.  Female characters that are basically pretty props. Ugh, develop or eliminate these characters.  Women are not just walking boobs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quintana of Charyn (review)

5/5 stars

Quintana of Charyn was not what I expected.  It's predecessor Froi is a dark descent into madness, chaos and war.  From Quintana I expected something even darker.  Yet, overall I found Quintana to be a very hopeful book. That's not to say it's a happy, sunshiny novel.  It's not.  But Quintana is overall a story of hope and healing.

In Quintana of Charyn, the whole land of Skuldenore is poised to implode.  A chaotic civil war is brewing in Charyn, every side wanting  Quintana's baby for their own political purposes.  In Lumatere, Isaboe still wants to punish every Charynite for her family's death.  The other countries are watching Charyn like vultures, ready to sweep in and take power the moment there's an opportunity.

Yet with all that happening, like every Marchetta book, what I remember is the characters

There is Isaboe, strong and powerful Isaboe.  Isaboe who still cries about her family and has locked away whole sections of the castle where they died.
"But Isaboe could not think of being one with their enemies. Not with the memory of what had been done to her family.  Finnikan's father was close at hand. Hers was dead and she had prayed these past years for the grace of forgiveness, but the Goddess refuse to send it."
We see how a Queen's rage can impact the future of her county.  In this book we see Isaboe at her best and at her worse.  More importantly Isaboe sees and faces herself.

Then there is Phaedra.  Underestinated, quiet, "worthless", kind-hearted Phaedra.  Phaedra, who I loved in the background of the last novel.  In this novel Phaedra's quiet beauty and value is finally realized.  We see her strength thrust into the forefront.

Key to this story is Phaedra's kindness.  Phaedra and a group of poor starving Charynite women shelter and protect the very prickly and unloveable Quintana.  This is a story where they realize that even though Quintana seems quite mad, she's also smart and made huge sacrifices for her people.

This book is brilliant.  It's the type of novel that sticks with you afterwards.  Few books show how the lives of people and countries intertwine and overlap until they are almost indistinguishable   Isaboe's personal journey is Lumatere's personal journey.  Quintana's fight for survival is a battle for her country.

Very few trilogies are as complete and wonderful as this series.  Every book is strong and every character developed   This series in complex, with layers and depth and meaning.  Quintana of Charyn tore my heart out, but in a good way.  I would simultaneously be hurting and crying for joy.  Very few books touch me on that guttural level. The Lumatere Chronicles are a series that every book lover needs to read and re-read.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Florence (review)

2.5/5 stars

As far as paranormal romances go, Florence is unobtrusive and unoffensive.  But it feels just like same-old-same old to me.

Florence is your typical misunderstood loner.  For years she's been "new girl" and nobody really knows or cares about her.  She' invisible to her classmates.  However, everything changes on a school field trip when she's kidnapped by mermaids.

The mermaids take her to be Prince Kiren's familiar, something that is not really explained, but never mind she's deemed inappropriate.  So I guess the whole reason for her abduction doesn't need a real explanation (except I'd really like one).   After a short discussion about disposing of her, the young Princess Yolee begs to keep her as a friend.  With only nominal objections, Florence is allowed to stay in Niemela.

Florence is a special human (haven't we all seen that before?).  She can understand the merpeople's language and commune with animals.  This is never explained or explored in the book.  It's noted as an oddity.  I kept expecting there to be some kind of big reveal but it never materialized.  Florence just knows the language because otherwise the book couldn't exist.

This book is very slow to get to any kind of plot.  The first half of the book is spent introducing us to the undersea world--the brightly colored mermaids, the Oceanarium where everything lives in harmony (which makes me wonder how the carnivore creatures survive) and everything is just sparkly, pretty and idealized.

When the book finally starts getting to the plot, rather than surprise you with twists the book switches point of views and blatantly shows you what's happening in the background.  If the author had saved the twist, choosing to reveal it at a more dramatic moment it could've been interesting.  But it was underwhelming.

The writing is actually not troubling.  There were a few mistakes, and a few thesaurus-happy moments but overall it was pretty readable in that regard.  The problem was the story itself, which was predictable and never really made me care.

Did I mention that this book all takes place in 6 days?  Florence somehow becomes key to the undersea world, is accepted and eventually falls in love with a merman?  For me that's hard to believe.  However I feel like people who like most paranormals (despite their flaws) will enjoy this book well enough.  The book reads quite young so I think the younger fans of paranormal will probably enjoy it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Follow Friday - Not my usual genre

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.

Question: When you step out of your USUAL genre what do you like to read? Best books in the genre?

Ugh that's hard.  I typically read Young Adult, but a wide range of YA.  I read fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, contemporary, etc.

I suppose the closest I get to stepping out of my genre is when I read adult urban fantasy.  Typically these are trusted authors.  Sean McGuire's Toby Daye series, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files or otherwise highly recommended books.  It's hard to even say that feels like stepping out of my genre.  I do read adult books, but it tends to be a mishmash (normally whatever good audiobooks the library has).  Urban fantasy is the only adult genre I consistently step out of YA for (though wouldn't that just make it one of my genres?).

I know that's not much of an answer, but I'm a genre hopper.  There are a few genres I don't enjoy, but I don't normally go looking for books in those genre.  If I read them it's normally a case of extreme peer pressure.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Viva Jacquelina! (review)

4/5 stars

It's hard to believe that Viva Jacquelina! is the 10th Jacky Faber book.  At times this series feels like it's dragging on and on but on the other hand I'm like "WAIT I've read TEN Jacky Faber books? Are you sure it's that many?"

I think many of us who love Jacky have intense yet confusing feelings about her.  We love her adventurous spirit and flirty ways.  Yet we feel like sometimes she takes the flirting too far and will never settle down with good reliable Jaimy, that maybe she loves the sea more than she'll ever love anyone.

Viva Jacquelina! felt like a solid book in the series.  I can't say that it necessary moves the Jaimy/Jacky storyline forward, but it also doesn't go off on strange tangents.  Instead the book follows a logical progression (well as logical as it gets where Jacky is concerned).  Jacky is once again in the service of British intelligence.  She goes off to war in Portugal, fighting the French and riding off with guerillas to gather more intelligence.  When the guerillas are ambused, Jacky is seperated from her friends.  In true Jacky fashion, she goes off on her own and finds new and exciting friends.  By luck, she stumbles upon the house of master painter Goya, becoming a servant and model for his painting students.  If that sounds like a strange chain of events then you haven't met Jacky Faber (Let me remind you when was randomly stolen away by a female pirate....).

In warzones Jacky is almost introspective, thinking about her own cowardice and fully aware of the harsh realities of war.  This version of Jacky has actually grown on me.  She's more grown-up, more aware of the consequences of her actions.  She may not be as fun and flirty, but there are times for silliness and times for contemplation.

Of coures Jacky still flirts, but her flirtation (except for with Lord Richard Allen in the beginning) feels tamer than normal.  She's actually aware of the effect her womanly ways have, especially on a younger boy named Cesar, and seems to hold back just enough to remain mostly loyal to Jaimy.  There may be kisses but if anyone tries to get too close, Jacky pushes them away.

Some of the more recent Jacky adventures have felt random and disconnected for the series as a whole. They've felt like adventures that are meant to prolong the story.  So I fully went into this book nervous, expecting disappointment.  But by following real history, returning Jacky to her roots as a British soldier, this book managed to feel more like a planned novel and less like a divergence.

I was surprised by how much I liked this book.  This book is very readable and very fun, without being stupid.  There are some great moments, such as  Jacky discovering hallucinogenic mushrooms, her posting for a very famous pinting (Maja denuda by Goya) and of coures I loved the interactions with Lord Richard Allen at the beginning of the book.

At the end of the book, Jacky and Jaimy are finally sailing in the same direction.  Of course that could mean nothing. There have been plenty of books that ended with a grain of hope, then something happens before they ever land on the same continent.  But I feel like that won't happen this time.  Maybe I'm just overly hopeful, but the timing feels right for Jaimy/Jacky to meet again.  After seeing so much war and death, how could they not run back to each other?

I'm giving this book a better rating than more recent Jacky books.  However, if the next book just goes off on another tangent, all the potential for getting this story back on track will be lost and it won't deserve 4 stars.  It's hard to know if my positive feelings are just hope, or if this series is actually heading in the right direction again.  All I can say for sure is that I really enjoyed this book.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Follow Friday - Book to Halloween movie

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: What book do you think would make a great Halloween movie? Please explain in graphic details of goriness....
Scary movies aren't really my thing. They don't normally scare me at all.  Everyone else is jumping and leaving the lights on while I'm wondering what the point of the whole movie was.  Just warning you I'm not expert in Halloween movies (unless they are the Disney channel variety).

My first instict was to say Anna Dressed in Blood. BUT since the first answer I read someone said that I decided to try to choose something different.

So I'm going to go with Feed by Mira Grant.  It's the peak of the zombie genre.  While the main characters, a team of bloggers following a presidential campaign, kill lots of zombies I like the fact the zombies are not the big bad guys of this movie.  What's actually scary is the conspiracy that's going on behind the scene--trying to change the outcome of a presidential campaign using zombies as a weapon.

There is blood. Lots of it.  Main characters die. Everyone re-animates.  The book is scary, but the intelligent kind of scary that I much prefer.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mark of the Golden Dragon (review)

3.5/5 stars

The Mark of the Golden Dragon was better than expected, though I must admit my expectations were low.  I'd been warned that if I expect resolution this was not that book.  The Jacky Faber story keeps going in circles.  They are fun romps, but never-ending cycles that don't advance the plot forward.

However I gave Jacky a long break.  Months and months.  In this book Jacky herself claims that she's best in small doses and I'm thinking that maybe she's right.  So for Jacky Faber fans who are growing tired of her running around in circles, leading Jamie on and never growing up I had advice for you. Take a break between books.  Listen to something else.  Give Jacky a few months to fade from your mind.  Then when you come back enjoy the high sea adventures, fun flirtations and everything we love about Jacky.

Aside from the break, this book had a few things in it's favor from the start.  Lord Richard Allen is one of my favorite Jacky flirtations.  He's older, dashing, snarky and I love him. So I'm automatically biased towards book with him in it.  So when you're deciding how you'll like this book, consider how much you like Lord Richard Allen.

I always enjoy books where Jaimy actually does things.  That may sound silly, but sometimes I feel like he's off on a ship somewhere just writing love letters to Jacky.  Though he and Jacky are separated,  and there are letters, he's got a big part to play in this book.  Jaimy has gone mad with grief, turned into a  highwayman.  There's some entertainment value to that, especially since he's seeking revenge upon some of our favorite villains.

The problem with this series is not that the books aren't enjoyable.  They are, especially in audiobook form narrated by the incomparable Katherine Kellgren.  However after the first few books each subsequent book seems to start at point A and end at point A.  There is no forward progress.

As expected at the end of Golden Dragon we were back in exactly the same position we'd been before.  It's entertaining, but like Jaimy I've reached the point in my relationship with Jacky where I want more than she seems to be willing to offer.  Despite my misgivings, I know Jacky has a way of bouncing back so I haven't given up on this series yet. I doubt I ever will.

If you like Jacky Faber, stick around.  Later this week I will review Jacky's 10th adventure Viva Jacquelina!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Follow Friday - My blog aspirations

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: What do you hope to accomplish with your blog? Is it to one day become an author yourself, just for fun, maybe get some online attention, or maybe something very different?
That's a really good question. To be honest, I had to think about it.  When I initially started thinking about using my old blog as a book blog I was already reviewing on Goodreads.  Since I was already doing a portion of the work of a blog I thought "Why not?"

I wanted to focus on strong female heroines when I started blogging.  My favorite features to write are my Breakdown of a Heroines.  Honestly I wish I could do them more often.  But not every character is a great heroine and not even every heroine jumps out at me like that.  Normally they have something special, not just amazing fighting abilities.  I wanted to talk about how being a heroine is more than just an ability to fight and highlight books with exceptional examples.

I do like to write, but wanting to write books has absolutely nothing to do with my blogging.  Except for occasional mentions I try to keep my personal writing and my book reviewing separate.  I review because I genuinely love reviewing, not because I want people to see my reviews and think "I want to read a book by that girl." (As for my story writing, it's currently not actually happening.  Though I'm currently searching for a NanoWriMo idea).

My degree is in journalism.  Currently I'm not working in any type of journalism/writing field, so I see blogging as a way to keep writing.  It's a very different style of writing from the newspaper journalism I studied, but it's writing.  Blogging let's me keep writing.

I know that's a long-winded answer.  I don't hope to accomplish just one thing with my blog, but a lot of things.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Breakdown of a Heroine: Ananna from The Assassin's Curse

Who is Ananna? (from The Assassin's Curse)
Ananna is the seventeen year old daughter of a pirate captain.  She's been raised on a confederation pirate ship, knows her way around the riggings.  She's handy with a sword and can find her way out of almost any problem.

Strength of Character
Ananna is kickass in all the best ways.  She can defend herself with a sword and knife.  She doesn't hesitate to fight off evil.  When she decides to learn navigation, she's a quick study despite her limited education.  But that's not what stands out most to me.  For most of this story Ananna travels with an assassin named Naji.  He has a massive scar on his face. Whenever anyone tries to bully Naji because of his scar, she's ready to kick their ass.  She can recognize a bully, sees how beautiful people get away with it and she's not having any of that on her watch.

Ananna's Storyline
This book had one of the BEST opening chapter's I've read in a long time.  Ananna's father has bargained with another pirate clan, offering Ananna's hand in marriage to create a partnership.  Ananna is absolutely furious.  Her father promised to teach her navigation and sailing.  She feels completely betrayed.  Ananna dreamed of captaining her own ship, not being a wife to some spoiled pirate's son.

So Ananna takes things into her own hands, running away from the marriage.  Things go awry when the Hariri clan sends an Assassin after her.  These are not your normal assassins, these are dark magician's who always kill their prey.  Except, this assassin doesn't.  Instead Ananna saves him life.  By saving him, she accidentally enacts a curse that forces him to protect her.  Whenever she's far away or in danger, Naji feels excruciating pain.  Not being cruel, Ananna doesn't abandon him and they set off together, both running from the Hariri and searching for a cure for the curse.

Romantic Entanglements
I want Naji to myself.  Does that count as a romantic entanglement?  The moment he sits there sullenly complaining about Ananna saving his life I loved him.   Naji is scarred, literally, sullen, funny and he respect Ananna as a strong woman.  Even though he's cursed to protect her, he recognizes and compliments her ability to protect herself.

There are hints of romance, always in the background to the story, and slow building.  There is nothing unhealthy about it, instead it's a friendship that grows then begins blossoming, at least in the background.  It's the adorable type of romance I like, where nobody realizes it's happening except the reader.  But you'll find yourself cheering for it, believe me.

I loved this book.  5/5 stars of love.  Rarely do I love a book this much.  Everything was just perfect for me.  Ananna is everything I want in a main character - witty, intelligent, funny, feisty and believable.  She's the type of girl I want to go adventuring with.  From the first line, I was all in.

"Tarrin of the Hariri looked just like one of those paintings. Golden skin and huge black eyes and this mile that probably worked on every girl from here to the ice-islands. I hated him on sight.

Sometimes you love a book so much that it's hard to write a coherent review.  Instead I just want to cuddle it and tell it how much I love it.  That's not very useful to other readers though.  When I tried to be the objective cool-headed reviewer and find the flaws in this book I couldn't.  The characters won me over immediately, the pacing kept moving forward (I read this book quickly), everything pushed the story forward, it made me laugh, it made me feel and I just loved it.

For those who like fantasy with strong heroines and are looking for Tamora Pierce meets Jacky Faber, this book is perfect for you.  In this book you'll find your next fictional crush (especially if you're into men who treat women with respect), a new fictional best friend and maybe even a favorite novel.