Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: Incarnate (Newsoul #1) by Jodi Meadows

 Incarnate (Newsoul, #1) 

Synopsis: Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.
Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city is Ana to blame?
Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may only live once, and will Ana's enemies - human and creature alike - let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

First, what I liked about Incarnate: 

The world-building is very well done and original. I liked how Meadows combined Science Fiction and Fantasy into creating the high-tech world of Range, with old-school fantasy creatures like dragons and centaurs thrown into the mix. It can be difficult to weave these two genres together without it becoming too weird and unbelievable but Meadows pulls it off. And I give automatic bonus points to any book that has dragons in it. 

I thought the mythology of the world was intriguing. There is a god, Janen, that supposedly created all of the souls and he lives in the temple at the center of Heart. Not everyone believes he exists though, and if they do, they are unsure if he is benevolent or not. 

Another thing I like? The cover. That cover is exquisite. 

Now here are a couple of things I had issues with:

The characters, in particular Ana. I am getting a little tired of YA novels with female protagonists who are insecure, weak, and boring. Ana does not really have a distinguishing personality. Could this be the result of her being a Newsoul? Maybe, but I should still be able to see something in her that sets her apart. She is desperate to find out who she is and why she was first. But then she meets Sam and that whole bit of discovering who she is kind of fades into the background. 

Sam is another disappointing character. He is supposed to be the Love Interest and yet there is nothing very interesting about him at all. To be perfectly honest, none of the characters are very interesting. Not the main characters, not the villains, not the secondary characters. I couldn't even distinguish between some of the supporting characters! Ana's supposed 'friends' Whit and Orrin and Sarit? Who the hell are they?

The romance between Sam and Ana felt rushed and unnatural. There is no real build up of romantic tension so when (Spoiler Alert!) Sam and Ana kiss for the first time it's just kind of like 'Meh, saw that coming. Can we get some dragons up in here, please?' 

The writing, while at times lyrical, is often repetitive. Isn't there a more elegant way of describing someone falling to the ground then Ana saying 'I fell on my butt.'? I'm pretty sure this phrase makes an appearance at least three times throughout the book. 

Even though this book is not without its problems, I (mostly) liked it and will continue on and read the other two books in the series.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

 Cruel Beauty 

Synopsis: Since birth Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom - all because of a reckless bargain her father struck. And since birth, she has been training to kill him.
     Betrayed by her family yet bound to obey, Nyx rails against her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, she abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, disarm him, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
     But Ignifex is not what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle - a shifting maze of magical rooms - enthralls her. As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. But even if she can bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him?
     Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Beauty and the Beast is, hands down, my favorite fairy tale of all time. I always get excited when I hear there is a new version or retelling coming soon, whether it be a book or a film. Most of the time however, I am left disappointed by these new versions of the classic story. Beastly by Alex Flinn? Ummm, wasn't for me. The CW's Beauty and the Beast? I tried to watch it but only made it through a couple of episodes. So when I heard of Cruel Beauty I was excited/skeptical. Would this book live up to the hype? Or would it butcher my beloved fairy tale?

Conclusion: It definitely lives up to the hype. Cruel Beauty is now not only my favorite fairy-tale retelling I've ever read, but it is now one of my favorite love stories. It is romantic, suspenseful, original yet still weaving enough elements of the classic story to appeal to Beauty and the Beast fans. 

The romantic tension between Nyx and Ignifex is believable and incredibly sexy. I like how it seemed to build over time but the book didn't take forever in getting them together. Nyx is really torn between her duty to save Arcadia and her developing feelings for Ignifex. Towards the end, I was really not sure what Nyx would choose to do or even if the book would have a happy ending. (I'm not going to give anything away because people seriously need to READ THIS BOOK!) I will only say that I was satisfied with the ending. 

The book is beautifully written, weaving elements of Greek mythology seamlessly into the story. I was torn between reading the book as fast as I could to get to the ending and slowing down and savoring the gorgeous prose. This book is proof that YA novels do not have to be simply written for young adults to enjoy them. Readers crave complexity and thorough world-building in all genres. 

The only complaint I have about this book is that it ended! I wanted to read more about Nyx and Ignifex and the beautiful world in which they lived. I highly, highly recommend this book to Beauty and the Beast fans, YA fans, and book lovers in general. It is not to be missed. I cannot wait to see what Rosamund Hodge does next.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reading Wishlist: May 2014

May 6
 #1) The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass
The One (The Selection, #3)

The third and final book in The Selection series. The books all feature gorgeous dresses on their covers.

#2) After the End (After the End #1) by Amy Plum
After the End (After the End, #1)

The debut novel in a YA post-apocalyptic series. In this series, nuclear radiation from World War III has devastated the planet and its population. A few lucky survivors have made their way to the Alaskan wilderness. 

#3) The Falconer (The Falconer #1) by Elizabeth May
The Falconer (The Falconer, #1)

A YA fantasy debut that takes place in 19th century Scotland, where Lady Aileana Kameron must battle murderous faeries. 

#4) Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Since You've Been Gone

A contemporary YA where Emily deals with the mystery of her best friend Sloane's disappearance, while at the same time completing a bizarre to-do list that Sloane left for her.

#5) The Oversight (Oversight Trilogy #1) by Charlie Fletcher
The Oversight (Oversight Trilogy, #1)

The Oversight is a secret society in London that patrols the borders between the magical and the mundane world. However, their numbers are dwindling and the remaining members must deal with a series of vicious murders.

#6) The Painter by Peter Heller
The Painter

A talented but troubled painter witnesses a disturbing incident and must face the repercussions of a brutal encounter.

#7) Young God: A Novel by Katherine Faw Morris
Young God: A Novel

Nikki, a thirteen-year old girl, is determined to hold on to her family's dominion over the local drug trade. 

#8) The Bees by Laline Paull
The Bees

One of the most anticipated science-fiction books of the month, this debut novel tells the story of Flora 717, a worker bee who dares to challenge the Queen's authority.

#9) Glaze by Kim Curran

A YA sci-fi novel that takes on this generation's obsession with social media.

#10) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
All the Light We Cannot See

An historical novel set in World War II where a blind French girl and a German boy cross paths and try to survive the war. 

May 13

#11) Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
Free to Fall

Another YA sci-fi novel that explores the current generation's obsession with technology, this time apps.

#12) Bloodwitch (The Maeve'ra Trilogy #1) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Bloodwitch (The Maeve’ra Trilogy, #1)

A YA paranormal-fantasy debut that pits vampires against shapeshifters. Love the beautiful cover.

#13) Girl in Reverse by Barbara Stuber
Girl in Reverse

Lily must solve the mystery of her mother's disappearance during the chaos of the Korean War.

#14) Defenders by Will McIntosh

When telepathic aliens invade Earth, humans build genetically-altered soldiers called the Defenders. But what happens after the war is won? This book has already been optioned to become a film.

#15) Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris
Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation

Gamers and non-gamers alike will be intrigued by this non-fiction book telling the story of the Console War between Sega and Nintendo during the 1990s.

#16) To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

A novel about a man who's online identity is stolen.
#17) Bird Box by Josh Malerman
rBird Box: A Novel

A horror novel with a beautiful cover? Count me in. In this book, a family retreats into their home as the outside world slips away into darkness and chaos.

May 20

#18) Dangerous Creatures (Dangerous Creatures #1) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Dangerous Creatures (Dangerous Creatures, #1)

A spin-off series of the popular YA paranormal series, Beautiful Creatures.

#19) My Real Children by Jo Walton
My Real Children

I have heard phenomenal things about Jo Walton's fantasy novels. This one involves a woman living in two different timelines.

#20) The Three by Sarah Lotz
The Three

Four airplanes crash on the same day. Three out of the four crashes yields only one child survivor. Dubbed 'The Three', the children begin to exhibit increasingly disturbing behavior.

May 27

#21) City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare
City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6)

This is it. The big one. The one we've all been waiting for. The last installment in the wildly popular YA series, The Mortal Instruments. To be honest I've only read the first book in the series so far but I've collected all the other books as they've come out.

#22) One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
One Man Guy

A YA contemporary romance between shy Alek and outgoing Ethan. The cover is absolutely adorable.

#23) Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff
Guy in Real Life

Another contemporary YA romance with 'Guy' in the title. This novel is already being compared to the works of John Green and Rainbow Rowell so I am doubly excited to read it.

#24) The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
The Girl in the Road

A speculative fiction debut by an author who is being compared to Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman.

#25) Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
Artemis Awakening

Humans once created a technologically advanced world called Artemis, where the wealthy could live in a veritable paradise. But Artemis is gone, lost in a brutal war and humanity has lost its advanced technology. Until a young archaeologist discovers evidence that Artemis is not as lost as originally thought...

#26) The Lost (The Lost #1) by Sarah Beth Durst
The Lost

Lauren finds herself in a city called the Lost, a city impossible to escape. As Lauren wanders the city, she has to discover the truth about who she is and where she came from.

#27) The Silk Map (Gaunt and Bone #2) by Chris Willrich
The Silk Map (Gaunt and Bone, #2)

The first thing that caught my eye about this book was the cover. It is stunning! Then I read the synopsis and discovered it is the second book in a series that mixes Chinese mythology with sword-and-sorcery fantasy.

#28) The Immortal Crown (Age of X #2) by Richelle Mead
The Immortal Crown (Age of X, #2)

This book follows Gameboard of the Gods, an adult fantasy novel written by Vampire Academy author Richelle Mead.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Review: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott

 Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions 

Synopsis: Amiably narrated by A. Square, Flatland is Edwin A. Abbott's delightful mathematical fantasy about life in a two-dimensional world. All existence is limited to length and breadth in Flatland, its inhabitants unable to even imagine a third dimension. But when a strange visitor mysteriously appears and transports our incredulous narrator to the Land of Three Dimensions, his worldview is forever shattered.
Written more than a century ago, Flatland conceals within its brilliant parody of Victorian society speculations about the universe that resonate in Einstein's theory of relativity as well as in the current 'string-theory' of nature.

This is a unique, imaginative tale that takes place in a two-dimensional world where all the characters are geometric shapes (triangles, squares, circles, etc.) The book is split up into two parts : Part 1 talks about the nature and culture of Flatland and Part 2 focuses on the narrator's discovery of other dimensions. 

It works well as a satire of Victorian society. It is also fascinating how Abbott so convincingly built the world of Flatland, putting so much thought into how a two-dimensional society would operate. 

This book is not necessarily only for the mathematically inclined. I understood most of it (thanks to some helpful diagrams) although I will admit a few passages towards the end went right over my head. Despite this, I enjoyed it for the most part. It can be read in the space of a few hours (its just over a 100 pages) and is one of the few obscure classics that should not be overlooked. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars 

Synopsis: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

It is a real accomplishment to write a book about two cancer-stricken teenagers falling in love and make it as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. Kudos to Mr. Green for pulling it off. This is a famous tearjerker of a novel and while I personally was immune to having my tears jerked, it definitely made me feel some deep feels.

Hazel is a wonderfully cliche-free character who is smart, funny, and not above watching trashy TV. She's not a typical Victim of Cancer. She can be at times cynical, manipulative, and sarcastic but these faults make her all the more relatable and likable. I don't want my protagonists to be perfect; I want them to seem real. 

Which brings us to Augustus Waters. A fun character? Most definitely. A seemingly real one? Hmmm...I'm not too sure about that. If anything, I would say that Augustus Waters is the male version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. That girl, mostly in indie films, who is quirky and supposedly full of personality but the only reason for her existence is so the male protagonist can have a Life-Altering Experience that will Change Him For the Better. That's what popped into my mind when I was reading it. For me, the only time when he seemed like a real character was towards the end of the book. (No spoilers, but you've probably already read the book so you know what I'm talking about.)

Aside from that minor complaint, I really enjoyed reading this book. It brings up some big, philosophical questions and will make you think. It is also one of those rare books that makes you appreciate being alive. Highly recommended for everyone (including my boyfriend who has an inexplicable deep-seated loathing for John Green. Go figure.) 

Just a quick note: I read this book as part of Chapters' brand new book club on Twitter. The discussion for The Fault in Our Stars will be on May 28th on the Chapters/Indigo twitter feed. Find it here

Monday, May 5, 2014

Book Review: Broken Homes (Peter Grant #4) by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4)   

Synopsis: A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?
Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case load. 
So far so London.
But then Peter gets words of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate. 
Is there a connection?
And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?

This is the best Peter Grant novel so far, in my opinion. Reading all of the Peter Grant novels in rapid succession has enabled me to note the progress Aaronovitch has made in his storytelling, world-building, and character development. 

This is definitely the most complicated book in the Peter Grant series. There are so many plot threads that, if you don't read this book carefully, can be hard to keep track of. But it is definitely worth paying attention to as it all ties neatly together towards the end.

And what a spectacular ending it is. I wish I could go on about it here but I definitely don't appreciate spoilers so I won't do that to anyone else. The only thing I will say about it is MAJOR TWIST!!!!! A twist so huge that I need the fifth book NOW!!!!! Only it doesn't come out until September. Bugger. 

I am excited to report that Ben Aaronovitch has signed on to write at least four more Peter Grant novels. The fifth one, Foxglove Summer, is set to be released September 25, 2014, according to The sixth one, The Hanging Tree, doesn't have a release date yet. Neither does the TV series. So I will have to do without a Peter Grant fix for at least another four months. Lucky for me (and for this blog) I have tons of other books to read in the meantime. I better get on it. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Book Review: Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant #3) by Ben Aaronovitch

Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant, #3)

Synopsis: Peter Grant is learning magic fast. And its just as well - he's already had run-ins with the deadly supernatural children of the Thames and a terrifying killer in Soho. Progression in the police force is less easy. Especially when you work in a department of two. A department that doesn't officially exist. A department that if you described it to most people, would get you laughed at. And then there's his love life. The last person he fell for ended up seriously dead. It wasn't his fault but still.
Now something horrible is happening in the labyrinth of tunnels that make up the tube system that honeycombs the ancient foundations of London. And delays on the Northern line is the very least of it. 

Yet another enjoyable romp through London with Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard. This time we follow Peter as he investigates a murder in the London Underground. 

I really liked how Lesley was back in action in this installment. She wasn't really in the last book and I can't tell you why or else I'll spoil the first book. Lesley has joined Peter at the folly, is learning magic, and generally being her bad-ass self. All while trying to keep Peter out of trouble. 

One of my favorite new characters in this series is the half-human, half-goblin Zachary Palmer. I know exactly who should play him in the TV series:
 Andrew Lee Potts, famous for playing Hatter in the miniseries, Alice

To be honest, this isn't my favorite book in the Peter Grant series. It it still a really fun read and not to be missed for Peter Grant fans. I guess I was hoping for another appearance by the Faceless Man. There are traces of him in the book but he never actually shows his face (or rather, non-face). It is strongly hinted towards the end that he will feature more prominently in the next book, which I will be reading/reviewing next.