Sunday, September 29, 2013

Clockwork Princess

Book: Clockwork Princess
Series: Infernal Devices #3
Author: Cassandra Clare

Tessa Gray should be happy – aren't all brides happy? Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shaodwhunters of the London Institute. 

A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her. -Goodreads

Review: After devouring book 2 in an almost non-stop reading session, I was so excited to read this. I was really expecting to LOVE it and unfortunately that didn't happen. I felt like I was reading a romance novel instead of the thrilling conclusion to this awesome trilogy. Most of the new characters that were introduced seemed to pair off and offered little to the plot.  A lot ink was devoted to Jem dying. At several points I kept thinking "Just die already so we can move on with the plot." The final showdown with the Magister was okay..I was just expecting something 'more.' Of course, I still loved Tessa, Will and several other characters. I think reading out how portals were created was fascinating. Overall, I liked the book but I think it could have been more exciting, however I HATED what the author did with the character of Jem at the end. HATED.

*Spoiler Alert*
Jem needed to die. Becoming a Silent Brother, after he said he would never do it, was just ridiculous. So Tessa ends up marrying Will and having this amazing life together (which we only read about in summary) and he dies. Years later (in the midst of the current MI timeline) a cure is found for Jem's illness and he is able to leave the Silent Brothers (although we're told it's a lifelong commitment) and he and Tessa re commence their relationship. Ugg. I had no problem with Jem in the books, although it was obvious Tessa and Will would end up together. Her relationship with Jem was more of a friendship that grew into love (nothing passionate). I just wish this section was not included. A friend of mine who read both series reminded me that we don't know what happens yet with Jem because as of the 5th MI book, he is still a Silent Brother. I hope Clare has some very clever reason why he leaves the brotherhood. 

Anyway, even though this book was not perfect, I still liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Widow's Web

Book: Widow's Web
Series: Elemental Assassins #7
Author: Jennifer Estep

Review: Salina Dubois is back in town. She's beautiful, powerful, sadistic and is out for revenge. She also happens to be Owen's ex-fiancee and she wants him back. 

I love the ex-fiancee angle to create tension between Gin and Owen. Especially considering Gin wasn't even aware that Salina ever existed. So she is not only battling another foe with elemental powers, her relationship with Owen will be impacted as well. Why you ask? Because Owen has a blind spot for Salina and thinks she can do no wrong. He believes every lie she spews. We are introduced to a newish character in this book, Philip Kincaid (he's referenced in previous books but doesn't play a large role) and we learn about his past relationship with Owen and Eva. I liked the back story and hope to see more of Philip in the future. I liked how Gin handled the Salina situation overall. Of course, in typical Gin fashion, she tells us how badass she is...only to vastly underestimate her opponent and almost get herself killed. Then she comes up with a 'simple' plan that doesn't go according to plan but everything (almost) works out in the end. 

My only issues with this book was there was a lot of repetition again in rehashing past plots. I think by book 7 most people know the Mab backstory. I'm not sure if the publisher requires the summarization or if people really start reading a new series this far into it? This book also didn't feature our favorite cast of supporting characters. Okay, to be fair they are in the book but play very minor roles for the most part. I wanted more Finn and Sophia! 

Overall, I enjoyed this. Fun series!

Grade: 3/5

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Clockwork Prince

Book: Clockwork Prince
Series: Infernal Devices #2
Author: Cassandra Clare

ReviewIn magical Victorian London, orphan Tessa found safety with the Shadowhunters, until traitors betray her to the Magister. He wants to marry her, but so do self-destructive Will and fiercely devoted Jem. Mage Magnus Bane returns to help them. Secrets to her parentage lie with the mist-shrouded Yorkshire Institute's aged manager Alyosius Starkweather. -Goodreads

It's been a long time since I stayed up late reading a book but I literally could not put this down. Without question, I'm enjoying this series more than MI. This book starts off shortly after the previous one ended. Charlotte may be forced out as head of the institute and if that happens, Tessa won't have anywhere to go. Meanwhile, Tessa and the gang are still searching for the Magister and fighting off his clockwork creatures. Of course, romance plays a big theme in this book. While I'm typically not a fan of triangles, Clare handled it very well. Although Tessa initially bonded with Will, he's pushed her away enough that her friendship with Jem has slowly blossomed into something more. We finally learn what happened to Will and the revelation leads to a heartbreaking scene between him and Tessa. While she was internally struggling with her feelings, I felt her actions toward both boys was relatively consistent. Finally, the ending scene and the introduction of a new character for the last book has me VERY excited. 

Super fun! Great interaction with Will and Magnus that had me laughing out loud too. 

Grade: 4.5/5

Just One Day

Book: Just One Day
Series: Just One Day #1
Author: Gayle Forman

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines. - Goodreads

Review: I'm not even sure where to start with this one. Allyson is an only child to upper middle class parents and is beyond spoiled. She just graduated from high school and never had a real job. Her parents get her a trip to Europe for the summer (her best friend from childhood is also going) and she can't even enjoy herself (I'm sure taking a teen tour isn't that great, but come on. How many of us would have loved to tour Europe before college?) She is usually a Mary Sue type who follows the rules and never goes outside the box when she decides to go with Willem (pretty much a complete stranger) to Paris. As someone who once went to Mexico to meet friends sans cell phone and not even knowing where we were staying, I can see how sometimes we make crazy decisions. However, being 2013, she should have bought a cheap cell phone to stay in touch with her friend. I also knew this was a love story of sorts, but I couldn't help thinking 'this guy is going to rob you and rape you and no one will ever find you.' 

Okay-onto the day in Paris. I was thinking this would be the BEST DAY EVER for Allyson...but there is no way I'd describe it as such. Yes, she donned a new persona and called herself Lulu when she was with Willem, but they essentially went on a train ride (where he disappeared for awhile and she was extremely insecure about being left behind by him), took a nap in a park in Paris, got into a fight with some people in said park, ran away, fought with Willem to the point that she was ready to leave...and then they make up, eat dinner, essentially break into a dirty artists building and then have sex. Then she wakes up, realizes he's gone and has a panic attack. Of course, she never gave him her real name and they have no way to contact each other. Does that sound like the best day of your life? No, me neither. 

Okay, so Allyson returns home, falls into depression and goes off to college. Of course she doesn't tell her parents what happened and tries to put on a happy face for them. She doesn't bond with roommates because she's too busy wallowing in self pity. She's pre-med and while she was a straight A student in high school, she is not doing well in school. I do think Forman nailed how the transition to college can be tough for freshman and how we realize that our high school friends are perhaps not the real friends we thought they were. Allyson's friendship with Melanie was perhaps more habit then having mutual things in common (realistic for those of us friends with someone from elementary school through high school...and then we are not as close as we once where when we start college). However, I just could not stand Allyson. I realize she was depressed but being depressed about that crappy day in Paris and Willem leaving-I just wanted to reach into the book, slap her and tell her to get over it. It was a one night stand in a dirty building! As for her relationship with her parents, I was pleased with how they 'punished her' when they found out she was doing poorly in school and when she decided to stop pre-med classes to take things like pottery...and then lied to them about it.  They made her actually get a real job (the horror!). She was extremely rude to her mother, who was having a hard time with her daughter leaving home. I will say I was hoping the mother would take some pre-med classes herself or find something useful to do while she was dealing with empty nest syndrome. As for the conclusion of the book, Allyson saves her money to go to Europe to track down Willem. I couldn't help feeling like she was a stalker for doing this. 

Finally, we learn at the end of the book that something happened to Willem, which is why he wasn't there when she woke up, and the next book is told from his perspective. And like that...even thought I thought this was overall 'okay' I'm suckered into buying the next book. Arggg. 

Grade: 2/5

The Scorpio Races

Book:  The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

ReviewIt happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. -Goodreads

'The Scorpoi Races' takes place in the early 1900s on a small island off the coast of England. Most of the residents live in abject poverty while the Malvern's appear to be the only family with wealth. Sean Kendrick has worked for Malvern for nine years and at age 19 is the head horse trainer. I thought of him  as the 'horse whisperer' throughout the book. He was quiet and mature beyond his 19 years.  His greatest wish in life is to buy Corr, a water horse he has trained since birth. Malvern agrees to sell him the horse if the wins the race. Kate Connelly (nicknamed Puck) was orphaned a year ago when both of her parents were killed. She enters the race to keep her older brother on the island a few weeks longer and to secure money so she and her younger brother can keep their house. 

This book is depressing and very slow. It takes us through the training for the race, the race itself and then a short chapter afterward. I did not care for Puck, who was extremely immature for age 16. Additionally, her reasons for competing in the race, although explained, never jived with me. I really liked Sean, who was wise beyond his years, but the attraction the developed between them didn't ring true. I was in an odd position where I was routing for Sean to win the race but realized Puck had to win somehow (as he had actual skills to ensure survival on the island, she didn't have too many skills). The race events did not unfold as I thought and I actually cried during the last chapter, so they in itself bumped my final grade from 'it was okay' to 'I liked it.'  

There was a supernatural element to the water horses, but I would still classify this is as fiction. As a side note, this island was small didn't seem to have a school. Even though the Connelly family stayed to themselves, I found it very odd that Puck didn't know Sean growing up. Equally odd was that Puck appeared to be the only teenage girl in the town.

Overall, okay read with a strong ending that elicits emotion.  

Grade: 3/5

Dead Girls Don't Lie

Book: Dead Girls Don't Lie
Author: Jennifer Shaw Wolf

ReviewRachel died at two a.m . . . Three hours after Skyler kissed me for the first time. Forty-five minutes after she sent me her last text. 
Jaycee and Rachel were best friends. But that was before. . .before that terrible night at the old house. Before Rachel shut Jaycee out. Before Jaycee chose Skyler over Rachel. Then Rachel is found dead. The police blame a growing gang problem in their small town, but Jaycee is sure it has to do with that night at the old house. Rachel’s text is the first clue—starting Jaycee on a search that leads to a shocking secret. Rachel’s death was no random crime, and Jaycee must figure out who to trust before she can expose the truth. - Goodreads

I think this is my first YA mystery and I wouldn't say I liked it exactly, but it was overall interesting. The setting was a small town in Washington state that seemed to be composed of white churchgoers and a Hispanic migrant population viewed with prejudice. Our protagonist is Jaycee, a follow the rules/goody two shoes type who lives with her strict and religious father. I found her boring and lacking in personality. Her decision to not involve the police in what she knew, seemed VERY out of character and her detective skills left something to be desired, but I thought the supporting characters were interesting. We had her religious father who is also the town attorney: does he know any town secrets? Why is he so protective? Seemingly superficial friends Claire and Taylor who put Rachel's death out of their minds in no time at all. Then there is Jaycee's new boyfriend Skyler and his older brothers that have all of a sudden taken an interest in Jaycee. Do they really like her or is something sinister at stake? Finally, Eduardo, a former gang member who Rachel tells Jaycee to trust. 

The murderer was easy to figure out about mid-way through the book but Wolf did a good job making scenes creepy. I wish Eduardo was more prevalent in the story. He had a chip on his shoulder for most of the book and I wish he and Jaycee had operated more as a team. Another comment..even though this was a mystery I kept thinking 'My god, Jaycee is going to go absolutely wild when she is in college away from her father.'  He didn't even allow her to have the password to their family computer, she was 16!! 

Grade: 3/5

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ashes on the Waves

Book: Ashes on the Waves
Author: Mary Lindsey

Review: 'Ashes on the Waves' is based on the poem 'Annabelle Lee' by Edgar Allen Poe.  Liam is a 20-year old living in Dochas, a remote island off the coast of Maine. Although the year is 2013 (perhaps 2012?) Dochas seems like the middle ages. No cell towers, one working phone in town, girls can be married off at age 14, men get away with murdering their wives (there is no law on the island), people form lynch mobs at times and there isn't a school for the one child that lives there. Ah-least I forget everyone believes in Celtic creatures and lore. They believe Liam killed his mother at birth and that he is part demon. He's had a tough life living in this backwards place to say the least. 

Liam is in love with Ana, who vacationed on the island as a child. Although he hasn't seen her in over 10 years, he reads gossip magazines to keep up with her life. She is now a socialite (think Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie, pre-marriage/babies) who has embarrassed her family one too many times. She is sent to the island as punishment and is not allowed to attend her brother's wedding.  Liam and Ana form an instant love connection that happens so fast you just have to go with it. But the caretaker at Ana's estate is trying to do everything in her power to keep them apart and mystical powers are using the two young lovers as pawns in a game of power. Add the crazy villagers in the mix and these two are up against several forces. 

This book is beautifully written and Lindsey does a wonderful job making Dochas come to life. It is inconceivable that places still exist in this world (they do-I had the pleasure of listening to Mary Lindsey talk about writing this book and she wrote it on one of these islands off the Maine coast) but it was interesting and a departure from other books. Ana felt like a very real character to me. Liam on the other hand, I understand what the author was going for but his old fashioned speech (which bordered on feminine on many occasions) lulled me to sleep. He was also so beat down and victimized by the people in town he was borderline pathetic. There were several occasions where Ana would reference something modern and he wouldn't know what she was talking about-I kept thinking that if he had been reading all those gossip magazines to keep tabs on her (let's face it-it's creepy that he was in love with this person he played with as a child, but she was one of his few good memories so I'll give him some slack) he should have known or read some of the saying. Minor complaint but I thought it several times as I was reading. 

Overall, great backdrop with a haunting story. You know how it will end before the book starts and I love that the author stayed true to the poem. Good book. The author said her goal by writing this is to try to get more people to read Poe and I am happy to say I will go out and do so! I'm inspired!

Grade: 3/5

Clockwork Angel

Book: Clockwork Angel
Series: Infernal Devices #1
Author: Cassandra Clare

Review: After a long journey from America, 16 year old Tessa Gray is happy to arrive in London to see her brother Nate. But she is quickly kidnapped by the Dark Sisters, forced to use a magical ability she didn't know she had and learns she is to be married to the elusive and powerful Magister. Before she is married off, Tessa is rescued by Will Herondale, a young Shadowhunter. Tessa seeks refuge with Will and his fellow Shadowhunters in London as they search for the Magister and her brother. 

Infernal Devices is a prequel series to Mortal Instruments set in Victorian London in the late 1800's. I'll admit I put off reading this for quite awhile (I was so burnt out by the 3rd MI book I wasn't sure I could take another Clary-esque character). I am so glad I finally read this because I really enjoyed it! If you've read the MI series, then many of these characters will seem similar. Will is essentially Jace with black hair and blue eyes. Jem (full name James, which I prefer over 'Jem,'  I always imagined the 80's cartoon whenever I read 'Jem') is a straight Alec. Jessamine is a less likable Isabel while Nate...well, I'll leave out spoilers regarding Nate. Even though these characters were very similar to their present day counterparts, I really enjoyed the ID characters more. Maybe it was the London backdrop, but everything in this book clicked with me. Mysterious and brooding Will...I couldn't wait to learn more about his backstory-why is he so distant? Why does he push people away? Next, sweet, open, sickly Jem. He is one of those characters who is so pure and honest I usually can't stand them, but he is really likable. It's clear there will be a love triangle between Tessa, Will and Jem at some point. Finally, Tessa. LOVE her. She is like Clary in that she doesn't initially know that she is part of a magical world but the comparisons stop there. Tessa uses her brain in stressful situations and it a fabulous heroine. She is very likable. Yes, she has a tendency to think real world is like books, but that is because she grew up very sheltered. Fans of MI will be pleased to see Magnus Bane make an appearance (yay!) and although the Magister reveal was obvious, I'm looking forward to seeing more of the clockwork creatures. 

If you've read the first 3 MI books, you must read this series. If you are a fan of YA fantasy, I also recommend this. 

Grade: 4/5

Human Remains

Book: Human Remains
Author: Elizabeth Haynes

Review: Annabel, a civilian police analyst, discovers the remains of her next door neighbor (whom she assumed moved out months ago). Horrified that she didn't know her neighbor had been dead for months, Annabel starts researching cases around town and finds several instances where human remains have been found months after the person died. Even more surprising, the ME rules the deaths 'natural causes.'  Annabel begins to think something sinister is at work, while wondering how all these people could die without anyone realizing they were missing to begin with. 

'Human Remains' is told from three perspectives. Annabel: Annabel is in her late 30's and is dedicated to her job, her ailing mother and her cat. She wants to figure out why these people are dying and why no one has noticed they were missing. What is the pattern? Colin: Colin Friedland, on the other hand, is a sociopath who is obsessed with death and decomposition. He also has an ability to seek out extremely lonely/depressed people, put them at ease and tell them to "let go." Dead: spirits of those whom Colin 'encouraged' to let go and die. When Annabel's mother dies, she falls into depression and into Colin's web. 

This was a very interesting book. Although Annabel was relatively passive, I found myself rooting for her. Colin is evil and I was fascinated by his thought patterns and actions (he complete lack of awareness in certain situations was amusing). Haynes has a special talent creating creepy characters. However, I think the most interesting thing about this book is that it makes you think about your relationships with your family, friends and yes, even neighbors. The concept of 'victim' is also challenged in this book. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book. **spoiler alert** I was waiting for something 'more' in the sense that I thought Colin was really murdering the people or giving them some drug at some point, but still an interesting read. 

Grade: 3.5/5

Tear You Apart

Book: Tear You Apart
Author: Megan Hart

Review: Elisabeth is in her mid-40's and has been married for 20+ years to a man who is always out of town traveling. Her twin daughters are away at college and she works for her friend Naveen in an art gallery. She is seemingly content until she meets Will, a photographer, one night. Although she's never cheated on her husband, she commences an affair. 

"You never know how thirty you are until someone offers you a drink."

Wow. This book is raw and emotional. I didn't so much as 'love it' as felt like I was 'experiencing it.' It wasn't a fun read but a heartbreaking one. I was not exactly rooting for Elisabeth but I could relate to her. If you are looking for a happily ever after, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a brutally honest look at a relationship and how they change as we have children, age and grow apart, give this a try. Hart is an excellent writer and crafts characters that are believable. Another unique thing about this book is that Elisabeth has synesthesia, a neurological condition where she tastes and smells voices and objects. I can say this is the first book where a character has this condition, it definitely provided another layer of descriptions for this. 


Grade: 4.5/5

Forever Fae

Book: Forever Fae
Series: Forever Fae #1
Author: L.P. Dover

Review: We're in the land of the fae and other creatures, which includes a fae winter and summer court. There is a prophecy which impies Princess Calista (of the summer court) will help save the fae from evil. When she meets Prince Ryder (winter court), they form an instant connection, but must deal with Calista's best friend and guardian Merrick as well as evil forces around them. 

I've read a lot of urban fantasy over the years but this is my first 'fae' perspective book. Although some of the ideas were interesting, the overall execution of this book was a failure. Instead of introducing us to the characters and building the story, I felt like we were 'told' everything right off the bat. Written in alternating perspectives, the bad guy was evil immediately. I think he even said what his end goal was right away, so there was no suspense. There could have been a good love triangle with Calista, Ryder and Merrick but it was very clear that her feelings were only for Ryder. The same scene was also written from both Ryder and Calista's point of view and in most cases, didn't add much to the story. 

Overall, very disappointing. 

Grade: 1/5