Friday 30 September 2011

Fire by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm #2)

Genres: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance
Publication Date: September 24th 2009
POV: Alternating - Third-person, Past tense
My Rating: 5 out of 5


It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her. Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised "Graceling" has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don't need to have read "Graceling" to love "Fire." But if you haven't, you'll be dying to read it next.

This was very nearly as good as Graceling. It has more intrigue than action, although there was still some action. Some great moments of action, in fact. But most of it was about politics, spies, and subterfuge. The story was very interesting and the writing style is still as clear and refreshing as ever.

I was at first disappointed to discover this was not a continuation of Katsa and Po's story, but a separate story set in the same world. Just think of it as a similar stand alone novel by the same author, so its still good. It is set to the east of the Seven Kingdoms, over the mountains, and is in fact set several years before Graceling.

Although Katsa was much more literally kick-ass than Fire, I think I may actually like Fire better as a heroine. Katsa was totally awesome and kick-ass, dont get me wrong. But Fire's lack of physical strength made her moments of strength more impressive. She may have had superior mental strength, and far superior beauty, but those are the things medieval and fantasy women usually have to depend on. While Katsa kicked-ass, chopped off her hair, and refused to wear dresses, Fire was a magnification of womanly strength. So, I enjoyed this new heroine who did not fight, but had so much courage.

When it comes to the issue of Prince Po or Prince Brigan, the choice is more difficult. They are both quite awesome, but different. Po the joker, Brigan the brooder. If I really had to choose I think I might go with Po because he was more fun. But I have no shortage of appreciation for Brigan as well. Funny thing is, for some reason I pictured Brigan as Paul Wesley pretty much from the beginning and I couldnt get that image out of my head. But I have no idea why since he doesnt really fit the description. He was described thus: "His eyes were clear and very light gray... He was little more than average height and build. He had his mother's fine mouth, but besides that and those pale crystal eyes, he was not handsome." But you cant blame me for trying. :P I really didnt like Archer though. I thought I liked him at first, until I realized what he was like. I dont know why Cashore felt like we needed his character in the book, especially a YA book. He added nothing to the story. The book would have been better, perfect, if his character didn't exist.

The romance in Fire was nothing like it was in Graceling. Po and Katsa were far more passionate, and it built quickly and they gave into their passion about halfway through the book. Many scenes were described in detail. In Fire, I was unsure in the beginning who would be the object of Fire's affection. I think I figured it out around the same time as the passage I used above for Brigan's description, because at the time he seemed the least fitting. Having a dramatic change in a character is always a good base for a romance. :P Although it was just a theory for some time, it eventually became clear. Their relationship development was very slow and subtle but sweet, and they didn't even kiss until nearly the end of the book. And when they did it was so vague, with no description that I almost missed it.

So, this turned into more of a comparison than a review, but if you liked Graceling than you can make a very informed choice as to whether or not you want to read this. My recommendation is yes.

“Brigan was saying her name, and he was sending her a feeling. It was courage and strength, and something else too, as if he were standing with her, as if he'd taken her within himself, letting her rest her entire body for a moment on his backbone, her mind in his mind, her heart in the fire of his.The fire of Brigan's heart was astounding. Fire understood, and almost could not believe, that the feeling he was sending her was love.”

Monday 19 September 2011

Dark Mirror by Mary Jo Putney (Dark Mirror #1)

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy/Magic, Romance
Publication Date: March 1st 2011
POV: Female - First-person, Past tense
My Rating: 3 out of 5

Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the earl and countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status.

Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory's blood is tainted . . . by magic.

When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she's fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she's one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.

But Tory's life is about to change forever. All that she's ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl's worth.


I really enjoyed the writing in this, and the pace was so fast which I think had something to do with why I finished it so quickly. Every chapter starts right in the action and there is no time wasted. The story was very unique, although rather short. And I really enjoyed the female lead, Tory. She wasn't too ordinary, but she was still relatable and genuine. There was this awesome moment where Tory started to realize that the tall, dark, and handsome stranger was giving her too much attention, and instead of blushing and getting all flustered, she said, "Is it my imagination, or do you often watch me in a way that is not casual?" Haha, I love her for that! She is so gutsy.

The main downside to this book is the romance and the romantic interest, Allarde. He catches her eye almost immediately and we know that that is the setup to making him the romantic interest of the book. But then it takes several chapters before they meet, and then they have very few interactions. Their relationship doesn't start to develop until over half way through the book. But that isnt a bad thing if you're not reading it for the romance. 

It focuses mostly on Tory's adventure for the first half, and that's okay. Once the romance does start, it is sweet, but underdeveloped and rushed. As is Allarde. I don't feel like we really know him as a character, only as an extension of Tory. But, Allarde has potential and I look forward to discovering his character more in Dark Passage.

“If death is inevitable, one should try to die well.”

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Twist by Colby Hodge

Genres: Young Adult, Sci-fi, Post-apocalyptic, Romance
Publication Date: January 29th 2008
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Abbey Shore never intended to be the savior of the world; it was just something that happened—like her father's tragic death and the fact that she's now poor and "flipping"houses in the Chicago suburbs to finish college. And there's more: behind a crumbling wall in her current renovation, a swirling vortex hides. It's a gate, a portal—and it will not only cast her into the arms and power of the enigmatic yet doomed Dr. Shane Maddox, but also into the clutches of Lucinda, the eerie, leather -clad beauty who shadowed his every move in the Sacred Heart ER. Abbey will soon be one hundred years in the future, in a dying land filled with roving bands of humans fighting for survival, and the "ticks" against whom they fight. Oh yes, Abbey's life has had a Twist.

Time is running out to twist things back.

The cover on this kind of turned me off at first. But one of my RL friends recommended it to me and she lent me her copy, so I really had to read it. And I am glad I did! Ignore the cover. This reads like any other YA paranormal romance.

This is one twisted book! No pun intended. Its a romance/post-apocalyptic/alien invasion/time-travel/vampire/ninja book. The story was a combination of pretty much everything you can think of, which actually made it feel incredibly original. And it had almost endless movie and TV references. The main character even named her cat Jayne, after Jayne Cobb from Firefly. A nice tense, action-packed story with great romance.

I enjoyed the fact that their relationship was slow to develop. Very fun to read. It was obvious they wanted each other from the beginning, but being a life-sucking alien-spawn puts a damper on things, and it took forever before he finally gave in. And he still couldnt do it without her persuasion, which is one of my favourite parts of the book, her pleading. You gotta love when a guy doesnt wanna hurt a girl and she doesnt care. Haha, that part maybe isnt so original, but surrounding circumstances still were. Such as, it wasnt a matter of self control, no amount of love would control him. In the end, he does hurt her and she has to leave him. Sort of. ;)

The dialogue between the two did sound a bit juvenile at times, but that is my only complaint, and it was only sometimes. Also the ending is, in a way, bittersweet.

Saturday 10 September 2011

A Rush of Wings by Adrian Phoenix (The Maker's Song #1)

Genres: Adult, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, Romance, Suspense
Publication Date: January 8th 2008
POV: Alternating - Third-person, Past tense
Smut-O-Meter: 6 out of 10
My Rating: 5 out of 5


Dark. Talented. Beautiful. Star of the rock band Inferno. Rumored owner of the hot New Orleans nightspot Club Hell. Born of the Blood, then broken by an evil beyond imagination.

F.B.I. Special Agent Heather Wallace has been tracking a sadistic serial murderer known as the Cross Country Killer, and the trail has led her to New Orleans, Club Hell, and Dante. But the dangerously attractive musician not only resists her investigation, he claims to be "nightkind": in other words, a vampire. Digging into his past for answers reveals little. A juvenile record a mile long. No social security number. No known birth date. In and out of foster homes for most of his life before being taken in by a man named Lucien DeNoir, who appears to guard mysteries of his own.

What Heather does know about Dante is that something links him to the killer -- and she's pretty sure that link makes him the CCK's next target. Heather must unravel the truth about this sensual, complicated, vulnerable young man -- who, she begins to believe, may indeed be a vampire -- in order to finally bring a killer to justice. But Dante's past holds a shocking, dangerous secret, and once it is revealed not even Heather will be able to protect him from his destiny....

I've never read anything like this before!

Although, I must admit I really wish I could replace every usage of the word 'belly' with 'stomach'. And the author really liked to reuse phrases. Several times someone trailed a finger along someone's jaw. More than once a car clicked and tinked. But her ability to describe a scene to you is amazing. Maybe she occasionally ran out of new ways to say it, and maybe I'm the only one who noticed, but the rest of the time I was completely drawn into her world. And I really enjoyed her affinity for the sense of smell. Every room and person had their own smell, a sense that is not usually focused on, it was like a completely new reading experience.
It read mostly like a really good thriller, full of conspiracies, cover-ups and secrets reminiscent of Bourne novels, with a little Criminal Minds mixed in. Which is a great combination already, but then add a world of vampires and fallen angels, supernatural powers, and other worlds of secrets. I have never seen a world like this before and there is nothing I can compare it to.

And I really appreciated Phoenix's version of the vampire mythos. She didn't stick with the usual 'steak to the heart', 'burst into flames' traits, but she didn't just ditch them all either. She made a unique combination of new and old. And the two leads are great. The leads are important and I couldn't have enjoyed the book this much if I didn't love the leads. Heather was a great female character. A perfect balance of tough but still feminine and sexy, enough for her weaknesses to be believable. And of course Dante was perfect, a beautiful tortured soul.

But the image I cant get out of my head is of Lucien, standing with wings unfurled under the broken roof of a cathedral. Dante took everyone's breath away, but he was described as pale and 5'8”. Not my type. Lucien was described as 6'8”, handsome, and oozing power. I would love to see that, with his rushing wings as he swoops down and perches on Dante's rooftop like a gargoyle.

"It's quiet when I'm with you. The noise stops."

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