Monday, January 28, 2013

Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder


Study #1
Release date: March 1st 2007
Published by: Mira Books
Genre: Young Adult
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison...

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...





I immediately added this book on Goodreads when I finished reading Touch of Power. I was curious to see how Maria V. Snyder would handle yet another fantasy series, and if they'd be similar. Fortunately, I was wrong. The only thing these two series have in common is a likeable heroine, a good plot, excellent world-building... and a good (almost decent) writing. 

Yelena is yet another main character that I adored. She, in order to survive, had to become the Commander's food taster - which is exactly what it sounds like. Yelena had to taste the Commander's food to see if it had any poison. She also had to be trained by Valek, the chief of security, to be able to identify different kinds of poison. That premise alone was enough to keep me interested in the story. However, the secondary characters - especially Valek and Rand - and all the tension surrounding Yelena's life brought me to the edge of my seat. I was unable to stop reading Poison Study. 

Something that caught my eye was that the Commander of Ixia wasn't the bad guy. When you read a fantasy novel in which the lands had been taken over by a new Commander, and the King, murdered, you immediately expect an oppressive government. Thankfully, Commander Ambrose was kind to his people and always tried to avoid bloodshed when he could. That was a welcomed change. It also made me realize that the author didn't need to take the story down that route to create the political problems. 

What really bothered me when I was reading Poison Study was the author's writing. I'm tired of having to say this again, but Snyder just can't write very well when it comes to fantasy novels. The dialogues are too modern, and some of the characters' actions were absurd, when you think about it. For example, a woman that was attracted to someone would never just lean forward and undo the guy's pants. It's ridiculous to even think about it... it just doesn't fit the setting of the story, you know? I was unable to give it 5 stars, which is a shame, since the characters are well developed, the plot is good, and the eventual romance is slow and delicious to read. 

Overall, Poison Study was an excellent novel. The only thing that was truly "bad" was the writing. If it had been better, I wouldn't hesitate in giving this book 5 stars. I'll probably read the sequel, Magic Study, pretty soon. Hopefully Maria V. Snyder will not disappoint me! 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hex Hall trilogy, by Rachel Hawkins

- Hex Hall (Released in 2010)
- Demonglass (Released in 2011)
- Spell Bound (Released in 2012)

Published by: Hyperion Book CH
Genre: Young Adult
Find it on: Goodreads


I actually didn't know how to write a review on this series. I thought about writing one review for each book, but then... I don't know. Since I read the entire trilogy as one, in just a couple of days, and with no pause, I thought about doing the review the same way - just one big review talking about the three books in general. Hopefully that'll work out!

Hex Hall had the kind of premise that makes me excited and hesitant at the same time, simply because it can either succeed wonderfully, or fail horribly. Thankfully it was the former. I imediately felt a bond with Sophie - and with Rachel Hawkins' writing style. It had it all - the sarcasm, the vulnerability of going to a place that you don't know, the fear of what's going to happen... it all clicked when I started to read Hex Hall. And that experience lasted till the ending of Spell Bound.

The plot of these books can be a little crazy, and often too quick for you to fully comprehend what's happening, but for me, that's what made it all perfect. It fit Sophie. You see, she's young, volatile, sarcastic, and just speaks her mind, so how can you expect the plot to be slow, and the romance that eventually develops to be something you can understand completely? The answer is: You can't expect that! Even when the story slowed down a bit, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I was unable to put this book down.

The other reason Hex Hall is so freaking impossible to put down is because of the secondary characters. Granted, you have some annoying characters (like Elody, for example), but before I realized it, she had grown on me. Jenna, Sophie's best friend, and Archer Cross, the love interest (although I like to think he's much more than that!) are perfect examples of why the author should always, always develop not only the main character, but the secondary ones, as well. These two were realistic, funny, and made the story a lot more interesting (especially Archer, hehe).

Now that I've spoken of the first book a little bit, I'd like to talk about Demonglass, and Spell Bound. Demonglass was the perfect sequel to Hex Hall. It had everything I wanted, and even a bit more. Sophie was a lot more mature - but she kept her sarcasm as sharp as a knife, of course - and the story went to a direction I wasn't expecting, which is definitely good. However, Spell Bound wasn't quite as good as its predecessors.

Don't get me wrong - it was pretty good - but some things failed to impress me. For example, Sophie's sense of humor. You're probably thinking "I can't believe you're going to talk about the girl's sense of humor", but it's true, and if you've read Hex Hall, you know that. Sophie's sarcasm was extraordinary in Hex Hall and Demonglass, something that always made you laugh at the most awkward moments. I just loved that about her. In Spell Bound - and I'm sad to say this - that sense of humor seemed forced the entire time. Maybe it was because of how tense things were, but without the humor, the book dragged a bit more than necessary.

The ending was extraordinary, though, and I'd be an idiot to give Spell Bound less than 4.5 stars. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty close. The Hex Hall trilogy, in general, is a fantastic trilogy if you like paranormal creatures and a fun main character (and a swoon-worthy love interest, if I may add). If you're thinking that this series sounds slow and cliché, let me tell you something: It isn't ;) I thought the same thing, and I read this trilogy in 3 days. It was just that amazing!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Edge of Never, by J.A. Redmerski

The Edge of Never, by J.A. Redmerski
Release Date: November 13th 2012
Published by: J.A. Redmerski
Genre: New Adult
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

Twenty-year-old Camryn Bennett had always been one to think out-of-the-box, who knew she wanted something more in life than following the same repetitive patterns and growing old with the same repetitive life story. And she thought that her life was going in the right direction until everything fell apart.

Determined not to dwell on the negative and push forward, Camryn is set to move in with her best friend and plans to start a new job. But after an unexpected night at the hottest club in downtown North Carolina, she makes the ultimate decision to leave the only life she’s ever known, far behind.

With a purse, a cell phone and a small bag with a few necessities, Camryn, with absolutely no direction or purpose boards a Greyhound bus alone and sets out to find herself. What she finds is a guy named Andrew Parrish, someone not so very different from her and who harbors his own dark secrets. But Camryn swore never to let down her walls again. And she vowed never to fall in love.

But with Andrew, Camryn finds herself doing a lot of things she never thought she’d do. He shows her what it’s really like to live out-of-the-box and to give in to her deepest, darkest desires. On their sporadic road-trip he becomes the center of her exciting and daring new life, pulling love and lust and emotion out of her in ways she never imagined possible. But will Andrew’s dark secret push them inseparably together, or tear them completely apart?



  

 
The Edge Of Never doesn’t exactly have a very original plot, but holy mother of God, it was one hell of a ride. Did I enjoy it? Yes. At least the majority of it. Did it have some epic, epic fails? Yes. And that’s why some parts of this review will resemble a rant – because I just felt like screaming when I was reading some parts of this novel.

The way I feel it, The Edge of Never can be divided in three parts: the Good part, the Terrible part, and the Not-So-Bad part.

The Good part takes place in the first half of the book. In it, Camryn fights with her BFF, Natalie, and sets off on a road trip to nowhere – a road trip in which she meets Andrew, an adorable guy that she becomes best friends with. They have these crazy dialogues, and Andrew melts her heart – as well as my own, ahem. Basically, they fell in love.

The first 30% of this novel is just perfect. Camryn is funny, Andrew is fantastic, and they have a lot of chemistry. Their conversations are sensational. However, you get that feeling that you’re about to go head-first into something different.

Unfortunately, that “something different” turned out to be a ridiculous relationship later on. As 
I started to get to know both Camryn and Andrew better, I got the feeling I was reading the prologue of a novel about unhealthy and obsessive relationships. Let me tell you, it wasn’t a good feeling. I started to feel bothered by the way Andrew laughed all the time – it was like he was hiding who he truly was beneath that, someone strange and dangerous. I had no idea what was happening.

And then, these weird scenes came out of nowhere. You see, the sexual tension between them was heating up, and that’s understandable. They wanted each other, no arguments there. And I was okay with it. I mean, come on, this is a New Adult novel, and I already had read a lot of reviews talking about how hot some scenes were in this book. I was prepared… at least, that’s what I thought. Until they started to have these conversations about sex that were really awkward. I was embarrassed just reading about it. Talk about unrealistic. They were both falling in love with each other, and these conversations were over the top. There’s no way you can talk about sex with the guy you’re in love – and in lust – with. No freaking way!

And then they had oral sex. And it was out of nowhere, again. It was so surprising I was taken back by it. I mean, yes, you can build a lot of tension and then sort of explode it later in a very hot scene but… not that way. It didn’t work. They both refused to really sleep with each other, and when Camryn asked why Andrew didn’t want to be with her, here’s what he answered:


“If you were to let me fuck you, you would have to let me own you.”


What the hell is that? How was I supposed to feel about this? Was I supposed to fall in love with Andrew? I don’t even know. The author simply destroyed the image I had of him with that sentence. This novel turned upside down after that. Camryn and Andrew were just falling head of heels in lust with each other.

Now that I mentioned how Andrew was destroyed as a character… well. It goes beyond that sentence, actually. He was violent, didn’t have any control over his feelings (especially his anger), and was so obsessed with Camryn I just wanted to kill myself. And don’t even get started on that “babie” thing. He called her that so much it stopped being romantic and became annoying.

Here’s an example of what I just said: They were in a bar having fun, and Andrew and Camryn had played some pool. A couple of guys came up and started talking to Camryn. She politely declined their intentions, and told them she was accompanied. Andrew confirmed that she was, indeed, accompanied. The guys asked if he was her boyfriend. She said no. The guys questioned Andrew, because if he wasn’t her boyfriend, then she wasn’t actually accompanied, right?... Then Andrew just beat the shit out of them.

Okay, these guys were being stupid, but it didn’t justify Andrew’s actions. He just started to punch them like a maniac in the middle of the bar. I mean, seriously? Why did he do that? It wasn’t necessary!

Then, later on, when Camryn and Andrew were leaving the bar, here’s what happened:


Andrew stops me on the sidewalk and takes my upper-arms into his hands. “Don’t lie to me, baby, did you get hurt anywhere? I swear to fucking God if you did I’m going after them.”


Going after them again, you mean? You already beat the hell out of them!

Here’s some more examples that set alarms off in my head:


I go to wiggle my way away – not really – and he wraps his arms around my waist and just holds me there. The only time he lets me up from his lap the rest of the night is when I need to use the restroom, and he stood outside the door and waited for me.


He… waited for her outside the restroom. It’s like he doesn’t take his hands off her all the time. It’s tiring.

But the best part is when she declares – admits, actually – that’s she likes him, and wants to have a serious relationship with him.


“I want you, goddamit!” I scream at him. […] “I can’t fucking breathe without you!”
“SAY IT! Son of a bitch,” he says, exasperated, “just say it!”
“I want you to me own me!” I can hardly stand on my own anymore. Sobs rock my entire body. […]
Andrew grabs me, twisting my wrists together behind my back with one of his hands. He pulls me back harshly into his chest. “Say it again, Camryn”, he demands. […] “Fucking say it, baby.” His hand tightens painfully around my wrists.
“I belong to you, Andrew Parrish… I want you to own me...”


See what I mean, about their relationship turning into an obsessive one? I can’t even form a coherent thought about that scene. I felt disgusted when I was reading it. This is supposed to be romantic? Well, let me tell you, it wasn’t.

Camryn was just as obsessed about Andrew as he was about her.


“Andrew, I meant what I said: I can’t breathe without you. Last night, after you had been gone all day, I sat down on the edge of this bed and was literally breathless.”


Um… does this girl know the meaning of “literally”? If she’s feeling, literally, breathless, then run to the freaking hospital, not to Andrew’s arms. Just a tip, Camryn!

The last part of the book (the Not-So-Bad part ;D ) wasn’t so painful to read, but it also wasn’t good. I got to see some glimpses of the Andrew that I fell in love with, but the twist was unnecessary – even though it did make me cry at some points, and Camryn was just a mess, so I don’t know what to make out of her. There is a scene that made me want to claw my eyes out, but I can’t put it in here, otherwise I’d be revealing a huge spoiler (the twist itself) so I’ll just say I’m surprised at the kind of behavior some nurses will ignore in a hospital ;)

Overall, I have mixing feeling about The Edge of Never. I loved the first few chapters, but after I hit the 40% mark on my ebook, everything just fell apart. I didn’t like the way their relationship turned out to be, I didn’t like the way Andrew turned into an unpredictable character with anger issues, and how Camryn turned out to be an ordinary girl with submissive tendencies in just about everything in her life.

So… the big question is, would I recommend this book?

Yes, if you like New Adult books, and a young adult romance with some steam. However, if you don’t like this kind of thing, and prefer reliable main characters that have a more durable – and with more development – relationship – then go for it, but with caution. Otherwise, you’ll end up as surprised as I was, and not necessarily in a good way!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Touch of Power, by Maria V. Snyder

Touch of Power (Healer #1), by Maria V. Snyder
Release date: December 20th 2011
Published by: Mira
Genre: YA fantasy
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads 

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life....





It's incredibly surprising how much a person's taste can change over the years. When I first read Touch of Power (last year, I believe) I thought the storyline was boring, the main character was a brat, and the romance was ridiculous. After seeing so many positive reviews and reading the synopsis yet again, I realized that maybe - just maybe - if I re-read it, I might actually like it. And so, here I am: writing a 4-star review on Touch of Power.

What pushed me away from this novel a year ago was exactly what drew me in this time - the main character, Avry. She's one of those main characters that you read about and think "Hell, I could be her best friend if she were real". I just loved her personality, and her narration. Avry was a very consistent character - young, yet not immature. She thought things through before she acted, and even though she made a lot of mistakes, she tried to fix them as better as she could (which is rare in YA fiction these days). Avry is special, since she's the last Healer alive, and while that could quickly turn her into a Mary Sue, it just didn't happen. Maria V. Snyder made an excellent job at creating solid characters.

In fact, now that I think about it, I pretty much love every single character in this book. There isn't a lot of background regarding each of the secondary characters (especially Kerrick and his gentlemen), but since this is the first book in the series, I understood the need to introduce the world and the characters without dumping a lot of info on the readers. What I didn't understand, however, is why the characters speak as if they were from my world. Things like "virus", "syringes" and "president" just don't fit well in a fantasy book, and while I can see that she wanted to make her dialogues easy to read and flow, it just wasn't very believable. Half the time, it felt like Avry could really be my best friend, because she talked just like I do. That's probably my only problem with this novel. The modern language put me out of what was going on sometimes.

Apart from that, the plot is really good, with a few twists here and there to make things interesting, and the romance is slow, and delicious to read. You can't even notice how much a certain character grows on you until you realize that you're already in love with him, just like Avry, and I really like that. Maria V. Snyder certainly knows how to develop a romance without making it look like insta-love. The ending was a bit too rushed for me, but left me wanting more, so I guess that's why it was done this way.

Overall, Touch of Power is a great fantasy book if you're looking for a great storyline, consistent characters, and a well-developed romance. I'm glad I decided to give this novel another chance - otherwise, I would've missed this incredible story. Just a tip, though: ignore the way the author uses modern English in her dialogues... that's the only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars - it really can put you out of the story if you pay too much attention to it ;)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Vessel, by Sarah Beth Durst


Vessel, by Sarah Beth Durst
Release date: September 11th 2012
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon her tribe's deity, who will inhabit Liyana's body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her tribe is furious--and sure that it is Liyana's fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice--she must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate--or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

 


After reading Drink, Slay, Love a couple of months ago, I fell in love with Sarah Beth Durst's writing style. I just recently found out about Vessel, and didn't hesitate to buy a copy and dig into it. Thankfully, this novel lived up to its beautiful prose and cover. Although it wasn't perfect, it was good enough to make me love it, just like I ended up loving Drink, Slay, Love.

Lyiana, our main character, is Bayla's goddess - meaning her entire life is dedicated to this role, and her duty is to die, so her goddess can help her tribe. Through the narration, we get a very clear picture of how Lyiana feels about all of this: acceptance, because she wants to save her tribe from starving to death; and reluctance, because she wants to live. This balance was enough to make me sympathize with her (after all, nobody wants to be a sacrifice).

However, after the ritual to bring Bayla into this world fails, Lyiana is abandoned by her tribe, and a boy - a god - finds her in the desert, claiming that her goddess had been kidnapped. From that point on, I was hooked. Korbyn is a fascinating character, and I loved his interactions with Lyiana. Despite the fact that, you know, he's a god, I connected a lot with him. Lyiana and Korbyn's "adventure" to find the other vessels so they can rescue the gods is really engaging. 

I really enjoyed the mythology behind everything, as well. The Gods, the way they inhabit their vessels so they can help their respective tribes... the magical beings... it's really interesting, and though the author doesn't really go deep into it, she gives us enough background to understand how everything works. The moral dilemma behind the use of vessels wasn't developed as much as I would've liked, but it's fine. It's not like this particular aspect of the story ruined everything else for me.

Overall, Vessel is a good read if you're looking for an interesting fantasy novel. It has realistic characters, amazing writing style, and a very, very unexpected ending (at least for me ^^).

Friday, January 4, 2013

Quick review: Witch World, by Christopher Pike


Release date: November 13th 2012
Published by: Simon Pulse
Genre: Science Fiction
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon


Heading off for a weekend in Las Vegas with her friends, Jessie Ralle has only one worry—how to make it through the road trip in the same car with her Ex, Jimmy Kelter. The guy who broke her heart five months ago when he dumped her for no reason. The guy who’s finally ready to tell her why he did it, because he wants her back.

But what Jessie doesn’t realize is that Jimmy is the least of her problems.

In Las Vegas she meets Russ, a mesmerizing stranger who shows her how to gamble, and who never seems to lose. Curious, Jessie wants to know his secret, and in response, alone in his hotel room, he teaches her a game that opens a door to another reality.

To Witch World.

Suddenly Jessie discovers that she’s stumbled into a world where some people can do the impossible, and others may not even be human. For a time she fears she’s lost her mind. Are there really witches? Is she one of them?


DNF.

I don't usually stop reading a book like this. But I can't take it anymore. Witch world is a disaster. I don't even know where to begin. For someone as famous as Christopher Pike, I expected a lot more from this novel. The premise was fantastic, the cover is really eye-catching... but the story itself, and the way the author developed it?


Awful. 

First of all, let me talk about the characters. Jessie was a decent main character in the beginning - I didn't particularly loved her, but she had some potential - but later on, she was annoying. So, so annoying. She was always asking questions about everything, just like a child would, and while that could be understandable in some circumstances, it also made the dialogues feel forced. It also didn't help that every time she asked a question, someone would start answering with a huge infodump. That was just painful to read. 

Also, Jessia (and all of her friends) didn't feel real. They didn't talk like 18-year old people, they didn't act like they were teenagers, and they sure as hell didn't entertain me. There was this scene in the casino in which Jessie and her best friend, Alex, were playing twenty-one, and the author described the entire game. I don't know the rules of twenty-one, so I was basically lost and confused for about six pages. And it was boring. So, so boring. 

Anyway, moving on. The plot was full of holes, the narrative lacked details, and the concept of witches was very disappointing. Witches, actually, are people with different genes, which makes them special (with "super powers"). I was hoping this would be a urban fantasy novel, and what did I get? A sci-fi novel full of infodumps -_-

Can you see how disappointed I am?

Overall, Witch World is not a good book. If you're into this kind of thing, then go for it, of course. Otherwise... I don't recommend it to anyone.