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The R.I.P. challenge and 3 Reviews : The Thirteenth Tale, Virals and Prophecy of the Sisters

Hello hello, all!

First of all, I missed you. It’s crazy how blogging has become such a part of my life that, when  I don’t do it for a while, I feel like there’s a little something missing in my life!

So October came and went (that was a while ago, I know!), and despite a huge blogging slump that has made this space a lot quieter, I did complete my R.I.P. challenge before October ended! I read 4 books, as I had planned, 2 of which had been on my initial list. Not bad!

I reviewed The Lace Reader previously, and it was definitely my favorite of the four. Now is the time to review the three other books I read for the occasion, and I thought it would be fun to review them all together. While I did really enjoy one of them, and thought the other two were okay, I found that I took very few notes and had little to say about them – hence the shorter reviews. Hopefully I’ll be back on top of this blogging thing before the end of the year!

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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Pages : 406
Genre : Mystery, Gothic
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : When Margaret gets hired to write the biography of one of Britain’s most popular novelists, she does it mostly out of curiosity. Vida Winter has had a prolific writing life, but the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale is one she has never shared before. Margaret soons find herself captivated by Vida’s tales, as well as facing the missing parts of her own story.

My Thoughts : The Thirteenth Tale was much more intriguing, and much more intricate that I expected it to be – but in a good way! The story within a story is a fascinating one, it’s also one that leaves you wondering; is this true, or not? How reliable is this woman’s narrative, really?

The pace was really slow at times but I didn’t mind, at all. It gave the book time to develop gently, and there were a lot of details to these little pieces of the story, so I was never bored. I enjoyed Setterfield’s writing, and while I never completely connected to Margaret, I loved her as a character. It was definitely a great read for October, and for the R.I.P. challenge.

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Virals by Kathy Reichs
Pages : 452
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Series : Virals, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about : Tory and her friends are the first surprised when, after rescuing a dog from a laboratory, they witness their bodies reacting differently to the world around them. Now not only do they have to deal with their new abilities, they also got involved in an unresolved murder case.

My Thoughts : In theory, this one had everything to grab my interest : secret laboratory experiments, an almost secluded island, a cold case, etc. But I just couldn’t get into it.

Now, I know that Reichs is quite the popular author, her Bones novels being in every bookstore and the TV series being quite popular, too. But I didn’t like the writing, at all. I didn’t get Tory and worse, I didn’t really want to get to know her more than I already did. So I pushed through the novel and to be honest, I did skim a little. I don’t know whether this is a good sample of Reichs’ writing but based on Virals, it really isn’t for me.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Fallen
  2. Seizure

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Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Pages : 340
Genre : YA
Series : Prophecy of the Sisters, Book 1
My Rating :

From Goodreads : Twin sister Lia and Alice Milthorpe are yoked together in an ancient prophecy that makes them enemies and could destroy them both. If Lia can break this familial curse, she can not only save her relationship with her beloved boyfriend; she can finally resolve the mystery behind her parents’ death.

My Thoughts : Heh. I guess that’s what happens when you get lured by the pretty covers : you take a chance and, sometimes, you get disappointed. While Prophecy of the Sisters wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, either. For me it fell in the forgettable category. I’m not going to follow up on this one, sadly, even though the next covers are equally pretty.

One of the thing that really kept me from enjoying this one was the writing. What I felt was that the author, having set the story at the end of the 19th century, was trying to write in a way that would imitate writers of this time, or what one would think sounds like a 19th century character’s voice. Sadly, the narration was way too modern, and I didn’t buy it at all. It’s a quick read though, so for those who enjoy the genre, I say give it a try!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Prophecy of the Sisters
  2. Guardian of the Gate
  3. Circle of Fire

Review : The Dark and Hollow Places

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
Pages : 374
Genre : YA, Post-Apocalypse, Zombies
Series : The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book 3
My Rating :

From the book’s jacket :

Annah lives with a lot of regrets : the first is when she left her sister behind in the forest, never to be seen again. The second is the morning her friend Elias left to become a Recruiter, three years ago. Every day she hopes to see them again, and every day her despair grows.

When life brings back in her life the ones she had lost, with a new friend on top, Annah hopes things can get back to the way they were, despite the Horde advancing towards her dark city. But having spend those years apart, fighting for their lives or trying to find their way home, not everything is as it used to be, and Annah has to face that things will never be the same.

My Thoughts :

Having enjoyed the first two books of this zombie-fest post-apocalyptic trilogy, I was waiting with some excitement to read this last installment. Not only this book had, like its predecessors, a fantastic title, it also promised to give me the answers I had been hoping for. I was looking forward to seeing again Elias, Catcher and Gabry, and to get to know what happened to Annah.

Ryan’s writing was as fantastic as before. I love how her words give us an intimate look into her main character’s thoughts, leaving nothing out, the good and the bad. Annah was certainly a troubled young woman, living in dark times with a terrible weight on her shoulders. From the first few pages, her guilt is heavy, haunting her every word and every move. She is stuck both in the dark city and in that moment of her life, unable to break from her mold.

When she finally does, she comes across her sister and there the story really begins. I was so curious to see how the two sisters would interact together after all those years and there again, the other delivered in portraying the complexity of their relationship.

However, I found the story itself extremely slow. So much so that it took me long to finish the book – or so it felt like. Ryan has a very quiet type of writing, which I enjoy, but this time around I just wasn’t gripped by the story like I had been before. Something was lacking, and sadly I would have a hard time pointing out what, exactly, was needed.

This being said, I’m very lonely in my camp! Most reviews I have read were extremely positives, raving about the book and often choosing it as the best of the series. It’s possible I just read it at the wrong time, but in any case, it was still a really good novel I could recommend to fans of the series. If you love the genre, then you need to grab the first book and start reading. 🙂

Series Reading Order :

  1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth
  2. The Dead-Tossed Waves
  3. The Dark and Hollow Places

Review : Enclave

Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Pages : 259
Genre : YA, Post-Apocalypse
Series : Razorland, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Deuce’s world is divided in three classes : Builders, Breeders and Hunters. From as long as she can remember, she’s been preparing to be a Huntress, getting ready to face the “Freaks” that inhabit the tunnels outside of her enclave.

On her first day as a Huntress, Deuce gets paired with Fade, a mysterious young boy who came by the tunnels years ago. With him, Deuce will learn about a world she never really knew and the secrets that shape her society, forever changing her and her life.

My Thoughts :

Previous to reading Enclave, I had read many not-so-hot reviews of this dystopian novel. Nothing really negative, mostly just a general “meh”. I have since read much more positive comments on it, but at the time of reading it, my expectations were sufficiently low that I actually really enjoyed it.

But when thinking back on it, I felt in parts unsatisfied. There were too many unanswered questions, and while some of these could be explained by the main character’s ignorance, some other things simply could have used more explanations and details. While the trend of dystopian novels is going strong with books like Matched, Delirium, Divergent and some others that I haven’t read yet, it seems many of these books also share a lack of worldbuilding that irritates me. Just because it’s YA doesn’t mean the world you write about doesn’t need to make sense. I don’t need the whole encyclopedia, either; I just need to feel like the author thought the world through, outside the limits of what will create an cool premise.

That being said, I did enjoy my initial reading. There was a good rhythm to the scenes, just enough action, and Deuce is a great main character. She certainly follows in the footsteps of The Hunger Game’s Katniss, so I couldn’t be happier. Though she was a bit naive at times, she was mostly a solid young woman willing to fight for what’s right. Her world was bleak but I didn’t think that she was this pessimistic character you could imagine her becoming.

I also loved her interactions with Fade, though I couldn’t really feel the chemistry between the two. Maybe it was just too quick, too soon. He certainly was an intriguing character though and his story did make me curious to know more. I feel he could develop in a really strong and complex character if Aguirre gives him enough space to do so.

Enclave is the first in a planned trilogy and my hope for the next novel (still a year from now) is that the author will put a little more meat into the worldbuilding and develop the main characters a little more. Enclave was good enough that I’m considering reading this next novel, especially since the story in this first volume is far from complete, and I think it could be a great read for readers of dystopias that enjoyed a bleak, dangerous world with a strong female lead.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Enclave
  2. Outpost (coming September 2012)
  3. Horde (coming 2013)

3 Reviews : Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters, The Espressologist and Saving Juliet

I’m back with some mini-reviews, and this time it’s the feel-good edition! All of these three contemporary YA novels had some cute stories told with a lot of heart, that I would recommend if you need a little sunshine in your day 🙂

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Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
Pages : 313
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : Norrie, Jane and Sassy are in big trouble : it’s Christmas, and their grand-mother just announced that after being deeply offended by a member of the family, she would be cutting everyone from her will, unless she received an apology. In a an effort to repair the damage done, each of the sister then takes pen to paper to write her own confession.

My Thoughts : To be fair, I have to admit that the only reason I’m not writing a solo review for this book is that I read it a year ago. I’m pretty sure I would have had a lot more to say if I had reviewed it then! Fortunately, I still have my notes from then so I can at least give you a general overview of my feelings about it.

I thought the story was a lot of fun and a great way to introduce the readers to three different characters, while making it all very cohesive. The sisters’ stories intersect many times, thus giving the readers the opportunity to see a same event from different angles, so I never felt like I was reading three different stories. There was a lot of heart to it and also some humor, and I still remember the ending with a smile. Standiford made me care about her characters with a story I devoured in one single night.

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The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
Pages : 184
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : By a single look at their drink, Jane can tell a lot about a person. All the while working at Wired Joe’s, she has been taking notes on who drinks what, trying to decipher the code behind coffee orders. When she turns her observations into a talent for matchmaking, Jane becomes the attraction of Wired Joe’s. But can she find her own perfect match?

My Thoughts : The Espressologist was a really quick read, and in a way I think it did the story a disservice : the characters and the romance didn’t really have time to develop, change or show more depth.

But.

The premise is super cute and reading this on the bus back from our trip to Toronto, I was dying of thirst reading the descriptions of all those yummy drinks! Hot and cold, sugary or milky, they all sounded very tasty. I loved to read the descriptions Jane wrote based on the drinks, and how cliché they sometimes were. I could totally see this made into a cute teen movie.

 

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Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors
Pages : 241
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Time Travel
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : All of Mimi’s life has always been about theater. Raised by a family of actors, she’s never had any other choice than being on the scene. Playing Juliet in the popular Shakespearean play, Mimi is stunned when she is magically transported back in time to beautiful Verona, where she meets the very people who inspired the play.

My Thoughts : In all honesty I have never been a fan of Romeo & Juliet, but this take on the play was absolutely adorable. Mimi was a fun character and I really felt for her, not having a choice to do something else with her life even though she wished it.

In a way I was more captivated by her life in the present time than in old Verona, but I loved how Selfors made the story her own. It’s original enough that you don’t feel like you’ve already seen it all, but true enough to the Shakespeare story that you can appreciate those little differences. If you like your time travel done with a touch of magic and a bit of romance, this might be your kind of thing. On a similar theme, I was reminded of the YA novel Prada and Prejudice, and of the adult novel Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, this one a take on, of course, Jane Austen!

3 Reviews : Hex Hall, Firelight and The Candidates

Sometimes I don’t feel like talking to an extent about some of the books I’ve read, so I choose to go with the short reviews instead. I’ve done this in the past mainly with books I hadn’t enjoyed, but this time it’s not the case. Instead, here are three books I did enjoy reading but that didn’t leave a strong impression on me.

These share some similarities, as all three are the first of their series, and all have a paranormal aspect. They also all provided a healthy dose of entertainment – just what my brain needs when it’s time to turn off after a long day! And if only for that reason, they at least deserved a short mention here, because even though they might slip off my mind after some time, I’ll probably read their sequels anyway!

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Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Paranormal, Magic
Series : Hex Hall, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about : Ever since she’s discovered she’s a witch, Sophie has been prone to “incidents”. When one particular incident on prom night gets her in trouble, she is sent to Hex Hall, a school where witches like her but also shapeshifters and faeries get to learn to live with their abilities. When students start being attacked, Sophie has to pick her allies and decide who she can or can’t trust.

My Thoughts : This was quite fun, actually, and it makes me sad that I don’t have much to comment about it, because in the “quick paranormal read that entertains greatly” category, Hex Hall is one I am really glad to have read. Sophie was a likable character and I loved her sense of humor. It wasn’t the sarcastic-teen kind of humor we often see in YA fiction, it was simply fun.

Sophie has a love interest, of course, but while the author described their instant connection, I was never convinced by it. So, for me the romance really was second place to all the rest. On the other hand, I loved Sophie’s vampire roommate. Their friendship, I was convinced of. It was complex and realistic in the way they interacted with each other.

All in all, a cute read and I can’t wait to read the next book. 🙂

Series Reading Order :

  1. Hex Hall
  2. Demonglass
  3. Spell Bound (coming March 2012)

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Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Series : Firelight, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about : Jacinda is a draki, a descendant of dragons with the secret power to take human form. When a dangerous turn of events forces Jacinda to flee from her home with her mom and her sister, she doesn’t feel prepared to face the mortal world. Once there though, only one thing makes her feel more alive : Will, the beautiful guy who’s a danger to her own family.

My Thoughts : Dragons! I love stories with dragons and the like, so between that and a fantastic cover, I was looking forward to this one. While it wasn’t as amazing as I had hoped it to be, it certainly was an entertaining story with lots to twists and turns. The fact that Jacinda knows what she is from the start, rather than discovering her new abilities, also makes it different from many YA novels.

However, I felt there was a lot of repetitions in the narration, especially toward the middle. I felt Jacinda kept repeating the same complaints, again and again. Also, I didn’t feel the story went as smoothly as it could have gone. Despite that, I was left curious enough to put the next one (with an equally beautiful cover!) on my wishlist.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Firelight
  2. Vanish

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The Candidates by Inara Scott
Pages : 293
Genre : YA, Fiction
Series : Delacroix Academy, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about : Weird things always happen around Dancia, especially when something threatens the people around her. But when, despite being average in everything, she gets offered a prestigious scholarship at the mysterious Delacroix Academy, Dancia knows this is her chance to change the course of her life.

My Thoughts : I wish the story stood out as much as the cover does, but sadly, I found it extremely predictable. The idea was fun : boarding schools and the like always make perfect settings for weird and mysterious stories, but I didn’t feel the author explored this one in a sufficient way. There was also too little surprise left for the reader, considering the “truth” is revealed really far in the book.

However, I found Dancia likable and the group of student intriguing enough to keep me reading. I’ll probably read book two, but I’m considering borrowing it rather than buying it.

Series Reading Order :

  1. The Candidates
  2. The Marked

Review : The Sky is Everywhere

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Pages : 277
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

When Lennie’s sister Bailey unexpectedly dies from a heart problem, Lennie finds herself where she’s never been : in the spotlight, caught between two guys she appreciates and who gives her completely different things.

On one side she has Toby, her sister’s boyfriends who carries a similar grief and knows better than anyone what she’s going through. On the other side, there’s Joe, the new guy who shares her passion for music and offers her something fresh and new. With them, Lennie learns to deal with loss and love, with the future and the past.

My Thoughts :

When The Sky is Everywhere first came out, I couldn’t spend a day without reading a raving review of it on the internet. It seemed that both old and young readers of YA literature found it to be an excellent novel, and as always, this made me a bit hesitant. Emotional topics like grief and death are difficult to achieve, but even more, they are such personal events that it makes it really difficult to translate it in words that will reach most readers.

Luckily, I found that the book mostly achieved that. I wouldn’t say it moved me like it moved other readers, but I did appreciate how Nelson presented Lennie’s grief. It felt real, in that it struck her at all times of the day or night, sometimes in the little things. Lennie wasn’t someone I could exactly relate to in terms of personality, but I understood her and understood what she was going through (as much as I could without having lived through the same things).

An interesting aspect of the novel was Lennie’s family. Their mother having abandoned them at a young age, Lennie and Bailey had a particular bound, I thought. The girls were raised by their grandmother, a lovely lady that really brightened the novel for me. She had a bit of craziness in her, but in a good way, a strong presence that was definitely needed in Lennie’s life.

I did find that the young characters were a bit intense at times, either in their emotions or in the way they lived these passions. It’s hard to explain, but I felt I would have related to this intensity a lot more when I was a teen, because then I felt that everything was a bigger deal than it really was, you know? So there was a bit of that in the novel, which madek me disconnect at times, but I guess it could be explained, in Lennie’s case, by the trauma she has been through.

In the end though, I do think The Sky is Everywhere is a great pick for readers of YA fiction, and I can see why so many fell in love with it. Nelson’s writing is simply beautiful, and I could have read a couple more hundred pages of her delicious prose. I know I’m looking forward to reading more from her, hopefully soon!