Tag Archive | fantasy

Review : Incarnate

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Pages : 416
Genre : YA, Science-Fiction, Dystopia
Series : Newsoul, book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Ana lives in Range, a place where souls are being reincarnated in different bodies, over and over. No one ever really dies, and the souls keep their memories from one life to the other.

That is, until one night one soul vanished, and Ana was born instead. Living with her abusive mother, Ana has always considered herself a “No soul”, an abomination that shouldn’t be. But when she finally leaves home in a quest for answers, Ana meets Sam, and she begins to consider that maybe being a “New soul” is not all bad.

My Thoughts :

What an interesting premise and an intriguing world Jodi Meadows has created with Incarnate! Though this strange world was a tad difficult to get into for the first few pages (it wasn’t clear to me if the book was fantasy, science-fiction, futuristic, etc), I was quickly hooked to Ana’s story. Her world was new, different from the ones I usually read about, real or imagined. I also had a lot of compassion for what was happening with her mother, an abusive woman who basically blamed Ana for the disappearance of another soul.

It is quite obvious, when Ana meets Sam, that romance will be had in the story. While romance by itself isn’t a bad thing, this is where, for me, the book lost most points. Though Sam and Ana do spend a lot of time together, we are not allowed to see enough of their friendship and their romance feels a bit forced. From that point on, they spend a lot of time thinking about each other, looking at each other, being with each other… and sadly the romance takes over other aspects of the story which were, in my opinion, more interesting. I wanted to learn more about the big city of Heart, the world of Range, the legends, the characters surrounding the two lovebirds, Ana’s story, etc. I will say that despite the romance, there still is a lot of information about the world, just less than I would have hoped for.

An interesting aspect of the novel was, of course, the reincarnation, and with that, gender. This came as a surprise for me, as I didn’t know which form the reincarnations would take in the story. In Incarnate, souls can be reincarnated as man or woman. This raises important questions on what is gender? A pure biologic function? Social conventions? A mix of both or something else? The novel doesn’t directly raise those questions, but I couldn’t read it without my brain wondering about this constantly. If two souls decide to be linked forever together (as some do), and come back in other lives in a different gender, wouldn’t that affect their relationship? Or maybe the constant cycle of reincarnations gives them a more open point of view on gender? Maybe they see it simply as another characteristic, like eye color, hair color, height, etc?

I don’t have an answer, and the book doesn’t either. I’m not sure if the author simply didn’t think that far, or if she wanted her readers to make their own ideas. What would it be to be Ana in this world, born only once as a woman? Would it feel normal to have a boyfriend who was once a girl? If the society you grow up in is used to that, would you be too? I don’t know. This makes my brain hurt a little.

Which probably means that Incarnate offers something that many YA novels of speculative fiction don’t offer (sadly), and that is : interesting topics of discussion. I think there is a lot to be said about a world where you can reincarnate, forever, and keep your memories. What makes life worth living then? What would change in our daily lives? And there is, as I pointed out, a lot to be said about gender too.

There was also a slight issue with pace; after a lot of the romance between Sam and Ana, things suddenly start happening towards the end, when there is a rush of events and a few twists. I wouldn’t have minded this discrepancy in paces  if the slowest part wasn’t so focused on the romance. Other than that, I did enjoy the story, the characters, the world, and the conclusion. I’m looking forward to reading more about Ana and her world in the coming novels.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Incarnate
  2. ?
  3. ?
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Review : Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study

Poison Study;  by Maria V. Snyder
Genre : Fantasy
Series : Study series : Book 1
My Rating :

Magic Study;  by Maria V. Snyder
Genre : Fantasy
Series : Study series : Book 2
My Rating : 

Fire Study;  by Maria V. Snyder
Genre : Fantasy
Series : Study series : Book 3
My Rating : 


Sentenced to death, Yelena will seize any opportunity to stay alive; so when she is offered the position of  food tester for the Commander, she immediately accepts. It’s an offer that comes with a twist; to ensure that she doesn’t try to escape, she will be poisoned, and given daily her dose of antidote -which she would die without. But danger might come from unsuspected sources, and as Yelena steps into what she believes to be a temporary situation, her true story is revealed and her life is forever changed.

The Man of the House and I first read Poison Study when it came out in 2007, and we loved it. I thought the setting, the characters, the plot, everything was great and just different enough to be refreshing when compared to the traditional fantasy I was devouring at the time. So when the following books came out, we added them to our shelves. It took me a while to get to them though, so last year I finally reread Poison Study and followed with the next two books.

I was happy to discover that I still loved Poison Study, even after a second reading. I loved Yelena, found her story intriguing, and felt her relationship with Valek was paced perfectly through the pages. It was a great mix of mystery, romance and worldbuilding, without stepping into the overfantastical-fantasy type of fiction (you know, the kind with magic and elves and mythical creatures and wars and demons, etc). I did feel that some part of the plot was a tad too obvious, but the ending itself had a few surprises.

Sadly, the amazement I had felt in the first book evaporated as I started reading Magic Study. What had been an original setting became a more traditional one of fantasy, with magic school and all that. Yelena was still a nice character and I loved the part that was about her reuniting with her family, but the plot itself was less surprising. Also, not enough Valek.

Which is a trend that continued in Fire Study. At that point, I had a very hard time reading. I will be honest and say I was bored. Had it been the first of a series, I would probably have given up, but after spending so much time with Yelena, I wanted to know where this led. Again, I missed Valek, and despite the action, there wasn’t enough to keep my interest. Plus, I found that Yelena hadn’t developed as a character. To me, her voice was more adult in the first book. It might have been that I wasn’t paying attention enough though.

A side note about age : I was very surprised to see this book being shelved as YA on Goodreads! Here, the books are sold in the regular fantasy section, not with the YA literature, and I have always thought of them this way. It doesn’t really matter really, but I thought it was funny; adult YA readers often argue that good YA doesn’t have an age, and this seems to prove that. I personally think the characters are a bit too old to be considered YA (Yelena is 21, and I imagine Valek is older? I guess?), but honestly, I don’t think the tags matters much. If you want to read it, read it! 🙂

So, I’m not sure what happened between book one and three, but I didn’t like it. I would not hesitate to recommend Poison Study to readers, but I would advise to lower your expectations before getting to the following books. Hopefully, you will enjoy them more than I did, and will be able to appreciate the complete series.

2 Reviews : The Musician’s Daughter and Two Moon Princess

Two short reviews today, of two books I enjoyed 🙂

* * *

Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Fantasy
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

As a princess, Andrea grew up in a castle with her sisters. Even though she has always dreamed of being a warrior, her family has more “ladylike” plans for her. When she steps through a portal and accidentally lands in modern California, her life is forever changed. Now torn between two worlds, she must face the consequences of her actions – and the war she may very well have started.

My Thoughts : 

Fantasy can be really good or really bad for me; books rarely fall in between and I tend to prefer those that aren’t too inspired by the medieval times. I also really enjoy books with characters randomly landing into a different world, whether it’s time-travel, parallel universe or some other magical mechanic. I was really curious to see where this novel would fall and I am glad to say I enjoyed it.

I have read more stories of characters from “our world” traveling to magical places than the opposite, so I found it interesting to have Andrea land here from a medieval-like world. Her observation of our world was one of my favorite parts, and I liked how the author depicted both places with their strengths and weaknesses; it gave weight to Andrea’s difficult decisions and to their impact.

I only wish I could have connected to Andrea more. I read how she felt, but I can’t say I “felt” it too. However, she was a strong young woman with a lot of determination, and I admired that. She also had a sense of humor, which is always good for someone in her situation (I would think it’s a good defense mechanism when landing into a weird place like ours)! She balanced other less likable characters, mostly people of her family, and it was enough for me to carry through the novel.

* * *

The Musician’s Daughter by Susanne Dunlap
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

In 18th century Vienna, Theresa is facing the most difficult time of her life; her father has been found dead on Christmas Eve, and all points out to the cause being murder. With her pregnant mom in shock and a younger brother to worry for, Theresa takes on the mission of finding the truth, and it all begins with a missing violin and a mysterious gold pendant…

My Thoughts :

I liked this one. I really wish there was more YA historical fiction (maybe when the trend of dystopia calms down?) and I am always on the lookout for more. This one combined many things I like; the historical part of course, but also the mystery. Romance can be good, but a great mystery will always have my preference.

I had two problems with The Musician’s Daughter that kept me from completely loving it; the predictability of the story, and the disconnect I had with Theresa. Through her tragedy and her adventure, I didn’t really get a sense of who she was. I wanted to know her and root for her, and I did to a certain extent, but not enough to deeply care for her.

It was still a good book I would not hesitate to recommend for readers wanting to read some historical fiction. The setting was great and I could feel the author had put time into her research, something I will always appreciate!

Review : Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Pages : 418
Genre : YA, Fantasy
Series : Daughter of Smoke and Bone, book 1
My Rating : 

From the book : 

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

My Thoughts :

No, your eyes do not deceive you; Daughter of Smoke and Bone really got five fat stars from me, a rating I rarely give to books. But it deserves it greatly; it was one of the most original novels I have read in a while, not in comparison to other YA novels, but in comparison to books of all genres and cagories. What a breath of fresh air Laini Taylor offers us with this beautiful, captivating story!

First, I have to say this : if you have any interest in this book, I would highly recommend that you step carefully in the world of reviews whether it is on blogs, Goodreads, Amazon or other communities. Spoilers abound even in the simple “tags” people attach to the book, which could ruin many surprises for you. This is why I chose to use the summary from the book; I tried to write one that wouldn’t spoil anything and carry a good feel of what the book was about, but I was unsuccessful and for once, I felt the publisher really did a great job with it, so here we go! I also limited the tags I attached to this review. This book really is better if you go in totally unspoiled.

Karou is an incredibly captivating character, and a beautifully written one. She’s aware of her difference, and the author doesn’t explain her situation all at once in the first few pages, keeping a little of the mystery surrounding her – which mirrors perfectly Karou’s habit of being mysterious in her life, to hide her unusual story. It’s not often that we are given a third person narration in YA fiction but it worked great, allowing us to visit both Karou and Akiva (the mysterious guy that will, of course, change her life). And while we’re on the subject, I loved Akiva. As intriguing as Karou, he had a personality of his own and a story I just couldn’t wait to hear more about.

There was so much going on in this novel, and the author kept me continuously on my toes. Every time something happened or something was revealed, I thought “that’s it then, that’s what the book is about!” And every time,  there was more waiting around the corner, surprising me and bringing more questions into the mix. Karou’s errands, the “wishes” she spends on little things, the mystery of who she is and the mystery of Akiva, they all contributed to something, bigger, greater, that took my breath away. Add to that an amazing mythology unlike anything else, and I was hooked to this book, without a chance to escape!

I loved this book so much that, rather than being looking forward to its sequel, I am in fact a little worried about it. Can it be as awesome? Surprise me again, captivate me even more? Have you ever felt like that? It seems impossible at this moment, but I’ll have to trust the author to take me on this journey.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  2. – coming September 2012 –

Review : Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Pages : 348
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Series : Yes
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Jacob’s grandfather told him many stories about the kids he grew up with, unbelievable ones about children with superpowers and monsters.  Jacob has always thought there was no truth to the old man’s tales, until he travels to Wales and explores Miss Peregrine’s Home, the house where his grandfather spent his younger years. What is there was some truth to it, after all?

My Thoughts :

When Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children first started to appear on blogs last spring, I was, like many other readers, immediately drawn to its creepy cover and intriguing title. The summary begged you to read the book : “A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.” It felt useless to try resisting, so I got myself a copy very early after its release.

Did Miss Peregrine delivered on all of its promises? Not for me, I have to say. Though it was an enjoyable read, it also sent me into one of those states where I felt like I had a split-personality disorder : “I love it! No, no I don’t, I just like it. But I love the pictures! No I don’t. And I don’t enjoy the book at all. Yes I do! And those pictures are a fantastic touch!”

There were two problems for me with this book, that kept me from loving it instead of just liking it. The first was the fact that there are two distinct parts in the book : the first one reads like a dark, almost gothic mystery, that could with a few tweaks end up on the adult literature shelves. The second part reads like a fantasy/historical fiction that would belong on the Young Adult shelves (which is where I have seen this book so far). While I enjoy both genres, it was a strange shift between the two. It wasn’t badly done and I enjoy books that mix genres in a unique, new way, but for a reader who would enjoy gothic novels but not YA fantasy, I’m thinking the change might be disconcerting.

My second problem was the fact that the pictures sometimes felt forced into the story. There are a few instances where I really felt that the author had added a few lines to the story just so he could justify including a picture he found interesting.

That being said, I love, love, love having pictures alongside a story like this, and some did feel like effortless additions that enriched the story. I love the idea of using old photographs that are clearly “photoshopped” the old way, and then turning around and saying “Wait, there’s no trick! These pictures are true!” It brings back that feeling of being a kid, when fiction and reality were one and you felt like magic was there, right under your fingertips. It’s a beautiful feeling!

In the end – wait.

There is no end.

There is NO end!

Because Miss Peregrine’s last pages gives you a few answers, only to tell you “see ya in the next book if you want to know more!”. A book that is planned for 2013. Or something like that. I’m definitely looking forward to it though!

So, I did enjoy the book. It won’t make my 2011 best-of list, but I liked it enough to at least recommend that, if you think you might enjoy part 1 or 2 (and especially 2), you should give it a try! 🙂

‘Tis the Season to Review Books; 4 Reviews of Holidays-Related Books

I read a lot more holiday-related books last year than I did this year, but by the time I was ready to review them, it was January and it felt a little late to post these reviews. So, I’m doing this all at once, reviewing my sole Christmas read of 2011 (which was a disappointment) and last year’s reading (much better!) If you’re looking for a last minute holiday read, maybe these books will inspire you; if not, you can take a look to holidays-related posts for plenty more reviews and suggestions!

* * *

The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson
Pages : 266
Genre : Fiction, Holiday
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : Gaby has a huge surprise for her kids : she is getting married on this Christmas, to one of the three men in her life – but they won’t know who until the big day! But for Gaby, this special day is also the occasion to celebrate with all of her family again, for the first time since her husband passed away five years ago.

My Thoughts : The Christmas Wedding was meant to be a cute story focused on family, and of course the mystery of Gaby’s wedding. And while I imagine it would make a good movie, the story felt a little rushed for me. There were many characters, each with their story lines, and in the end I felt like I never connected and only got a glimpse of their lives. I was also more interested by Gaby’s children than by the wedding mystery! It wasn’t bad, and for a holiday read, it was quick and had a little heart. So while I wouldn’t exactly recommend it as a must-read, I would say borrowing it is a safe bet if you’re not too sure about it either.

* * *

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
Pages : 306
Genre : Fiction, Fantasy, Holiday, Zombies!
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From the book’s cover : ‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit. But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead. But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.

My Thoughts : There’s no way I could have summarized this book in my words in such a perfect way! Because the book’s summary not only tells you what this fantastic novel is about, it also gives you a great idea of Moore’s voice and humor. The author definitely has a special brand or writing and humor, and I can see now why his books are so popular. The Stupidest Angel is not a cute Christmas tale, nor is it all fluffy and sentimental. It takes the magic of Christmas and turns it on its head, replacing it with silliness and zombies. It’s different, and funny, and while not something everyone would enjoy, it is something that those looking for a different kind of holiday reading will appreciate. The tagline, A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, really says it all!

* * *

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Pages : 166
Genre : Non-Fiction, Short Stories
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : A collection of short non-fiction stories, of the author’s personal experiences with the holidays.

My Thoughts : Without a doubt, the star of this too short book is the first essay, SantaLand Diaries, describing with great humor Sedaris’ life as an elf for Macy’s Santa. It was entertaining and memorable and sometimes heartbreaking – which I cannot say of the following stories, I have to sadly say. There are other interesting stories, but the first one is by far the best. Reading this book made me realize one thing though; I’m not sure I’m a Sedaris fan. I remember reading him a while ago and I thought I enjoyed it, but reading Holidays on Ice was a roller-coaster; I sometimes couldn’t let go of the book, and sometimes just couldn’t bother picking it up again. So overall, not great, but really not bad either; certainly worth a try!

* * *

Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
Pages : 285
Genre : Romance, Time-Travel, Historical Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : Melody is driving home for Christmas when a man suddenly appears in front of her car, all dressed in what looks like a Revolutionary War-era costume. It’s too late to avoid him, and Melody hits him. When Jakes insists he’s from another time, Melody is sure she hit him a little too hard on the head. Feeling guilty, she brings him home to her parents as a friend, just in time for a very unique Christmas.

My Thoughts : At some point in my blogging life, I’ll have to actually come out of my denial and admit that I do, sometimes, enjoy the occasional romance. I certainly enjoyed this one!

It had the Christmas magic mixed in with the additional time-travel magic. Melody was actually likable and, for a book that was mostly light fun, I was surprised by the fact that she wasn’t too cardboard-like. I like the other characters, too, and the story would make an excellent Christmas movie! It’s sweet, but not excessively sweet, more on the side of romantic-comedy than comedy-comedy, which is probably why I liked it so. I also appreciated the historical aspect.