Tag Archive | read in 2010

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.

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Review : Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Pages : 390
Genre : YA, Speculative fiction
Series : The Hunger Games, Book 3
My Rating :

(review may contain spoilers on the series)

I first read Mockingjay when it was published back in 2010. After a year of waiting, I was too excited to wait anymore and read it almost in one sitting. Reading the last few pages, I was left both satisfied and dissatisfied, but mostly confused about whether I had enjoyed it or hated it. There was just too much information, too many events and twists and turns, for me to process in what had been a few hours.

Despite not writing my review of it, I went online and read tons of them, hoping something would click and that I would finally understand my feelings about it. As it turned out, some people absolutely loved it, others hated it, and I could relate to most of their arguments. A book has rarely left me so confused, and a year and a half later, all I could remember, except for Prim’s death, was that Katniss spent most of the book drugged and sleeping.

A little over a week ago, I decided to reread The Hunger Games to be prepared for the movie. After watching it, I really felt like rereading the following two books, as I had never read them all as a whole before. So here we are!

I am pleased to say that, reading it just after the two previous books, in a calmer state of mind, I truly enjoyed Mockingjay. It was fast, heartbreaking, horrifying, intriguing, and even though I had read it and knew where it lead, I kept being surprised and the emotion from the scenes still got to me (I had forgotten a lot of what happened to Peeta, apparently!)

I related a lot more to Katniss this time around. Knowing in parts what was coming in the story, I was able to focus on her character and her interior battles much more. My first reaction : how can this girl still get up in the morning after all that’s happened to her? I was also pleased to see that, though she does spend a lot of time sleeping and healing, she also participates in many events. In fact, I found it refreshing to have a main character who isn’t always standing in the middle of every  important scene happening in her world. It was realistic, because no matter how important she is to the cause, I don’t believe adults would happily handle all of their very important business to a 16, 17 years old girl. While as a reader I found this frustrating the first time around, I ended up appreciating this aspect of the book. There’s enough action in Mockingjay, and adding more would probably have taken away from Katniss’ personal story.

Speaking of Katniss, I appreciated her state of mind more after a second reading. Reading the three books in a row, it made it easier for me to understand what she had lost, lived through, suffered in less than a couple of years. I feel that P.T.S.D. isn’t even enough to describe what she was going through. Katniss isn’t strong in every scene because she is, in many way, just a regular girl who wants to be left alone. But she doesn’t get a break, with all sides using her, and though I enjoy strong characters, it is extremely refreshing to have one who seems human in her reactions and decisions. Katniss is a complex character, just like I love them, with flaws that become strengths and strengths that become flaws. Like the world she lives in, Katniss isn’t black or white but somewhere in between, which is very true to life.

If there is one thing though that hasn’t changed since my first reading, it’s my opinion on the epilogue. Now, I do appreciate knowing what goes on in her life, many years later. It’s nice to know that life goes on, even though she’ll forever live with that dark cloud over her head. The problem is, I found this epilogue to be so weak after the book’s conclusion! The last sentences of Mockingjay, before the epilogue, are some of the strongest I have read for a series’ last words. They are perfect for the characters, the story, they have a strength and an emotional weight that the epilogue doesn’t. So for me, the book’s last word will forever be, “Real”.

Before concluding, I also want to give huge props to the author for making what has been, I am sure, some very difficult decisions. There’s a lot of heartbreak in Mockingjay, even more than in the previous books. I am sure some readers found it gratuitous, but for me, it was realistic : we don’t choose who goes first, nor do we choose how or why. And so it is in the world of Panem.

I am so glad that I reread not only Mockingjay, but the complete series. It is clear to me now why The Hunger Games is always the book I compare other YA novels of dystopia. Even though I often find them thrilling and entertaining, there isn’t one that has captured both my imagination and my heart like The Hunger Games.

Series Reading Order :

  1. The Hunger Games
  2. Catching Fire
  3. Mockingjay

3 Reviews : Annie on my Mind, The Lonely Hearts Club and The Vinyl Princess

Sometimes I don’t feel like talking to a

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Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
Pages : 234
Genre : YA, Fiction, GLBT
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads : First published in 1982, this is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings.

My Thoughts : Prior to reading it, I had often seen Annie on my Mind recommended as a must-read of young adult GLBT fiction. One of the first of its kind, this book has been featured not only on readers’ shelves but also recommended or banned by schools and various associations. I know I first saw it in high school, among other GLBT books, in the context of a school event promoting acceptance and tolerance.

So this book came with some sort of a “build up” for me. I wouldn’t say my expectations were high, but my curiosity for it definitely was. I also wondered : could this book still deliver a strong message even though its first publication occurred before I even stepped into this world?

The short answer ; yes. But, only to a certain extent. What struck me was how, if this story was written today, it would probably end up very differently for one reason : social media. Maybe the conclusion would be similar, but I believe the plot would certainly take different turns. It still was nicely written, with a good story, and I am sure many teen would recognize themselves in the characters, but it was an interesting point for me to think about.

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The Lonely Hearts Club 
by Elizabeth Eulberg
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads : Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It’s a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways . . . which is too bad, because there’s this certain boy she can’t help but like. . . .

My Thoughts : I felt the idea was cute, and fun, and could be something original. I imagined that, instead of a straight-forward romance, it would start as a non-romance with a promise of something more. Mostly, this is exactly what I got, and unfortunately not much more.

It was a cute story, yes, and Eulberg’s writing makes it a quick and pleasant read. But the book lacked some punch, some obstacles for the characters to fight with, some unexpected turn for them to show off their true colors. I found that the whole thing was a bit plain, and I kept confusing the club’s members. Nice ending, though. So, while it wasn’t bad or very memorable, it still was a cute read I could recommend for when you need something light for your heart.


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The Vinyl Princess 
by Yvonne Prinz
Pages : 313
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads : While working full-time at Berkeley’s ultra-cool Bob and Bob Records, 16-year-old Allie develops her secret identity as The Vinyl Princess, author of both a brand-new zine and blog. From the safety of her favorite place on earth, Allie is poised to have it all: love, music and blogging.

My Thoughts : I think the best word to describe my feel of this novel would be : unexpected.

I thought it would be one of those traditional YA romance with a touch of music; instead, I found a YA novel that was much more complex than expected. Allie’s passion is music, and it lives through every page of the story. Even though I don’t share her passion, I found myself extremely curious about the bands and records she mentioned (though I don’t think she would approve of most of my musical selection!)

I loved that this book had a mix of everything : family, friendships, romance, a cat and a touch of mystery. Allie felt realistic to me because I got a glimpse of every aspect of her life. She wasn’t only focused on her hopes and dreams or her romance, and I always enjoy that. I know I’ll want to read more by Prinz!

‘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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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