Monday, 18 July 2011

Review: Shiver

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Pages: 392, hardcover

ISBN: 9780545123266

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Date Released: August 1st, 2009

Genre: Young Adult / paranormal romance / werewolves

Where I got it from: library

the cold.
Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why.

the heat.
Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace...until now.

the shiver.
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human—and Grace must fight to keep him—even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future. (Taken from Goodreads)
I was highly anticipating the relsease of this book. To say the least, I was highly disappointed in the final product, despite hearing of the alluring premise and the worked up hype that this book has recieved.

Firstly, the writing style. While some aspects of the writing was crafted beautifully, other parts were quite... purple. The mild purple prose annoyed me to some extent, and often slowed down the pacing of the story, leaving me disinterested and forcing myself to plow through certain chapters.
Also, I thought that the constant use of lyrics that Sam thought up was not needed. Most of the time, the lyrics were boring and left me rolling my eyes at the sappiness. They were just unnecessary and added nothing to the story, I thought.
Another thing that annoyed me was the short chapters. Some were just a few lines in length, mostly from Sam's point of view, and they were all the same: generic messages explaining how much he loved Grace.

The story was too lovey-dovey for my liking, and the apparent love wasn't even developed. Over the course of a day or so, Grace and Sam went from strangers to in love and unable to bear to be away from each other for more than a few seconds. That's not love. That's obsession. I'm getting quite sick of most YA romances speeding up the falling in love process. It's not realistic, otherwise.
Also, Stiefvater made the common mistake in YA romances: she made the parents disappear for long periods of time, allowing for Sam and Grace to sleep together and be all chummy. From what I could tell, her parents actually cared for her, but they had their own jobs they had to do, like every single other parent on earth, but Grace has the nerve to complain to Sam about her parents not caring and not spending enough time with her, when 2 or 3 chapters before (read: literally the night before), she rejected her mum's request to hang with her and watch a movie. And right after she finishes whinging to Sam, her parents come home, being all nice and caring and wanting to spend time with their daughter, but she dismisses them like the contradicting, spoilt brat that she is.

Despite all these negative comments, I did enjoy the story a bit. I loved how Steifvater explained how werewolves transformed from human to wolf with the change of the temperature. It was an interesting take on the werewolf legends. The story was enjoyable, though, I'm glad I didn't spend $30 for a hardback ( I have not been able to find a paperback of this book ANYWHERE). Thank god for libraries, I guess.

Cover: 3
Plot: 3
Characters: 2
Writing: 2
Level of Interest: 3

Total Rating: 3/5

Review: Eon

Eon by Alison Goodman

Pages: 430, paperback

ISBN: 9780732290115

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date Released: December 1st, 2009

Genre: Young Adult / fantasy / Asian mythology

Where I got it from: bought

Eon has been studying the ancient art of Dragon Magic for four years, hoping he'll be able to apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But he also has a dark secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a dangerous lie for the chance to become a Dragoneye, the human link to an energy dragon's power. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic and if discovered Eon faces a terrible death. (Taken from Goodreads)

There were a million things that I loved about this book. The fact that it was centered around Eastern mythology basically blew me away and had me begging for more. I've been able to find very few fantasy books with dragons and the Asian cultures being an influence, so it was very comforting to finally find something of interest.

The writing was brilliant, I found. Goodman writes in a very poetic way, describing every detail so perfectly, much like I wish could. Everything is very detailed and colourful, and she provided the reader with all the neccessary information, avoiding the feared 'info dump'. I could literally feel like I was in this fantasy world, as if I myself was seeing all those dragons, smelling those whiffs of frangipani, feeling all the pain that Eona was feeling (actually, on that note, it was so detailed in fact, that I felt queasy whenever I came across a part about pearls being threaded through the skin of the royals, and during some particularly graphic fight scenes).
Though, sometimes it seemed that despite all the intricate details, it was somewhat hard to decipher what was happening in the story. I found this happened most often when Eon entered the domain of her energy; it just wasn't explained properly, or maybe it was described too much.

The characters were well developed, and I loved how Eon was the opposite of what a hero is seen to be: female, the submissive sex in the society; and a cripple, which needs no explanation.
In a society where both are shunned, Eon has to pretend to be male or risk death. It was an interesting concept, and well played upon.
The role of genders in this world was a heavy theme, as shown by Sun energy for males and Moon energy for females. Also presented in the novel was Lady Dela, a transvesite (who provided most of the entertainerment, I found) and eunuchs. Honestly, I was blown away by that. This is the first YA novel I've read that has transvestites and eunuchs as characters, and talks about such mature themes. And I loved it. It shows that someone finally realises that teenagers shouldn't be shunned from such things. Plus, it was just so interesting, being told small pieces of information, new facts about this whole world of people I had barely known existed.

The plot was somewhat predicatable in some places, but completely unforseeable in other parts, so I guess it balances out. I did not expect Eon to not get chosen by the Rat Dragon, or to wake the Mirror Dragon, but then again, I did correctly assume that the Sun drug and the tea inhibiting her period had something to do with why the Mirror Dragon refused to show. That part was way too obvious for my liking.

What I disliked most was the ending, how Ido seemed to reform magically. It seemd almost unrealistic. I sort of loved him as a villain, he was fresh, devious and just interesting. Who doesn't love a villain that wants to rape the main character?

Overall, this book is something I would love to reread over and over again. I really can't wait for the next book, I'd love to see how things will pan out, and know what the hell happened to the prince (I was annoyed when it wasn't told).

Cover: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5

Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Pages: 563, paperback

ISBN: 9780141326085

Publisher: Penguin Books

Date Released: December 1st, 2009

Genre: YA/ paranormal/ romance

Source: bought

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, andshe’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything (Taken from Goodreads)
I started reading this book with high expectations, thinking it to be a worthwhile read, because it was advertised with such vigour in all the bookshops I visited, and I was recommended this book by almost every writer and reader on the internet. So I took the plunge and read it. And you know what? I should not have listened.

I enjoyed how it wasn't your typical paranormal creature, like a vampire or werewolf, and the use of Casters (a fancy term for witches) made it interesting. The world of the Casters, and their mythology was interesting and a refreshing change from other paranormal creatures. The history of the Caster's was written well in depth, and it provided a lot of interest on my part.

The book itself, though long and sometimes tiring, was interesting, fun and a delight to read. I spent my long and boring bus trips to uni reading this, and it provided much needed entertainerment. It was just one of those books that was hard to put down because of how deep it pulls you in.

Onto some of the negative aspects of the novel now.
Though male POVs in romance novels are refreshing and the most interesting, it is incredibly hard to pull off properly. It seems almost as if Garcia and Stohl had never even spoken to a teenaged boy in years, and that Ethan Wate's character is their own fantasies of what a guy should be like. Majority of my friends are teenaged males, and I think that I therfore have some knowledge of the way that they act, and what they think. Ethan doesn't act in any way like a teenaged boy; he is more of a representation of middle-aged woman, at least, that's the impression I got from his personality. It was due to this that I had a lot of trouble settling in with the book, and quite frankly, it left me bored and dissatisfied.

I was also annoyed at the Twilight-esque pace that their love formed. Ethan had been in love with Lena even before he met her, and from the very beginning, the reader has to endure pages upon pages of him droning on about how much she means to him. Also, I don't really think that it matters what she wears everyday. That sort of stuff is acceptable during the moments of the formal or her party, but for everyday wear, it really isn't neccessary. There were some moments that I thought that Ethan as secretly gay, because of his closet fascination with clothes.

One last thing that bothered me was the lack of climax, much like in Stephanie Meyer's Breaking Dawn. I was actually very interested in the last hundred or so pages, because I really couldn't wait to see what the Book of Moons would choose for Lena. Would she become Dark? Or would she become Light? I just had to know what was in store for her. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that Lena had done something that had made the moon disappear (or something like that. Garcia and Stohl had their moments where things weren't explained very clearly, I found. Another drawback in the novel.) and she wouldn't be chosen.
Near the end, it was revealed that Lena would be able to choose for herself, which piqued some interest in me, due to the consequences, but as I mentioned, the moon had disappeared, and nothing happened. A very boring and abrupt end to the climax that kept me on my toes.
Though, I was glad to find that there would be a sequel by the poem/song that Ethan found on the very last page, which explains that Lena would have to choose on her 17th birthday. I definitely will be getting the sequel when it comes out, as I really want to know what Lena will choose, her family of Lights, or Ethan. Hopefully, she'll make the right choice and choose her family, instead of acting like a typical love-struck stupid teen.

I doubt it'll happen, though.

Cover: 3
Plot: 2
Characters: 2
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 3/5

Review: East

East by Edith Pattou

Pages: 516, paperback

ISBN: 9780152052218

Publisher: Magic Carpet Books / Harcourt

Date released: May 1st, 2003

Genre: Fantasy/fairy-tale retelling/romance

Source: bought


Rose has always felt out of place in her family, a wanderer in a bunch of homebodies. So when an enormous white bear mysteriously shows up and asks her to come away with him—in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family—she readily agrees. The bear takes Rose to a distant castle, where each night she is confronted with a mystery. In solving that mystery, she loses her heart, discovers her purpose, and realizes her travels have only just begun.
As familiar and moving as "Beauty and the Beast" and yet as fresh and original as only the best fantasy can be, East is a novel retelling of the classic tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," a sweeping romantic epic in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine. (Taken from Goodreads)
So, what can I say about this book? For one, it is one of the best fairytale retellings I have ever read. It kept me on my toes, it made me emotional and wanting more.

The story is broken up, told in the view points of 5 characters: the father, Neddy, Rose, the Troll Queen and the White Bear. At times, I thought that the extra point of views were unnessecary and confusing, mostly the random excerpts by Neddy and the father, and they slowed the pace of the story, especially near the end when Rose was travelling towards Niflheim. It just hindered the flow of the story, ruining exciting and fast-paced moments.

The writing was very simplistic, what one would expect from a YA novel, and often, I found that the language flowed wonderfully, and was different in tone for each character. On that note, I LOVED the White Bear's POVs before he turned back into a human. They were short, poetic and very jumbled, perfect for the lonely bear that can barely manage a sentence.

The story was brilliant, a wonderful mix of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and Beauty and the Beast, and the heroine was loveable and independant, the kind of person I would like to read about. One issue with Rose was her eye colour. It wasn't actually relevant to the story AT ALL. It would actually be more fitting if she had dark brown eyes. I just don't understand why she needed purple eyes, other than the fact that she's special and whatnot.

Overall, a quick and easy read. Something I'd read if I don't want to spend too much time thinking about it, and just get on with it.

Cover: 4
Plot: 5
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5

Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Pages: 328, paperback

ISBN: 9780330457729


General/literary fiction

Source: bought

When we first meet 14-year-old Susie Salmon, she is already in Heaven. This was before milk carton photos and public service announcements, she tells us; back in 1973, when Susie mysteriously disappeared, people still believed these things didn't happen. In the sweet, untroubled voice of a precocious teenage girl, Susie relates the awful events of her death and her own adjustment to the strange new place she finds herself. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. With love, longing, and a growing understanding, Susie watches her family as they cope with their grief, her father embarks on a search for the killer, her sister undertakes a feat of amazing daring, her little brother builds a fort in her honor and begin the difficult process of healing. In the hands of a brilliant novelist, this story of seemingly unbearable tragedy is transformed into a suspenseful and touching story about family, memory, love, Heaven, and living.

(Taken from Goodreads)
This is without a doubt the worst book I have ever read. Each sentence left me in pain, it was impossible to keep reading. I literally had to read the book a paragraph at a time, with long breaks in between readings. It was that bad.

What bugged me the most was that the story was too flower-y, too purple. There were so many metaphors used that simply did not make sense, such as “Her pupils dilated, pulsing in and out like small, ferocious olives.” Now, have no idea what ferocious olives look like, nor do I understand how her pupils could have pulsated without her having some sort of medical issue. Surely that isn't right. And this novel is filled with phrases like that.
I can understand it that people like it because it's somewhat artsy. Some aspects of Sebold's writing was interesting, but mainly, the failed metaphors just made me cringe.

Another thing that annoyed me was how the author would mention one idea in paragraph one, then in paragraph two through to seven, talk about something only slightly relevant to the first paragraph, then go back to whatever the hell she was talking about in the first paragraph. It was hard to keep up with everything, it was all over the place and quite messy, to be honest.

Finally, what I hated the most was the storyline. I hate it. HATE HATE HATE. Major spoilers here, so don't read on if you want to be surprised:

Susie posesses the body of her lesbian friend so that she could have a night of wild passion with a boy that she kissed eight years ago, when she was still alive. Instead of doing something productive, like you know, maybe telling him where her body was, which would help heaps with the case and ease her family's pain and suffering. It seemed like a very horrible resolution, to have a girl who was raped and killed use her friend to have sex with a guy she had a single kiss with. I don't know, I see that as rape towards the lesbian friend.
It really makes no sense. AND, it's just plain offensive, I think.
And the entire novel is filled with plotholes that just don't make any sense. Like, when her father realises that Mr Harvey killed Susie. He just has a hunch. No evidence, nothing. Just a hunch. And from that, he is so certain. Just ARGHHHH. I hate it.

I literally wanted to burn this book. Reading through it was the most painful experience ever. I mean, I hate being so harsh towards books, but this was just horrible. A shame, too, since I was so looking forward to it.

Cover: 2
Plot: 0
Characters: 2
Writing: 0 (If I could give negative ratings, I would)
Level of Interest: 1

Total Rating: 1/5

Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Pages: 592, paperback

ISBN: 9780330423304

Publisher: Picador

Genre: Historical fiction/literary fiction/Young Adult

Source: bought

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
(Taken from Goodreads)

There are so many things I can say about this book. All of them positive.
What struck me as odd was the narrator: Death. When I read the prologue, I was astounded at the poetic language used, but I was skeptical as to how Death could narrate the life of a little girl in Nazi Germany. I didn't think it could work, but boy, was I wrong. Having Death be personified in the way he was gave new light to the situation, especially when he described his thoughts on the book thief and on humanity in general. I loved how Death used colours to describe the setting and the feel. This alone moved me in an odd way.

There wasn't much of a plot, though; it was more of an explanation of a situation, but nevertheless, it was gripping.

I couldn't actually believe that I cried, despite Death telling me chapters in advance that this person was going to die later, or that in a few chapters, a new character will be introduced etc.

It took some getting used to, Zusak's writing style, but a few chapters in, it seemed quite natural, and even influencing my own writing style. It seemed almost poetic, short but sweet, and incredibly metaphorical. The symbolism was also quite interesting, like with the colours in the sky, and I grew to really love the characters, even the minor cast who only appeared once or twice.
The almost lyrical prose took me quite a while to get through. I can usually knock off about 100 pages in about an hour, but with this story, I took my sweet old time, devouring the novel word by word. So, it took me over a week of non-stop reading to get through it. But I loved every long minute of it.

Cover: 4
Plot: 3
Characters: 5
Writing: 5
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5

Review: Behemoth

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Pages: 485, hardcover

ISBN: 9781416971757


Date Released: October 5th, 2010 (first published September 25th, 2010)

Genre: YA / steampunk / historical
Source: library

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead.

(Taken from Goodreads)
Buy it from: Book Depository / Amazon

To start off with: I hate the cover. It is such a disaster compared to the masterpiece that was the original Leviathan cover. What went wrong? If I were some random browsing the aisles of the YA section of my local bookstore, I would have shrunk back in disgust, and quickly averted my eyes, as if the horrific cover might somehow infect me. In fact, that's exactly what happened when I did encounter this book. I had heard news of Behemoth's release, and I eagerly went forth to buy the book, which I had pictured would be similar in majesty and beauty as Leviathan had been. But no, I was met with this monstrosity. Once again, I ask, what went wrong? What were Simon Pulse thinking? I actively avoided buying this book for almost a year, until I managed to get my hands on it for $1 when a Borders was closing down. Even then, I was reluctant. Was I willing to pay $1 to have this accident of a cover sit next to my beloved copy of Leviathan? Finally, I caved in, but only because I had already borrowed it from the library and loved what was between those frightening covers.

And this is coming from a hardcore fan of the first book. I had waited impatiently for over a year to read Behemoth. I loved the first book so much. I reread it several times. And you know what the worst thing is? That the cover for Behemoth would have been even more stunning than it was for Leviathan. Here, have a look. Aren't you just seething with rage? It's beautiful, isn't it. I don't understand what Simon Pulse were thinking. They had potentially lost a customer (me) and maybe many more with their hideous reboot covers. (and to be brutally honest, I don't know who's who on the reboot covers. Whoops. :-/ )

Now, cover rant aside, I loved this book. If I thought Leviathan was good, then this is just a work of art, meant to be savoured.

This book deals with a lot of emotional baggage, from Deryn's experience with her father dying a few years earlier, to her developing crush on Alek. But, poor girl, she can't reveal her feelings to him without revealing her true identity! And with that came a fresh and delightful dose of drama. Especially when a new girl enters the picture, causing jealousy to spark from poor Deryn. The results were completely unexpected and hilarious, and I couldn't have been more pleased at the maybe-love-triangle.

And while Deryn is struggling to hide her true identity, so is Alek. He's in a new world, filled with the enemy. At any moment, he could be found and killed. The similarities between the experiences of Alek and Deryn make this a great tool to understanding their characters and their motives. They mirrored each other in so many ways, and it was awesome reading about their characters.

The plot is just as exciting as it was in Leviathan, with explosions starting right off the bat (if you're into that sort of thing). And after that, there's non-stop action and suspense all throughout the book, making it literally impossible to put down. I sat with Behemoth in my hands for four hours, braving a grumbling tummy and neglected housework. It will leave you completely hooked and wanting more.

The writing is amazing, but, it still uses the annoying over-used vocabulary like bum-rag and such. Thankfully, the descriptions make up for it. Everything was described so vividly that it was really easy to imagine what was happening, and what everything looked like. This is especially amazing in the completely new setting of Turkey, where everything feels surreal, exotic and wild. The city actually felt like a whole new character, just like how the Leviathan felt like a character in the first book. For that, I applaud Westerfeld. It's hard to pull off a setting like that, and to make it feel like a living, breathing characters with its own flaws and characteristics.

And, lastly, I have to give an honorable mention to Keith Thompson, whose artworks also feature in this book. Once again, they have left me speechless with their precise beauty. They certainly add depth to an already fantastic book.

I'm eagerly awaiting Goliath, but, unless they go back to the original covers, I probably won't buy it. The cover just looks bad. I'm very picky with my covers, as you can see. But August can't come soon enough.

Cover Art: 0
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

Review: Daughter of the Forest

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Pages: 552, paperback

ISBN: 9780330424417

Publisher: Pan Australia

Date Released: November 1st, 2008 (first published 1999)

Genre: adult/ fantasy/ romance / retelling / historical

Source: library

A beautiful retelling of the Celtic "Swans" myth, Daughter of the Forest is a mixture of history and fantasy, myth and magic, legend and love... To reclaim the lives of her brothers, Sorcha leaves the only safe place she has ever known and embarks on a journey filled with pain, loss and terror. When she is kidnapped by enemy forces and taken to a foreign land, it seems that there will be no way for Sorcha to break the spell that condemns all that she loves. But magic knows no boundaries, and Sorcha will have to choose between the live she has always known and a love that comes only once.

(Taken from Goodreads)
Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

It was about time that I started this book. I'd heard nothing but stellar reviews about this book. The fact that Marillier lives in Australia (albeit the Western part, which is literally desert)and being born in New Zealand made this even more irresistible.

When I first started this, I sort of really disliked it. My thoughts were "WTF is this? It's so slow, nothing's happening! I don't care about her family! How do you pronounce that?" It takes some getting used to, because the writing is so thick and verbose. This is not a quick read. This is the kind of book you slowly savour, reading it and relishing in the beauty of the words. Everything comes to like around you, the smells and sounds of the forest, the hardships that Sorcha had to deal with, everything. By the end of the first chapter (which is 30 pages long, but feels like 300), I was loving it. I loved how the reader got to know every detail about Sorcha's family, no matter how grizzly and dark it may be. I loved the relationships between Sorcha and her brothers, how they all felt real and different from each other, which I think is quite a feat when too many characters are introduced at once. You really get to know all the characters in such a way that they become important to you, and not only do you see a growth in Sorcha, but in everyone else.

Sorcha is a very strong young woman; despite her gift for storytelling, she keeps silent, even when it costs her her life. She does all she can to break the spell that the Lady Oonagh cast on her brothers. She lives through her hardships, seemingly by herself, but she had Red to help her, and her brothers, who believe in her persistence and patience.

The story, based on the Celtic Swans myth, adds so much depth to such a fairytale. I absolutely love fairytales, and this one is one of the best that I've read so far. It still retains the magical properties of a fairytale, while having its own element.

This is a novel that doesn't shy away from the hard stuff. There is rape, abuse, torture. It really feels like a kick in the gut. So why read it, then, if it's so heavy? Well, there are also moments of hope and love--both romantic love and familial love.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 5
Writing: 5
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5 stars

First Post of the New Blog

Well, I've just transferred from WordPress. Still Getting used to all the things here. It's odd, to say the least.

My main reason to swapping over to BlogSpot was that I'd be able to reach out to more people, thanks to the Google Friends Connect. I'm still not sure how to use it, but I'll get there. Since WordPress doesn't allow the GFC, it makes it hard to reach out to more people.
So yeah, that's my reasoning behind it. I'll sure miss all my friends over at WordPress, but I hope to gain more here.