Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: Caszandra

Caszandra by Andrea K. Höst

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading this series back to back in a few days I'm ready to share some thoughts.

How to write this with the least amount of spoilers?

Let's just start with the basics.

Cassandra Devlin's life is strange. She ends up in a different planet at age 17 and discovers that it's inhabitants were forced to leave to yet another planet hundreds of years ago. She is rescued by a search mission from the exiled and learns a hole bunch of things: there is an alternate space called Ena, sort of like a 'dream space', there are scary monsters called Ionoth from that reality that escape to the 'real' world through tears in this Ena, and must be exterminated. There are groups of young people specially talented with telekinesis, Sights...and basically super powers, who are trained and solely dedicated to fight against this monsters. They are called Sentari (part of the search party who found her). And.... ta-daaaa Cassandra ends up being discovered as a person who possesses significant powers of unknown nature/reach. Basically this is the fast version of the first half of book #1. Phew, not too spoilery, I hope!

The whole trilogy gravitates around the discoveries Cassandra has in this strange new world, the politics, people she meets, befriends (and yes, loves), fighting monsters, learning her new abilities, living in a strange new place, learning the language & culture (a good ethnographic experience of observation), immersing in the mythology and explanations of the world she is in and understanding/accepting her situation. It's good, fun and full of adventures! It does get a bit long during the descriptions of every single detail of her missions, but keeps you glued.

Her voice is very real, and I feel the way it's written (as a diary), works pretty well.

I adored the characters and I truly enjoyed traveling with her to this world. It felt very very VERY real, and we're talking about monsters, super powers and an interface installed in your brain, so kuddos to Andrea K Höst for making it believable. The world building is flawless. I think this story will accompany me for a long time: it really made an impression on me! (for this I'm adding 1 more star to my initial reaction after finishing this last book + the Gratuitous Epilogue).

But *cringes while writing this*, I felt cheated by the end :( -and I dived immediately to the Epilogue. Why? because soooooooooo much was left unresolved. I won't go into the specifics because this will become a huge list of spoilers. But briefly:
1- Many characters were unnecessary: their issues were just mentioned, sort of developed and then forgotten.
2- The whole original exodus from Muina... yeah, what about it?
3- WTF happened in Nuri?
And many more.

I feel that the book should have balanced more the personal things Cass experiences with the actual things happening in the world she is living. Less Emo entries about the 1,000 times she is a medic unit, her dreams and all her issues and more about her surroundings. I feel this trilogy is a teaser for a bigger story: I would love to read a book based on this world, since I'm not inclined to know anything more about Cassandra.

Höst is very smart with Cassandra's story, by ending her Gratuitous Epilogue like this: 'Because there is nothing better than finding out how things end. And starting a new story.'

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Time for Time-traveling

Dear Blog,

I have a proposition for you: can you travel in time and bring me some books that I'm dying to read but haven't been released?
I'll add more pictures to you in exchange of your epic quest. Yes please?

Here is the list of some books I want you to bring me NOW:

- Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
- Horde by Ann Aguirre
- The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa
- The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead
- Breaking Point by Kristen Simmons
- The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
- Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Here is a picture of the postcard Kristen Simmons sent me so you can be teased by this proposal.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: Stray

Stray by Andrea K. Höst

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hands down an epic amazingbaaaalllls sci-fi adventure!
This book is so creative! it goes beyond and above your typical YA fantasy. Where your female 17 year old main character is not whining about life, her hair, clothes, boys or her emo life. No, this girl is all business, what practical things to do to survive and realistic as it can get. How would you act, what would you do if all of a sudden you end up in an alternate unfamiliar world with absolutely no knowledge of how you ended up there?

The first part of this book is all about Cassandra (Cass) describing in her diary what is happening, and trying -barely- to make sense and survive with what she had at the time of her strange trip to another reality: her uniform, backpack with basic school supplies, a bag of tissues, an empty diary she was planning to give to a friend and an empty bottle of Fanta.
Yup, not too much to go with... so you may as well imagine all the different scenarios she faces.

Being told in first person -diary-reality- form makes it even better. You learn experience and learn things at the same time as Cass does, making this a sci-fi journey of discovery.

Loved it!! I even recommended it to my husband, since it lacked all the I'm - such - a girly - chicky - flick - kind - of - book (which I admit I also love to read). Personally, its a perfect read for anyone who wants a simple, yet very smart, survivalist sci-fi story.... It was that good!

This book is full of fun witty references to familiar stuff I like: music, books, artists, writers and states of mind.

I'm so glad I bought the whole trilogy in a package .... [dives straight to book 2].

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Sanctum

Sanctum by Sarah Fine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was so creative and original. I was glued to it from its first paragraph.

'On my first day at Warwick High School, if you'd told me I would choose to go to hell for any of the students, let alone Warwick's queen bee, I would have laughed. Or maybe I would have stabbed you with a ballpoint pen (it was kind of a rough day).'


It is impossible to stop reading after this opening. If you're reading this, you might be a bit familiar with the story this book tells: Lela's best friend, Nadia, kills herself. Leaving Lela devastated with the certainty that Nadia is in a Dark City that will eat her soul (or something as ugly), making Lela go to this place and try to get her out. Sounds dark, scary and simple... Not! Well yes it's dark and scary bit far beyond simple.

This book is good! It's evil! You won't be able to pull it down until you reach page 417, and then you want moooooreeee, which thankfully Sarah Fine was nice enough to add a few pages on for a sneak peek of book 2.

Lela Santos, you're strong, loyal and strange. You're smart, but sometimes I want to just scream sense in your brain!!!! Meaning: I was pretty much invested in this book. As I actually imagined this character real: flawed and broken, but with a hugggeeee heart.

Captain Malachi Sokol: who said hell was bad??? It has you!!!! It was awesome meeting you and I really would like learning more about your life and afterlife. I hope this will come more in the next books.
This is a great series starter. It gives a lot of world building and character investment that you really don't care as much about the things still unknown, because the main story is tightly developed and beautifully delivered.

I liked the language, pace and the descriptions.
I like being inside Lela's head. I am soooooo looking forward to what happens next.
I liked this book so much I had actually borrowed from the library, but by page 54, I had to own it and it was quickly added to my Kindle account. I'm committed to own good books and this one joined the list with flying colours.

Sarah Fine: please write some moarrrrr. Feed my brain with your stories: I am ready :)

It has a cool map too:

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review: Rebel Heart

Rebel Heart
Rebel Heart by Moira Young

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My brain hurts sooooooo badly. I skimmed the lasts few pages because I was not enjoying this book. The first one was good I was entertained!!! But sadly I can't take the form of speech is written, making this book terrible distracting.

sadness photo sadness_zps3b719ae9.gif

Maybe I can read it when its translated to Spanish?

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Review: Reached

Reached by Ally Condie

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was loooooonngggg 512 longggg pages. I was almost going to drop it around the 300 mark. But I sort of wanted to know what was going to happen, so I kept on reading.
I think the book is too full of poetry for my liking, and noooooothhhiiingggg really happens. The first and second books had at least some action, mystery, thrills in hiding and created some tensions with the main characters. This one was just: there is a plague, oh, let's try to fix this, oh I'm Cassia or Kay or Xander but we all sound the same. Oh paper is so nice, oh salmon are so weird, oh, people are like zombies, oh, who is the Pilot, oh, so there is no actual explanation of what will happen....
Why did I did this to myself? I don't even like poetry or did I enjoy reading the previous 2... I must be a masochist! But seriously, aside my crankiness, I am glad this trilogy is over!!!! I was curious enough to finish it, so it wasn't THAT bad ;)

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: And All the Stars

And All the Stars
And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Come for the apocalypse, stay for the cupcakes, die for love". With this premise, I was as attracted to this book as a moth to the light (I know, random reference, but so appropriate for this book hehe). It's such a refreshing standalone story, I wished there was a sequel.

Madeleine is a very talented artist, a socially awkward girl who is very introverted. She doesn't seem to have friend, or any interactions with other people beside her family members. She is going to her cousin's apartment to paint his portrait in the hopes to enter into a very prestigious artist prize. However, something terrible happens once she is leaving the subway. She is left inside a partially ruined station, following an explosion that has created a cloud of purple dust. A huge Spire, dark and full of stars is impossible rotted from the station and upwards towering at the park above the station. This makes Madeline wonder, what has she encounter? as it looks as it was delivered straight from a nightmare.

All these events occur in the opening pages of this story, giving the reader little time to 1) experience Sydney, 2) digest the intrusion of Spires and 3) worry enough for Madeleine. Rest assured, as this will unroll deliciously and carefully once this story starts unfolding.

Sydney becomes one main character, as the events occur there. The space and the locality the story's characters and experience bring a joyful glance of this city. I've never visited it, but I'm sure, once I go, I'll most likely take my time in walking around St James Station and the fountain at Hyde Park.

Madeleine is rough on the edges, but easy to care for. I enjoyed being able to glimpse into her mind. I found all the sweet romance refreshing and sincere.

The secondary characters are brilliant. With enough strength, wit and resolve to be amazing, but with healthy doses of believable behaviour. Seeking the best solutions when trying to survive in a broken, unknown world.

I loved the pace, the quality of the writing, the emotions the author stirred inside my heart and brain, but most of all the original plot and its Machiavellian twist. I also welcome all mentions and references to The Lord of the Rings and this book was full of these, plus a high dose of Alexander Dumas.
It is not a simple sci-fi book, but it is perhaps the most real one I can imagine.
This is as much as I can say without giving any spoilers. And the way the story is, I recommended diving into it without any knowledge of it's plot. Seriously, the thrill of discovering with the characters what is happening is worth it. I wished for more cupcakes!

Dear Andrea K. Höst if it wasn't for Netgalley I would have missed on your wonderfully clever book. Thank you for giving me the chance to meet Madeleine :-)

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: Saving June

Saving June
Saving June by Hannah Harrington

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm in a perfect state for teary-sad stories. I've been under the weather for a few days, but today was the 'stay in bed all day' kind of day. So I have had this book waiting for a while for me to read it, and I though, hey isn't this the right mindset for a story of a girl whose sister commits suicide? Ugh, I was wrong.

First, let me tell you why this book didn't click with me. Sorry, maybe I should use another expression, why we're not compatible: Harper, our main character, whose sister kills herself feels like the voice of an empty wine glass. I was expecting deeper thoughts, much more emotional layers and real-life dilemmas. But I ended up just staring and wishing all this beautifully described container was full.

This book is about a road trip to California; where Harper wishes to scatter her sister's ashes. Her travel companions are the ever-mysterious Jake, whose love of music makes a big chunk of this book; and Harper's best friend happy go lucky, Laney. The trip is fun! It was perhaps one of the reasons I ended up finishing the book. However, as a whole, I was disappointed because of how obvious and unsurprising was the plot. It ends exactly as you can imagine. I wasn't sure I was able to get the teary-mushy connection I was expecting.

The hard fact, the protest issues perhaps touched me closer than I thought and it opened the can of worms that really bugged me from this book: all the stereotypes around people. There are many examples, for starters who is considered normal/not normal: June the smart homecoming queen with beautiful soft hair/ Harper the rebel, angry teen with eyeliner and black nail polish. The Christian aunt, the ever supporting best friend Laney, Jake's friends, the ones who they meet first who are actively attending protests...And this was the final drop for me! Not everyone who has a disagreement with mainstream social status quo has to be an artsy-vegan-pothead. As a social scientist perhaps I feel too critical of how our society tends to categorise people who think and act different. And it is a bit scary to keep on seeing all these stereotypes being represented over and over in all sorts of media... So yeah, maybe I didn't drink the right Kool-aid, so I'm picky.

In general, if you want a deep emotional adventure that gives you a few tears, well, chose a different book. But if you want to read a troubled theme through a very light lenses, this is the right book for you!

Again, perhaps this whole rant about the book responds to my state of mind, or that seriously, maybe, perhaps this was a totally YA novel and I expected it to be a bit more mature because of its actual theme, so be forewarned :-)
This book was kindly provided to me by Harlequin through Netgally.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Review: Scent of Magic

Scent of Magic
Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweeeeeeeet strawberry bejesus! What a story.
I have to gather my thoughts on this one! Maria, you killed me with this ending! Do I really need to wait so long to know what happens??? Arghhhhh!
Edit: My thoughts are no longer scattered!

Once upon a time I read a book called Poison Study by Maria Snyder, and my love for fantasy, magic & adventure re-emerged. I haven't gone back since and I am glad. Now, this amazing author not only left her job as a meteorologist, but flooded my life with written worlds that are so well done, I couldn't thank her more for her great life choices of becoming a writer.

Okay, enough about the author; now let's focus on the book! Scent of Magic is the second instalment of the Healer series. Set up in a world very much like that one of the Study and Glass series: with kings, queens, wars, realms that are enemies, magic and adventures. The first book took the task of introducing us to this world, where a plague had decimated the population and Avry, our kick-ass heroin is the last healer of this world.
In this second one, we are brought to the aftermath of Avry's decision of healing prince Ryne. Having escaped Tohon and his undead army, Avry goes undercover in Estrid's holy army, making bold movements to be named as a Sergeant. The first half of the book focuses on building up a very good dosage of tension and expectation for us, the reader on when and how will Tohon attacks. It is told from Kerrick and Avry (Sergeant Irina's) POV and in Maria's fascinating style leaves you little cliffhangers when transitioning from each one. I was tempted in more than one time to skip a bit in order to find out what was going to happen... They are that good.

In sum, as a second book of a series is fantastic. To tell you the truth, I enjoyed it a bit more than the first one. Perhaps because I was finally able to detach from the Study series on this one and finally embrace it as a new one? I don't know... But what I did liked more was the issue that was vaguely presented, and maybe will be later developed in this series: history is told from a very biased point view, and reconciliation should be always an option!

Copy of this book was generously provided to me by Harlequin through NetGalley. Thank you for giving me the chance to check this amazing book out!

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: Stormdancer

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stormdancer was a very interesting ride. You get your fix of adventure, fantasy and beautiful descriptions. The world Jay Kristoff created, is something you'll carry even days after you finish the book (I have finished it last year [gasp, so long ago you say?** it's only Jan 4th** hehe] and still think about it).
Meet Yukiko a wonderful, powerful and loyal heroine who will introduce you to an Asian-layered-steampunk-Epic-like ride into the lotus fume lands trying to bring back to her Shogun a mythical being: a griffin who will change her life completely. Meet Buruu a beautiful mythical half tiger/eagle who is loyal and richly portrayed.
Travel into the lands of the Shima Imperium and the Clans of Fox, Tiger, Phoenix and Dragon. Visit mythical creatures and lands. Explore the machinery of the Lotus Guild and the Blood Lotus barren lands. Where the skies are red and the air is toxic. Imagine tattoos come come to life, and katana-like-chainsaws that need blood as fuel. Yeah, you'll have an unforgettable visit to a very strange place!

This book reads like puzzle pieces clicking together with snippets thrown here and there that wonderfully connect with each other. It felt like reading layers of a comic book, with more hidden meanings and thoughts. Nothing is simple. Things are left for the reader to digest and your imagination will slowly fill any wholes you think you're missing (which by the end you'll be happily surprised they weren't).
It's funny that when I first started this book, by chapter 2 I was telling my husband how much I wished there was a dictionary/glossary of sorts to help me out to keep up with all these names! They get very confusing! And so silly of me to belatedly find this Glossary was here ALL THE TIME, but only when I finished my book! Yeah, I'm one of those readers who try to avoid table of contents since they tend to become a spoiler feast. So this is a friendly reminder for all of you e-readers out there, when facing confusion, check the last pages before finishing, as you may be pleasantly surprised :)

It is understandable this book is not for everyone. So give it a test read. If by when you met Buruu you're not hooked. Just let it go. But try to at least stay for his introduction! I promise, you won't regret it.

And if the above does not convince you, perhaps this will: Buruu is a Griffin! This book has a GRIFFIN!!! Yes, a mythical creature, with soft wings and tiger feet. With a beak and a cat's tail and best of all Yukiko will ride it! Who won't enjoy reading about riding a Griffin? I want to ride one! But I will be contempt just by reading about it in Stormdancer (for now, just until I find mine).

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review: Black City

Black City
Black City by Elizabeth Richards

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is set up in a world where there are different species: humans, Darklings and other beings.
Darklings are pretty much like vampires, they have fangs, drink blood, are sensitive to the sun and can be killed by crucifixion with a special kind of wood that at contact, burns their flesh. They are also different kinds of Darklings. Some have wings, different eye colours, skins and have unique skills. They also have super strength, 2 hearts, their fangs produce an hallucinogen called Haze and a hair that is alive. There was a virus that affected Darklings and created the Wraths, very scary beings that practically slash, kill and infect at will.
When Darklings and humans mix, their offspring is called: twin-blood. These beings don't have a heartbeat (but their heart is there), and this piece of information becomes vital for the story in this book.
This book opens with Ash, a twin-blood that lives in The Black City and describes how it has been divided by a wall that separates de Darklings from the humans after a big war; however, within each wall, there are subdivisions of wealthier and poorer class of sub-dwellers.
The world building and setting is absolutely fantastic! It personally evoked a bit of Berlin's wall during the Cold War and what I imagine to be a general state of despair, political unrest and social divisions. Of course, I wasn't there, but I can definitely place some similarities on the issues and descriptions obviously without all the paranormal stuff!
However, for the life of me, I wasn't able to fully enjoy Ash and Natalie. The book is told from the POV of these two main characters. Natalie is the Emissary's daughter, the political leader of The Black City and Ash is probably the only twin-blood that lives there.
There are various subdivisions in plots and I felt that all the richness of the world and setting was left short with the sappy drama between our 2 main characters. This book was good, don't get me wrong. But all the good parts of the story were being eclipsed with both Ash and Natalie's personalities. At times I had to go back to see if I was reading from Ash or Natalie's POV, since their voices sort of start to sound the same on the third part of the book. There are also lots and lots of loopholes and untied plots, but I guess this obeys to the fact that this is a first book of a series, so stay tuned.

But this is just me being picky!
I am a vampire sucker (no pun intended :P) so I am super critical about these stories! But this was a good first book of a series. If you want to read a bit about this strange place, meet a sexy twin-blood and wonder about your heartbeat, I encourage you to visit The Black City!

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