Saturday, January 29, 2011

Warped by Maurissa Guibord

Tessa doesn’t believe in magic. Or Fate. But there’s something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in. When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa’s own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa’s life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy. 

Warped opens with Tessa and her dad at an auction house bidding on some books and what seems like a random tapestry. After winning the bid she starts to examine the tapestry and the book that was wrapped in it and her life takes a sudden plunge for the strange as she starts seeing visions and having dreams of a different time. 
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For the past two days I’ve been trying to figure out just what I enjoyed, I can’t pinpoint it exactly but here are a few things: 
  • I enjoyed the telling of two stories in two different times. I’ve always enjoyed books form other centuries and while I’m not a fan of flashbacks these time flashes were wonderfully crafted. 
  • My imagination ran wild. As I’ve started reading critically I’ve noticed a lot of books where the narrative tells me what’s going on instead of showing. I’ve found it distracting to the point where I need to put the book down and walk away, this is not a problem with Warped. In fact, it was quite the opposite - I had to stay up all night just to finish!    
  • I loved that it kept me up all night just trying to figure out what will happen next.
  • The story touches on the Norns (Fates) and I don’t recall ever reading a book with Norse mythology.
I only had one complaint but it’s such a minor one that I didn’t want to bring it up. However, since there is a missing half of a star I might as well explain. Right from the start we learn that there are seven missing threads (lives) and the Norns (Fates) want them back. Finding those seven threads, in one book, didn’t allow room for a lot of character development (minor characters) and while I enjoyed a lot of the characters, I wanted them to have more screen time - especially Opal and a few of the lost threads. However, it wasn’t a huge lost to the story and I’m looking forward to reading more from Maurissa

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ascend by Amanda Hocking

The final chapter in the Trylle Trilogy…With a war looming on the horizon, Wendy’s fate seems sealed. But everything she sacrificed might be in vain if she can’t save the ones she loves. Her whole life has been leading up to this, and it’s all coming to an end.
The Beginning: We are plunged into a heated discussion between Wendy and her high ranking officials (Markis and Marksinnas) about tracker equality. This sets the tone of the novel, one of debates, disagreements and as the first chapter closes, some unexpected developments. [read the first chapter
The Middle: I don’t know how else to say this, so I’ll just come out and say that the middle lost me. Wendy had a lot of tough decisions to make, not only with the kingdom but with her personal life, and a lot of the things she does with her personal life, well,  it confused me. Without spoiling the book, it seemed to me that some minor characters sprang up and took over. It is not my intension to impose my opinion of how the characters should behave on the author; so I think that, even if I did not like the outcome, she had her story to tell and she told it. My biggest concern was that I did not love the characters that she wanted me to love nor did I hate the characters that she wanted me to hate - and this is not only in relation to the romantic storyline. 
The relationship between Wendy and Finn, Wendy and Elora and Wendy and Willa were so fleshed out in the first two books that I could almost feel what Wendy was feeling towards them as she narrated the story. I did not feel the same way about Wendy and Trove, Wendy and Loki and Wendy and Oren. 
The End: Not the ending I expected and not in the conclusion I saw coming, so that was pretty good. Again, my only issue here is that I wanted to feel more for the characters, but wasn’t moved by them.
Overall: I have a lot of respect for Amanda Hocking, she is publishing her own books, she’s making her own way and she’s fulfilling her dream. I want to give this trilogy 5 stars, but - barring a few editorial mishaps throughout the series - this book was the downfall. I spent a lot of time thinking about this review, I didn’t want to write it and give a low “grade” just because things didn’t go my way. Also, understanding that this was self published, I didn’t want to dock a “grade” due to any gramatical mishaps that might have been otherwise caught. I had to put these aside and I think about my biggest struggles with the narrative; there were only two things. The first addressed above, I wish I had some time to really love the characters that Wendy loved and to really hate the characters that Wendy hated - even to be a little frightened of Oren. The last was something that ran though the series, I felt that Wendy narrated a lot of things that I didn’t need to know, that sometimes I was being told things instead of shown things. 
While I did not love Ascend, I did enjoyed the Trylle trilogy on a whole. I am going to follow Amanda and read her upcoming books. I am looking forward to see how she grows as an author. I see a lot of potential and I think she’s an excellent story teller with good stories to tell.  
I would let my sister read this trilogy, it’s the kind of series that she’d enjoy. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers - people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail - he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.
The Beginning: The book opens up with Cassel on a roof wondering how he got there and trying to get down without killing himself. We are plunged into his life with some flashbacks that flesh out his family and memories that haunt him. 
The Middle: I appreciated the way Holly Black revealed Cassel’s story to the reader. I’m not generally a fan of flashbacks, however, Holly made it work. As a reader, I glimpsed enough to understand the relationships and characters, while still leaving the larger mystery hidden. 
The End: I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t guess a lot of things in this book. It might be me being slow, but I put it down to Holly being a great story weaver. There was enough unexpected obstacles to make the story realistic, but not so much that it felt repetitive. 
Overall: If writing a book was like baking chocolate chip cookies, then Holly has the talent to whip up the most deliciously chewy cookie with just the right amount of chocolate chips to make it unforgettable. Sorry about the food analogy, I’m just craving chocolate chip cookies. 
I think this book was great with just the right amount of mystery to keep you guessing without feeling confused. I would loan this to my sister, and I might not bug her to give it back to me if she keep supplying me with cookies. I’m looking forward to reading Red Glove which comes out in April. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

Hundreds of millions of people have already died, and millions more will soon fall-victims of disease, hunger, and dehydration. It is a time of drought and war. The rivers have dried up, the polar caps have melted, and drinkable water is now in the hands of the powerful few. There are fines for wasting it and prison sentences for exceeding the quotas. But Kai didn’t seem to care about any of this. He stood in the open road drinking water from a plastic cup, then spilled the remaining drops into the dirt. He didn’t go to school, and he traveled with armed guards. Kai claimed he knew a secret-something the government is keeping from us… And then he was gone. Vanished in the middle of the night. Was he kidnapped? Did he flee? Is he alive or dead? There are no clues, only questions. And no one can guess the lengths to which they will go to keep him silent. We have to find him-and the truth-before it is too late for all of us.

The Beginning: The lead into the story was gripping, a dystopian society where the people who controlled the water were the ones who ruled. We were introduced to three characters, The narrator, Vera, Will, her brother and Kia. 
The Middle: Things got a bit muddled for me along the way. Quite a few new characters were introduced in quick succession and it seemed as though everything that could go wrong did go wrong. There was little time to breath and get acquainted with the new characters and little time to feel invested in their future in the book. 

The Ending:
While a bit more breathing space was allowed, the ending seemed to rush towards me like a raging river. See what I did there, ok, fine, I’ll stop.

I think a lot of the relationships in this book could have been developed more, the neck breaking pace did not allow for this and that was one of the main things lacking. It’s an nod to the future of a world that misuses it’s resources, something that we can all relate to in some way.

I’d loan this book to my sister, but I’m not convinced that she would enjoy its topic. Though, if that causes her to take shorter baths, this book is all hers! =)