Friday, May 20, 2011

Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces, and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil. In the first book in an action-packed, romantic trilogy, L..A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill-ride of a road trip - and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful.

They’re out for your soul … and they don’t have heaven in mind.

I haven’t read a lot of Angel related fantasy stories because the two that I did read were generic and a bit off putting. When I started reading this story I was worried that it would fall into that class, however, I was pleasantly surprised that it did not.

Angel Burn follows Willow and Alex. Willow lives with her aunt and her sick mother. She a gift - she can see the life and possible futures of others. She’s also unaware of the part of her that allows for this gift.

Alex has been trained for what seems his entire life to hate Angels. He is part of an assassin group who calls themselves AKs; their sole purpose is to kill Angels.

By itself, it might seem a bit campy, but the idea that these “angels” came from a different realm and are dangerous to humans - who think that they are the most wonderful beings to exist - is different from most of the stories I’ve heard of so that was the first thing I enjoyed. Secondly, I enjoyed the character and relational development of Alex and Willow. While they were dancing around their feelings, it felt natural that this would happen and not forced drama. I liked the flow of the action, just enough to keep me interested, but at the same time, not overwhelming.

Without being too spoilery (read this as it might be spoilery!) somewhere in the middle, Alex and Willow’s relationship developed into romance and not a lot was left to the imagination. While this might have been doable for the middle of the book, in the very end, right after the conflict point. we were once again told about their romance with little left to the imagination. I felt as though wrapping it up right after the conflict might have been better than drawing the end out.
Overall I enjoyed this story and I’m looking forward to the second book. I’d like a few answers regarding these otherworldly beings and would like to see what happens to Alex, Willow and the world they occupy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.

Worse, Meghan’s own fey powers have been cut off. She’s stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can’t help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart. 

The Iron Daughter picks up soon after the Iron King ends. Meghan - half summer fey - is taken by Ash - prince of the Winter Court - to his mother and Queen where she is held prisoner, according to her promise.

From this point the action is pretty much non-stop; however, it’s done in such a way that you don’t feel as though you’re gasping for breath from the narrative.

Once again I enjoyed reading in Meghan’s voice. Though she wavered in the begininning, she kept up the same spunk and toughness from the first book in her quest to find out who is behind the war between Summer and Winter. I enjoyed the further development of the old characters - especially Puck who we see more of in this book - and the introduction and development of the new characters. I especially enjoyed the world building. The Iron Fey are more interesting than ever! I can’t wait to read the next book to find out more of their story and see the different Fey that were created through the imagination of men.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Cassia has a choice. In a culture where the decisions are made for you and doing as you are told leads to happiness, choices are a rarity. However, the choice Cassia has to make happened accidentally and is practically improbable.

Somehow Cassia gets matched with two boys who are from the same province as she is, both of whom she knows personally. This is a mistake that the society never makes. So what’s going on?

The most fascinating thing about this book is the Society. Ally Condie builds a dystopian society that has full control over the decisions of its citizens. The Society tells them what to eat, where to live, where to work and who they should marry. It’s important that they regulate the lives of their citizens so that they could live a healthy life in harmony with each other. Cassia, after being given two matches, begins to see the hold that the society has on her and the citizens. She begins to experience the dangers and excitement of making her own decisions and doing things the way she wants to - she wants to take control of her own life.

Matched focuses a lot on Cassia and Ky, and though I understand that this seems to be a Ky arc, I wanted to see more of Xander. Xander seemed to be the down to earth and sensible choice, however, Cassia is a teenager caught up in the danger that is being with Ky (now I’m sounding a bit like the society). In focusing on Ky and Cassia’s relationship, it left the world building and Xander’s character - though seemingly nice - a little flat. Putting these things aside though, it was quite enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens to Cassia and Xander as well as the Society. This might be the first dystopian book in which I’m rooting for the government’s choice as opposed to the protagonist’s.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine

Newbery Honor author of Ella Enchanted Gail Carson Levine weaves a spellbinding tale about a clever heroine, a dragon detective, and a shape-shifting ogre.

Newly arrived in the town of Two Castles, Elodie unexpectedly becomes the assistant to a brilliant dragon named Meenore, and together they solve mysteries. Their most important case concerns the town’s shape-shifting ogre, Count Jonty Um: Someone is plotting against him. Elodie must disguise herself to discover the source of the threat amid a cast of characters that includes a greedy king, a giddy princess, and a handsome cat trainer.

Readers who loved Ella Enchanted and Fairest will delight in this tale of a spirited heroine who finds friendship where she least expects it and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.

Elodie left home for Two Castles to become a weavers apprentice - or so her family thought. She wanted to be a mansioner (actor) instead. Elodie finds out, only after she has left home, that there are no free apprenticeships anymore and the story follows her as she tries to figure out what do in a foreign place with no family.

On her way we meet an assortment of interesting characters. Goodwife Celeste and her goodman Twah, who cannot help her while she is in Two Castles. Master Dess, who has a fondness for animals. Master Thiel, a cat trainer, whose cats hates Count Jonty Um, the ogre in the land who lives in a castle. Meenore the dragon, who loves to induce and deduce as well as the king and princess who lives in the other castle in Two Castles.

There is thieving, acting, cultural differences, dragons, ogres, glutton kings, fickle princesses all in the middle of a mystery. Someone is trying to hurt Count Jonty Um, and through a series of events (whether unfortunate the reader will have to figure out themselves) Elodie is left trying to figure out who the culprit is.

This story is a quick read, and I would recommend it to any parent who might want to read with their child. Gail Carson Levine describes her world in detail and there are times in which I felt as though I was right there with Elodie, walking through the streets, looking at the stalls, observing. The characters are lovable, I especially loved Meenore and Princess Renn, the way they were written, it felt as though I could almost see them, each with their different mannerisms, through the pages.

The ending - though somewhat easy to figure out - was still delightful and fun. It’s a lovely fairy tale for anyone, young or old.

[arc via Net Galley]

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Live Loved by Max Lucado

Using the same popular format as Grace for the Moment, Live Loved brings fresh, new devotionals based on the writings of Max Lucado. Included is a broad range of topics such as facing your fears, accepting His grace, and truly knowing God's omnipresent love. Each devotional is accompanied by an ending prayer to nurture a stronger prayer life for new believers, as well as long-standing Christ followers. It's a new devotional from one of America's leading Christian writers that will help men and women experience life from a whole new perspective.

Max Lucado is a Christian author whose books I absolutely love.  I’ve read and own quite a few of these books. I’ve also loaned some out to friends who were interested in reading his books. The one thing we all agree on is that Max’s writing style is easy to follow.

A lot of times, theologians can lose the reader in their explanation. There is a lot of depth to their story but relating the story to others who might not necessarily have the same training, that’s the difficult part, and the reader is sometimes lost. Max Lucado’s stories, however, are so relatable that the reader can easily understand the spiritual truths that he is trying to relay.

Live Loved, while a devotional, does not stray away from this sort of narration. While you can read the entire thing from cover to cover in a sitting or two, I would recommend going through day by day and thinking about the passages that he outlines for the day. It’s a great way to jumpstart your devotional and to spend time thinking on the word and understanding its meaning.

Format-wise, each day starts with a scripture verse, a short thought/story/excerpt from Max’s previous books, and ends with a prayer and some related verses. This is a great way to dig deeper into the word and I appreciate this format because, as a devotional tool, I’m looking for something to start my thoughts and lead me into a further study not necessarily a full Bible study.