Pages

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Frostborn by Lou Anders

Read (August 12 - 23, 2014)
Book: Frostborn (Thrones and Bones #1) by Lou Anders
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Genre/s: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Meet Karn. He is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard. His only problem? He’d rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones.

Enter Thianna. Half human, half frost giantess. She’s too tall to blend in with other humans but too short to be taken seriously as a giant.

When family intrigues force Karn and Thianna to flee into the wilderness, they have to keep their sense of humor and their wits about them. But survival can be challenging when you’re being chased by a 1,500-year-old dragon, Helltoppr the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns, and an assortment of trolls and giants. — (source)

Karn is the son of a hauld and will one day inherit his father's farm. Owning a farm means responsibilities and Karn is not exactly jumping up and down at this prospect. Also, it's absolutely not as exciting as playing his treasured Thrones and Bones set and maybe traveling the world someday. Thianna is a half-giantess bullied by giants because of her ungiant-like height and skills. No matter how hard she proves herself, it's never enough for these discriminating giants to accept her as one of their own.

One is from Norrøngard, where the humans reside and one is from Ymiria, the frozen land of the giants. Little do they know that their fates are about to intertwine as both of them go on a quest to protect and to save those they hold dear.

Karn and Thianna are likeable. Naive but resourceful and clever when needed. They both started on a separate adventure but the two of them would eventually team up when they met along the way. They are definitely stronger and more productive when together. They have their own set of strengths and what the other lack, the other fulfills.

Anders' storytelling is really clever at parts. As a more mature reader than, say, to whom this book is intended for, I appreciated how parallels were drawn together in the narrative. I am not sure if this is intended so it would appeal to older readers or it's just Anders' writing style. Either way, it's remarkably done. Light and rollicking, Frostborn would ultimately charm its younger readers. Special shoutout to the dragons and wyverns, which are fantastically added and provided sassiness that Thianna and Karn sometimes lack. Frostborn being a tad predictable is quite problematic for me though and it definitely needs work in that department.

Frostborn, at its core, is a story about two young people who felt misplaced in their own world.  Despite it having shortcomings, it is a sensitive coming-of-age adventure that will surely find its niche with the Middle Grade fantasy lovers. This is a kind of series that will only get stronger with each installment, as we spend more time with these characters and explore their Viking-inspired world further.

Cupid's Verdict:
 photo 3cupidsa_zpsed61af78.png
3 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: Sweet Unrest by Lisa Maxwell

Read (August 28 - September 2, 2014)
Book: Sweet Unrest by Lisa Maxwell
Publication Date: October 8, 2014
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 336
Genre/s: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Lucy Aimes has always been practical. But try as she might, she can’t come up with a logical explanation for the recurring dreams that have always haunted her. Dark dreams. Dreams of a long-ago place filled with people she shouldn’t know…but does.

When her family moves to a New Orleans plantation, Lucy’s dreams become more intense, and her search for answers draws her reluctantly into the old city’s world of Voodoo and mysticism. There, Lucy finds Alex, a mysterious boy who behaves as if they’ve known each other forever. Lucy knows Alex is hiding something, and her rational side doesn’t want to be drawn to him. But she is.

As she tries to uncover Alex’s secrets, a killer strikes close to home, and Lucy finds herself ensnared in a century-old vendetta. With the lives of everyone she loves in danger, Lucy will have to unravel the mystery of her dreams before it all comes to a deadly finish. — (source)

I feel like I have so many words but not enough steam to heave them out for this review. Sweet Unrest drained me. My patience is nearly running out and I have just enough to write this review without sounding like a cranky person you're forced to sit with in a public vehicle.

Sweet Unrest is banking on its quiet atmosphere and mystique. Qualities that should inspire readers to turn pages after pages, delving deeper into the mysteries of New Orleans' history and voodooing in search of answers. But instead of it being a relishing experience, it felt like wading through a senseless pile of sludge. I have nothing against sludge-wading if it's worth the effort but it fueled nothing but boredom and apathy. Voodoo shenanigans are tricky enough as it is, but to keep piling frustrating aspects like instalove, lifeless characters, unexciting plot on top of everything? It's like this book is asking what's coming for it.

Lucy, our protagonist, was uprooted from her Chicago life when her parents decided to take a job in New Orleans. She was not happy at all but she's a nice kid and while I applaud her for not being whiny about this sudden change in her life, that's about where her personality started and ended for me. You could argue that she's brave and passionate especially when things started to take a turn for the worst but most of the time she would just spend her days mooning about her past life and a certain Alex Reade Jourdain.
“..When I finally met his eyes again, there was an intensity and fierceness there that gave me hope and that maybe there was an answer to our shared pain. That maybe our love could be more someday than a deep well of regret. That at the very least having himeven like thiscould be enough for both of us.”
Now if any of you were following my reading progress for this one, you'd know that I couldn't stop myself from seeing similarities between this and Ghost House. While Sweet Unrest is infinitely better than Ghost House in almost every respect, it didn't dodge the most horrible trope of all: instalove. In fact, it embraced it wholeheartedly. For a while, I was able to stop grinding my teeth in frustration and to reserve judgment because I haven't yet unravel the past and the book kept shoving cookies at me to pacify me. It went like this (intentionally vague to avoid spoilers):

ME: WTF. You just met him Luce-girl. How come you lurve him already? -___-
BOOK: NO. You see, she had met him before so that should count for something and I'm pretty sure that would dispel any anti-instalove campaign.
ME: Bu-bu-but..
BOOK: Just you wait. I will blow your mind with my revelashun.
~After 10 boring years~
BOOK: Shazam. See?! THAT WAS A BRILLIANT REVELASHUN, WASN'T IT?
ME: *punches book in the crotch*

It's actually cute how this book tried so hard to justify the instalove, really. Or maybe, I'm the one who tried so hard to justify it because I see no other reason why I endeavored to finish this in the first place. But even when we take into consideration the circumstances from the past, it's still didn't make any sense. Also, this didn't change the fact that Lucy is her own self now, no matter what happened in the past. If I have to suspend disbelief every time Lucy and Alex interact, it won't do anything but alienate me more from the story and its characters.

The plot is so dull and while it's not exactly uninspired, it wouldn't win any award in the riveting section either. I couldn't, for the life of me, make myself care for what's happening. I tried so hard, I swear. It didn't help that the secondary characters were dragged out in the open to serve the plot and they're forgotten immediately afterwards. The villain reveal was so groundbreaking I felt so stupid for not finding out who it was sooner! Spoiler alert: I encountered this "evil" person for like 2x tops before the reveal. The ending tried but inevitably failed to take hold of any emotions except bliss because all I could think about was I'm so close to turning the last page and then freedom!

Sweet Unrest tested how far I would go to finish a book I'm not enjoying. Still, I have to tip my hats off to Lisa Maxwell because without her writing, I would have not finished this book. I would undoubtedly read Lisa Maxwell's future books because I really believe she has potential. If reading about voodoo and ghost boyfriends are something you can see yourself enjoying, then you are welcome to read this one.

Cupid's Verdict:  
 photo 25cupids_zpsa7e8ce25.png
2.5 Cupids
 A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Quote taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change in the final copy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: The Empress Chronicles by Suzy Vitello

Read (August 19-20, 2014)
Book: The Empress Chronicles (The Empress Chronicles #1) by Suzy Vitello
Publication Date: September 4, 2014
Publisher: Diversion Books
Genre/s: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

In this dazzling novel from the author of THE MOMENT BEFORE, one courageous girl seeks keys to the past to unlock the future…

When city girl Liz is banished to a rural goat farm on the outskirts of Portland, the 15-year-old feels her life spiraling out of control. She can’t connect to her father or his young girlfriend, and past trauma adds to her sense of upheaval. The only person who seems to keep her sane is a troubled boy who is fighting his own demons. But all of this changes in one historical instant.

One-hundred fifty years earlier, Elisabeth of Bavaria has troubles of her own. Her childhood is coming to a crashing end, and her destiny is written in the form of a soothsaying locket that has the ability to predict true love. But evil is afoot in the form of a wicked enchantress who connives to wield the power of the locket for her own destructive ends.

When Liz finds a time-worn diary, and within it a locket, she discovers the secrets and desires of the young Bavarian princess who will one day grow up to be the legendary Empress of Austria.

It is in the pages of the diary that these two heroines will meet, and it is through their interwoven story that Liz will discover she has the power to rewrite history—including her own...

Readers of books like Rachel Harris’s MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY will love THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES.
- (source)
“People think that what kills the soul is failed love. It is not. The real tragedy to one's soul is regret. Regret...leaves its stain for generations.”
This is the hardest review I've ever written to date. I've been staring at my computer's screen for the past couple of hours trying to think how I'd go about reviewing The Empress Chronicles. It's not helping that the more I think about this book, the more bewildered I get.

The charm of this novel is in its narrative execution. It simply begs to be read and as a reader, you have no choice but to keep turning the pages. It's not only a testament to how my love for this genre grows with every historical fiction novel I read, but also because The Empress Chronicles has an entrancing quality that cannot be ignored. I recently read Queen of Someday, and while it falls under the same genre minus the magical elements, The Empress Chronicles is heavier and definitely more complicated.

Its storyline alternates between the contemporary and past timelines of two girls sharing the same name. Liz, from the present time, who is struggling from an anxiety disorder and feelings of social alienation contributed by her illness as well as her father's new life, and Elisabeth or Sisi, from the 19th century Austrian monarchy, who feels trapped by what the court requires of her.

I admit that even after I finished the novel, it was not made clear how these two are connected aside from bearing the same name, possessing a magical diary, and having to face the very same mental illness at some point in their lifetime. It's not surprising that I'm left with a sinking feeling of not having grasp something tangible. In a way, Liz's struggles to overcome her issues was gradually managed and realistically portrayed, and Sisi's acceptance of what she must sacrifice for her one true love was reflective of how she had transitioned from a blithe, indifferent girl to a more mature future queen. I am just having trouble seeing how some of the other details served in the book's overall picture.

So even though this novel's narrative is its main strength, it also acted as a double-edged sword, crippling the story in becoming more substantial and stable. If anything, it felt as if The Empress Chronicles was written with the second installment in mind, which I don't generally have qualms with except that I felt slightly disappointed that nothing significant happened until the latter part of the book.

This is obviously a matter of preference because I'm all for character build-up which Vitello did quite deftly but I find myself more interested in "having the power to rewrite history" aspect. This is not to say that the characters were not interesting because I did eventually warm up to our two different yet seemingly connected Elisabeths. It's just that we barely scratched the surface of what the blurb had promised. Nevertheless, I am excited to know what's in store for us in the next installment. There are so much tangents to be explored. The story really has no direction to go to but forward and the sequel would be hard-pressed to fall in the same pitfalls that were present in this one.

What is the point of having the power to change history, if it might be too late? I don't know. I think I will have words with Vitello and I totally meant that in a non-threatening way. The Empress Chronicles will really have its readers' minds grinding. With that bizarre ending and too many exciting prospects for the sequel to go for, unless you're not into character-driven stories and historical fiction in general, I don't see why you wouldn't pick this up. This would definitely appeal to fans of Philippa Gregory and will serve well for the curious and for those who needs an excuse to dabble more in the history of the world's past sovereigns.

Cupid's Verdict:
3.5 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. 
Quote taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change in the final copy. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (23): The Blood of Olympus

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating. 



Book: The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus #5) by Rick Riordan
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen—all of them—and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it "might" be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.
- (source)

This is the final installment from the Heroes of Olympus series and I am trembling just thinking about how it'd all end. Granted, I've yet to read House of Hades but that's only because Rick Riordan kills me with his cliffhangers every freaking time. So I decided to wait until this is out so I can finally read the last two installments back to back. Definitely one of my best ideas in a long while. 

So what books are you waiting on?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin

Read (July 19-20, 2014)

Book: Queen of Someday (Stolen Empire #1) by Sherry D. Ficklin
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Number of Pages: 262
Genre/s: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

ONE GIRL WILL BRING AN EMPIRE TO ITS KNEES...

Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme? - (source)

Set in the time of Imperial Russia, the Queen of Someday tells the story of the Russian empress, Catherine the Great or Sophie before her conversion to the Orthodox Church. I've always had a penchant for stories set in this period. It excites me to delve into the world of ball gowns and court intrigues, that's why the blurb of Queen of Someday along with its stunning cover immediately caught my attention.

To be honest, I am not familiar with Catherine the Great nor any monarchial figure, so reading a historical fiction novel depicting them seems like a good excuse as any to learn more about the history of the past great kings and queens. I am aware that this would generally not appeal to anyone except me (heh) and a few others so let me start by saying, Queen of Someday will be enjoyed both by historical fiction readers and any normal people alike.

Ficklin manages quite beautifully to merge fiction and facts into one cohesive whole (I did my research after reading, sorryNOTsorry). It's impressive to see her skillfully interweave her own take at what might have occurred in Catherine's past life as she ascended to the throne. Her narrative made it so easy to get lost in the political intrigue and the romantic entanglements.

Sophie, as a character, is lovely to read about. She's sensible, intelligent and brave. She can handle herself with charm and wits or with a knife if needed. I saw her dramatic change from a naive, impressionable girl to a fierce, unwavering would-be queen. I ached for what she had lost in the process of acquiring a crown, but my heart rejoiced at her strength and resoluteness. She was heartbroken, yes, but she is hopeful that even after the cards she'd been dealt with, she would come to find a little happiness in her situation.
“Because I cannot win, I cannot have what I truly desire—it is beyond my grasp, I realize that now. It's sad really, to think that until I came here, I had no other dreams, no other desires but what my family wanted for me. I discovered my own mind and heart too late ... Fate has offered me an opportunity. A crown in one hand and a husband in the other. Even if I were to throw all that away, it would still not get me what I want. It would only serve to hurt the people I care about. I would be sent back to Germany in disgrace, and my family would lose everything. There is no way to win, but there is certainly a way to lose. My choice, what little choice I have, is not to lose.” 
Ficklin's writing is a marvel to read. The dialogues and secret correspondences were so alluring and exquisite that I highlighted like crazy to note them all. I also fully embraced the romance in this one. It was swoon-worthy, splendid and all-consuming, and like mostly with good things, it was terribly tragic as well.
“I will have what I've always had, myself. And I will have a lifetime worth of sweet memories to keep me warm at night. Don't weep for me, my love. Live your life in joy, and know that if I could have lived it with you, I would have.”  — Cue sobbing. *sobs uncontrollably*
Queen of Someday is an enthralling, romantic historical fiction. I flew by its pages and it was over before I knew it. It left me salivating for more and I truly think that's a mark of an effective historical fiction or any novel, for that matter. If you are a fan of periodic dramas like Reign, you won't really want to miss out on this one.

Cupid's Verdict:
 photo 4cupidsa_zps3b2346ee.png
4 Cupids

A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Quotes are taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change in the final copy.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...