Monday, 22 December 2014

The Falconer - Book Review

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The Falconer – Book Review
Elizabeth May
YA Fantasy
Book #1 in the falconer series

Synopsis:

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughter faeries in secret, in between the endless rounds of parties, teas and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic façade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has a decision to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Ailena go for revenge…?

Review:

This book has been on my TBR list for a long time and I am only sorry that I didn’t pick it up sooner. Thrilling, action packed and set in 19th century steam punk Edinburgh; I couldn’t help but enjoy The Falconer immensely.

On the day of her coming out ball, seventeen year old Aileana is changed forever after she witnesses a mythical fae woman rip out her mother’s heart. Now one year on, Aileana is hardly recognisable as the meek, polite society girl she once was. With her reputation as a Lady hanging together by threads, she fights to endure her days of mindless balls and inane gossip, yet at night, she prowls the streets of Edinburgh, hunting down the blood thirsty fae in the hopes of running into her mother’s killer.

Only Derrick, her tame pixie companion and clothes mender, knows about her nightly excursions. But when Kiaran, Aileana’s trainer and unlikely accomplice in arms discovers that Aileana has been killing fae without him, he is furious. Now word is fast spreading through the fae world, that for the first time in centuries a falconer, a legendary female warrior born with both the skill and strength to hunt the fae, is alive and on the hunt. But the hunter is about to become the hunted.

As the seal holding the most powerful fae captive begins to weaken, Aileana learns she has only mere days to re-enact the spell keeping the fae from slaughtering the entire city – but she doesn’t know how. Now with time working against her, she can no longer keep up appearances as a highborn Lady. Yet as the scandal surrounding her spreads, she not only has to contend with impending world doom, but an arranged marriage as well… and even Kiarans forbidden good looks cannot distract her from that.

“Duty comes first” her father told her, but now Aileana must choose, duty to society, duty to the world or duty to her heart… either way, no matter what she chooses, people she loves are going to die…

I really, really loved this book. It’s the first steam punk style setting I have ever read and now I am certainly eager to check out more books in the genre. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, steam punk is set within the historical Victorian era except the technology is usually both highly advanced and steam powered.

In terms of the story, I was gripped from the first few pages where we are immediately introduced to Aileana, a feisty tempered red head who is out for revenge. She is an easily likeable character yet for all her tough exterior, beneath she is a soft hearted girl who is a little love staved and naive. Struggling to balance her two lives of debutante and fae hunter, she is also sinfully attracted to her tormented fae trainer, who she knows better than to trust, yet alone fall for. My heart couldn’t help but go out to her.

The secondary characters are also interesting and often humorous, particularly Derrick the Pixie, with his small yet foul mouth and never ending love of honey.

Yet I also loved Catherine, Aileana’s best friend. She knows there is more going on in Aileana’s life than meets the eyes and steadfastly stands by her. Catharine’s mother is also an intriguing, if disproving piece of work while Catharine’s brother, Gavin is a true gentleman – and the first human to really understand Aileana’s true nature.

What really grabs me about these characters though is how they drive the story forward. With hidden pasts and unclear motives for helping Aileana , they add an undercurrent of speculation to the story.

Undoubtedly the most unique character however – aside from Aileana herself – is Kiaran. A full blooded fae, he is a powerful being with deadly good looks and a blunt, to the point manner. While lacking the charms of Derrick and Gavin, he has a pained, tortured soul and a thirst for vengeance that captures the readers attention – and while maybe he isn’t the best love interest for Aileana (He isn't exactly the kiss and cuddle type) his lessons both better and protect Aileana in some way. I really hope we learn more about Kiaran in the next book.

My only disappointment with ‘The Falconer’ was its major cliff hanger of an ending! Right in the middle of the action! It’s fair to say I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book, I’m dying to know what happens next as so much of the plot was left unresolved.

All in all though a great, unique read set in a fantastical yet emotionally realistic world with a story that will keep you turning the pages. 4 stars!


Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Indigo Spell - Book Review

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The Indigo Spell – Book Review

Richelle Mead

YA Paranormal

Bloodlines Book # 3



Synopsis:

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the world of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets and human lives.

In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch – a former alchemist who escaped against all odds and is now on the run.

Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realises that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood – or else she might be next.

Review:
 
Another fabulous addition to the series, this book was difficult to put down and I really enjoyed every minute of it. Although, I was slightly disappointed that some characters only got to play small parts.

When a frantic phone call wakes Sydney in the middle of the night, she never imagines that she will be pulled even deeper into the world of vampires and magic. Yet now, with her life in danger, Sydney finds magic is the only way to protect herself and despite her original reluctance to use it, she is finding a surprising thrill in her new found power. But it is just one more secret she must keep from the alchemists. And now, with each new question she asks, Sydney’s fear of re-education grows.
 
Because the alchemists have been lying to her! And now Sydney has proof. But what to do with the information? Should she confront the alchemists, or run away and become an outcast, giving up her mission to protect the Moroi Princess… and her sinful feelings for Adrian, a gorgeous and sarcastic vampire royal. Torn between heart, head and ingrained duty, Sydney must make the ultimate choice, to stand her ground and risk exposure, or do nothing and risk losing everything…

What first struck me about this book was how nearly the whole plot centred around magic and Sydney’s progression with witchcraft. It was also the first book in the series that revolved completely around Sydney and her problems – which is partly why I think most of the secondary characters didn’t get much of a look in. While definitely a page turning story, I was still a little sad the Eddie, Angeline, Jill and the rest of the team got sidelined.

However Sydney’s story is without doubt a riveting one. The plot is fast paced with plenty of drama, revelations and nail biting moments. Yet I think the biggest attraction to this book lay in the fact that Sydney and Adrian finally got some lip-locking action!
 
Their romance is sweet yet passionate, and of course, completely forbidden. Not only does it up the stakes of the story, but I like how it’s clear to see that both Sydney and Adrian bring out the best in each other. I really can’t wait to see what the future has in store for this star crossed couple.
 
Otherwise I liked seeing the deeper side of mortal magic. This was something never explored in the vampire academy and is unique to the bloodlines series. I’m also curious to see how Sydney’s magic will help her in freeing herself of  the alchemists control, while also empowering her to get into more action based conflicts.

So overall, I really enjoyed this book, including the somewhat cliff hanger of an ending. A fantastic story, this is a series all vampire academy fans need to check out. 4 Stars!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Year of the Rat - Book Review

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The Year of the Rat – Book Review
Clare Furniss
YA Contemporary

Synopsis:

Grappling with grief is hard enough without repeat visits from the deceased. Pearl deals with death, life and family in this haunting, humorous and poignant debut.

The world can tip at any moment… a fact that fifteen year old Pearl is all too aware of when her mum dies after giving birth to her baby sister, Rose.

Rose, who looks exactly like a baby rat, all pink and wrinkled and writhing. This little rat has destroyed everything, even ruined the wonderful relationship Pearl had with her stepfather, the Rat’s biological father.
Mum, though… mum’s dead but she can’t seem to leave. She keeps visiting Pearl, smoking, cursing, guiding…

Told across the year following her mother’s death, Pearl’s story is full of bittersweet humour and heartbreaking honesty about how you deal with grief that cuts you to the bone, as she tries not only to come to terms with losing her mother, but also the fact the her sister – The Rat – is a constant reminder of why her mum is no longer around.

Review:

The year of the Rat is a deeply moving book that will definitely tug at the heart strings. And while I’m not generally a fan of contemporary reads, I had heard that this book was quite the emotional rollercoaster, and despite my reluctance for the genre, my curiosity eventually got the best of me. However while I didn’t exactly fall in love with the story, the book really did pack a huge punch that caused me to shed more than a few tears.

The story follows the life of fifteen year old Pearl. Opening on the day of her mother’s funeral, the reader is immediately informed of the close bond Pearl shared with her mother, and Pearl’s bitterness towards her newborn sister, Rose, aka ‘The Rat’ of whom she blames for her mother’s death.

Spanning the space of a year, the book takes you on Pearl’s journey through each stage of her grief. The denial, the guilt, the misplaced blame and of course, that anger than comes with a sudden loss. Yet what I found most interesting was the sporadic appearances of Pearl’s mother in ghost form. For me it was these beyond the grave conversations that helped make this story special.

As a main character Pearl is really complex. In the beginning her emotions are very raw but as the story is told in first person, it’s easy to relate to her mood swings and understand her perspective.

Yet watching Pearl’s slow acceptance of ‘The Rat’ also kept me turning the pages. While at times, I found Pearl’s actions horrifying, they were undeniably human and my heart would bleed for her with each new wall she would throw up between her and the world. So while by no means a happy story, ‘The Year of the Rat’ is without doubt one of depth and feeling.

What most drove me to keep reading the book though was its blatant honesty towards family life. Every family is special; whether that family is connected by blood, friendship or marriage. And as most parents keep some truths hidden from their children, this book shows how such things can lead to the children misunderstanding and making bad decisions, such was the case with Pearl.

Furthermore this book also explores the darker element of women who don’t initially bond with their children. Yet I also liked how these symptoms echoed in Pearl, especially when she accepts that her feelings of rejection and hate towards ‘the rat’ are abnormal. Nonetheless, she can’t help but blame her mother’s death on her innocent sister.  

As the story goes on, Pearl isolates herself more and more. Losing interest in her old life, she cuts herself off from her friends, skips school and begins to turn to alcohol to deal with her problems. All in all, it is a crazy year of ups and downs for Pearl that have a significant impact on the adult she is turning into. This book, especially for a debut novel, is a truly powerful read.

Overall, a gripping and beautifully written story that captures a young girl’s grief and tragedy. ‘The Year of the Rat’ will take you on a heartfelt journey that will teach you to let go of the past, cope with loss and remind you to keep on living. Truly spectacular! 4 Stars!

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Golden Lily - Book Review

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The Golden Lily – Book Review
Richelle Mead

YA Paranormal

Book #2 in the Bloodlines series


Synopsis:

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets – and human lives.

Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California – tasked with protecting Moroi Princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary alchemist.

But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age old alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. 

Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi – the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that – special, magical, powerful – that scares her more than anything. 

Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else – someone forbidden to her.

When a shocking new secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she’s supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she’s been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.

Should she trust the alchemists – or her heart?

Review:



Normally when it comes to reading a series, I like to take a break between each book. However after finishing Bloodlines, I couldn’t help but dive straight into The Golden Lily, and I’m pleased to say, I’m still hooked and enjoying the series.

In this second novel, we see Sydney get a boyfriend which helps reveal just how awkward and socially naive she really is. Yet handsome distractions aside, there is once again trouble brewing in Palm Springs.

When her Moroi friend, Sonya, is attacked and taken captive by a mysterious band of ‘vampire hunters’ suddenly the crazy myths about them no longer seem quite so crazy. Yet when conventional means to find Sonya fail them, Sydney must put aside every one of her fears and ingrained beliefs towards magic. Seeking out the help of her history teacher, the local witch, Sydney finally accepts that magic may just have a place in the mortal world. But just what are these secrets the alchemists have been hiding? And why is Adrian, a moroi vampire playboy constantly plaguing her thoughts?

As one by one, the walls of her belief system begin to crumble, Sydney finds herself thrown by a choice she never thought she would have to make. Who to trust? The alchemists, the moroi… or herself?

Once again, I really have fallen in love with yet another one of Richelle Meads fabulous series. I devoured this book in less than a day and am trying really hard to give myself some space before I dive into the next book.

In this second novel, we see the action begin to pick up as Sydney becomes more relaxed with breaking rules. Not only is she willingly spending time with Adrian, a cute Moroi vampire, but despite her resistance to learn magic, a secret part of her thrills in the power and finds the practicalities of it fascinating.

In this book Sydney also gets herself a boyfriend, much to her surprise as everyone else’s. And while I love that her boyfriend has a similar love of academia as her, I loved Sydney’s approach to the relationship more. As in, when it comes to dates and kissing, she would research the theory before hand in a book.

Yet humor aside, Sydney really has grown as a character. She is more adept with school based social situations and is finally beginning to see her own worth as something other than an alchemist.

Some of the characters from the Vampire Academy series, mainly Dimitri and Sonya, get to play much bigger parts in this book too – and it was nice to see such old and familiar faces return. Yet I felt like this series secondary characters, such as Jill and Eddie, took a more backseat role which I found strange in hindsight as Jill in particular is the whole reason Sydney is living the ‘high school life’ in the first place. I really hope these characters get a bigger role in the next book.

Otherwise the plot moved quickly and had plenty of mystery woven in to keep you guessing. There were some interesting new developments as well as some unique new characters, and while not quite a cliff hanger, the book definitely leaves you with many unanswered questions.

All in all, a fabulous read. I can’t wait to continue this series. 4 stars!