Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Book blurb:
 Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.


Rating: 4/5 stars
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 3, 2013

The plot:
I enjoyed the plot of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. It never lagged and was very twisty. There are points in it where you aren't sure who exactly you can trust, and other points where it's clear what will happen next. And then something else happens (most of the time). Another great thing about the plot of this book is that this is a paranormal fantasy novel with vampires and without a love triangle (apparently that is possible!). The romance in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is slow-building and full of conflict, both external and internal.

The characters:
I didn't care for all of the characters in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, but some of them were good. I especially liked Gavriel, the rather insane vampire who accompanies Tana and her ex-boyfriend, Adian, to a Coldtown. Gavriel was a bit pretentious and honestly a little bit annoying, but I found his none-lucid moments of speech interesting. Tana, however, wasn't my favorite character ever, which isn't really a good thing since she's the main character. Tana was, in a way, dumb because she never learned from her previous mistakes involving vampires and people who have gone Cold. Of course, there is a certain point when Tana pretty much just had to go with the flow, but if she had learned from her mistakes, she never would have gotten their in the first place.

The setting:
The setting was pretty amazing. I really liked it. First and foremost, Holly Black almost entirely abandoned the idea of vampires that would control their hunger around humans, and turned to diamond in the sun, and all of that. These vampires are willing to rip your throat out for blood, and will burn to ashes in the sun. The next interesting thing is that vampires aren't hiding in this book, everybody knows about them. Mostly because vampirism became an epidemic that cause the government to construct Coldtowns, walled cities which vampires and humans are allowed into, but can (almost) never leave.

Overall:
In the end, I enjoyed The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. It was very different from other vampire books I've read (although Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy is still my favorite). It definitely has Holly Black's beautiful writing style, which had an almost poetic feel. It does have a lot of introspection, but it never feels tedious the way that it can in many novels, nor does it slow the plot down. It has an interesting chapater sequence, where every other chapter is either a flashback into Tana's life or tells a small part of the story from another character's POV. Some of this could easily be cut out, but again, it doesn't really slow the plot down. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a great book to read, and should be read by any fan of vampires, and even by people who might be sick of them by now, because this book is unique and stands out from other vampire novels.

About the author:
 Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. She has been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award and for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of both an Andre Norton Award and a Newbery Honor. Her new books are The Darkest Part of the Forest, a return to faerie fiction, and The Iron Trial, the first book in a middle grade fantasy series, Magisterium, co-authored by Cassandra Clare. Holly currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

If you want to buy The Coldest Girl in Coldtown on Amazon, click here.

(Note: I'm sorry that this post is so late, the last few days have been busy.) 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Book Blurb:
 The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they're using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn't just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival--he's also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.


Rating: 5/5 stars
Author: Veronica Rossi
Series: Under The Never Sky Trilogy #3
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: January 1, 2014

The plot:
Well, as this is the third (and final) book in the series, I'm going to try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible. The plot was very good. It was neat and concise, and it focused on the relationships between the characters in a way I enjoyed very much. There were several twists and it did something that's hard to do: it brought the series to a satisfying, albeit bittersweet, ending that brought the series to an end that remained true to the characters. Like the first two books, Rossi wrote this book in both Aria and Perry's POVs, and she handled it very well and differentiated between the two characters very well.

The characters:
I really enjoyed these characters. Rossi is very good at creating clever, manipulative characters. Aria, Roar, and Perry especially stood out for me. As the main characters, Aria and Perry obviously changed a lot, but Roar's character arc, in this book and the other two as well, was just as dramatic and well written. Rossi has an excellent handle on her characters, changing them drastically, but still keeping them themselves.

The setting:
The setting of the Under The Never Sky Trilogy is amazingly unique. After a catastrophic event involving the Earth's magnetic fields, the sky filled with the Aether, which is basically a churning sea of liquid fire that will descend in storms to ravage the Earth. Most of humanity fled to Pods, giant structures capable of withstanding an Aether storm. Over the course of many years, the few people left on the outside of the Pods gathered into tribes and some of them gained enhanced senses of sight, hearing, or smell. The setting for this trilogy/book is one of the most original dystopian worlds that I've ever read.

Overall:
I've loved all of the books in the Under The Never Sky Trilogy. It's one of the most unique series I've ever read, and one of my favorites. This final book, Into the Still Blue, is no exception. Rossi took her world and her characters, and gave the series one of the best endings possible. They've won, even though their victory is bittersweet. They've lost and gained people along the way, have been betrayed and found surprising allies. In the end, the very end, Rossi closed this series spectacularly. I can't wait to read whatever she has coming out next.

About the author:
 Veronica Rossi is the author of post-apocalyptic fiction for young adults. Her debut novel, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, is the first in a trilogy. Released in January 2012, it was deemed one of the Best Books of Year by School Library Journal. The second book in the trilogy, THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT, debuted on the NY Times and USA Today Best Seller Lists. The final book in the series, INTO THE STILL BLUE, debuted #6 on the NY Times Best Seller series list in January 2014. Foreign rights to the UNDER THE NEVER SKY trilogy have sold in over twenty-five territories to date.

She completed undergraduate studies at UCLA and then went on to study fine art at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two sons. When not writing, she enjoys reading, painting, and running.


Here's a link to get Into the Still Blue on Amazon.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Two Quick Notes

Hello! Today, I don't have a full-length post for you guys, just two quick notes:

Firstly, I was lucky enough to be able to guest post on Sarah Faulkner's great blog Inklined today! The post is on how realism and high fantasy intersect to create a stronger story. If you want to check out my post and the rest of Inklined (which you should really do) then here's the link: http://inklinedwriters.blogspot.com/

Secondly, next Thursday I'll be posting my first full, non-book review post about the differences between Western and Eastern Dragons, which is part one of two out a mini-blog series of posts on, believe it our not, dragons! And on Tuesday, I'll be posting a review of Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: Becoming the Chateran by S. J. Aisling

Book blurb:
When Princess Rhea’s actions inadvertently condemn two innocent knights to death, she wakes to the hard reality that not even nobility is above the law. All her attempts to remedy the situation only complicate it, however, until she finds herself a fugitive in her own kingdom, having dragged her best friend into the trouble, as well. Their only hope for pardon? To accompany Sir Paladin and Sir Zephen in their sentence:
Slay, or be slain by, two legendary Dragons.
Travelling incognito, they meet with more malicious Phoenixes than could be coincidental, discover the mysterious disappearance of numerous citizens, and come face to face with a reawakened evil power. With the kingdom oblivious to the connection of these dangers, it’s up to Rhea and her outlaw companions to stop the rising threat and redeem their names – if they can survive their quest.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: S. J. Aisling
Publisher: Aniko Press
Publication Date: December 2013

The plot:
The plot of Becoming the Chateran was pretty original. However, it did start rather slow; according to my Kindle, the bit where Rhea and the knights start their quest to slay the Dragons didn't happen until you were about 23% in. However, the beginning was still pretty good. The first 23% is still entertaining, and it serves to showcase many of the main characters in a normal situation, before all of the condemning and Dragon slaying and such. But a little bit after that, maybe 24% in, the plot really picks up and moves at a fairly rapid, twisty pace full of complications for the characters. It contains everything from Minotaur attacks to deadly enchantresses.

The characters:
 The characters in Becoming the Chateran were, for the most part, amazing. I really liked Paladin, Zehpen, and Rhea's best friend Hiyliene. However, I didn't like Rhea too much at the beginning of the book. She was very bratty and rebellious. Not rebellious like she was being oppressed, or anything. She just ignored whatever anybody thought if it didn't mirror her own interests and thought that, as princess, she was able to do what she wanted, when she wanted to. Of course, as the story went on, Rhea matured and become much more likeable, and went from thinking that the title 'princess' entitled her anything she wanted to thinking it meant it was her duty to defend her country and be honorable.

The setting:
The setting in Becoming the Chateran can be summed up in one word: stunning. It's a very expansive storyworld, but Aisling manages to cover enough of it to keep you enthralled, while still hiding bits that makes you want to come back for book two. There are races other than humans in the book; the Fey and the Fallen. The Fey include beings such as elves, griffins, and centaurs. The Fallen are evil creatures like Minotaurs, Phoenixes, and Dragons. The Open World is definitely a wonderful storyworld I can't wait to return to.

Overall:
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Becoming the Chateran.The detail given to the plot and the setting were exquisite. I didn't like the main character at first, which is a bit of a blow, but as time went on I found her very likable. Becoming the Chateran is a very fun, lighthearted book. But it is very long; the paperback edition is 560 pages, according to Amazon. But after the first few chapters, you hardly notice the length of the book. Becoming the Chateran left several questions about the characters and storyworld overall unanswered, but these questions simply make me want to read the sequel even more. This book is definitely worth reading.

You can buying Becoming the Chateran on Amazon here.

About the Author:
 A native of the Midwest, Stacia Joy is currently studying book illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and publishing her debut YA fantasy The Chateran Series. She also enjoys writing science fiction and steampunk, and occasionally pens poems about dinosaurs or buffalo. When not huddled over her drawing table, she can be found researching any given topic to death in the name of a book, Irish dancing around her apartment, playing and composing for the folk harp, cuddling kittens, and watching superhero cartoons. She blogs at her website: http://sjaisling.com/

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review: Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams

Book blurb:
Who Will Keep the Song Alive?

Every generation has a Songkeeper – one chosen to keep the memory of the Song alive. And in every generation, there are those who seek to destroy the chosen one.

When Birdie's song draws the attention of a dangerous Khelari soldier, she is kidnapped and thrust into a world of ancient secrets and betrayals. Rescued by her old friend, traveling peddler Amos McElhenny, Birdie flees the clutches of her enemies in pursuit of the truth behind the Song’s power.

Ky is a street–wise thief and a member of the Underground—a group of orphans banded together to survive . . . and to fight the Khelari. Haunted by a tragic raid, Ky joins Birdie and Amos in hopes of a new life beyond the reach of the soldiers. But the enemy is closing in, and when Amos’ shadowed past threatens to undo them all, Birdie is forced to face the destiny that awaits her as the Songkeeper of Leira.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Gillian Bronte Adams
Publisher: Enclave Publishing
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Genre: YA Fantasy 

The plot:
The plot of Orphan's Song was really, really good. Throughout most of the book, Gillian kept much of the Song and the role of the Songkeeper secret, but still let tiny things slip through as Birdie sung her Song. Orphan's Song was mostly told from three shifting POVs; Amos, Birdie, and Ky. Gillian had swapped between these POVs very well; until Birdie and Amos met up with Ky, their POVs were told in separate parts of the book, and each character got at least one chapter that was told only from their POV. The plot moved along at a rapid and exciting pace.

The characters: 
I loved the characters in Orphan's Song, especially Birdie and Amos. Every character, even George, was in some way necessary to the plot. Birdie was a very vibrant character who really seemed alive. Amos was a very deep character, and he and his past were as integral to the plot as Birdie and Ky, the main characters. Gillian also did a great job with her primary antagonist for this book, Carhartan. She added a lot of depth that most books wouldn't have by telling a part, albeit a very small part, from his point of view.The characters in Orphan's Song were wonderful.

The setting:
Liera, the world that Orphan's Song is set in, is in some ways a classic epic fantasy setting in that it seems to be based off of medieval Europe. It has several fantasy creatures ranging from familiar ones like griffins to an invented species called petras which, from the description given in the novel, appear to be some sort of bat that burrows underground (fun, huh?). An uncommon, but very welcome, addition to the storyworld are pirates that attack the coasts of Liera that come from a different nation, if not continent. Not many epic fantasies I've read go far beyond the country that the main characters are from, and rarely the continent.

Overall:
I really liked Orphan's Song. It's one of the best epic fantasies I've read in a while, and easily one of my favorites that I've ever read. The characters were extremely likeable (except for the ones you aren't supposed to like), the setting was really good, and the plot was mysterious and exciting. Adams took classic, almost cliched character types - the slightly naive, innocent protagonist with unexpected and untold power thrust upon her, the young boy who has to grow up too fast, and the guardian with a murky past that causes trouble - and made them fresh and exciting, like reading a new version of a classic fantasy story. There was quite a bit of depth to both the story and the characters. When it came to Liera, there were many questions left unanswered, but Orphan's Song is the first book in a series, so there's still plenty of time for Adams to go deeper into her storyworld and the powers of the Songkeeper. I eagerly await the sequel.

Click here to buy Orphan's Song on Amazon.


About the Author:
 Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equine program at a youth camp, but at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. Her love of epic stories and a desire to tell truth in a unique way drew her to the realm of fantasy. She blogs at http://ofbattlesdragonsandswordsofadamant.blogspot.com/