Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rakes and Radishes by Susanna Ives

Title/Author: Rakes and Radishes by Susanna Ives
Publisher/Date published: September 13th by Carina Press
How I got this book: I got it from the publisher through NetGalley
Why I read this book: I felt like reading some old fashioned romance and this sounded like just the thing for that!

NetGalley summary: "When Henrietta Watson learns that the man she loves plans to marry London's most beautiful and fashionable debutante, she plots to win him back. She'll give him some competition by transforming her boring bumpkin neighbor, the Earl of Kesseley, into a rakish gothic hero worthy of this Season's Diamond.
After years of unrequited love for Henrietta, Kesseley is resigned to go along with her plan and woo himself a willing bride. But once in London, everything changes. Kesseley - long more concerned with his land than his title - discovers that he's interested in sowing wild oats as well as radishes. And Henrietta realizes that gothic heroes don't make ideal husbands. Despite an explosive kiss that opens her eyes to the love that's been in front of her all along, Henrietta must face the possibility that Kesseley is no longer looking to marry at all..."

First of all, let me say how much I appreciate this cover! Look at the couple, there's tension there, but no bodice-ripping or exposed six packs. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against looking at nice abs, but on the cover of a book they can be really tacky. And part of the problem of people calling romance novels trash. Also, not even my grandmother could have been offended by it.

Anyway, the main storyline here is that Henrietta fancies she's in love with her cousin, a handsome brooding poet, who in turn goes to London only to fall in love with the most celebrated debutante there. Henrietta's neighbour and childhood best friend Kesseley has always loved her and takes her with him and his mother to London for the Season. He's trying to forget about her and find a wife, but of course he can't forget about her with her staying in the same house. So with all this bumping into eachother sparks sure do fly and there's a whole lot of drama involved.

Henrietta is naive. She turns Kesseley down time and time again and insults him by saying he has to change his clothes and hairstyle in order to land himself a wife. Men generally don't like this and neither does he. She's also a bit flaky, one moment she's crying because her poet is in love with someone else, the next she's crying because she can't believe she's in love with Kesseley. I think this happened in the span of one day. Henrietta cries a lot. I would have liked to have seen her be a bit stronger and pull herself together enough to fight for her man.

Kesseley has daddy issues. His father wasn't a nice man and hurt his mother and he's afraid he'll turn into him. Which is why it didn't really make any sense that he turned into something of a rake, gambled and then hurt his mother himself (not physically). And then he tries to push Henrietta away because he doesn't think he's good enough anymore. This was a bit confusing. I also didn't really appreciate what he did with one of the married hostesses of a party near the end of the book, that was horrible!

Besides these issues, I did enjoy this book, I thought Kesseley and Henrietta had a solid basis to build there relationship on and I loved that it wasn't a love at first sight but something that had been growing since they were children. I did think the drama could have been cut short some, both had admitted they loved the other, there can still be some difficulties after that, but a lot less than there were. I thought the ending was really sweet though.

And I cried. A lot. Romance novels make me cry. Especially when the couple has arguments or when the love is unrequited and they had their fair share of this to be sure. I'm a sap, I know. But if such a novel doesn't make me cry at least once, it's not a very good one and didn't make me connect with the characters.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top Ten Favourite Couples

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, check it out and join in on the fun!

This week's Top Ten:
Your Top Tep Favourite Couples

I always appreciate a bit of a struggle for the couple to get to that happy place. There's no need for bloodshed or anything, but a little difficulty can go a long way in my book. My boyfriend and me were sort of love at first sight, but it takes way more than that to build a relationship.

Also, I'm sorry about any spoilers, but some of my favourite couples can't make the list otherwise.

1. Me and Mr. Darcy: well, I can dream, can't I? ;)
Of course Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy made my number one! Pride and Prejudice is my all-time favourite book and I just love them as a couple, I think they're great together and would make beautiful babies.

2. Lyra and Will from His Dark Materials: I love them and I cried, that's all I'll say about this couple.

3. Emma and Mr. Knightley: my second favourite book by Jane Austen, I love the growth in their relationship and how Emma finally came to realise that all she ever could want had been waiting for her all along.

4. Katniss and Peeta from the Hunger Games: at first I was Team Gale, until I reread the first book and switched (sorry Gale) and am now a firm believer that Katniss and Peeta are meant to be together. He sees her for who she is and loves her, warts and all as they say.

5. Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind: so dramatic and tragic! They are so perfect for each other and I won't accept the ending of Gone With the Wind! (though I love the book) I'm much happier with the one Alexandra Ripley wrote in her Scarlett.

6. Noah and Ally from The Notebook: how can you not love this couple who prove that love can really conquer all, even Alzheimer? Even if it's just for a little while.

7. Ron and Hermione from Harry Potter: I love how Hermione was not so patiently waiting for Ron to see what she already knew: that they would be perfect together! I know there were probably some people who hoped she would end up with Harry, but I never saw how that would be possible.

8. Alanna and George from Song of the Lioness: he's not trying to turn her into something she's not and has loved her for a long time. It just took her some time to realise he was perfect as well.

9. Gemma and Kartik from the Gemma Doyle series: I loved Kartik. And I cried. That's all I can say about this one.

10. Robin Hood and Marianne: I've idealised this couple since I was a kid, I see no reason to stop now ;) I love their story.

After checking everyone else's list out, I'll probably be like "why didn't I add those couples??", but that's half the fun right?
What are some of your favourite characters?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It Started With A Dare by Lindsay Faith Rech

Title/Author: It Started With A Dare by Lindsay Faith Rech
Publisher/Date published: September 13th by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
How I got this book: I got it from the publisher through NetGalley
Why I read this book: the summary sounded interesting.

Summary: Like probably every other teenager, CG Silverman is figuring out who she is and who she wants to be. She sees moving to a new town and going to a new school as her opportunity to reinvent herself and cuts all the ties to her old life, even telling the boy who was her best friend and almost boyfriend she's not interested anymore. The leader of a group of 3 popular girls takes to CG and at first things sail smoothly, sure CG has to lie and pretend she's something she's not, but all's fair in love and the war for popularity right?
Even messing around with the older brother of one of your new 'friends' and chatting up your English teacher on an online dating site. Everything is soon spiralling out of control, what will CG do when her lies start to catch up to her? How will she explain it all to the one true friend she's made since moving, who's not in the in-crowd, and let's not forget her parents?

At first Rech paints a realistic world of a high school were the social clique exists of the queen bee and her two minions, soon joined by CG. They're all 15-year old girls who each have their own set of issues. The Queen Bee, Alona, seems kinda clueless and is actually not that evil and nasty, she just likes things going her way. On the other hand, there's Grace, who is definitely the mean girl in this group. She not only gives her 'friends' crap, but is generally not a very nice person, she's actually the most intriguing character of this book, because she's got some real issues that aren't all that clear right from the start.

CG herself is a mess, she's all over the place trying to get Alona and her friends to like her and keeping it that way. She pretends to be some kind of rebel and after a slightly altered game of truth or dare, she's in. She develops a huge crush on Jordan, Alona's brother, who's in college and already has a girlfriend. She juggles him and the online flirting she has going on with her English teacher (pretending to be 25 instead of 15).

I must say I didn't really like CG, she said things just to be cool and I know that there are probably whole boatloads full of people who do that, but it's not very pretty. She was however believable in her teenage heartbreak over Jordan, but she seemed very fickle in her affection for her English teacher and even the boy she left behind in her old town. The only reason she seems to clean up her act is that of course she's found out in the end. I thought it was strange that she picked the most unpopular girl in school to form a real friendship with, as she was trying very hard to be popular herself and this doesn't seem to fit in. The only time I really believed she wasn't being selfish was when she seemed to snap out of it long enough to worry about a friend's health.

I remember being 15 and thinking everything that happened was a huge drama, when looking back, of course it wasn't such a big deal. However, I don't remember betraying my friends and messing with people's lives and generally being nasty. I like to believe that at 15, people have a moral compass. Sure they make mistakes, but especially the part with the English teacher went too far in my book and seemed like something that would never happen like that.

This wasn't really my kind of book, I couldn't relate to the main character and didn't really understand the way she acted.
My rating: 2.5 stars.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan

Title/Author: The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan
Publisher/Date published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 4th 2010
How I got this book: I got it as an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley
Why I read this book: same reason I read any book: I wanted to.

Summary from NetGalley: "There's something drawing Lena to the water. It's making Lena sleepwalk to the beach. It's compelling her to surf even if it means putting herself in grave danger and going against her father's wishes.
A woman emerges from the waves — a woman with a silvery tail.
She has a message.
She has a key.
When Lena finds a brown leather sea chest and uses the key to unlock it, she has no choice but to look into the watery depths of her secret past through the mysterious mermaid's mirror... Lena's life will never be the same."

I've probably watched the Little Mermaid a thousand times as a kid, I think it drove my parents nearly crazy. I can probably still sing along with all the songs, I was always particularly fond of Part of Your World and Under the Sea.
So I was really excited to be reading a YA fantasy about mermaids for a change! They're so much more graceful and colorful than all those vampires and werewolves roaming around.

Lena has always loved the sea and goes there with her best friend Pem and boyfriend Kai (who used to be her other best friend) all the time, watching them surf. Her father nearly drowned while surfing once and because of that doesn't want Lena learning how to.
Other than that Lena's home life is pretty nice, her mom died when she was 4 years old, but her stepmom Allie fills the void she left behind. And she has a baby brother who she loves very much.
Things start to go wrong when Lena finds herself sleepwalking to the beach, to
Magic Crescent Cove in particular, where only the most experienced surfers go and also seeing a woman with a silvery tail in the water.
She struggles with the concern of her family, the awkwardness that exists between her, Pem and Kai ever since she and Kai got together and with being with Kai in general.
Lena decides it's time she learned how to surf herself and takes lessons from Kai's sister. She's a natural and in no time is surfing by herself, of course at Magic's. Sure enough, this goes wrong and she's rescued by someone who no one on the beach remembers seeing afterwards, who also gives her a golden key.
Now Lena must find the lock the key fits to and discover what's really in her family history.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I thought it was so refreshing that Lena has a stepmom, but loves her very much and she generally has a healthy family situation. You come across so many books these days where this isn't the case. Of course, there are fights and secrets, but those aren't there just for the sake of drama, they really have to do with the main storyline. I also loved Cole, Lena's little brother, who in the end plays an important part, though he probably doesn't know it.

The scenes with Kai and Lena were uncomfortable, not that they did anything other than kissing, but I didn't feel like Lena really wanted to be with him. This is explained further along in the book, but upon first reading these it was a bit awkward. Major props to the author for not being overly obvious, but still managing to instill a feeling of unease.

The part I loved best was from the moment Lena finds the mermaid's mirror, then the story is really propelled forward and is just heartbreakingly beautiful. I thought the ending was a bit rushed and I'm sad this isn't part of a series, I could have explored this world for much longer. I'm hoping Madigan will write a sequel because I want to know what happens to Lena and her family! The images Madigan paints from the underwater world are beautiful and I was transformed back into a kid admiring Ariel's world.

All in all, Lena was a likeable character and my love for mermaids is renewed after reading this book.

My rating: 5 stars

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's my birthday!

Today is my birthday! :) I've turned 23 and feel really, really old now (but that happens every year, and every year I get over it in about 10 minutes, so not to worry).
My boyfriend already gave me a beautiful necklace with a purplish pendant, which I love! It's probably my favourite color right know and I'm so happy he remembered. Right now he's attending class, so in the meantime I'm going to watch Pride and Prejudice so Mr. Darcy can keep me company till he gets back. And later tonight we're having dinner at one of my favourite restaurants. I'm hoping to have something like that cake for dessert! (doesn't it look amazing??)
Today is a good day :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Manifest by Artist Arthur

Title/Author: Manifest by Artist Arthur
Publisher/Date published: Harlequin, August 1st 2010
How I got this book: I got it from the publisher through NetGalley
Why I read this book: same reason I read any book: I wanted to.

Goodreads summary: "When fifteen-year-old Krystal Bentley moves to Lincoln, Connecticut, her mom's hometown, she assumes her biggest drama will be adjusting to the burbs after living in New York City.
But Lincoln is nothing like Krystal imagined. The weirdness begins when Ricky Watson starts confiding in her. He's cute, funny, a good listener — and everything she'd ever want — except that he was killed nearly a year ago. Krystal's ghost-whispering talents soon lead other "freaks" to her door — Sasha, a rich girl who can literally disappear, and Jake, who moves objects with his mind. All three share a distinctive birthmark in the shape of an M and, fittingly, call themselves the Mystyx. They set out to learn what really happened to Ricky, only to realize that they aren't the only ones with mysterious powers. But if Krystal succeeds in finding out the truth about Ricky's death, will she lose him for good?"

Life was going just fine according to Krystal, right up until the point her mother told her she was leaving Krystal's father and they were moving back to her hometown: Lincoln. Sure, Krystal was hearing voices of dead people even before then, but otherwise life was just peachy.
And now she has to live in a small town where she has no friends and also has to deal with her mother's annoying new husband, who she thinks hates her.

Krystal has big issues with her family life right now, she's angry at her mother and as the ghost Ricky describes it 'has a doom and gloom attitude'. At the start of the story, she's very self-obsessed, thinks she doesn't need anyone and because of that, she's not really inclined to help Ricky. He's been murdered and needs Krystal to find his killer so he can get closure and move on.

I thought Krystal's reaction was more realistic than someone saying 'Sure, I have my own stuff to worry about, but I'll drop everything just to help you out!' That said, I could understand her reaction to what was happening, but she did wallow in her self pity, which isn't very attractive. She treats her mom very badly. I'm happy to say that in the end she redeems herself somewhat in all these aspects by stepping up and trying to make things right. She gets a major reality check and manages to learn from it.

Though I don't like the way Krystal handled the situation with her mom throughout a huge part of the book, I don't approve of her mother's actions either. You don't tell teenagers it's 'grown-up business' when you turn their life upside down without any kind of explanation.

I really liked Jake, I hope that he and Krystal will develop some kind of relationship in the books to come. I thought he was really sweet and a great character. Some of the ghosts creeped me out, but I think Arthur handled them really well. I hope to see Krystal developing her powers in the next book.
I saw who killed Ricky coming, but it wasn't that obvious, maybe I'm just good at guessing.

I enjoyed this book very much and thought it had one of the best opening lines ever (even before the first chapter). The connection between storms and people getting powers that may date back to Salem is really intriguing!

My rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top Ten Book Quotes

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, everyone is welcome to join in on the fun!

This week's Top Ten:
What are your favourite book quotes?

I love quotes from books, but I have a hard time putting which one is my absolute favourite first, so this will be in no particular order:

1. "I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.."
— Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook)

I love the Notebook and this always remembers me of the neverending love Noah has for Ally and that true love really exists.

2. "To live would be an awfully big adventure."
- Peter Pan

Peter Pan is one of my favourite characters and stories and I've heard him say this in the movie too many times to count.

3. "When you play a game of thrones, you win or you die."
- George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones)

This statement truly encompasses the hard society that Martin shows us in this wonderful start of his epic fantasy series.

4. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
- J.K. Rowling (The Prisoner of Azkaban)

How I love Harry Potter and the Marauder's Map. This just gives off such a mischievous air.

5. "If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger--

If you have never read secretly under the bedclothes with a flashlight, because your father or mother or some other well-meaning person has switched off the lamp on the plausible ground that it was time to sleep because you had to get up so early--

If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless--

If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won't understand what Bastian did next."

— Michael Ende (The Neverending Story)

So this is a long quote, but it's one that made me feel more normal when I was a kid and already knew I read way more than others in my class. This describes my passion for reading perfectly.

6. "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you."
— Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)

That's my girl! A strong woman who knows her own mind.

7. "You must know... surely, you must know it was all for you. You are too generous to trifle with me. I believe you spoke with my aunt last night, and it has taught me to hope as I'd scarcely allowed myself before. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on."
- Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)

I won't start ranting about Pride and Prejudice yet again, but this passage always sends shivers up my spine. I think I would faint in delight if someone ever said this to me.

8. "Every book has a soul, the soul of the person who wrote it and the soul of those who read it and dream about it."
— Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Angel's Game)

I believe this to be true.

9. "A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth."
— Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale)

I love books about books and this line just seems appropriate.

10. "You love me. Real, or not real?"
I tell him, "Real."

- Suzanne Collins (Mockingjay)

I can't really say anything about this one without having major spoilers, but I love this quote.

So that's my list. I could have gone on and on with quotes from Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and all those other books I love, but I decided to keep it to one a book.
What are your favourite quotes?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Title/Author: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Publisher/Year published: Vintage, 2010, first published in 2008
How I got this book: I bought it
Why I read this book: I love fairytales, so a retelling of one sounded really promising

Goodreads summary: 'A young woman who has endured unspeakable cruelties is magically granted a safe haven apart from the real world and allowed to raise her two daughters in this alternate reality, until the barrier between her world and the real one begins to break down.'

This book is a retelling of the fairytale of Snow White and Rose Red. For those of you unfamiliar with this fairytale (like I was), here's the link to the Wiki page that explains it: Snow White and Rose Red.

At the beginning of the book, we meet Liga, a girl who's 15 years old and lives with only her father, her mother died some time ago. They live estranged from the rest of the village and Liga's father doesn't like her going there and meeting people. He doesn't want them to find out he's sexually abusing his daughter and even getting her pregnant.
Liga wants this baby very badly and after her father dies, there's no one stopping her from keeping it. Liga loves the girl very much and thinks all her worries are over, living a simple life in the cottage of her father. But then something horrible happens to her again and after this, at the height of her despair, she and her baby girl are transported to her personal heaven, an alternate reality so to speak.
She and her now two daughters live there peacefully for some years, when the first cracks begin to show and an ungrateful little person and bears pop through from the real world.
Liga and her daughters learn that leaving the real world behind doesn't mean you never have to go back to it.

This book was a little darker than I'm used to, which I didn't expect from the premise that it was a fairytale retelling. It deals heavily with sexual abuse and is pretty frank about sex altogether. Which is why it took me a while to get into. I really liked Liga and her daughters Branza and Urdda, Liga and Branza are more mellow, while Urdda is a fierce spirit. I also loved the first Bear that came into their world, actually a person transformed into a bear while entering their world. He was such a noble character and gave Liga a reason to trust men again.

I like the broader message that's being given in the book: you can't run away from your troubles forever. Using the ostrich method of just sticking your head in the sand till it's over won't work. Liga comes to realize this and I like the character development that Lanagan shows in her. We see how she outgrows the idea of heaven she had as a 15 year old.

One thing I had trouble with, was the change in POV that were not always very clear. The author never used the first person POV in scenes with Liga and her children, but all of a sudden there'd be a scene with first person POV without it being clear immediately who 'I' was. There was a storyline towards the end with other Bears, that I think detracted from the flow of the story and didn't really add to the book in general.

I was rooting for it to end differently, but I can understand this ending and admit that it makes more sense.

All in all, I'd say this book was definitely worth reading, but I wouldn't recommend it to people who are squeamish about sexual abuse, though the author isn't very explicit about it, it's mentioned, but not really shown.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award and One Lovely Blog Award!

I've received The Versatile Blogger Award from Danya at A Tapestry of Words and the One Lovely Blog Award from both Rummanah from Books in the Spotlight and Jennifer at An Abundance of Books! Thanks so much ladies!
You should all go over and check these awesome blogs out, they're ones I read and try to comment on regularly. Jennifer is currently having a Percy Jackson giveaway, be sure to sign up for it!

Before I go on to the rules for the awards, I have to apologize to these lovely ladies, because it's been a month since I received the awards and I should have passed them on ages ago. I'm deeply ashamed of myself!

The Rules:
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
4. Versatile Blogger Award only: Share 7 things about yourself.

As for those 7 things:
1. Some of you know this already, but I'm also part of another blog: The Broke and the Bookish, which is a collaboration of college students all part of the College Students Group on Goodreads.
2. I love ARC's and it's frustrating I can hardly ever get my hands on them, because of my living in Holland and the huge amount of money it costs to send something here!
3. I have a soft spot for all things cute and cuddly, including my boyfriend :)
4. I'm studying medicine, but I hate going to the doctor myself and I always self-diagnose before I go. Which is probably really annoying to the doctor (sorry!).
5. I speak Dutch, English, French, German and a little Latin, I wish I could speak Chinese.
6. I've been to London last year and it was so amazing! I'm a bit of an anglophile and love reading about Queen Elizabeth (I visited the Tower while in London and almost died of happiness). I can't wait to go back there again!
7. Nobody I know in real life reads as much as I do. I'm so happy to have found first Goodreads and then all these lovely book blogs! It's good to know there are other people like me out there :)

Now, I'm going to cheat a little and send these two awards out together to 15 amazing bloggers (because else I'd have to list 45, I don't think I even follow 45 blogs).
So here they are, in no particular order:

Fresh off the Shelf
Spine Creases
The Perpetual Page Turner
The Overflowing Library
Tedious and Brief
A Girl, Books and Other Things
English Major's Junk Food
Midnight Bloom Reads
Overused Parentheses
Tahleen's Mixed-Up Files
Eating YA Books
Spine Creases
Supernatural Snark
Tangled Up in Blue
Tales and Treats

And because I can't say it enough: thanks again to Danya, Jennifer and Rummanah!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Title/Author: Spy Glass (Glass #3) by Maria V. Snyder
Publisher/Date published: Harlequin, September 1st 2010
How I got this book: I got it from the publisher through NetGalley
Why I read this book: besides not being able to not finish a series when I start it? I enjoy Snyder's books!

In this book we meet up with Opal Cowan again. After the epic battle at the end of Sea Glass, Opal has to deal with the consequences. Struggling with adjusting to her new abilities and lack thereof, she encounters a whole lot of trouble yet again. But Opal won't be stopped by this, she's on a quest to get her stolen blood back and put a stop to blood magic once and for all. Of course, she's not alone in this and we meet Valek (from the Study series) again as he trains Opal in his area of expertise: spying (hence Spy Glass).
Everything gets confusing for Opal when she starts to doubt her relationship with Kade, the Stormdancer and finds herself attracted to someone she never thought possible to feel anything other than fear and anger towards.

I really liked seeing Valek again, he was one of my favourite characters from the Study series and after not being in the other two books, I was pleasantly surprised he had his part to play in this one.

I appreciated how Snyder ended the series, but I was a bit disappointed at the development of the relationship between Opal and Kade. I understand her reasons and felt that in the end it was right, but I didn't like how Kade was treated as in that she showed him to be a different kind of person than I thought he was after reading the first two books. He didn't turn out to be a bad guy, and I still love him very much.

I am however glad that Opal finds someone to love her just as she is, unconditionally. I had a hard time trusting this guy, but I grudgingly agree with her choice. I also liked that Opal finally realises who she is and that she doesn't need titles to define herself. Bonus points go to Opal's mother for being very funny in giving Opal the cold shoulder after she angers her.

All in all, Snyder yet again delivered a very enjoyable book, though this one was a bit slower to me than the first two.
My rating: 4 stars (for Kade and the slowness at the beginning I take half a star off)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Book Title/Author: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Publisher/Year published: Pan Books, first published in 1989
How I got this book: I bought it
Why I read this book: Why I read this book now is probably a better question (I'd been meaning to for some time): I'd heard about the series coming out in July and after seeing the awesome trailer I decided I really needed to read this before watching the series (I have this rule about that..).

This book scared me to begin with, the sheer size of it (mine has 1076 pages) and the whole idea that it centers around a church, since I'm not exactly religious. But let me start of by saying The Pillars of the Earth is so much more!

I tried to write a summary of this story, but it's so complex and has so many separate storylines at first, which come together in the end, that it's nearly impossible without giving away the whole plot.
The story centers around Tom Builder and his family and the priory of Kingsbridge with prior Philip as the other main character. After the cathedral in Kingsbridge burns down, Tom is hired as master-builder to build a new one. The rivalry between Alfred, his son, and Jack, the son of his second wife Ellen, doesn't make family life any easier.
Prior Philip, taken in by monks after his parents were killed when he was 6 years old, struggles against the rigidity of the older monks, the malice of the bishop of Kingsbridge and William of Hamleigh, a nobleman's son, determined to destroy Kingsbridge.
Against the backdrop of the building of the cathedral and the civil war in 12th century England, the story is set that contains family, love, loyalty, malevolence, treachery, greed and of course religion.

I really loved the pacing, I thought it would be slow, which happens a lot with bigger books, but it turned out to be a really fast read. Follett introduces you to the characters and then builds his story around this. You're thrown right into the action from the start. Some of the characters have become especially dear to me, most of all Prior Philip and Jack. Of course there are the characters who oppose them and I always appreciate them not being evil for the sake of evil, but we are given reasons for the way they act. To me it shows the skill of the author that I can really hate one of the characters, William Hamleigh, he made me care enough to.

Follett doesn't shy away from physical violence, including sexual abuse, which made me gasp in horror at the things people are capable of, but without it, the book probably wouldn't have been realistic. And although it centers around a priory, there's no preaching, which probably has to do with the author himself not being a christian. I believed Philip in his religious moments of doubt and in his devotion to God.

All in all, this is such an epic tale of everything about human life, with lovable and strong characters and it completely blew me away. If I wasn't so busy, I probably would have read this without putting it down, it was that good (I swear I heard hallelujah sounds while reading it).
I give this book 5+ stars because it is a new favourite and I'm adding the sequel World Without End to my to-read list.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sea Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Title/Author: Sea Glass (Glass #2) by Maria V. Snyder
Publisher/Year Published: Harlequin Teen in 2010
How I got it: I own it :)
Why I read it: I read the first one earlier this week and liked it. Besides, I have a hard time not only not finishing a book, but also not finishing a series (I always want to know what comes next).

After becoming aware of her new ability, Opal Cowan is scared of what the Council will think of it. She's almost certain they will view her as a threat, so she decides to take a detour and search for Ullrick first, since she believes he's being held against his will. It all gets just a bit more complicated when bad guys turn into good buys and the other way around. With all the plotting going around, Opal doesn't know who to trust anymore. When she tries to tell the Council an evil form of magic, blood magic, isn't exterminated and no one believes her, what's she supposed to do? That's right, rebel in full force!

Opal manages yet again to land herself in various lifethreathening situations. I love that we got to know her better and that we got to spend more time with Kade, who is just dreamy.
I'll have to admit, I'm a bit obsessed with Kade, he's a new book crush, let me tell you how I picture him:

Add golden streaks in his hair and this background and picture him in a bubble of calm in the middle:

Lovely right?

So was the book, Opal stays a lovable characters, even though she goes through a lot of changes in this book. Sometimes I felt Opal was a bit too sarcastic. I can't believe I'm saying this, I love sarcasm! But the line '-Insert emotion, like jealous- Who, me?' kept coming back a bit too often for my taste. That said, the author didn't let me down with this sequel to Storm Glass and I'm very excited to be moving on to Spy Glass!
Also, I loved the cover, perfectly captures the feel of the book.

My rating: 4.5 stars.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Title/Author: Storm Glass (first in the Glass series) by Maria V. Snyder
Publisher/Year Published: Harlequin Teen in 2009
How I got it: I own it :)
Why I read it: I really liked her Study series and when I found out about this series I thought I'd check it out.

Summary from Goodreads: "As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowan understands trial by fire. Now it's time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan's glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers — particularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade — require Opal's unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap in to a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. And the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance — including her own — Opal must control powers she hadn't known she possessed…powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she's ever known."

This series is set in the same world as het Study series was, so to me it felt like meeting old friends I hadn't seen for a while. If you've read the series, you might recognize Opal as a character we meet in the final book I think (I'm not sure, it's been a while since I read the other books), she's a girl Yelena rescues and then Opal helps her in defeating evil (can't really say much about this without having major spoilers, so yes I know it's vague).

Anyway, Opal comes from a family of glassmakers and she has her own kind of glass magic, discovered by Yelena. Because of this, she's training as a magician at the Magician's Keep. She struggles at school, only being able to do one thing: create glass creatures other magicians can communicate through. She can't even use them herself, which I think would be really frustrating. At school, she doesn't really have any friends, partly due to what happened with Yelena in the fight against evil.
In her fifth year there, she's sent on a mission to help the Stormdancers and meets Kade, a Stormdancer who recently lost his sister when one of the orbs they use to harvest a storm exploded.
Of course fixing the problems isn't so easy as it seems at the beginning (just find out what's making the orbs break) and Opal and her friends get in all kinds of trouble, most of the time life-threathening. On her travels, Opal meets Ulrick, a boy from a family of glassmakers himself, he and Opal have a lot in common.
But the problem is, she can't forget about Kade and the spark they shared.
Throughout the book, Opal discovers new sides to her power, but as always, with great power comes great responsibility (I know, I'm a dork).

First of all I should tell you that a lot of this book won't make sense without having read the Study series first. I don't even know if my rambling made sense if you haven't read those, because I'm trying really hard not to give anything about the other books away.

I really enjoyed this book, as said before, it felt like visiting old friends and I like the world Snyder has created. I like how in her magic system not everybody can do the same things, everyone has their own talents.
And I love the idea of Stormdancers, can you imagine someone standing on the beach in the midst of an enormous angry storm, harvesting its power in a tiny glass orb? For me it creates visions of the sea slamming on the rocks, lightning flashing over the water and in the middle one handsome man in a bubble of calm. Who wouldn't fall in love with that?
So I could spot from a million miles away who would be Opal's love interest, but I completely agree with her choice. Kade is a complex character who struggles with the recent death of his sister. Something Opal can relate to, having lost her sister as well. I felt they had meaningful conversations and it wasn't like 'ooh, you are so cool and handsome, let's be together', which to me is totally annoying.

I also really liked the character development in Opal, she gets some serious reality checks and learns to deal with the problems she encounters. She also has to accept the consequences of her growing power. I liked Opal, she's a bit naive and tends to get in trouble a lot, but she cares a lot about her family and her friends and doesn't sit around waiting to be saved. She makes a few questionable decisions, but in the end she goes with what she feels is right and I can respect that.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the Study series and who enjoys YA fantasy, but like I said before: read the other books first.

My rating: 4.5 stars.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner

Title/Author: Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner
Publisher/Publication date: July 1sth 2010 by Harlequin
How I got it: I received it from the publisher through
Why I read it: it sounded interesting.

Goodreads summary: "Carrie Pilby doesn't fit in -- and she's pretty much given up trying. A year out of college and settling in to life in the big city, this nineteen-year-old genius believes everyone she meets is immoral, sex obsessed and hypocritical, and the only person she sees on a regular basis is her therapist. When he comes up with a five-point plan to help her discover the "positive aspects of social interaction," Carrie, who would rather stay home in bed, is forced to view the world in a new light."

This five point plan includes:
1. List 10 things you love
2. Join a club
3. Go on a date
4. Tell someone you care (your therapist doesn't count)
5. Celebrate New Year’s

Carrie doesn't really have any reason to get out of bed in the morning. She thinks people are mostly stupid and she doesn't have to pay the rent. So, why bother?
At first, she isn't too keen on the plan her therapist starts her on, but gradually warms up to it. Or at least starts on it to proove him he's wrong, that it won't help her at all.

The book centers around the sometimes weird philosophies that enter Carries mind and the things she comes up with are very funny. In this she reminds me of conversations my best friend and I have in which we come up with all kinds of conspiracy theories and plots to take over the world. Carrie reminds me of myself, not neccesarily in my good moments.
She got me thinking, while I do believe that because I'm a college student I belong to the better educated part of the population, I don't think it's true people are unintelligent if they haven't read a whole lot of books like she does. Carrie overgeneralizes and likes to put a label on someone, even though she doesn't like it when people do it to her.

The plot is more character-driven than action-driven, there's not a whole lot going on outside Carrie's head. Which is fine, but I'd like to have seen more actual things taking place. The ending left me a bit hanging and I feel like I was waiting for some kind of grand finale that never came.

All in all, I liked this book, Carrie is a likable character and the things she comes up with are sometimes hilarious.

My rating: 3 stars