February 26, 2012

Book #21 - Poison Study (Study #1)

Poison Study (Study #1), Maria Snyder
409 pages
high fantasy
Started 2/22/12
Finished 2/24/12

High fantasy usually isn't my bag. Sometimes, they tend to get a bit too weird. The names and places are weird, and I generally have a hard time getting into a story with no frame of reference. Recently, I tried reading Graceling for my challenge, and I barely made it halfway through before I abandoned it. So, I approached Poison Study with not much hope that I would actually see it through to the end.

But, see, here was the difference for me between Poison Study and Graceling. Poison Study actually was interesting. Huh. Yelena is scheduled to be executed for murder. At the last minute, she's given a choice - either take her execution or get a job. As the Commander's food taster. Yelena does what any smart girl would do and gives herself a fighting chance. She takes the job. But, to ensure she doesn't run away, the captain of the guards gives her a deadly poison that can only be kept at bay if Yelena is given a dose of antidote every morning. Skip a morning, she dies a slow, agonizing death.

Thing is, Yelena is good at her job. And, she even makes friends and gains the respect and love of the people around her. She also discovers that she has other hidden abilities besides being able to distinguish between 50 different poisons.

This was a great book! I loved seeing Yelena come from a broken, scared girl into a strong, confident woman. It wasn't an easy journey for her. She was scared and didn't trust anyone - not even herself. But, she makes a conscious decision to put one foot in front of the other and to keep her eyes and ears open for any opportunity to better her situation. And, that opportunity comes, but not in any way that Yelena ever expected. If you want to read a good book that makes you want to stand up and say, " Yes, I'm a woman, but that doesn't mean I can't kick your patoot," then, this is it. Loved it.  

February 24, 2012

Book #20 - Demonglass (Hex Hall #2)

Demonglass (Hex Hall #2), Rachel Hawkins
359 pages
urban fantasy, paranormal romance
Started 2/21/12
Finished 2/21/12

Yay! A good book! I was starting to feel a little disheartened after the last few books I read didn't really live up to my expectations. But, I enjoyed Demonglass even more than Hex Hall, the first book in the Hex Hall series.

Sophie Mercer, having just found out that the love of her life is one of the bad guys who are trying to kill her, and that she's not really a witch, but a demon instead, which is WAY scarier, meets her dad for the first time in her life (who is also a demon) and finds out she betrothed to the hot campus healer. And, that's all in the first dozen pages or so. Her dad, wanting to not only get to know his daughter but also teach her how to harness and use her power, brings her with him to his mansion in England for the summer.

As much as she tries to remember that she's supposed to hate Archer, she can't - especially when he shows up and saves her life. Again. He tells Sophie how much he loves her, and then in true dramatic fashion, everything goes to crap after that. The book ends in a dramatic cliffhanger. Luckily, the final book in the series, Spellbound, comes out in just a few short weeks.

Rachel Hawkins is good at writing teenagers. They talk like teens, but it's not overdone. It's believable. They do things you'd expect teenagers would do. Many times I have a hard time believing these teen characters are the age their authors portray them as. They walk, talk and act like adults. These kids are different. And, that's refreshing. I can't wait for the final book in the series to come out. It should be a fun ending. 

Book #19 - Blue Moon (The Immortals #2)

Blue Moon (The Immortals #2), Alyson Noel
289 pages
Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Started 2/19/12
Finished 2/20/12

Ugggghhhhhhhhh... That pretty much sums it up. Although I did finish Blue Moon, I felt totally unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and more than a little pissed off. Why did I torture myself like that? I suppose it was because I held out the hope that it would all turn around in the end. That even though the main chick was a complete and utter moron throughout the entire book, she could screw her head on straight, make some good choices and inspire some admiration and respect by the end. Right? RIGHT?

Um, no.

So, Ever and Damen are together and have no obstacles. She's free to be happy with him for the first time in hundreds of years. But, she just. Can't. Oh, I just want to smack her. And, then this new guy comes onto the scene, and Ever knows right away that there's something not right about him. Does she say or do anything about it? Nooooooo. She lets him swoop in and nearly completely destroy her life. Finally, she pulls herself enough to formulate a plan to save her love from the big bad guy. And, while she's decided to save Damen, at the same time, she also decides she'd rather not be with him after all. She'd rather try to go back to her old life when the opportunity presents itself. ARGH. This guy has done everything - EVERYTHING - for her. And, she's ready, willing and able to throw it away on a whim.

At the last minute, she sees the error of her ways - sort of. And, at a critical moment, she decides to listen to the big bad guy instead of the person trying to help her. And she totally screws herself and Damen forever. What. An. IDIOT.

You know, I had book #3 in this series already on deck. But, I returned it to the library today without opening it. If I wanted to read about overly emotional, wishy-washy, weak-minded, annoying chicks, I'd write an autobiography. I want the books that I read to inspire me to be better than I am. I want to be touched by a great love. I'd rather laugh and cry than swear and roll my eyes excessively. At the end of this book, I was so irritated that I found myself not caring about whether Damen and Ever make it. And, that is my signal to abandon ship. 

February 20, 2012

Book #18 - Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry #1)

Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry #1), Simone Elkeles
360 pages
Started 2/18/12
Finished 2/18/12

The strange thing about this book is the lack of any "strangeness" - no werewolves, vampires, faeries, or any other supernatural beings. It doesn't take place in the future or the past either. This is, simply, a boy-meets-girl story set in present-day Chicago. How refreshing.

Alex is a Latino from the wrong side of the tracks (literally!). Brittany is the rich chick who has everything handed to her. Although there's more than meets the eye for both of these kids, they're both burdened by their preconceived notions and the constant buzzing in their ears from their friends and family. Then, they're forced together when they become lab partners in chemistry class (aha! the book title is so clever, isn't it?). As they each catch surprising glimpses into each other's lives, something more than a shared desire for an A in the class forms. Everyone around them has reasons why they can't be together. Heck - even THEY have reasons why they can't be together. But, of course they don't let that stop them, and they fight through the stereotypes, the socioeconomic boundaries, and the objections of everyone around them to find a way to be together.

Let me be clear. This book was very formulaic. It was predictable. It's been done many, many times before. But, dammit, it was a fun book. I might've been able to see the ending a mile away, but I found myself not really giving a crap. Sometimes the predictability of a book isn't as important as whether you're enjoying the ride to the very foreseeable end. And, I sure did. I loved watching the relationship bloom between Alex and Brittany. It was so sweet. And, when they got together in the end, I wanted to cheer for them. Sometimes we all need a guilty pleasure, and for me, this was it. 

Book #17 - Matched (Matched #1)

Matched (Matched #1), Ally Condie
366 pages
Started 2/13/12
Finished 2/18/12

Ok, first off - isn't the cover of this book gorgeous? I don't know what it is, but I really love it.

Anyway, back to business. Generally, dystopian is not my genre of choice. I usually find those books depressing, violent and unnerving. Perhaps that's part of the point. Although I'm not a fan of the political undertones usually found in post-apocalyptic books, I think the authors really want their readers to think more about the world they created and how close it may be from where we live right now. Scary.

So, Matched takes place in the undetermined future (although, we're to assume that it's approximately two generations from today) in a society where the citizens' lives are so prescripted, they can't even choose what clothes to wear or what food to eat. The story follows 16-year-old Cassia Reyes, a girl who is matched, or betrothed, to her best friend Xander (yes - the government even tells you who you must marry and how many children you're allowed to have). However, Cassia soon realizes that, to her horror and disbelief, her government may have made a mistake and matched her to the wrong boy. She should've been matched to Ky Markham, a boy with a shady and secretive past. And soon, Cassia starts to think they were right when she finds herself falling in love with Ky. And, loving someone who the government has not given you permission to love is a very bad thing.

I really loved this book. I hate books with wishy-washy female heroines who bow to the establishment and refuse to follow their hearts. I want to read about strong women who fight for what they believe in and for those they love. Cassia is a person of the latter fortitude. She breaks the mold and opens her heart and mind up to the possibility that her "perfect" life sucks if she's not able to read what she wants, write her name, and love the boy of her own choice.

This world blew my mind. I can't imagine living in a world that one day decided to eradicate all but 100 books, poems, songs, movies, etc. because there were too many choices and things had gotten too cluttered. Some of the more fatalistic people out there would say that that world isn't too far away, but I just can't see how it would ever get that bad. How utterly sad and depressing. But, the thing about this book that separated it from a lot of other dystopian books I've read in the past (Hunger Games, Divergent), is the presence of hope. There seems to be an overarching theme of persistence and hope that the citizens can reclaim their lives. And, I think that was why I loved it so much. 

February 17, 2012

Book #16 - Evermore (The Immortals #1)

Evermore (The Immortals #1), Alyson Noel
306 pages
Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Started 2/13/12
Finished 2/17/12

I did it! I listened to an audio book! I haven't ever done it before because it kinda felt like cheating. Blasphemy. The epitome of laziness. But, on my last business trip to West Virginia, as I passed through that 200 mile stretch where the only songs you hear on the radio are ultra-twangy and there's no cell service with which to listen to Pandora, I decided that on my next trip, I would give the audio book a go. And, I'm so glad I did. It made that 5.5 hour trip actually enjoyable.

So, the book I chose was Evermore. Ever Bloom has lost her whole family in a horrid car accident. She almost died herself. And, as a result of that near-death experience, Ever can hear people's thoughts and see their auras. Everyone except for the new guy at school, Damen, that is. Her attraction to him is immediate and intense, and he seems to share it. But, even Ever can see that there's more to Damen than meets the eye. She eventually finds out that he can live forever, and so can his ex-girlfriend who wants to see Ever dead. Yikes.

Overall, I liked the story. It was a bit hokey in parts and a bit confusing in others. Ever can seem strong at times when she's talking about bearing the brunt of her family's death on her shoulders, as well as dealing with her extra cool powers. Other times, she's weak and stupid, like when she's pushing Damen away for no good reason. It's a bit tedious trying to figure out which Ever is going to show up from chapter to chapter.

There's six books in this series, and my interest has been captured enough to at least check out book #2. So, stay tuned...

February 16, 2012

Book #15 - Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1)

Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1), Rachel Hawkins
323 pages
Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Started 2/10/12
Finished 2/11/12
I fear I have become a bit of a book snob. I've done done something twice in as many weeks that I've only done once before in my life. I started two books and decided not to finish them. I hate to do that. I feel like, if I've taken the time and trouble to choose a book and start it, I should at least stick it out until the end. But, in the past year, I've read so many incredible books - books that grabbed me and excited me right out of the gate. Books that have made me laugh and cry and scream and sigh. Books that made me care about what happened to the characters. So, now when I start a new book, I wait for those feelings. And, if they don't come, it's become hard for me to continue.

So, after a few false starts, I found Hex Hall. It was pretty good. Good enough for me to stick with it until the end, anyway, so that's definitely saying something. Sophie Mercer is a witch, which can come in handy when a friend needs a nice love spell or something. Except, her spells tend to backfire. Whomp, whomp, whomp, whomp... So, her dad, who is, like, the bigwig head warlock, decides to send her to witchy boarding school - the titular Hecate, or "Hex," Hall. Her roommate is a vampire, she falls in love with the most popular boy in school, and the three most popular girls decide they hate her. Yet, it's evident that Sophie is powerful and that the popular boy likes her back. Of course, things don't run smoothly for Sophie and shet gets into a bit of trouble.

Although Hex Hall was a bit more juvenile than some of the other books I've been reading, it was fun. It was also very predictable, but I didn't find myself caring that much. I would've liked to see Sophie's relationship with her roommate fleshed out a bit more - learned more about her back story. Perhaps that will come in the second book (which I have on reserve at the library already).

Anyway, the lesson learned here is, sometimes predictable and juvenile is ok, as long as they get you all the way through the book.

February 9, 2012

Book #14 - City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments #4)

City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments #4), Cassandra Clare
424 pages
Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Started 2/4/12
Finished 2/6/12

You know, I'm of the opinion that there really is such a concept as "too much of a good thing." This book is proof. I think my last three reviews speak for themselves (or, rather, for me - hee hee). I LOVE the Mortal Instruments series. I think Cassandra Clare created a vivid, complex world with deep characters that know how to be romantic, funny, and total bad asses. As I previously mentioned, it was supposed to originally be a three-book series telling the story of star-crossed lovers Jace and Clary. And, at the end, it was wrapped up very neatly. Sure, there were a few loose ends left, but aren't there usually at the end of books? Doesn't that allow our imagination a little room to roam? I always find myself wondering what happened next in the characters' lives - did they live happily ever after? Buy a dog? Babies? And, sure - there's always a bit of a twinge of wishfulness that I could continue reading their story to find out for sure.

But, I finally get my wish with City of Fallen Angels, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. I guess Jace and Clary aren't meant to be happy, which totally sucks, because when I pictured their future after the conclusion of City of Glass, it wasn't this. It wasn't bad dreams, evil demons, or ghosts from the past hell bent on killing them, or at least, killing all joy and happiness. I mean, what a downer. I love this couple. I want them to find happiness and contentment. A this point, it's not looking good.

The good parts of this book is the depth finally given to some of the outlying characters. We learn a lot more about how Simon is dealing with his vampire tendencies and with the new Mark that adorns his forehead. We learn that there is more to Magnus Bane than meets the eye. We even meet a new character in Jordan Kyle, and through him, we delve into Maia's story more. The Jace/Clary story was so depressing this time around, it was nice to not dwell on it for every single page.

I know that there are two final (I hope) books left in the series. Book #5 is due to come out in May of this year, and you know I'll be one of the first in line to get it. I'm definitely a glutton for punishment. But, I've invested so much time in this story now, I have to see it though. I really, really, really hope that Clare can find it in her heart to somehow make a way for Jace and Clary to FINALLY (for the love of Pete) settle down and live their lives together. Or, I'll start a nasty letter writing campaign. And, something tells me I won't be the only one.

February 7, 2012

Book #13 - City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3)

City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3), Cassandra Clare
541 pages
Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Started 2/1/12
Finished 2/3/12

This was an incredibly satisfying book, which is a nice change of pace. I dunno - all the teen romancy stuff I've been reading lately is so angsty and emotional. Not that this isn't, but at least it's brought to a good end.

Jace and Clary FINALLY get confirmation that they are, in fact, NOT in an incestuous relationship. *whew* Of course, I knew that, but it was fun reading when the characters found out too. Very... satisfying.

Although the final dispatching of the big baddie, Valentine, was definitely a good thing, it was over rather quickly. I kinda thought there'd be an epic battle between he and Jace or he and Clary or he and both of them. And, that's not really what happened. One blow is all it took to bring him down. It was one heck of a blow, don't get me wrong. But still.

I read somewhere that originally, this was supposed to be the last book in the series. It was set up beautifully for that, too. But, Clare was not satisfied with some of the few loose ends left and decided to continue the story. Although I've loved these books, sometimes you have to know when to quit. 

February 2, 2012

January Book Report

January has come and gone and when I reflect back, I wonder how I did it.

Books Read - 12
Books Read To Date - 12
Total Pages Read - 5,104
Favorite Book of the Month - Clockwork Prince

Picking my favorite book for the month was hard. It was between Clockwork Prince, The Iron Daughter, and The Iron Queen. These three books have several things in common - a wonderfully written world, strong women, loss and heartbreak, and a heart-wrenching love story. They're the reason I read like I do. But, ultimately, it was Will's, Jem's and Tessa's story in Clockwork Prince that kept me up very late at night and thinking about them long after I closed the book.

Many ask me how I find time to do it all - to work full time, take care of my home and family, and read as much as I do. The first answer to that question is rather simple - I read fast. I always have. Sometimes I find myself skimming the little words in between the big words (figuratively), but I still always grasp the meaning between them. It's a gift - what can I say?

I also steal reading time whenever I can - while stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce, folding laundry, or snuggling with the kids while they watch Dora. And, to keep myself from shopping at lunchtime, I stay in my office and read a good book instead. Much easier on my gas tank as well.

And, finally, I tend to stay up way too late more nights than I should.

I just love to read. Books take me places I can never go. Show me things that don't exist. They paint pictures in my head better than the TV ever could. I don't understand people who don't read. What imagination could they have? If you don't read, yet are reading these words, I'm encouraged. Perhaps some of these pithy words will encourage you to open the pages of a world you could only... well, imagine.

February 1, 2012

Book #12 - City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments #2)

City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments #2), Cassandra Clare
453 pages
Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Started 1/30/12
Finished 1/31/12

So, the angst continues. I'm getting used to the ick factor in this story and have now realized what a wicked good plot device Clary's and Jace's relationship is. Clare drops hints here and there throughout the book to let the reader know that they really aren't siblings. Thank God. I mean, the incestuousness aside, the love these two have for each other is written to be so real and tangible that every scene with them just rips you apart. They love each other so much, but think there's absolutely no way possible for them to be together. It's awful.

And then there's Simon. Poor guy. He thinks he has a chance with Clary now. But, deep down he knows that her heart belongs to Jace, even if they do share some genes (or so he thinks). But, then Simon gets a little demonized himself and becomes WAY more interesting. You know, upon further reflection, I think this triangle relationship between Jace, Clary and Simon sounds very familiar. Replace Jace with Edward, Clary with Bella and Simon with Jacob (hot badass boy falls for girl with strange ability and pissess off her equally hot BFF who is dorky at first but then turns into a supernatural beast) and you have Twilight. Except, you know, with a main female lead who actually has depth, substance and intrigue. And a really cool, complex plot. Yeah.

After more info dump and more back story, there's yet another showdown at the end where Valentine gets away again. But, you're set up nicely for the third book, where I hope it will finally come out that Jace and Clary can be together without getting arrested. 

Book #11 - City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1)

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1), Cassandra Clare
485 pages
Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Started 1/28/12
Finished 1/29/12

Clary Fray is a normal almost-16-year-old who discovers early on in this book that there's something special about her. She can see demons and other things that she really wishes that she couldn't. And, some things she's glad she can see now - like his hotness Jace, a Shadowhunter trained to kill the aforementioned demons. It's a love/hate relationship for both of them (meaning, they love each other, but act like they hate each other so that no one else knows that they love each other), complicated by several factors, none of which more than Clary's BFF Simon. Who happens to be in love with her as well. *sigh* What is it with these chicks in books who get all the gorgeous, chivalrous guys to fall hopelessly in love with them? What do they have that I don't have? Oh yeah - 20 less years and superpowers. Ah well.

So, I digress. As Clary's trying to figure out what and who she is, she, Simon, Jace and his rag tag bunch of teenage Shadowhunter demon butt-kickers are trying to track down the big baddie, Valentine. There is a big showdown at the end, and the big baddie lives to fight another day. But, not before dropping the bomb (warning: BIG spoiler ahead!) - Jace and Clary are really - GASP - brother and sister! This was the reason that this book gets 4 stars instead of 5. I realize that true love can't run smooth. But, did Clare really have to go THERE?? Yikes.

After reading Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince, I knew I would have to pick up the Mortal Instruments series. It's by the same author and follows the same world created by Clare in the Infernal Devices series. After finishing City of Bones, the first thought to come to my mind was, Oh, what a tangled web we weave. In addition to the big bomb, there's lots of back story and info dump surrounding the various characters' family trees. All of this information will become relevant as the story unfolds, I'm sure, but it can get a bit confusing at time. Nonetheless, you know by now that I love a good urban fantasy with a guy who loves a girl more than life itself. And this definitely fits the bill.