Archive for the ‘Reading Challenges’ Category
The first book: Vampire Academy is recommended if you want to know what happened previously. Although Rose does summarize what happened in the first few chapters of Frostbite, it still helps to read the first one in full just so you have the understanding of the entire story.
It’s winter break at St Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians – including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks …. This year, St Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory. But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price. (Taken from Amazon.ca)
As in the first book, Rose steals the show in this one again. I’d have to say I have never read a dynamic and exciting character as her. Her off comments, her toughness, and her thoughts elicited either a chuckle, or a cheer from me. I’d say Rose will be one of my favorite characters ever, and one of the most enjoyable to read.
This time around, the plot was good, although not as intriguing or mysterious as the first one. It still had its interesting moments though, and I thought the storyline with Rose and her mother was done very well. I rather like how Rose played tough, especially in front of her mom (with rather painful results) and her mom is exactly the same way. However both of them also have a soft side to them which neither will show to one another. Their relationship is awkward and they often clash because of their strong personalities and despite this, there’s a underlying deep respect. I thought Rose acted a little childish in this book though and it did get annoying in certain parts of the book. I’m glad Dimitri and her mother gave her a good telling off for her behavior however, how long it’ll take for Rose to stay that way one can never tell.
I absolutely LOVE the tension between Rose and Dimitri in this book. Wow! you can most certainly feel it and the emotions they’re feeling is plain to see. I absolutely love the way both of them are portrayed. Lissa and Christian make a great couple, although because they’re in many ways ‘perfect’ for each other, I think they’re not as exciting to read about than Rose and Dimitri. I am taking a liking to Lissa though, she’s starting to develop into her own character and not always having to hang off Rose all the time. I’m really liking the fact that she’s starting to go on her own and her personality is growing stronger. I’m hoping her character will get even more stronger in the next book.
The ending of this one was a bit of a shocker although shame on me for not seeing this one coming. I think Rose is about to overcome quite of few changes to her life. Whether that changes her personality, we’ll see in the further books to come. There’s isn’t much of a cliffhanger ending, but the particular story arc finishes and you’re basically prepared to read the next ‘episode’.
This book focuses more on Rose’s development, and it’s written well. The main plot advances just enough to keep the reader entertained yet at the same time, wanting us to keep on reading this fantastic series.
I give it a 9 out of 10.
A word to the wise when reading this review. TRY very hard not think about Harry Potter. Yes, it’s difficult. I found it very hard not to think of Harry Potter while reading this novel despite its’ very close similarities.
Max McDaniels lives a quiet life in the suburbs of Chicago, until the day he stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. Many strange people are interested in Max and his tapestry. His discovery leads him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him. But dark things are waiting, too. When Max learns that priceless artworks and gifted children are disappearing, he finds himself in the crossfire of an ancient struggle between good and evil. To survive, he”ll have to rely on a network of agents and mystics, the genius of his roommate, and the frightening power awakening within him. (Taken from Chapters Indigo).
It’s hard not to compare this with Harry Potter. However the stories are somewhat similar you just can’t help it. There are definitely some aspects of the book you often wonder to yourself if you’re just reading another version of Harry Potter. However there are some aspects of the book where the similarities end and there is a difference between the two books after all.
The storyline is interesting and although it has magical elements and mythology into the plot, there is no hidden magical world. The magic just stays hidden and the faculty of the academy do what they can to cover up chaotic moments with perfect excuses. It does work well and the charade is well played. What I did enjoy is the care of animals which is part of the school curriculum, and when the pairing of the animals to the students was described, I thought that was an interesting read. There was a lot of emphasis and description on the Academy itself – which was nice to read because although it is set in the real world, the school was like a different place altogether.
The story also tends to take a little darker turn than usual especially towards the climax of the book. It does get more interesting and the action is well done, the emphasis on Celtic mythology is mentioned and adds a nice little spin to the book. The Prophecy bit is a little tedious and overdone, but is to be expected to keep the series going. The arc with Max’s mother is what keeps me curious about this series. There’s obviously more to that part and I hope it will tie in nicely as the series progresses.
Character-wise, Max was all right. There wasn’t anything to dislike about him and his nemesis, Alex is your typical jerk. Max also has his own little circle of friends but neither of them really stood out for me. Although I thought David was rather interesting. Mum and Bob are the ones that stand out the most (the kitchen staff). I thought they provided the comic relief and were a fun read. I also liked the relationship between Max and his father. I thought it was nice to see a parent character play such a main role into the main character’s life. It’s something I don’t usually see in these kinds of novels and it’s definitely a nice change to see.
So, with this book you’ll either like it. Or absolutely hate it. Those that are absolute Harry Potter purists should not read this book. The similarities are VERY close and there are many (quite a lot actually) and reading it would probably make your blood pressure pop. However readers that are looking for something that is similar to the Harry Potter style should pick this book up. It’s good enough for me to continue reading this series, however there should be more effort on the author’s part to make things different and think of new creative ways to move the plot ahead. It doesn’t look good if the book is a total rehash of ideas that have already been thought of.
I give it an 7 out of 10.
Thank you to PTA Reviewer Rewards for sending me this book to read and review! It was much appreciated!
In the desert town of Richland, Washington, there stands a giant sycamore tree. Horribly mutated by nuclear waste, it feeds on the life energy of boys that it snags with its living roots. And when Teddy Matthews moves to town, the tree trains its sights on its next victim. From the start, Teddy knows something is very wrong with Richland–every kid he meets disappears before his eyes. A trip to the cemetery confirms that these boys are actually dead and trying to lure him to the tree. But that knowledge is no help when Teddy is swept into the tree’s world, a dark version of Richland from which there is no escape . (Taken from Chapters Indigo).
I could feel the goosebumps while reading this book. Remember those moments as a child where you look out the window and the tree nearby looks eerie and even human-like? The Dead Boys takes this fear and adds a dream-like world on top of that. The horror elements in this book are supremely well done. The fear is real enough to feel, and the mystery is heightened as Teddy gets closer to solving the secret of the dead boys. These are important to enjoy a horror novel and I think the author does a good job in heightening those senses. It’s a quick read, as the book isn’t very long, but you’ll find the story does capture your attention and you’ll want to read this from start to finish in one sitting.
What I thought was really neat was the illustration at each chapter featuring the tree and its’ arm like branches reaching out towards the child. As the story progresses, you notice the branches getting longer (or shorter) depending on the plot. I thought that was a nice add on to the story and it was a subtle hint as to what is to come in the following chapter you’re reading. I really liked that part of the novel it’s certainly something you don’t see in just any regular book.
The ending was good although I expected a more ‘horror-like’’ ending. I think this is because perhaps the book is catered towards a younger age group. This book could be considered for middle grade children or young adults nevertheless I think it’s a wonderful creepy story (a perfect read for those rainy windy days!) and regardless of age, everyone should give this one a try. Just make sure there’s no tree near your window.
I give it a 9 out of 10.
This review is part of a tour going on for this book and marks the first time I’m participating in one! So I thank Pump Up Your Book Promotions and Ms Newmark for giving me this opportunity to read and review this book.
It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist’s dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef’s rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets. Luciano’s loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he, too, is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one, not even those he’s come to rely on most, can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul. (Taken from Amazon.ca)
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. It certainly took me a while to get into it. The first few chapters where Luciano’s story was told did certainly help the pace quicken a bit but I noticed while reading this, it’s a very relaxing slow read. It’s not a book where you’re not quite immediately thrown into the whirlwind. What does help is if the reader is interested in cooking, and in history, then this book won’t be a big issue. Those not interested in those two subjects might have trouble getting interested in the plot.
The intrigue is fed to you in little morsels (as if it’s food). Food and the underlying intrigue go hand in hand in this novel but you’ll encounter rich descriptions on food and its smells, taste, and texture. I don’t mind these descriptions, in fact not only does it succeed in making me hungry, it’s so well written you can actually taste the food being described. I only wish there were recipes handy to go along with the book!
Now, about intrigue. It’s well done, even though you don’t get much of it until near the end of the book. However when it is presented it’s done so it still manages to get your attention and it packs a punch at the end. The last half of the novel really flew by for me as I was really caught up by the action and mystery. I also thought the use of food and having certain political sympathies really did go well hand in hand, and perhaps it’s a very interesting twist on a job as a Chef in a political household. The ending provided a good sense of satisfaction. I would call it bittersweet because some of the outcome of the characters wasn’t what I hoped to be.
As for the characters, Luciano was fun to read. He has his dumb moments where you feel like smacking him in the face, but I really like his loyalty. It was an admirable trait and although difficult to maintain, he really stuck by it. As to Marco, I thought his outcome was a little harsh for his actions, and although I thought he was a little weasel, I’m not sure he entirely deserved what he got. I thought Francesca was a greedy ambitious tart, but I liked her ending. It was certainly well deserved and well suited for her. Also, of course, I loved Bernardo and Luciano’s relationship. Who says cats can’t be faithful companions?
I wouldn’t recommend this book to those that are not into a slow relaxing pace, it’s certainly a book that’s meant to be slowly savoured and enjoyed a little at a time. However those that want something to do with the art of cooking with a bit of history and intrigue on the side would certainly love this beautifully descriptive novel.
I give it a 7 out of 10.
Announcement: I have now committed to just copying and pasting summaries onto my reviews. I know. I have fallen from grace. It’s hard for me to write summaries now (writing good ones that is, without having spoilers for the rest of you). So! if it makes you feel any better there’s pumpkin pie with ice cream, with drinks of your choice in the back. Don’t forget to pet the kitty.
For nine years, the alien Tarsalans have orbited Earth, negotiating immigration rights. When negotiations fail, they surround Earth with the phytosphere, which blocks the sun’s light. As Earth darkens and cools, plant life dies, and worldwide panic reigns. Riots, looting, blackouts, and the breakdown of once trustworthy systems—firefighting, police, hospitals, media—characterize the new Earth. The Tarsalans consider the phytosphere a teaching tool; Earth considers it war. Scientist Gerry Thorndike spearheads a ragtag group from the colonized moon to investigate the phytosphere. His brother Neil, scientific advisor to the U.S. president and Gerry’s rival, leads an effort to destroy it. Meanwhile, Gerry’s wife, Glenda, and their children struggle to survive in worsening conditions, in which other people are the greatest threat. (Amazon.ca website product description).
These kinds of books never cease to amaze me. Maybe because I’m into bleak books and the struggle to survival is something I look to enjoy for an entertaining read. Although, sometimes I get these types of books and read them so that I can learn to appreciate what’s around me more and to not take things for granted all the time (in other words, so I can learn how to count my blessings once in a while). You certainly feel this way when you read through Phytosphere. Naturally of course, this is something that’s virtually impossible to picture happening to us (although, you’ll never know!). Yet the lessons are still noted and although not fully learned, you do feel as if you need to appreciate something, or someone to feel good after reading this book.
It’s pretty bleak. Especially with Glenda and her kids. The moments where she confronts the ‘policemen’ are especially chilling and very realistic. I cannot quite picture how I would deal with this situation myself, but Glenda proves to be strong and manages to keep it together with her children. It’s admirable and although the kids play cliched roles, the story arc involving them and Glenda provides a good read. You can also feel the frustration and helplessness of Gerry as he’s millions of miles away (literally) and his much more ‘smarter’ and more successful brother undermines Gerry’s ideas, refuses to listen to him and persuades others to ignore them. It’s a little obvious to the reader what might befall Neil (Gerry’s brother) in the end, but you can’t help but feel that certain satisfaction when it does happen.
There are quite a number of thrilling action moments, which makes the reading of this book go faster and more exciting. I would have to say, although the majority of the plot is very good and I had fun reading it, it just sounds too cliche and could make for a cheesy sci fi flick shown on television. Also, although there was a good description on the Tarsalans and their behavior I wanted to know more about them. There wasn’t much information except they wanted access to Earth and have been negotiating with regards to immigration. There’s a bit of information given here and there throughout the novel but it still doesn’t feel like a complete explanation. Unless there’s a book that precedes the events before Phytosphere (which I am not aware of, and if there is one, please let me know) it feels as if there’s information lacking and you’re left with a tidbit of information on the aliens when there should have been more offered to round out the story a bit more.
A cliche storyline, with its thrilling moments, and its bleak moments. A few holes in the plot, however with all of this, the book is still worth a read. Do give this a try. It’s worth it, just for an entertaining read.
I give it an 8 out of 10.
This book was good. Really good. I’m a total zombie fanatic so when this one popped up I had to get my hands on it as quick as I could. Despite it’s thickness it was definitely a fast read for me. The plot was pretty good, but had some inconsistencies that made me blink twice. Although the book stated that the living impaired was only limited to the USA (such as the quote below):
First: “Apparently neither did teenagers in Uzbekistan, Burkina Faso, Sweden, or Papua New Guinea for some reason. But kids from Oklahoma, Rockaway Beach, the Big Apple, Arkansas, or the Big Easy all bore at least a chance of winding up living impaired as long as they croaked during the teen delicate years”
YET you get this later on in the novel: “And there are two dead kids in Canada now”.
um..ok? so..is it a phenomenon worldwide? or is it only in North America? last time I checked Canada wasn’t part of the States. Was it a spur of the moment for the author to have the living impaired issue spread throughout the continent? This bugged me. A lot. Although it didn’t take me away from the novel but this sort of mistake does look bad. Perhaps I’m being too picky, but to me, the error is rather obvious and it sticks out like a sore thumb. Especially when you have this (via the Amazon website) from the back cover of the novel:
All over the country, a strange phenomenon is happening. Some teenagers who die aren’t staying dead. They are coming back to life, but they are no longer the same—they stutter, and their reactions to everything are slower. Termed “living impaired” or “differently biotic,“ they are doing their best to fit into a society that doesn’t want them.
Consistency, please. Either have it all over the world, or in one country or continent and stick with it. Don’t change it around to suit your purposes.
I will praise the characters in the novel though. They were all different, and each had a distinct personality (even the living impaired did!). Out of all the characters, I liked Karen DeSonne. She stood out to me as the most mature, and even though she didn’t have a big role in this book, I felt as if I wanted to know more about her, and her side of the story. On the other hand, I really hated Pete. Now I know the characters in this book are very close to their stereotypes (you have a Goth, some jocks, some of the popular girls, etc) but Pete is your typical Jock Jerk (notice the caps yes?). Everything about him was so vile I almost wanted to clean my eyes out whenever he leaves a scene. He sums up everything I hated about these kinds of guys in high school. He’s just so horrible you either want to spit in his eye or punch him in the face, or both if you’re feeling extra generous.
As to the Phoebe/Adam/Tommy triangle, I’m not sure what to say. I like both Adam and Tommy so I’m not sure which “Team” I should root for. The ending of this book shocked me and I didn’t see it coming, which means, obviously, I will be reading the second book of this series. Readers will see obvious comparisons and ideas drawn from the Civil Rights movement (which may be good and may encourage readers to read more on the issue). Despite its flaws, I still found it a great read – it’s perfect for teens but also equally enjoyable to those of other age ranges as well.
I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
Lady Annabelle Ashton is involved in a scandal. So deep in scandal she’s now considered damaged goods. Her father decides to marry her off to Reginald Mason, the son of a family he sees as ‘lower class’ and not even worth the time to socialize with. Reginald on the other hand, is offered an ultimatum; marry Annabelle or get cut loose from any kind of allowance. Ever. Both Reginald and Annabelle reluctantly agree. What starts off as an antagonistic relationship might or might not end up in either being a happy marriage, or a sour one.
It’s a short and sweet novel that took me just one evening to read. For the short length that it was, I thought it was entertaining and a special twist was added in the book to add more to the story. I thought the twist was well thought of and to be frank, I didn’t even expect something like that to happen. It was definitely a refreshing surprise and I was glad to see that this sets the book apart from the typical romances you see on the shelf.
When it comes to these kinds of books, I expect the main couple in question to have the chemistry required to make the plot flow and to make the reading interesting. Annabelle and Reginald felt well together. Both were headstrong and stubborn, and both had a fiery streak. When they both argued, you couldn’t help but chuckle to yourself while reading. They were entertaining and had that perfect chemistry to make them a good couple. They were also both very likable characters, Reginald did start off as a spoiled brat at first but as the story progressed, he was not who I thought he was.
As for the ‘romantic’ parts, I’m not a fan of explicit scenes, but this novel passed. It wasn’t pages long with unnecessary descriptions, and can be skimmed through for those that are just not into that sort of reading (like I am!). This book is a nice light quick read that can be finished in less than a day. The twist in the novel brings more flavor to the storyline and sets itself apart from the typical romances you see on the shelves. This has been a most enjoyable read – even for a non romance fan like myself.
I give it a 9 out of 10.
Masquerade is the story of two women: Charlotte Gleason and her maid Dora Connors. Charlotte gets shipped off from England to America to meet her betrothed, Conrad Tremaine. She’s hesitant and uses this opportunity to plan a scheme that might just work; she’ll switch places with Dora. Upon arriving, Dora gets thrown into a world with parties, luxury, and high society. Charlotte on the other hand, gets a taste of the ‘real life’ which isn’t so fun, and unfortunate events occur that make her reconsider her idea. Both are experiencing difficulties in their new roles. Are they going to give up their charade? or continue living in what appears to be, a lifetime of unhappiness?
This book kept me up at night. I look at the clock and said to myself; ‘right, one more chapter then bedtime’. I really liked the way this book was written. The history was interesting, and rich in detail. I especially enjoyed how the dresses were described, and at the end of the book there’s a small appendix with pictures to help with the visuals. The author’s note was extremely informative and helpful, and you get an explanation on how Moser got her ideas to make this book happen. The plot was really interesting and attention grabbing, and although this book would be considered inspirational fiction (with a bit of Christian element in it) there is mention of God, and some parts do end up being a little preachy but it’s not enough to be a bother. It may get a little annoying and unnecessary at some points, but you’d have to consider, back then there was a heavy dependence on God and the Church. I’d like to think of it that way, and it does add for more historical accuracy to the plot.
The characters in the novel were excellent and Charlotte (in the book she’s mentioned as Lottie) was your typical high society girl. I did not really like her from the start. She’s seen as shallow, oblivious to anything except what she plans to do next at a social event, and throughout the book she’s really a jealous spoiled brat. She actually got me riled up towards the end, it got me thinking that she’ll really never learn her lesson. However, she does develop and mature (eventually). She becomes a much better person but whether she remains likable or not is up to the reader. I preferred reading about Dora though. The particular plot arc was much more interesting and Dora was much more likable as a character. Regarding Beatrice (Conrad’s sister), wow. I really hated her. After what Dora did Beatrice does a nice wonderful ‘thank you’ in return. I felt like giving her the slap for that moment. She was really a hateful witch. Mrs Tremaine, on the other hand, I disliked at first but she became a surprise at the end, and I ended up forgiving her for being so cold.
An engaging plot, a wonderful cast of characters and rich historical detail makes this book worth reading. If you’re willing to put aside the religious content and read it for the sake of its’ historical content pick this book up. It really is worth the read. I enjoyed this book and am glad I gave it the chance it deserves.
I give it an 8 out of 10.
It took me a while to picture the setting for this book. I wasn’t sure if it was a typical fantasy setting, or if it was an urban fantasy setting but using medieval props? it took me a bit to actually get the picture. It’s an interesting way to create a world and I’m still trying to picture it. Some may have trouble with it (especially those who are so used to epic fantasy settings like in LOTR or in Forgotten Realms novels), some might picture it easily. I think what got me was when the different parts of Ixia was divided into ‘districts’. Wait a minute. Fantasy doesn’t do that. At least the fantasy that I am used to reading. So, you can see what I am trying to get it when I’m talking about the setting for this book.
From the start, there’s a lot of intrigue and political scheming. Which is great because it adds more feeling to the story and you can’t help but keep reading to wonder what might happen next. I really liked how Yelena got herself out from the state of being close to death and all of sudden a food taster, but also a ‘frenemy’ of Valek’s. She was forced to trust him, but at the same time she didn’t like being under his thumb. They had an interesting chemistry going on (until later in the book – where it became blatantly obvious). I had to admit though, I like Valek. (Yes, I have a crush on Valek, nothing new, read on). He’s the strong but silent type that you can’t help but be drawn to. I also enjoyed reading about Janco and Ari as they provided the comic relief but were also extremely likable characters. Yelena as a character is well written, I liked her because of her strong will to survive under her circumstances. It annoyed me when it seemed she needed the help of others though, it was as if although she was strong in so many ways, she was still a damsel in distress.
As mentioned before, the plot was good. It was interesting and in so many ways, a very entertaining and satisfying read. Although then came the part where I was suddenly blindsided with this romantic bit and then the plot did a very strange twist and it suddenly became a romance novel. Not sure if I really liked that bit (they were in hiding…and doing the deed and any guard searching DIDN’T HEAR THEM?) but I let that go. I wasn’t about to have this little bump take the enjoyment I had of reading the novel. I’m more curious as to what the future holds for Yelena. Speaking of twists, I really enjoyed reading about the Commander’s secret. I would have never thought of that and it is one of the most surprising and well done parts of the book.
Overall, I was pleased with the book and will continue to read the series. I thought it was well worth the read. However, perhaps this is not the perfect book for hardcore fantasy fans. If you want something with fantasy (or in this case, urban fantasy) with a splash of romance this is for you.
I give it a 9 out of 10.
Eli wasn’t such a nice character to begin with. I found it really hard to like him and thought he was surly, rude, callous, at times down right awful to his sisters, and had such a horrible attitude problem I felt like pulling his stupid long hair out of its roots just to make him shut up. However, I realize being stuck in a place for six years and seeing/doing the same things over again is taxing on the mental state of health. I had no particular liking to any of the characters in this book, none really stood out for me and Eli was the only one with a real personality whereas the others were wooden like and almost seemed as if they were robots. I thought the solution to the hunger issue in the compound was a little…extreme (and disgusting). It does however, make you think on how far would you be willing to go to survive under these circumstances.
However, I did enjoy the plot and the way things were going. It had a very interesting twist that changed my view of the book a dramatic 360. At first I was a little disappointed with the twist but as the plot became more tense, and more suspenseful, I thought it was a good job well done by Bodeen. As you progress towards the end of the book you certainly do feel the tension and it certainly does become so tense it becomes a nail-biter as the mystery deepens and the intrigue is set on high. I enjoyed the ending as well, although I have to admit it does sound a little cliche. But! it certainly did fit well with the book. By the time you do finish the book though, you’ll feel as if you’ve just gone through a huge adrenaline rush.
Overall, a book filled with tension, action, and suspense. It’s good enough to keep you turning the pages and having you reading it until it’s done. It had a perfect twist to keep things busy. You will not experience boredom with this book. Highly recommended for those into dystopian fiction but who are also willing to accept the twist in the novel.
I give it a 8 out of 10.