Bloodlines & The Golden Lily – Book Reviews

If you read my previous blog entry about the Vampire Academy books by Richelle Mead, you’ll know I’m a fan.  I was very happy to learn that there was indeed a spinoff planned of these books.  The Bloodlines Series started with Bloodlines, and continued with The Golden Lily.  The Indigo Spell is due out in February of 2013.

You don’t totally have to have read the Vampire Academy books to understand this series, but it certainly helps.  Many things are written as though it is implied that the reader has read the previous series.

Bloodlines is basically the story of Alchemist Sydney Sage.  If you read the VA books, you’ll recognize her as one of the people who aided Rose in her quest.  The story picks up a little while after the VA books leave off, and we are re-united with Sydney, who is somewhat suffering the consequences of her involvement in aiding a fugitive.

She is recruited by the Alchemists to go on a mission to keep Jill Dragomir (Lissa’s half sister) safe from the ones who are trying to kill her.  Lissa’s reign as Queen of the Moroi is only valid as long as she has a living relative.  Trying to kill a queen is tough work, so the rebels are going after her sister Jill, who is more vulnerable, and in killing her they basically achieve the same thing: removing Lissa from the throne.

So Sydney is posing as Lissa’s sister at a totally human school under complete secrecy.  We get to see many others from the VA series as more central characters in this series.  Aside from Sydney, we have Eddie and Adrian, and even Sonia and Dmitri play supporting rolls.  There is even a cameo appearance near the beginning from Rose herself.  Those who read and enjoyed VA will appreciate that.

These books are kind of the same as VA, but very different in some ways too.  Our heroine is very different.  With Rose, we had a badass, ass kicking, brave, impulsive heroine.  Sydney has her own style, and though she is very intelligent, and brave as well, she certainly goes about life more differently and more responsibly.

I liked these books.  I will have to wait to pass my full judgment until I read farther into the series, obviously.  They move a little slower, and spend a lot of time building up the characters and giving insight into them.  Sydney can be extremely frustrating at times as she has literally no dating experience and is completely oblivious to the world of love and dating.  As an Alchemist, she also has several prejudices against vampires that have been ingrained in her since she was little.  She literally has a physical reaction to the use of magic.  She is certainly more tolerant of vampires and damphirs than most of the rest of her kind.  She considers them friends and allies, and shares her life with them, above and beyond her mission to protect Jill.  But those prejudices are there, and though I hope she shakes them as she continues throughout this series, I imagine that will take some time and will cause much more frustration for the reader as she does.  She is already starting to see many things about her kind that are disturbing to her, and making her question the foundation upon which her life has been built.

These books have everything.  A bit of action, a bit of magic, some romance, friendship, you name it.  Adrian plays a large role, as I loved him in the other books.  I didn’t love him for Rose, as I am a huge fan of Dmitri and believe that they are totally right together.  But he is still a wonderful and very misunderstood character, and from what I can see, I think he will finally get a chance to really shine in these books.

Overall, if you like this kind of thing, definitely read these.  I’m looking forward to the rest.  I had heard somewhere I think that there were six planned, but I’m not 100% sure about that.  I hope there is, because there are a lot of directions this story can go.

Until the next one… 🙂

Divergent – Book Review

I had seen Divergent by Veronica Roth in Chapters many times.  I knew it was a pretty popular book for young adults, and a friend had recommended it to me.  In Chapters it always was in the featured sections, often having a display of its own.  So when Chapters had their buy 3 get the 4th free deal on, I picked it up.

I’m so glad I did.

I am a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy.  I find Dystopian Fiction quite interesting and scary in a sense, because I suppose anything is possible.  Reading Harry Potter and Twilight, there is the fantasy element there with wizards and vampires, so while you’re reading it though you are thoroughly entertained, there is always that element of disbelief.  Obviously.  I mean, Lord Voldemort is scary, yes, but he doesn’t exist. I’d hate to have to go up against the Volturi, but I know I never will.

Books like The Hunger Games, and this one – Divergent – don’t have that magical element.  There is no fantasy here.  This is all about how people have screwed the world up, and due to decisions that real people have made, other real people are controlling others and oppressing others, and brainwashing them to think that it is normal, and that they like it.  That’s what’s scary about it.  I suppose that no matter how outlandish it may seem, it really could happen.  That’s what makes it good though, and that’s what keeps you coming back for more – you’re almost desperate for a happy ending, because in a way it could be your happy ending one day.

Divergent takes place in dystopian Chicago.  It is the story of Beatrice Prior, who is about to choose her path in life.  The city is broken down into 5 factions.  Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful) and Erudite (the intelligent).  At the age of 16, all youth must take an aptitude test to tell them which faction they are most suited for.  Though most stay within their own faction, it is ultimately the decision of the youth themselves to choose one of the five.  If they choose one that is different than the one they came from, it usually means that they will be cutting off all ties from the family they are leaving behind.  They then must survive an initiation process that tests their abilities to the limit, before they are welcomed into the faction of their choice.

Our story centers around Beatrice Prior, a 16 year old from Agnegation who finds out something very interesting during her test, and then must make her choice.  She renames herself Tris, and it follows her story as she works through initiation, makes new friends and enemies, and learns surprising things about herself, and about the people around her that she thought she knew so well.  It’s interesting to read as she tries to figure out who she can trust, who is good, who is evil, and what people’s true intentions are.

I really enjoyed this book.  It’s like Hunger Games, but not.  It’s good, but different.  The sequel, Insurgent, is out, and I’m waiting for the paperback version to be released so I can scoop it up.  I’m really looking forward to reading it.  This was a very fast paced, interesting and entertaining read.  I like the character of Tris because she is definitely the heroine, but she is flawed, not incredibly beautiful, and a bit of a badass at times.  She’s believable, and strong, which is a good example to the female demographic this book is aimed to.  Much as Katniss was an independent, strong female.

Check it out for one of your summer reads.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Before I Go to Sleep – Book Review

Ever wondered what it would be like to wake up in the morning with no idea where you are, who the man in the bed is beside you, and when you look in the mirror, you're about twenty years older than you last remembered? Then you take the day to be brought up to speed, to find out that you had a horrible accident that causes your brain to reset every night while you sleep, erasing everything from the day before. Kind of like 50 First Dates, but this definitely has a more sinister twist.

This is the story of Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. This is the story of Christine. She wakes up every morning to be introduced to her husband Ben, who proceeds to tell her that she has been married to him over 20 years. She has no memory of meeting him, of their life together, and the last 20+ years. Then off he goes to work, and she is left to try to deal with this and figure it out on her own.

She then happens upon a diary that has been written by her. On the first page, there is a note to herself from herself – “Don't trust Ben.”

So off we go, through this diary, to try to figure out what has happened to Christine since her accident, what the accident actually was, why she has been disconnected from all the people that she cares about, including her best friend Claire, and what the heck is actually going on here.

This was a really good book. I really liked it. I don't read very many thrillers, but this had an aspect to it that hooked me, and kept me throughout. It was a quick read, I think it took me about a day to finish. There was a constant feeling throughout – a feeling that there was something wrong, something not quite right. I really have to say though, it kept me guessing right until the end.

My only slight difficulty with this book was the ending. Without any spoilers, I found that the author tied it up a little too well at the end. Feeling like I was hanging over the edge of a cliff throughout the whole book, I maybe would have liked to have been left hanging a bit at the end of the book.

Overall, I recommend this book to just about anyone, it was a compelling, entertaining read, and worth the day you'll spend reading it as the vacuum sits untouched and the dirty dishes remain unwashed.

4 out of 5 stars on this one.

Enjoy.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy – Book Review

Who hasn’t heard of Fifty Shades of Grey?  I think even those living under rocks have heard of it.  It’s all over the media, and the three books, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed, by E.L. James have taken the world by storm, holding the top three spots on the NY Times Bestseller list for several weeks running.

Just as a little background, if you didn’t already know, the book started out as fan fiction for Twilight.  If you’re not familiar with fan fiction, it’s taking characters, etc. from another author’s books, and putting them into your own story, either in the same universe that they were originally written in, or your own, alternate universe.  There are several websites dedicated to fan fiction.  Some of it is actually pretty good.  Some is crap, but whatever.

So Fifty Shades of Grey takes place in Seattle, and the main characters are Anastasia Steele (previously Bella Swan) and Christian Grey (aka Edward Cullen).  There are some similarities between the characters and Stephanie Meyer’s characters, as in if you knew that it was originally fan fiction, you could pick them out.  If you didn’t know, it’s not blatantly obvious. Oh, and there’s no vampires.

These main characters have different life stories as well.  When they meet, Ana is a soon to be college graduate who is sent in as a replacement for her best friend Kate, to interview the absolutely gorgeous and intimidating billionaire, Christian Grey.  There is an automatic spark between the two of them, and after the interview, Christian finds ways to see her again.  It very quickly comes to light that he has a very dark side and quite the past.  He is a dominant, among other things, who has had several submissives in the past, and is very eager for Ana to become one of them.  She of course, has never even had a boyfriend, and is as inexperienced as he is experienced in the world of sexual pleasure.

It’s not really giving anything away to say that the two fall in love, and they have sex, sex, and more sex.  All three of these books are quite explicit sexually, and that, combined with the fact that Christian is depicted as an absolutely drool-worthy, complicated, very vulnerable man who uses BDSM as a means to have control – stemming from his childhood and the horrific nature of it, and I think that’s why these books are so popular with the middle aged mommies.

The books follow these two characters and their story together, with the supporting cast being somewhat similar to those in Twilight, but again, no vampires, and no wolves.  The story weaves in and around the bedroom scenes, and elevator scenes, and boathouse scenes….you get the idea.  We see, as Ana slowly chips away at Christian’s cool, controlled demeanor, why he is the way he is, why he does what he does.  As we go through the story, we see them both struggle with Christian’s constant desire to be in control of everything, and the boss of everybody, including Ana.

In Twilight, the relationship between Edward and Bella is in my mind not healthy at times, with how completely attached they are to each other.  How totally ones existence depends on the other.  Edward is controlling of Bella, mostly because he doesn’t want her to get hurt, but for the most part, though it annoys her, she goes along with it.  Though she does finally grow a bit of a backbone and goes against Edward when it comes to protecting her child.

In Fifty Shades though, Ana is slightly stronger than Bella I think.  She at least is willing to stand up for herself a little more and learns very quickly to set limits with Christian, whose controlling nature does get pretty old pretty fast.  Though she does put up with a lot more than many women would, which I think might annoy any feminists that may read these.

As far as my impression of the books, when I heard all the hype surrounding them, and what they were about, I could hardly not read them!  I purchased them all as e-books, and devoured them all pretty quickly.

These books are not literary masterpieces.  The writing is not fantastic, they are not polished.  The sex scenes are good, and though they are varied, the language used to describe them is quite repetitive.  The thing that kept me hooked I think was the way the author wrote the character of Christian.  He is absolutely beautiful, but very tortured.  The intensity with which he loves Ana is something that we all crave at one point or another.  The feeling that a gorgeous, powerful man can be brought to his knees simply because he loves a woman so much, is quite enticing.

Do I recommend these books?  Well, it definitely depends on who is asking!  If you like romance novels, if you liked Twilight I guess (but are old enough for these books), than I say go for it!  Heck, you should just read them because then you’ll be able to join in the conversation about them.  If you’re a woman, and you’re married or attached, I think that they will get you revved up enough for your significant other to thank you for it!

I would love to hear comments from those who have read these books.  I don’t know a single man who has read them and would love to hear an opinion from a male perspective, though I can kind of guess what that might be.

Enjoy!

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Book Review

I’m walking through Chapters one day with a very dear friend of mine, who just happens to not only share my love of books and reading, but also shares my love of young adult fiction, fantasy, Harry Potter, Hunger Games and the like.  Great girl, she is.  We’re browsing through the stacks and she points out this book to me: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith.  I’m very open minded when it comes to books, but when I saw this one, I had to admit, I was taken aback.  Especially since next to it on the shelf were several copies of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I felt a bit like I had entered the Twilight Zone.  She assured me though, that it was awesome, so trusting her as always, I purchased it.

It sat on my shelf for a while.  I wanted to read it.  It held appeal, for three reasons mostly – the sheer oddness of the title, the fact that it had vampires in it, and that Karen had recommended it to me.  But I never picked it up.

Then we went to see the Hunger Games.  And there was a trailer for the movie that was being released for this book in June.  Karen got quite excited about it, and from looking at the trailer, I thought to myself: I want to see this movie. Well, as I always read the book before seeing the movie, I knew I’d better get cracking, especially if I wanted to see it with her.

This book is kind of a story within a story.  It is told by a narrator, whose story you get a brief explanation of at the beginning.  Without giving away too much, he happens  upon several diaries that were written by none other than Abraham Lincoln.  He is commissioned to write the story of Lincoln’s life, as told through these diaries, not the ones in the history books.  The two are similar, and the main events are true, and obviously Lincoln’s public and political life were documented, but the true motivation behind all of Lincoln’s actions, policies, and drive to abolish slavery were not what you may think.  Actually, it was all about the vampires.

Starting from when he was a young boy, when a vampire took the life of his beloved mother, Abe vowed that he would do whatever he could to rid the earth of as many of these creatures as possible.  This quest shaped his whole life.

To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about Abraham Lincoln, aside from the basics.  This book gave me a good insight, and I often found myself turning to Wikipedia and Google to verify facts and try to figure out what was real and what was fiction.  Whenever I thought of Lincoln before, all I could see in my head was the Abe from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  A far cry from the man presented in the pages of this book – a towering, limber, fast, strong individual who could cut the head off a vampire with relative ease.

I liked this book, but for once, I think I might like the movie better.  I can see how this book will lend itself to a movie in such a way that it may be portrayed better on screen.  If you’re into that type of thing (if there is that type of thing) I recommend it.  It will make you look at this historical figure in a different light, and perhaps learn a few things about him as I did, by reading past the fiction and about the actual events of his life.

 

The Night Circus – Book Review

There has been a lot of hype surrounding The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  Tons of reviews saying how wonderful it is, how magical, how unputdownable (is that a word?  It is now).

I really wanted to read this book.  I hate hardcover, and was convinced to wait for the paperback.  I refuse to pay over $9.99 for an e-book of any format.  $4.99 is my usual.  With all the hoopla about this book, you can imagine how happy I was that the price for the kindle version dipped below my spending limit.  $9.96.  Cha-ching!

Now that I had it finally, I needed to read it.  This took me a while.  Or a while for me anyway.  As I stated above, I really wanted this book.  Now that I had it, I really wanted to like it.  Really, I did.

I did like it.  Sort of .

As I said, this book took me a really long time to get into.  Some books are best read large chunks at a time.  It’s easy to forget what you’ve read and lose yourself if you just read small bits, and if there is lots of time in between reads.  This was one of those books.

Okay.  So overall, it’s a story about a circus.  A truly magical circus.  One that is open from dusk until dawn.  The circus is the lifeblood of the story, but really it is merely a backdrop for a relationship between two people, Celia and Marco.  Bound together and yet against each other in a magical competition of sorts.  Neither of them really know the full details of the competition, what the outcome could be, even that they were competing against each other at first.  So what happens when the whole thing comes to light and they realize that one must win, and the other….well, never mind.  What happens?  They fall in love of course.

The plot of this book takes a while to get going, and even once it does, doesn’t really speed along at all.  The secondary stories about the supporting characters are interesting, and charming at times, as well as slightly disturbing.  The circus becomes an object of obsession for many, startlingly so for some.

Do I recommend this to everyone?  No.  To some?  Yes.  I have friends that I know would love it.  Others that I know would hate it.  It is definitely magical.  Definitely dark at times.  The circus is described as being black, white, and a million different shades of grey.  The book is like this, only there are bright splashes of colour every now and then, often in clothing that people are wearing, in brief, bright descriptions.  I really do feel though that this is one of those books that is trying to be dark, trying to be artsy and different, and though it succeeds, it doesn’t come as effortlessly as perhaps the author hoped it would.

Overall, 3/5 stars.  I liked it.  Sort of.

The Secret Daughter – Book Review

A while back, I took a couple of days and read The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.  I am so glad I did.  I say a couple days, it really didn’t take me that long if you add up all the time I spent reading it.  It was a very fast, fluid read, and a wonderful story.

The root of the story revolves around two women.  An Indian woman named Kavita, and an American woman named Somer.  Kavita has a child, and because she is a girl, she gives her up to an orphanage in order to protect her from being killed, as daughters are not wanted like sons.

Across the globe, Somer, a doctor, who is married to Krishnan, another doctor who immigrated from India, is having problems having children, and it looks like the only way they will ever have a child would be to adopt.

As you can probably guess, Somer and Krishnan end up adopting Kavita’s daughter, Asha.  It’s heartbreaking to think of a woman having to give up a child that she so desperately wants, even to save her life.  But Kavita’s love for her daughter overpowers any personal desires she may have.

The story follows the two women, and where their lives take them.  It also follows Asha, throughout the difficult stages of adolescence, knowing she is adopted, feeling her parents (especially her mother) don’t understand her, yearning for information and to meet her biological mother.

Eventually her yearnings and learnings (she’s a journalist) take her to India, to her Father’s family, where she finds out about her roots, about herself, and about the country she came from.

It’s a very good book.  It is full of characters who at times seem like they are their own worst enemies.  You want to smack them up the side of the head at certain parts of the story.  What it boils down to though is that they are all good people, who are bonded by their love for each other.

It is a well written story, and though it jumps around from the perspective of the different characters, it flows well and isn’t at all confusing.  It turns India from a foreign place that I didn’t know much about to a very interesting, beautiful cultural experience.  It was eye opening to see how dire the circumstances are for some of the poor people there, in comparison to how well the rich live.  Upon reflection though, I guess that doesn’t really differ much from North America or other parts of the world.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.  I gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads.