Friday, November 29, 2013

Beautiful Chaos (Caster Chronicles #4) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be.

Why I read this book?

This is the fourth book from the Caster Chronicles series. So far I have been very pleased with it, even with the tiny novella (Dream Dark) so here I am, continuing with Lena's and Ethan's story.

What's the book about?

As you might remember from Beautiful Darkness, Lena has broken the Order as she claimed herself as both Light and Darkness. We also learned that John Breed was being used by Serafine and Abraham and this book we see the consequences of both events. Both the Caster and the Mortal world are being affected by the order being broken, and only a sacrifice can stop the Wheel of Faith but is not clear what should be sacrificed.

Final thoughts

What Lena had done was the Caster equivalent to smashing the Ten Commandments.

Once again I think Garcia and Stohl did a very nice job. The side stories intertwine nicely and smoothly with the main story line without being less important and adding to the fullness of the characters. I think I've mentioned before that I like the fact that nor Lena nor Ethan are helpless without each other but they are better together. Both of them figure things out and help the other without seeming utterly dependent on the other. Most of all, I like the fact that they both show love for others both in family and friends and their devotion is equal to them.

Was I expecting what happened with Ridley? Yes, it wasn't that of a secret what she was doing and how. I was however surprised at the fate of Sarafine, that I was not expecting.

The book ends with a cliff hanger, which is ok, considering that I have the next book to follow. In all I enjoyed the book, as always was a fast read both because of the story and because it is well written. Once again I applaud the fact that both authors don't try to write "like a teenager would talk" and hence I'm not rolling my eyes in the middle of a sentence doubting anyone would actually talk like that.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass

Love is beautiful pain

Why I read this book?

I have this thing where is very hard to leave things unfinished...including book series. It might take me a bit to re catch with a series, especially if I feel that it has been going down in quality, but unless they make me very mad I will be back. This is case for the series by Kiera Cass, and since the second book was also available in Overdrive I just went for it.

What's the book about?

So one again we are following the passage of America Singer in the "contest" for the crown. If you haven't read The Selection, I would suggest to you stop reading, just in case you find this review a spoiler. America has made it into the Elite, but she is still unsure about her feeling for Maxon, particularly with Aspen at the palace.

But the competition is not the only thing that is worrying America; the attacks by the rebels seem to get worst and are now apparently related to the Selection itself.

Final thoughts

Well that was a surprise. I went into this sequel with very low expectations, thinking it was going to be boring...but I was pleasantly surprised. The Bachelor inspiration is still there but as the group of girls grows smaller is easier to see her characteristics and what makes them interesting characters.

I was very shocked at the turn of events with Marlee. Albeit I was suspecting what was going on with her (no spoilers I promise) I did not see the resolution coming. But at the same time it gave me a different light to see Maxon. I still don't like Aspen, for me he is just obnoxious most of the time.

Although America was less bland in this sequel, I still think she has some ground to cover before I can say I genuinely like her. I applaud her courage and determination with her new projects and is through her that we learn some things that have been hidden about this royalty (I told you it was a bit weird that THAT was the road the new country went for) but I still wish she was more...aggressive towards her goals and how she addresses problems.

I'm getting used to the voice of Amy Rubinate and I feel that in this book her "guy" voice got better. I just would like her to make a bit more emphasis in intonation as sometimes dialogues sound very flat.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

The very worst punishment that we can come up with, short of death, is total isolation from other humans.

Why I read this book?

I'm an assiduous reader of Recently they started talking wonders about the Netflix adaptation of this book and you know me, if possible I like to read the book before I see the adaptation, so here we are.

What's the book about?

Piper Kerman did her fair share of bad definitions in her early 20s, including dating a drug smuggler and once helping with the operation herself. Now in her late 30s, with a "proper" career, a fiancé and trying to settling down in New York City the past is coming to take her payback. The book tells us not only a bit of her past but mostly how she spent her 15 month sentence in a correctional institution in Danbury, Connecticut.

Final thoughts 

I enjoyed the book. Particularly the fact that I never got the feeling that Kerman was victimizing herself. She was always very straight about knowing she made a huge mistake, about being scared but also about how she wouldn't have been able to make it if she didn't have the support of her family and of the people she met in prison.

It was nice to see her outgrowing her misconceptions and her early assumptions of the type of people she would found. I cannot know how much she toned down situations inside of prison, but considering how she made a point about the girl that got out and afterwards told magazines how "amazing" her time in prison was, I don't think this is the case. However, as much as I enjoyed the story, it didn't really blew me away; I was never in a hurry to continue listening.

On the other hand you have the series in Netflix that added a bunch of stuff (I assume to increase the drama factor), remove some others and for some reason show Piper as a very naive person, kind off sheltered...ugh I don't know, she sometimes makes this face like things are just not clicking in her head and that annoys me, because the Piper in the book (at least the one that grew in my mind) wasn't that clueless. I guess that's TV adaptations for you.

Cassandra Campbell does a great job I think, her pacing, rhythm whatever you prefer to call it is very agreeable and her changes in intonation when talking as another inmate were appropriate and made it easier for me to portray the different people in the story in my head. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another

Why I read this book?

Once again I came upon this book because all the hype about it lately, particularly people being upset with the last instalment, so I wanted to know for myself if the book was good or not.

What's the book about?

Set in the future, in a dystopian Chicago we follow the main character Beatrice Prior (Tris) at a time when she must choose what she will be for the rest of her life. After multiple wars and extreme conditions, there is a new “regime” where people have been separated according to factions, where each one represent a major value or virtue. Tris changes faction from Abnegation (selfless) to Dauntless (courage) at the beginning of the story which will be her personal drama, but in the bigger scheme of things, the Erudite faction (intelligence) is stirring things up by basically saying that the system should be changed once again.

What about the main character?

I really liked Tris as a main character. I think Veronica Roth made her a perfect example on how we cannot be built on only one virtue. She is a strong character, determined to be self-sufficient and to show others that she can be more than what you see. She uses people’s comments, often directed at her to bring her down, to fuel her inner strength and she overcomes what she sees as her weakness slowly but surely. I also like that her bigger fears are related to being powerless, mostly because I could relate to this, and who doesn’t like a relatable character? Having a love interest didn’t change her into a helpless little ball of emotion (cough cough Bella cough cough) and instead gave her a bit more of strength. What is more, she would actually stand up to him and tell him a thing or two when necessary.

Final thoughts

I quite enjoy the first book in the Divergent trilogy. I think the political critique was well build as well as the blatant speech on how we cannot just categorize people since we are all a bit of everything. All the characters were polytonal, albeit the ones that were “easily” classifiable in factions are built in a way that this characteristic is a very big part of their personality (is almost impossible to forget that a certain character is meant to be an Erudite, from the beginning)

This part of the story finishes on a good cliff hanger and with a sad note (in my opinion, but I won’t give away any spoilers) both of them make me want to read the next book.

The book itself was a very easy read, kudos to Roth because the book had a very nice rhythm. I would criticize the fact that is a book of 487 pages but only because they used almost 2cm margins and huge font! I like big books, but not when they are big unnecessarily.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Why I read this book?

Believe or not until this year I didn't really know about this book. I was not a adept science fiction reader and I have to thank The Sword and Laser book club for changing that. Then this year (probably influenced by the upcoming movie) a lot of people around me starting talking about the book and after my boyfriend bought a copy of the book and really liked it I decided it was time to see for myself what the whole thing was about.

What's the book about?

In a (distant?) future the Earth was attacked by an alien race, the Formics (as a scientist I find their name quite amusing, especially after they way of live is described) and although the Human race won the last battle, the fear of the aliens coming back is a constant. However, the strategy has changed and the military now recruits kids instead of adults in order to form them into the ultimate soldiers. Ender Wiggin is one of these soldier kids and apparently he might also be the answer to all of our problems.

What about the main character?

Ender is a third child, and this fact is mentioned several times as it marks his psyche a lot. He is inevitably compared with his brother Peter (a hot tempered boy with more issues than you care to know) and his sister Valentine (a girl consider to be "too empathetic" and hence useless in battle). Brightness seems to run in the family, since all three of them are above average, but Ender is seemly the only one with the right balance, albeit he does not think the same way. Because he is very young (6 years old when he starts) his brain is very adaptable so he responds to new situations faster than an older person would. He is extremely gifted in strategy, not only in battle but in day to day situations, which will make him seem a bit heartless at certain times when he is just awkward.

Final thoughts

At first I thought I was going to give this book a 4, but it was the twist at the end, charged with so much, with so many unexpected feelings (mine and the characters) that made this an exceptional book for me. In a way, I even enjoyed the characters of Peter and Valentine, particularly when their stories grow stronger; they weren't just side characters and I liked that. It made me a bit sad that their role was cut off from the movie, as I was disappointed to see that they rushed Ender's passage through Battle and Commander School, but I guess making it into two movies would've been too much of a risk. 
Independent of Scott Card's world views, I think he made an amazing job in building this world and the characters; creating characters that are meant to be kids and forced to act like adults can't be easy, but the book delivers this beautifully in a manner that empathy comes easily.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Why I read this book?
This was the October pick for the Sword and Laser book club. It was also my second attempt with steam-punk influenced books.

What's the book about?

In an alternate history, the Civil War is still ongoing. Seattle was home to Leviticus Blue, an inventor, a scientist. With the Gold Rush still active, the Russians asked for a machine that would be able to help them to win the Klondike race and hence Leviticus invented the Boneshaker...but the machine got out of control and at the same time that it destroyed the city's downtown it released the Blight gas a compound that seems to kill people and then bring them back again. 

16 years have passed and Blue's old wife, Briar, has been struggling, working her hands to the bone to raise her son Zeke. But he is determined to go back to the city and clean his father's name, as he is convinced that he is being accused unjustly. The book follows both mother and son as they go inside of the city and encounter more that they bargain for.

What about the main character?

For me the main character was Briar. She is a strong, resolute woman that is at odds with her past for more reasons that I as a reader could imagined, and in fact some of the new information I learned at the end caught me by surprise. I liked her a lot; the way she will deal with the bullies at her job, the way he dealt with the people in the city that pretended to know more about her than herself. The only thing I would say she could work on a bit was her way of dealing with her son, but I think that this will change after the end of the book (no spoilers, don't worry)

Final thoughts

My first attempt at reading Steam-punk was with Knife of Truth and it was not a great experience. However I have to say that I quite enjoyed Priest's world building. The Steam-punk elements were there, but I didn't felt overwhelmed about them so this part of the story built nicely. I liked Briar as a character, Zeke not so much but I think he is not meant to be liked, but just to act as a teenager. I found it to be an interesting story but I was not really caught by it. I never got at a point where I NEEDED to know what was happening next. I won't be reading the next installment of The Clockwork Century series, but it did make me more interested on the genre in general.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Selection by Kiera Cass

                                                No picture this time :(

Why I read this book?

I think I've established several times that once in a while I will go for a very light, very un challenging if you want, book, just for the sakes of fun. In this case, another girl in the lab was reading the sequel to this book and a blogger I follow published the review for the sequel fairly recently, so I figured if they have it in my library, I will give it a go.

What's the book about?

Years from now, after WWIV for some reason not fully explained a big part of North America, now named as Ilia (USA-->Attacked by China-->American States of China-->attacked by Russia-->failed--> defended by Gregory Ilia hence the country named Ilia and he is "Elevated to King" so Ilia is a kingdom) has become a monarchy and society is now organized in casts. When the prince of the realm becomes of age (?) there is a contest where girls are taken to the palace to gain the heart of the prince and the crown of Ilia.

What about the main character?

Amongst these girls we have America, a 16 year old girl, part of the artist cast, that is very beautiful although she doesn't think so (shocker). She is in love with Aspen, a boy from a lower cast and as you may guess, this is a no, no. She registers for "The Selection" just because both her mother and Aspen suggest she does...

I don't like America, I really don't. The author tries to make her look like she is very selfless and "just a girl in love". But at the same time, she seems to plain! Unlike the "higher cast" girls she meets at the castle, she does care for her new servants, and granted she is the only one that seems to act genuinely, because, you know, she didn't want to be there in the first place, but other than that, she seemed to me like a very predictable character to me, no depth, no uniqueness...

Final thoughts 

I'm sure I am not the first person to guess that Cass loves The Bachelor. And what would it be The Bachelor if you could have the show with teenagers? The Hills meet The Bachelor? Well you get The Selection!. I liked the fictional history part, but the story itself is very predictable. By the end of my book, I would walk around our apartment saying "Oh, c'mon! Seriously? Oh! Quelle surprise America!" My boyfriend thought I was losing my marbles. So the book was ok, it was entertaining I will give you that. And I'm already in the waiting list for the sequel because the same way I wanted to know what happened to Lauren when she moved out of Laguna Beach even though I sort off already knew...I want to see what happens to America, Aspen and prince Maxon.

I did like the reader, Amy Rubnate, she has a very pleasant voice, easy to follow, very nice vocalization