Friday, July 31, 2015

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Title: Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1) 
Author: Gail Carriger
Date Published: 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Goodreads Blurb: 

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. 
First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire--and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
This is a review for Soulless, specifically, but references (not spoilers) to the rest of the series will be made.  

This steam-punk/paranormal thriller is really good! The MC, Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster who is deeply entrenched in the supernatural world of an alternate nineteenth century England. She is a preternatural, who posses the power to neutralize other supernaturals as a consequence of having no soul. In other words, she can take away the powers of werewolves and vampires and render them humans. The logistics of such a being are explained throughout this series and involve a great deal of discussion regarding aether.  

When I say werewolves and vampires, don't think of the paranormal riff-raff clogging the YA world today. Instead think of regency England, the fashionably dressed nobility, and those aforementioned supernaturals enmeshed into the very threads of society. A few memorable supernaturals from this book include the vampire Lord Akeldama, and the werewolves Lord Maccon and Professor Lyall. They are all such 3D characters, dynamic and full of life. I absolutely loved Lord Akeldama's affected persona and idiosyncratic fashion choices; similar to Magnus Bane from the the Infernal Devices, Lord Akeldama was the epoch of fashion and stylishness. I also liked Lord Maccon's domineering yet sweet personality, and Professor Lyall's practicality. 

Alexia Tarabotti was an interesting, appropriately witty character yet utterly contradictory. She was depicted very well, but sometimes, I doubted her priorities. Ivy Hisselpenny, however, I knew without a doubt was hopelessly entrenched in absolute vapidity. Although I found Ivy quite amusing, I didn't understand how Ivy could possibly be Alexia's friend. I mean, her HATS say it all. 

I enjoyed the allusions to the Great Enlightenment, Dark Ages, and I believe the Harlem witch trials. I also adored how Ms. Carriger depicted this alternate world in which science rules society. Although it was not the only thing ruling society (etiquette is quite important), science plays a big part in this book and some of the technology mentioned are pretty cool, like the spiky disruptor. The depiction of the English society itself was quite interesting! It paints a thorough picutre of all the major groups in society, as well as the Queen of England herself. And the BUR (supernatural agency) was an aspect that really interested me, but it could have also been described with a bit more detail. 

This book would have been five stars but I did not like the romance aspect of this book, for it was incongruous ad discordant in an otherwise fun and comical read.

I recommend this to fans of steam-punk, which is a a slightly more fantastical sub-genre in science fiction. I also recommend this to those who adore historical fiction, especially Regency England. Ridiculously comical at times and downright interesting at others, this book is a good choice to those who are looking for a light read. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

WoW: Court of Fives by Kate Elliot

A weekly post hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating!

Click here to order on Amazon!

Title: Court of Fives (Court of Fives #1)
Author: Kate Elliot 
RELEASE DATE: August 18th 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Blurb: 
In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.
Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test Kal's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.
This book is giving off a Hunger Games-like vibe, and at the same time has me thinking Jes is somewhat like Celaena Sardothien from the Throne of Glass. Or maybe I'm delusional and in need of some good books... it's probably the latter, seeing as how this summer has been utterly lacking in exciting YA reads. Hopefully this book will exceed my exorbitantly high expectations. *Fingers crossed*

Thursday, July 23, 2015

T13: Classics

Classics (aka books I had to read for school) are simultaneously the best and worst of fictional books. I have such ambivalent feelings towards classics- I absolutely hate having to read them, but while I'm reading them, or after I'm done, my entire perspective on life shifts just a little. Below is my list of compelling classics. 

Click on the title for more information. 

“When you will not fly into a passion people know you are stronger than they are, because you are strong enough to hold in your rage, and they are not, and they say stupid things they wish they hadn't said afterward. There's nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it in--that's stronger. It's a good thing not to answer your enemies.” 
“Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man.” 

“Some people are nobody's enemies but their own.” 

1984 by George Orwell
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” 

“It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”

“Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.”

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.”

"Ah, if he could only die temporarily!”

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

“I guard my treasures: my thought, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.”

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done--then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.”

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

WoW: Reawakened by Colleen Houck

A weekly post hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating!

Click here to pre-order on Amazon! 

Title: Reawakened (The Reawakened #1)
Author: Colleen Houck 
RELEASE DATE: August 11th 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Goodreads Blurb:

"When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.

And she really can't imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.

But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.

From New York Times bestselling author Colleen Houck comes an epic adventure about two star-crossed teens who must battle mythical forces and ancient curses on a journey with more twists and turns than the Nile itself."

The Tiger's Curse series by Ms. Houck was delightful, and I'm hoping this one will be even better! Egyptian mythology (any mythology, really) is so intriguing and I literally cannot wait any longer for August 11th! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Title: The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1)
Author: Melissa Grey
Date Published: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Rating: 3 out of 5

Goodreads Blurb: 

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.
But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

The plot of The Girl at Midnight reminded me of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It was a good read and the style of writing was unique and peppy, but there were So. Many. Parallels. The writing style was a curious blend of old and new; the characters talked in a refined manner, but once in a while something snarky and entirely unrefined slipped in: 

“Pickpocket?” The word was so salty Caius could almost taste it.”
Salty? Realllyyy? It cracked me up, but it just seemed so alien. 

I enjoyed Echo's character, especially her Bravado as she called it. She was altogether super funny and witty. But the way she interacted with others and actually the way ALL the characters interacted with each other seemed so orchestrated. The only true connection/ depth of feeling I could perceive as genuine was that of The Ala and Echo. Speaking of The Ala, she was my favorite character! Loooved her. Although you could technically draw her as a parallel to Brimstone (from Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone), The Ala is much more of a parental figure, and she was so cool. That first chapter/prologue was my favorite chapter in the whole book because it just seemed so real and perfect. Rowan vs Caius. Hmmm, how well do we actually get to know them in this book? Not well at all, honestly; both characters could have been explained much, much more. Ivy was an interesting addition, and should have a louder voice/bigger role. Out of all the characters, I didn't truly understand any of them except maybe Echo. Virtually none the characters seemed to grow/mature; there was no transition period. To elucidate, at the beginning Echo is naive then bam she gets imprisoned then bam she's super mature and jaded. It was frustrating to see how quickly and unnaturally all the characters changed throughout the book. 

There are so many elements in this book, but none of the seem fully developed. For example all the locations visited in this book were pretty cool, but the only one I felt I truly understood and "saw" was Echo's library. Although the scenes take place in "familiar" (relative term) settings such as New York and Japan, the distinctions between the supernatural and the familiar are non-existent: when we are traveling through New York, I don't really get a feel of how the author is portraying the environment. Does she want it to be spooky, otherworldly, familiar, or intriguing? The writing is pretty and the dialogue droll, but it lacks life. The author doesn't always have clear voice and sometimes the story feels a bit directionless. 

There was an abundance of "action" but nothing actually got resolved. Also the famous firebird? Little to nothing was revealed about its so called powers. There is very little information on the history of the two species the Drakharin (dragon people) and the Avicen (bird people). I did however enjoy the descriptions of both races, and especially when describing Jaspar, found the feathers and scales to be absolutely ethereal. 

I know I had a lot of complaints with this book. The reason was that I was expecting something better, something really, really amazing. This book was merely good BUT I found myself enjoying the banter between Echo and her friends, and loved the descriptions of the otherworldly creatures as well as Echo's thieving escapades. I recommend this book to those who don't have any expectations and want to rebound after reading the Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Also, fans of high fantasy and snarky heroines will find themselves enjoying this book.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

T13: Post-Apocalyptic

The post-apocalyptic genre has been quite popular since the Hunger Games (I'm not going to include the Hunger Games in this list, because 1) it's the criterion with which many people judge post-apocalyptic YA and 2) there are so many other books that deserve a spot on my top thirteen list). Personally, I find that most post-apocalyptic books are  repetitive and boring, often with quite similar approaches. Below are thirteen post-apocalyptic YA books that I believe are engaging and unique. 
Click on the title for more information!
(And BTW, they are NOT in any order)

“The cheetah. Ate. My finger.” The girl looks at each of us.“That’s what you’re telling me? That Jaxon’s Pandora ate the pinkie from my right hand? My writing hand?”
“To be fair, he won it from M-4.” 

“It's always the fear of looking stupid that stops you from being awesome.” 

“We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.”

“My friends call me Wrath,” says Raffe. “My enemies call me Please Have Mercy. What’s your name, soldier boy?”

“If you want to rebel, rebel from inside the system.That's much more powerful than rebelling outside the system.”

“Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.” 

***yes this book is both a fairy-tale retelling aand a post-apocalyptic, quite unique

“You can't be happy unless you're unhappy sometimes."

“Perhaps the logical conclusion of everyone looking the same is everyone thinking the same.” 

“The lesser of two evils was still evil.” 

The Ward by Jordana Frankel

"To pass the time, I try and imagine what the Ward was like pre- Wash Out, before ocean levels rose and contaminated underground fresh."

“How can we understand what we’ve never experienced and adapt without making mistakes?”

“We're pieces on a gameboard, Dr. March, and some of us are more powerful than others. You. Me. Her. We're the ones the gods want. We're the ones they're fighting over.”

“The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective.”