I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: The Selection

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Selection
by Kiera Cass

Plot Summary:
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Expectations:  Beautiful cover!  Not the first to say that I know.  Having read a few of the reviews, there seemed a lot of negative ones; people who thought the story was trite and uninspired.  So I didn't have high hopes going into this read.

Well, not as bad as I was expecting.  It kept me interested and turning the page; I really wanted to find out what was going to happen in the competition.  I think I like seeing (imagined) behind the scenes of a reality show.  Though I don't like watching them (but I'll be honest, except for America's Next Top Model- guilty pleasure),  I find it fascinating to imagine what being on the inside of such craziness must be like.  And also characters in competition hold my interest, especially if I'm rooting for the main character, and the main character has the edge due to character or talent or both.   The love triangle at the heart of this story is a little one-sided I felt, because we got to see Maxon and America bonding, but the backstory behind America and Aspen's relationship was not very developed nor did I see what they really had in common.  (They see each other and feel that instant attraction!  Enough said!) At least with Maxon, you know why he was intrigued by her,  what he wants from a relationship and his intelligence and how sweet is his awkwardness around women?   So just because I have only the first book to judge; you might already guess what team I'm on!

So although the story didn't take the premise or the characters to new heights of literary creation, I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it was a light and entertaining read.  I only wished there was more of a concrete ending.  For that was my only real disappointment - we don't get an ending to the actual Selection process!  I didn't figure the love triangle would be resolved, but I wanted a certain β-itchy contestant to get her comeuppance and get kicked out!  Some resolution in that form would have made me extremely happy. Oh well, that's how they make you pick up the next in the series!
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Dark Descendant

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Dark Descendant
by Jenna Black

Plot Summary:
Nikki Glass can track down any man. But when her latest client turns out to be a true descendant of Hades, Nikki now discovers she can’t die. . . .
Crazy as it sounds, Nikki’s manhunting skills are literally god-given. She’s a living, breathing descendant of Artemis who has stepped right into a trap set by the children of the gods. Nikki’s new “friends” include a descendant of Eros, who uses sex as a weapon; a descendant of Loki, whose tricks are no laughing matter; and a half-mad descendant of Kali who thinks she’s a spy.
But most powerful of all are the Olympians, a rival clan of immortals seeking to destroy all Descendants who refuse to bow down to them. In the eternal battle of good god/bad god, Nikki would make a divine weapon. But if they think she’ll surrender without a fight, the gods must be crazy. . .

Expectations: A kick-ass new heroine!

Well, I could have done with much more kick-assery from Nikki Glass, but overall I did enjoy this book.  Nikki is thrown pretty violently into this new world of Liberi - descendants of the gods - and though that must be hard to cope with,  I kept waiting for Nikki to accept her fate and really explore her powers.  And show everyone why she's the main character.  But, although there was plenty of action and strong supporting characters, I felt like Nikki was too hesitant sometimes to take control and that frustrated me as the reader rooting for the main character.  There is room for her growth however, in the subsequent books in this series, and the last half of the book definitely had me in suspense.  And the reveal on Anderson's power was a great What the Deuce! moment.  I would definitely recommend this book for the action and the new take on god mythology.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Upcoming Blog Tour

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I'm participating in my first ever blog tour!  I'll be reading and reviewing The Orphan, The Soulcatcher, and the Black Blizzard by Kimberlee Ann Bastian.  My review will be posted on the 30th, but I hope people will check out the book themselves to see what it is all about.  The cover is wonderfully simple, dark and mysterious I think!  I'm looking forward to the read!  Here's a synopsis of the book:

Most of his life, Charlie Reese has been surrounded by a loving family and all the comforts of home. But when a house fire claims them, he and his cousin, Jimmy are sent to an orphanage in the heart of ‘Depression Era’ Chicago. A year later, Charlie’s life is shaken by yet another tragedy and with it comes the mysterious introduction of a secretive runaway, named Bartholomew. As Charlie begins to discover more about his new companion, he unknowingly becomes a participant in a two-hundred year old secret. Come the morning of the Black Blizzard, Charlie finds he must make a choice - flee the destiny laden at his feet or take on his responsibility and follow a path full of supernatural wonders

Visit Young Adult Novel Reader for the Tour kick-off!

Review: The Master of Verona

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Master of Verona
by David Blixt

Plot Summary:
In 1314, seventeen year old Pietro Alighieri  travels to Verona with his father, the infamous poet Dante, at the invitation of its leader, the legendary Francesco “Cangrande” della Scala.  A sneak attack from Padua leads Pietro into his first battle, fighting alongside the charismatic Cangrande, and into a tight friendship with Mariotto Montecchio and Antonio Capulletto.  Behind the scenes, repeated attempts are made against the life of a child believed to be Cangrande’s illegitimate son and possible heir.
      Pietro is drawn into the web of intrigue around the child and the tension building between Mariotto and Antonio over a woman betrothed to one and in love with the other – a situation that will sever a friendship, divide a city, and ultimately lead to the events of the best known tragic romance in the world.
     Inspired by the plays of Shakespeare, the poetry of Dante, and the events of history, The Master of Verona is a compelling novel of politics, loyalty, conspiracy and star-crossed romance.

Expectations: The plot summary of this book promised much in epic intrigue and sweeping character driven drama.  The addition of it being inspired by true events was a big draw for me, as I prefer to read my history within the framework of entertaining fiction.  (When I first visited London, I decided to read "London" by Edward Rutherford for my background on the city.  Great book!)

This book was a slow start - there are a lot of characters (handily detailed in the beginning, like a dramatis personae for a play) and a lot of exposition to set up, but once I got through that and had a feel for the characters, the book became extremely engaging.  I had no knowledge of the specific period of history the author was referencing, so I found the story to be that much more suspenseful and fascinating, simply because I was learning so much about the time period.  I was surprised that the language the characters spoke was in a modern style but it wasn't a major flaw in my opinion. The characters were believable and well-rounded and the plot was exciting and well-paced.  There was quite a lot of action and dialogue the author has to balance while also giving relevant historical details, but I never felt that the story's pace was bogged down by too much information. 

Despite the involving plot, I think the characters were the best part of the book.  Pietro's growth was especially heart-warming, because he started off as being quite weak to being the most admirable character in the book.  Which is hard to admit because Cangrande, with his fierce skill in the art of war, his reckless courage, passionate nature, and intelligence, has become one of my favorite characters.   I could understand and even emulate Pietro's devotion to him.  If the real-life Cangrande was anything like this fictional representation, I will have to put him on my list of people to visit... when time travel has been invented.  This book is full of surprising twists and turns, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in great historical fiction.
Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Look Ahead: Different Takes on Jane Eyre

I like nothing more than to read some book that reminds me of, or references my favorite novel Jane Eyre.  I keep lists of books that are derivative of it in some way and I am steadily making my way through them.  There are a few that are coming out this year that I've been eagerly waiting for, and I wanted to get some of my giddy impatience out by blogging about why I CAN'T WAIT for another chance to relive aspects of Jane Eyre.

Out of my list of books for this year, Dark Companion by Marta Acosta is the first to be released (July 3rd) and I was happily able to obtain a galley for review from NetGalley and really enjoyed the gothic, atmospheric writing.  A proper review will be posted in the coming weeks, but I just wanted to acknowledge this book in my post as I am also eager to read other blogger's reviews and thoughts on it.  The Jane Eyre aspect is not as blatant as I was expecting which was a surprise, but this was not the disappointment I would have thought, because the story is such a page-turner.

Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan is probably the one book I am MOST looking forward to, and luckily it is being released relatively soon (August 7th).  The premise sounds like so much fun, and different from the derivatives of Jane Eyre that I am used to.  Jane Rochester investigating a mysterious death at Adele's new school?  And then Jane goes undercover!!  Yes please!  I hope this book will be fun and the mystery well written.  And I especially hope the characters are true to their source.  And maybe Mr. Rochester will turn up at the school in an exciting climax to save Jane from some dangerous mad person.  And this time it won't be Bertha. ... or will it??!! (I mean if Sherlock - as played by Benedict Cumberbatch - can jump to his "death" off a building and survive...)

Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick looks to be a fun, short read in a similar vein to It All Began With Jane Eyre by Sheila Greenwald, where the story of Jane Eyre comes up at useful times to illustrate what is going on in the characters personal lives.  I actually really don't know, as I haven't been able to find too much information about the plot and can only judge from the previous books in the series (which all seem to be based around a different novel).  This book comes out September 11th, and I'll be eagerly waiting for more information on it to turn up.

This one sounds very promising!  Ironskin by Tina Connolly - similar to Dark Companion perhaps with it's paranormal twist on Jane Eyre, but I think this one might follow the plot of Jane Eyre much more closely, as the two main characters are named Jane Eliot (I see what you did there!) and Edward Rochart. (I see what you did there again!)  And the cover is fantastic - gothic and a lovely, ethereal monochromatic color scheme.  For the hero's secret, I hope that the nature of it will be sufficiently major enough to break up the couple as I am always disappointed when I don't understand the motivation of the Jane character to leave her Rochester.  The Flight of Gemma Hardy (although a well-done book) had a particularly weak "secret" I felt.  Ironskin is set to release on October 2nd.

Well that's it for now.  These are the the books I would drop everything to read!  If any readers of this blog are Jane Eyre fans like woah, let me know so I can enthuse with you! :)  
Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Angel Burn

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Angel Burn (also called "Angel")
by L.A. Weatherly

Plot Summary:
Willow knows she's different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people's dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself does. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces and that he's one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil. In the first book in an action-packed romantic trilogy, L. A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill ride of a road trip,  and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful.

Expectations: With the cover, I was expecting a female protagonist with a strong will, and hopefully a unique power that will save the human race.  The summary also indicated a nice, budding romance as well.

This book began promising enough - with the introduction of a new take on Angels, who need to feed on humans to survive and who are slowly taking control of the world through government and church.  I found having the Angels form a Church so they could control the populace through their beliefs very interesting, probably because it has already (or always) happened, and how can you fight people who believe that strongly in something?  The situation does look every bleak, and I was a bit disappointed by how little Willow and Alex do to prepare for the inevitable takeover of the Angels.  Most of the book is defensive strategy and very little offensive.  It is probably to build-up towards the next parts of the trilogy, but I was hoping for a little more action-packing.  I also felt like the romance between Willow and Angel was  too awkwardly teenagerish (yes, that's a word- DON'T LOOK IT UP), which took me out of the story sometimes, as I sighed to myself and thought "Really?  You're psychic and you don't know how he is feeling?"  The conclusion was predictable and only surprising in that I had really thought Willow might show off a little more of her potential in this one, but it seems like she will come into her own in the next books.  In this one Willow was much more of a victim of fate and I wished she was more decisive and had worked more on developing any powers she could have.  Overall, I think the best parts of this book came about when Willow and Alex were battling the Angels.  What action there was, was really suspenseful and interesting.
Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: Filipino Ghost Stories

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Filipino Ghost Stories: Spine-tingling Tales of Supernatural Encounters and Hauntings
by Alex G. Paman

Plot Summary: 
Ghost stories are commonplace in traditional Filipino culture, with virtually every family having their own personal accounts of encounters with the supernatural. Passed on from generation to generation, these tales act as a bridge to the past, to a time lost or nearly forgotten.

Full of ghostly encounters with all manner of things eerie and terrifying in the Philippines, Filipino Ghost Stories is a collection of creepy tales that have been told in the author's family for generations. The book delivers terrific entertainment—and some good chills—for those interested in the Philippines and aficionados of the supernatural alike.

Expectations: Some proper creepy ghost stories that only deep-rooted superstition and religious devotion can foster.  When you listen or read ghost stories that purport to be true, I think most people nowadays have a healthy dose of skepticism, and try to pick apart the story and find out if there are other explanations.  A really good ghost story in my opinion appears to have all possible logical explanations explored and rejected.  I don't really believe in ghosts but I am open to the possibility of something out there.

This slim volume has very short stories divided up into three categories - Provincial Scares, Blackout Tales from the City, and Hauntings on American Soil.  The Provincial Scares were all rather similar, and the Tales from the City section was probably the most interesting and varied but with how short the stories were, there was very little building of suspense or character backstory and the stories were mostly perfunctory and a little disappointing in the lack of convincing details that any of it could be true.  Many of the stories I would put down to various logical reasons or hysterical imaginings of already nervous individuals.  The author does say in the preface that (some of?) these stories were told to him by family members and they might have been told as a "warning, [or] teaching tool" so maybe many were just plain made up.  Having read a few Filipino folk tales about witches and vampires, I found these ghost stories a little tame.  Perhaps a little more embellishment would have made the stories more exciting.  I did appreciate the pictures of Filipino sites, and the appendix of Tagalog supernatural terms in the back.  The book is more of an interesting, if cursory, look at Filipino folklore than a book of "spine-tingling" tales.
Saturday, May 12, 2012

Review: Deadlocked

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
by Charlaine Harris

Plot Summary:
With Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), in town, it’s the worst possible time for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank.
Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down.

Expectations: I've read all the previous 11 books in the series, so my expectations were more of the same - the continuing adventures of a telepathic waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana.  The cluviel dor is featured on the cover, so I expected  that bit of powerful fairy magic would be in play as it's reveal was a major cliffhanger in the previous book.

As another installment in the series, I found little to complain about in Deadlocked.  The characters stories all pick up where they were left, and we get to know more about what is happening in Sookie's soap opera-ish life.  It seems like the past few books have been light on the murder mystery aspect, so that you sort of forget that there is a mystery to be solved when you have to catch up on so many other characters lives.  In this book, the suspense really came from what Sookie was going to do with the cluviel dor her grandmother left her, and in the end I was sort of happy for what she did use it for, although I was hoping she could use it to make a bigger difference in her personal life.  At least now there is a definite clue about who might be the man Sookie will settle down with.  Maybe.  If the next book is the last one in the series, I am so looking forward to seeing how this series ends.  Overall this was a quick and entertaining read which is what I come to expect from this series.
Monday, May 7, 2012


Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

BBC Series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

Season 2 of this amazing series has started airing in the United States on PBS (FINALLY!!!), with the first of a three episode series airing yesterday.  It is one of my favorite shows, and in my opinion one of the best TV shows ever made.  In all aspects and perhaps in large part due to the cinematic quality of the show.  They are really like films shown on television.  I've always been intrigued and delighted by TV shows that push the boundaries of traditional television content, shows like Community, another favorite, which is not at all a traditional sitcom.  But where Community sometimes must sacrifice quality for quantity I believe, Sherlock doesn't have that problem because the focus is only on quality.  The scripts are tight and well-written, intellectual, fast-paced and witty; the actors/characters (I guess Sherlock is not real...)  are amazing, believable, emotional or not as it applies, anchored in their reality, funny and well-rounded.  And even the directing and camera -work is inventive and contributes to the storytelling.  Visual storytelling is taken to new heights on this show, with the camera not a window through which we watch the story unfold, but a canvas where different parts of the screen can be used to tell the story.  It's unique (I think) and utterly brilliant, as the intricacy of the details of the plot can be conveyed quickly.

The first season was an amazing start, and it is with even more amazement that I find the second season continues to build on the characters and the story, with more innovation and skill.  With every episode, I think 'Okay, this is my favorite one' until the next one comes and surprises and delights me.  Although I firmly feel that the last episode of the second season has to be my favorite one now - it is such an emotional rollercoaster, with each segment so perfectly pitched.  I would recommend to anyone who has not seen this show, that if they had to watch one, it should be The Reichenbach Fall, but it would dull the overall effect if they didn't have the previous five episodes in which to watch and experience the emotional buildup.  Everyone on this show should win all the awards for this.  Even if the story isn't everybody's cup of tea, I think the technical skill showed in all aspects of the show should be recognized.  And as a modern update to somebody as famously iconic as Sherlock Holmes, this show more than surpasses any expectations.
Friday, May 4, 2012

Review: The Greyfriar

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
The Greyfriar
by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

Plot Summary:
In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. Millions of humans were killed outright. Millions more died of disease and famine in the chaos that followed. Within two years, once-great cities were shrouded by the grey empire of the vampire clans. Human refugees fled south to the tropics where the vampires could not tolerate the constant heat. They brought technology and a feverish drive to re-establish their shattered society of steam and iron amid the mosques of Alexandria, the torrid quietude of Panama, or the green temples of Malaya. It is now 2020 and a bloody reckoning is coming. Princess Adele is heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire. She is quick with her wit as well as with a sword or gun. Eager for adventure before she settles into a life of duty, her world is turned upside down when she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan. Her only protector is the Greyfriar, a mysterious figure who fights vampires from deep within their territory.

Expectations: Twilight through a glass darkly?  

My first introduction to the steampunk type novel with vampires, action, adventure, and romance.  It was all quite a fantastic ride.  At first, with all the expository information the authors have to set up, the beginning is a bit slow, but with the first attack of vampires, it picks up pretty fast.  The new take on vampire lore is interesting - vampires as beasts or animals.  I wonder if they are all capable of the level of humanity of the resident vampire hunk, Gareth.  Something I hope to find out when continuing with this series.  This novel had an intelligently developed mix of alternate reality, politics, intriguing vampire mythology (and biology), and cast of characters.  The time put into developing the world of the novel was well spent when the main conflicts start erupting, and I loved the suspense in finding out how Princess Adele is going to get out of her predicament.  

While reading the novel I was struck by what I thought of as two phases of the book - the "Scarlet Pimpernel" phase - where we are getting to know about the Greyfriar (but there is little of the humor in this like in the Orczy novels) and the second phase which felt very Disney's "Beauty and the Beast".  I kept hearing the beginning of the title song in my head as Adele found out more about Gareth.  And  particular scenes reinforced that for me: Adele encouraging Gareth to write, Gareth showing Adele his library, inviting her to eat with him, the fight between the "Gaston" of the story - Senator Clark - and Gareth on the parapet and then he holds Clark over? What?  Tale as old as time...  

This novel has many facets to it and a great gritty, realistic take on vampire mythology.  The slowly developing romance was also well done for me too.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review: The Perilous Gard

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Perilous Gard
by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Plot Summary:
In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.

Expectations:  Having seen this book recommended on Goodreads alongside one of my favorite novels "The Magician's Ward" by Patricia C. Wrede, I suppose I expected something similar - humor, romance, suspense and magic.  This novel has fairies so I was interested in how they were going to be represented.

There are some books that seem more magical when you remember having read them at age 12 or 13, but when you re-read them as a mature adult they can either still retain some charm or seem rather silly and predictable.  Had I read this book when I was young, I would probably been more impressed with it than I am now, since I feel that the story was rather simple and rushed with not enough character development to really care about the characters.  The world of the Fairy Folk are not particularly clearly drawn enough to feel like they real, which I suppose is because the main characters themselves do not understand them that well either.  The humor and romance I was hoping for was lacking - with the romance not really well developed.  I guess Kate and Christopher Heron talk to each other alot so they fall in love?  It's a simple read, but I would not be surprised if a pre-teen would not enjoy this more as an entry into historical YA fiction.