Review: Daughter of the Forest

July 11, 2011 at 9:54 pm (5 stars, Australian, review) (, , , , , , )

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Pages: 552, paperback

ISBN: 9780330424417

Publisher: Pan Australia

Date Released: November 1st, 2008 (first published 1999)

Genre: adult/ fantasy/ romance / retelling / historical

Source:  library

Premise:

A beautiful retelling of the Celtic “Swans” myth, Daughter of the Forest is a mixture of history and fantasy, myth and magic, legend and love… To reclaim the lives of her brothers, Sorcha leaves the only safe place she has ever known and embarks on a journey filled with pain, loss and terror. When she is kidnapped by enemy forces and taken to a foreign land, it seems that there will be no way for Sorcha to break the spell that condemns all that she loves. But magic knows no boundaries, and Sorcha will have to choose between the live she has always known and a love that comes only once.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

It was about time that I started this book. I’d heard nothing but stellar reviews about this book. The fact that Marillier lives in Australia (albeit the Western part, which is literally desert)and being born in New Zealand made this even more irresistible.

When I first started this, I sort of really disliked it. My thoughts were “WTF is this? It’s so slow, nothing’s happening! I don’t care about her family! How do you pronounce that?” It takes some getting used to, because the writing is so thick and verbose. This is not a quick read. This is the kind of book you slowly savour, reading it and relishing in the beauty of the words. Everything comes to like around you, the smells and sounds of the forest, the hardships that Sorcha had to deal with, everything. By the end of the first chapter (which is 30 pages long, but feels like 300), I was loving it. I loved how the reader got to know every detail about Sorcha’s family, no matter how grizzly and dark it may be. I loved the relationships between Sorcha and her brothers, how they all felt real and different from each other, which I think is quite a feat when too many characters are introduced at once. You really get to know all the characters in such a way that they become important to you, and not only do you see a growth in Sorcha,  but in everyone else.

Sorcha is a very strong young woman; despite her gift for storytelling, she keeps silent, even when it costs her her life. She does all she can to break the spell that the Lady Oonagh cast on her brothers. She lives through her hardships, seemingly by herself, but she had Red to help her, and her brothers, who believe in her persistence and patience.

The story, based on the Celtic Swans myth, adds so much depth to such a fairytale. I absolutely love fairytales, and this one is one of the best that I’ve read so far. It still retains the magical properties of a fairytale, while having its own element.

This is a novel that doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff. There is rape, abuse, torture. It really feels like a kick in the gut. So why read it, then, if it’s so heavy? Well, there are also moments of hope and love–both romantic love and familial love.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 5
Writing: 5
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5 stars

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Review: Magic Under Glass

June 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm (5 stars, review) (, , , , , , )

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Pages: 225, paperback

ISBN:9781408802120

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Date Released: February 1st, 2010

Genre: YA / fantasy / light steampunk / romance / faeries

Source: bought

Premise:

Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act – singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new life. In Parry’s world, however, buried secrets stir.

Unsettling below-stairs rumours abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry’s involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton’s stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: Book Depository / Amazon

I had been so excited to read this book, and it wasn’t what I had expected. In a good way.

The most important aspect about this book is the magical elements and the world building. It was done in such a way that, not only does it feel believable, it feels natural. From the Victorian-esque universe to the prejudice that Nimira has to face for her skin colour and background, and the slight hints of steampunk, it created this nice blend.

I really liked Erris and the way that he interacts with Nim when they’re first getting to know each other. Though the book is short–too short for my liking; I wish it had gone on for several hundred more pages–their relationship grows into something sweet. That said, I didn’t feel too much character growth on Nim’s part, which I feel was partly due to the shortness of the novel. Nim started off as a well-rounded character: strong, independent, dealing with the pressure of coming from a well-off background to being looked down upon because of her ethnicity and  occupation.

The political intrigue in this book was the bast part, I thought. It was all explained in such a way that didn’t make it seem dull, or like a history text-book, which I found most surprising. I haven’t come across too many YA books that deal with that sort of thing and come off natural like this book does.

Now for the magical aspect: the fey, the alchemy, how Erris works, it was so wonderful to read about, and I loved it. Everything was very well-thought out. This is a world that I would love to immerse myself in over and over again.

I can’t wait to read the sequel, Magic Under Stone. I have high expectations of it.
Also, the US paperback to this book came out on the 24th of May, and you can find info here.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 4
Characters: 4
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5 stars

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Review: The Gates

May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm (5 stars, review, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

The Gates by John Connolly

Pages: 272, paperback

ISBN: 9780340995808

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Date Released: October 1st, 2009

Genre: Middle Grade / fantasy / horror / humor

Source: library

Premise:

A strange novel for strange young people.

Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell are trying to show initiative by trick-or-treating a full three days before Hallowe’en. Which is how they come to witness strange goings-on at 666 Crowley Avenue. The Abernathys don’t mean any harm by their flirtation with Satanism. But it just happens to coincide with a malfunction in the Large Hadron Collider that creates a gap in the universe. A gap in which there is a pair of enormous gates. The gates to Hell. And there are some pretty terrifying beings just itching to get out …

Can Samuel persuade anyone to take this seriously? Can he harness the power of science to save the world as we know it? (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book DepositoryAmazon

After reading The Book of Lost Things  by John Connolly, I knew that I needed to get my hands on something else by him, and honestly, this didn’t disappoint. (By the way I totally recommend that you read it).

This book is written in the same vein of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe or Monty Python. Meaning, despite it’s genre, it’s full of that excellent British humour that I so adore. That wit, that sarcasm, oh, it just makes me excited just thinking about it. I just have to show you an example of the wit and hilarity:

“Schwell, the Demon of Uncomfortable Shoes; Ick, the Demon of Unpleasant Things Discovered in Plug Holes During Cleaning; Graham, the Demon of Stale Biscuits and Crackers; Mavis, the Demon of Inappropriate Names for Men; and last, and quite possibly least, Erics’, the Demon of Bad Punctuation. – pg 37

One bother I had with the writing was that there were footnotes, and while they were sometimes funny and often informative, they also distracted me from the text. I often found myself having to reread the previous paragraph, because the footnote sometimes deviated from the text that I forgot what was happening in the story.

What made this story even more awesome was the use of the Large Hadron Collider. I’m not sure if any of you guys remember all that buzz about two years, that it would be the end of the world if they operated it and tried to recreate the Big Bang. I’ve always been fascinated by physics, so the use of this as a main plot hole just rocked my socks.

A major part of this book revolves around the idea that Samuel is trying to get y while his mum is surviving a nasty break-up with his dad. His dad has moved out, and is living with another woman, and his mum is having a hard time dealing with it. It has a fresh and real perceptive on separation and divorce, and the way that it’s described–in the slightly childish voice of the prose–it makes the reader feel just how painful divorce is for the child, not just the parents.

The unlikely friendship between Nord–a demon who isn’t quite so demonic–and Samuel was just lovely. When they first met by an accidental mishap of physics, they really get to know each other, and their friendship grew into something big and believable.

My main concern was at the end of the book, when Samuel is confronted by a demonic personification of his worst fear: spiders. It would only have made sense in his growth as a character if he had killed the demon himself and conquered his inner fear. Instead, his friends kill it, while he’s just standing there, frightened. Apart from that, his character grew well.

The story was filled with action, and the kind of things that children and adults alike would enjoy reading. Each chapter is more interesting than the one preceding it, and you’ll find yourself unable to put this book down.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 4
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5 stars

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Review: The Dust of 100 Dogs

May 3, 2011 at 11:12 pm (5 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , )

The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

Pages: 320, paperback

ISBN: 9780738714264

Publisher: Flux

Date Released: February 1st, 2009

Genre: YA / fantasy / adventure / historical / pirates

Source: library

Premise:

In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with “the dust of one hundred dogs,” dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact.

Now she’s a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

This is a book I truly loved. The writing was a masterpiece, and I was unable to put the book down. The words seemed to flow so well and since it was written in first person, it allowed a strong connection with the main character. The writing is often emotional and violent, but also beautiful and captivating.

The story itself was a gem. The basic plot consists of a poor Irish girl/pirate, who got cursed to live the lives of 100 dogs before turning back to a human. Did you read that? PIRATES. OH MY GOD. How can that not sound like a great read? Plus reincarnation? Wow, just wow.
The story switches between Emer/Saffron’s first life, her present life, her memories as dogs, and the point of view of a creepy, perverted bisexual man who constantly chastises himself for being interested in males.

This story encounters a lot of interesting themes. For example, sexuality. In one of Emer’s recounts as a dog, she told a story of a male dog who had sex with another male dog, and how this sort of stuff was normal for dogs. It didn’t matter about the sexuality, it just mattered about relieving the tension. She points out that if a creature as simple as the dog can be able to have sex with members of the same gender and be fine with it, then it would make sense for humans–who have proclaimed to be far above all other creatures–to embrace this sort of behavior. Fred Livingstone, he is bisexual, yet he feels ashamed about this, and this ties into the story of the gay dog.

What I hated was how rotten Emer (or rather, Saffrom) was towards her parents. She didn’t seem to realise that her parents–especially her mother–cared deeply for her and want the best for her. With her vast intellect, she could have done anything she wanted, an her parents were trying to help her embrace that. But there were so many instances where she thought these horribly malicious thought, like cutting her mother’s eyes out, or slicing her ear off for absolutely no reason. It just made me wonder if she learned nothing in her 100 lives as a dog. And it didn’t make her seem strong, just bitchy and ungrateful and unable to grow. It gave me very little reason to sympathize with her for the most part of the book.

He story as Emer was rather epic, how she survived an invasion on her hometown, while the rest were slaughtered like animals. She ended up trying to fend for her own while she reached the Caribbean, and from there, her journey to becoming this frightening pirate. It showed great character, and she built lots of relationships with the other characters. She really grew in those pages, in her first life.

This is a story that I really loved, and I recommend that everyone read it. It might not be suitable for the faint of heart: it rape scenes and animal cruelty, and some rather graphic imagery. So approach with caution.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 4
Characters: 3
Writing: 5
Level of  5

Total Rating:  5/5

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Review: Guardian of the Dead

April 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm (5 stars, Australian, review) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Pages: 348, paperback

ISBN: 9781741758801

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Genre: YA / fantasy / romance / mythology: New Zealand / fairies

Source: library

Premise:

Seventeen-year-old Ellie Spencer is just like any other teenager at her boarding school. She hangs out with her best friend Kevin, she obsesses over Mark, a cute and mysterious bad boy, and her biggest worry is her paper deadline.

But then everything changes. The news headlines are all abuzz about a local string of serial killings that all share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Then a beautiful yet eerie woman enters Ellie’s circle of friends and develops an unhealthy fascination with Kevin, and a crazed old man grabs Ellie in a public square and shoves a tattered Bible into her hands, exclaiming, “You need it. It will save your soul.” Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

The story starts off really well. It sets up a creepy tone from the very beginning by mentioning a really weird murderer called the Eyeslasher (you can already guess how this guy kills their victims…). As the story progresses, it keeps its creepiness, instead of just going through phases, which is a major bonus.

The characters are interesting, and through them, the theme of sexuality is touched upon. Ellie’s sister is a lesbian, but it wasn’t taken well with her parents–to the point that they’re scared that Ellie would “catch it”, if she had stayed with her sister instead of a boarding school. I’m a bit disappointed that she doesn’t have a larger role, though.
Ellie’s best friend, Kevin, is asexual, and Ellie helps him deal with it, and supports him. This shows a lovely bond between the two of them, and makes me love their representaion.

Ellie isn’t perfect, but is always comparing herself to others. She’s never quite good enough, she thinks, and once she finds a mask, she feels better when it’s on her face, since she isn’t herself anymore. Her description of the mask on her face, after she ends up controlling someone:

“I knew it had been wrong, what I’d done to Chappell–but the adoration, the love, that felt so good. And it was something I was never going to get without the mask’s help.” -pg 237

Now, that’s a bit frightening, that the power of the mask makes her feel loved in such a way that she thinks she’d never feel it without the tool. It just shows how imperfect and flawed and real Ellie is. She’s described as a large girl, not very attractive and rather plain. This is the sort of stuff I want to read in stories, not perfect pretty girls who get the hot guy.
Ellie is also usually very passive. If someone (i.e. Mark) tells her that she couldn’t possibly understand some secret magic thing, she backs down and even apologises for being curious and wanting to help. It was sort of… tragic, and I could sort of relate to that.

Mark is a bit of a dick at the beginning of the story. He mind rapes Ellie and makes her unable to remember what he did to her. Now, as mysterious and hot that he apparently is, I can’t forgive that sort of ass-fuckery. And when Ellie realises that she’s starting to like him, that her feelings have gone beyond that of a crush, I want to shake her and remind that that he controlled her thoughts. She herself ended up mentioning that should shouldn’t love him because he “enchanted and lied” to her.
Though, regarding this, the concept of rape is discussed: Ellie herself is put into two near rape situations in the same night, and it is implied that because Mark’s father didn’t know what Reka was, the consent may have been misgiving and should not have been used. The way that Healey handles this topic is really well done, and I’m fairly impressed for the most part. The reactions are realistic, and the situations aren’t easily forgotten like in other YA’s.

This story is set in New Zealand, and follows Māori legends, which is a nice change from all these westernised myths that have gotten boring. I’d love to see more books of this type that follow legends from “obscure” places. The portrayal of New Zealand is interesting, and feels so realistic. The setting itself ends up feeling another character, which isn’t easy for most authors to do, I’ve noticed.

The plot is complicated and well thought-out. In the first hundred or so pages, it moved slowly, giving the reader slight hints. Whenever something was revealed, it came as a great surprise, and left me wanting to know more. Though, at times, it felt like I was sitting in a history lesson, and there were pages upon pages of explanations about the legends and the culture. It was slightly jarring, but the plot itself was enough to keep me from putting the book down. And sometimes, the information was interesting, even if the method of delivering it wasn’t.

Everything in the story is connected in some way, from the mask that lay unmentioned for close to 100 pages to Mark’s charm bracelet that seemed unimportant when it was first mentioned. It was all these clues that made me love this book even more.

The ending was sad and sweet and hopeful. Unfortunately, it also left it open for a sequel, but hopefully, it won’t come to that. It ended on a nice, bittersweet note, and I’m actually quite satisfied with it.

Would I recommend it? Yes, a thousand times yes. It was practically perfect.

I absolutely cannot wait for the next novel by Karen Healey, coming out in September of this year.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 4
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5 stars

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Review: Eona

April 13, 2011 at 10:28 am (5 stars, Australian, review) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Eona by Alison Goodman

Pages: 448, paperback

ISBN: 9780732284947

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date Released: April 1st, 2011 (Australia); April 19th, 2011 (US)

Genre: Young Adult / fantasy / eastern mythology / aventure

Source: bought

Premise:

Eon has been revealed as Eona, the first female Dragoneye in hundreds of years. Along with fellow rebels Ryko and Lady Dela, she is on the run from High Lord Sethon’s army. The renegades are on a quest for the black folio, stolen by the drug-riddled Dillon; they must also find Kygo, the young Pearl Emperor, who needs Eona’s power and the black folio if he is to wrest back his throne from the self-styled “Emperor” Sethon. Through it all, Eona must come to terms with her new Dragoneye identity and power—and learn to bear the anguish of the ten dragons whose Dragoneyes were murdered. As they focus their power through her, she becomes a dangerous conduit for their plans….(Taken from Goodreads)


Buy it now from The Book Depository

Okay, so when I saw this book in stores at the beginning of April, I kind of freaked out. I thought it would release on the 19th of April, like Goodreads said. But lucky me got it early. For once, I’m glad to be an Australian book-lover.

The writing is rich and descriptive. It’s beautiful and makes you want to savour the words. I found myself constantly rereading passages because of the amazing descriptions. Goodman certainly has a way with words. From the way she describes the vibrant world that Eona lives in, rich with eastern mythology, it’s clear that she’s done her research, but there’s something more than just that that makes her world-building so magnificent.  While Eon was mainly situated within the palace, Eona takes us all across the fantastic world, through mountain passes and deserts and forests, even across the water. This is a tale of adventure, and we explore the land and its people. Every minute detail is vivid and so easy to visualise, every bit of their culture is shown to us and appreciated.
Because of the first person POV, it feels personal, and you really get to know the character of Eona. I mean, not that you need to learn much about her after Eon, but this has far less angsting over her uncertainty about uniting with her dragon. This time, Eona has to deal with not knowing how to control her powers, which cause great strife to the rest of the cast.

It seems that this book has everything: action, adventure, world-building and character growth. It also has a slight dash of romance. I’m not going to say who it is with, but all I can say that Goodman really made it work. She made their feelings so clear, so easy to believe in. There was a lot of tension in the air between them. There were many times where I practically shouted “Oh, Just rip her clothes off already!”
But not only that, she made their relationship realistic. They weren’t without hardships. They constantly mistrusted each other, and kept the truth. There seemed to be a hidden agenda with their interactions to each other. But that they were able to work through all those problems showed that they were a truly strong couple that really did deserve to be together. I mean, it’s much better than most other YA romances where their biggest problems are keeping away from each other for 18 days and a new hair style (as seen in Torment). So, this realistic romance was done quite well, especially considering the love triangle that tried to separate them time and time again.
The second person in the love triangle, though I didn’t want him to be with Eona, man, I loved their interactions the most. They were SEXY together. Rough and raw passion dripping off every word. They too had the same amount of mistrust, but in a different sort of way. They had a sort of… mutual survival thing going on (and before you complain about spoiling this for you, believe me, this person isn’t who you think it is.)

A wonderful theme explored in both this book and Eon is what it means to be a woman. Examples of this are Lady Dela, who has the body of a man, but the spirit of a woman; and now Eona, who has come to terms with her femininity–to an extent. She mentions often that she had been denied her femininity for years and has forgotten what it means to be a woman. This installment delves deeper into her psyche and offers insight to the issue of the topic, especially considering the less than stellar views of women that this world has.

Trust is also an important theme, which was also present in Eon when she lies about being a eunuch. Eona constantly finds herself in situations where she needs to keep the truth hidden, despite her dragon’s virtue being truth. I think this is an important thing to note while reading the two books.
This theme explore the concept of if you lie to someone once, they will constantly doubt you, even in times of truth, such as Ryko’s rocky relationship with Eona. Ryko still hadn’t recovered from Eona’s betrayal in the first book, and it causes strains in their relationship. Not only that, but because of the lack of truth, everyone’s relationships are on edge. This is also the cause for a major upheaval near the end of the book, which changes the course of things.

In this book, there is more history, answering a great deal of questions concerning Eona’s ancestors, the red and black folios, and why the Mirror Dragon had disappeared for five hundred years. From this also comes a mystery which keeps the reader constantly guessing. We learn a much deeper truth concerning the dragons and their dragon eyes, and from this, Eona is forced to make the greatest sacrifice.

I loved this book so much. Even though it’s only April, and I haven’t read many books released this year, I think this is the best book 2011 has to offer. I beg you all to go out and read this book. Your lives depend on it.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Writing: 5
Level of Interest: 5

Total: 5/5 stars

I believe that this is the highest score I’ve given for any book. Almost full marks! So, you KNOW it’s going to be good.

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Review: Ice

April 5, 2011 at 12:21 pm (5 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Pages: 320, paperback

ISBN: 9781847386571

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s

Date Released: October 29th, 2009

Genre: YA / romance / fantasy / adventure / fairy-tale retelling

Source: library

Premise:

When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe.
Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back — if Cassie will agree to be his bride.
That is the beginning of Cassie’s own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her — until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it now from The Book Depository

I don’t think I can properly express just how much I loved this book. I’ve been itching to read it for like, months, and I was so excited when I finally got my hands on it.
It tells the story of Cassie, who after finding out that the fairytale that her grandmother told her when she was a child is true, and is forced to be the wife of the Polar Bear King in order to rescue her mother from trolls. It’s basically the retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. It’s one of my favourite fairytales of all time, because it’s just so magical, with a hint of Beauty and the Beast.

From the very beginning, I was hooked. The prologue gave such amazing back story and insight in just three pages, and made me fall in love with the story. The plot is incredibly addictive, I just couldn’t stop reading it. There was so much adventure in it, as Cassie travels across the icy plains of the Arctic, dives into an ocean, travels through forests and bogs, and finally, to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Her incredibly journey though the forests and bogs, enduring pain and near-death encounters, was a delightful change of pace from the typical ‘guy rescues the helpless damsel in distress’ stories. It was refreshing and insightful. And throughout her journey, Cassie showed a great change in character, the development all characters should go through.

I was slightly annoyed at the longitude, latitude and altitude markings at the beginning of each chapter, as I don’t know how to decipher those things, and it felt as if I were missing out on something. It got quite annoying as the story progressed.

Another issue I had with the story was when Cassie was with Father Forest, so many things happened to her that should have killed the baby growing inside her, even though Father Forest, and everyone else was trying to prevent any harm from happening to the baby. Cassie was wrapped in a tight cocoon of vines that almost broke most of her bones, and forced to stay like that until she was starving and had wet herself, and she was forced into back-breaking labour, such as cleaning and using incredibly hardcore cleaning products (though, the fumes from such cleaning products can be harmful; pregnant women are advised to steer clear of using such things for most of their pregnancy, especially the last 2 trimesters). The baby should have either died or been born with serious defects from everything that it had gone through.

At odd times, it seemed as if the characters were too modern at times, especially the ones that are originally a few hundred years old, like Bear, Father Forest and the North Wind. But despite that little flaw, they were all extremely awesome and I loved each of them, they all had depth, were understandable and were a delight to follow, even the minor characters.

The ending seemed a bit abrupt and too fast-paced, as if Durst was trying to wrap things up as quickly as possible, in as few words as she possibly could, but still, it worked in some way, retaining some logic and epicness.

Overall, a pretty epic book, one of my favourite YA’s/retellings.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Writing: 5
Level of Interest: 5

Total: 5/5 stars

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Review: Invisible Monsters

April 3, 2011 at 12:10 pm (5 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , )

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Pages: 304, paperback

ISBN: 9780099285441

Publisher: Vintage

Date Released: November 2nd, 2000 (originally published 1999)

Genre: adult / satire / literary / thriller / dark humor

Source: bought

Premise:

She’s a catwalk model who has everything: a boyfriend, a career, a loyal best friend. But when a sudden motor ‘accident’ leaves her disfigured and incapable of speech, she goes from being the beautiful center of attention to being an invisible monster, so hideous that no one will acknowledge she exists.
Enter Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme, one operation away from being a real woman, who will teach her that reinventing yourself means erasing your past and making up something better, and that salvation hides in the last  place you’ll ever want to look.
The narrator must exact revenge upon Evie, her best friend and fellow model; kidnap Manus, her two-timing ex-boyfriend; and hit the road with Brandy in search of a brand-new past, present and future. (Taken from blurb.)

Okay, let me start this off by saying that I am a massive fan of Chuck Palahniuk. I first started reading his stuff way back when I was 14 or 15. Clearly, most of the themes and situations went way over my head. But upon re-reading this book,  I’ve ignited my love and understanding for the man.

The story is set out so that it jumps all over the place, jumping through time, breaking in the middle of tense scenarios, and filling the reader with bits of seemingly worthless information, that actually builds the story, the way a jigsaw piece may seem insignificant on its own. For some, the all-over-the-place structure may be annoying, and it does take some getting used to. But I quite enjoyed it.
Most of Palahniuk’s books read this way, in a disjointed manner, so I suppose if one doesn’t like any of his other stuff, then they most likely wouldn’t like this.
The writing style is also something that not everyone will enjoy. He uses repetition, is sometimes over the top with his graphic descriptions, and often throws in a sentence or two that seem life changing and philosophical.
This book left me with a few quotes that I believe I must share, because they just make me say wow:

“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I’ve ever known.”
“The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person.”

“All God does is watch us and kill us if we get boring. We must never, ever be boring.”

What I love most about this book is Palahniuk’s way of surprising the reader with these sudden twists that make you go “no way!”, even though it seems completely obvious in hindsight. Even after reading this book twice already in the last few years, I found myself still being surprised and shocked.

I know that this isn’t much of a review, but I can’t really say much about this book that isn’t completely biased and goes along the lines of “This book is fantastic, it’ll change your life, it’ll change the way you write, speak and see life. It’s a literary masterpiece. I am completely in love with Chuck Palahniuk because of this book.”

So, give this book a chance. I can’t promise you’ll love it, but it’s worth a shot.

Cover: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Writing: 5
Level of Interest: 5 (so much, so, I literally couldn’t put this book down, was annoyed when I actually had to due to going on a date. Even managed to finish it in approx 4 hours of on/off reading.)

Total: 5/5 stars.

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Review: Rage

April 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm (5 stars, review) (, , , , )

Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Pages: 228, paperback

ISBN: 9780547445281

Publisher: Harcourt Graphia

Date Released: April 8th, 2011

Genre/theme: YA / fantasy / self-mutilation

Source: Galley from the publisher

Premise:

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world. (Taken from Goodreads)

As expected, this book was very similar to the first, Hunger, in the way that it tugged on one’s heartstrings. Another masterpiece that shows just how badly some people can be hurting on the inside, while trying to pretend that everything is just fine.

In this instalment, we’re introduced to Missy, a loner girl who gets picked on at school, and cuts her feelings out. Now, I can really relate to that, and all the emotions she felt, I too felt them in the last few years. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

One night, Missy makes a mistake and cuts too deep, thus severing an artery. Now, like a lot of cutters, she didn’t want to die, she just wanted to release her emotions. But Death makes her choose between dying or becoming War. He tells her that she needs control, that she needs to stop reacting to her emotions and think first, which is something that a lot of people who depend on cutting need to learn, and would most likely learn from this book.

The writing is so concise, descriptive, and fairly emotional. Just like in the first book, the reader is drawn into the life and mind of the main character, and is able to understand them. And just like in the first book, the writing is fairly disgusting in terms of graphic use. This book should be avoided if one has a weak stomach and can’t handle hearing of severed arteries and blood spray.

The one thing that bothered me about this book was the very slight romance between War and Death. They seem like an alright couple, I guess, but there’s no chemistry in their kiss. I think the reason for that is caused by the lack of interaction between the two of them. Also, just because Missy thinks he’s hot because he looks like Kurt Cobain, and just because it’s just always been that War and Death have been together, it does not mean that they should so easily get together without some sort of romantic bond or tension. It just felt unbelievable and fake, and ruined the otherwise nice relationship between the two characters.

All in all, this book was a motivational read. It scared me and inspired me, and is one I will likely not forget for a long time.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 4
Characters: 4
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total: 5/5

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Review: Hunger

March 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm (5 stars, review) (, , , , , )

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Pages: 180, paperback

ISBN: 9780547341248

Publisher: Harcourt Graphia

Date Released: October 18th, 2010

Genre/themes: YA / fantasy / eating disorders

Source: bought

Premise:

“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons? (Taken from Goodreads)

Okay, so this just sounds like an amazing read. A girl suffering from anorexia who becomes Famine, one of the Four Horsemen? What a fantastic idea. I just wish that I had come up with it first.

Now, Lisabeth Lewis is an odd character. She thinks she’s fat, no matter how much weight she loses. Because of this, I think she is a highly relatable character. God knows how often I’ce decided to skip a meal to stay thin. And in this day and age, where the media is constantly reminding us females that we need to be thin to be beautiful, I think this is a book almost every girl should read.

Though, I really must comment on the annoying repetition of the ‘Thin Voice’ telling us how many calories are in preacitcally every food mentioned (and sometimes in foods that aren’t mentioned). It’s fine a few times, but when it averages on twice per page, it gets distracting.

I loved how realistic her reaction to everything that happened was. From finding out she’s Famine to neeting Death and interacting with him. Most books don’t have that, which made this stand out from the rest.

Death was an interesting character. He was an odd blend of modern and traditional.  He interacted well with all the characters, and was the perfect leader holding them all together. I found it interesting–interesting in a bad way, mind you–that he took upon the form of Kurt Cobain. I don’t know, I just would have found it more settling if he were his own character, not a rip off of a dead rock star.

War, on the other hand, was a terrifyingly cool character. She was a Queen Bitch, but she made it likeable. I personally found myself cheering for her in the final battle between her and Lisabeth. Their interactions were fun to read.

There were some unnecessary scenes where Lisa has an ‘excruciating bowel movement’ that was described in far too much detail. It was slightly off-putting and sickening. The last thing I want to read about in a tragic, touching tale is about explosive bowel movements. Ick! *shudders*

The ending was tragic, amazing, and emotional. The setting was just a massive tearjerker and the final showdown was amazing and well thought out.
This book gave out a really strong message towards girls with eating disorders and it really made me reflect on all that.

A book that tugs on the heartstrings, this is something I would reccomend everyone to read.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 4
Characters: 4
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total: 5/5 stars

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