Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens

This is the second book I have finished for the Fall into Reading challenge, so I am halfway to my goal. This is also the second book in the Books of Beginning series, so it will have spoilers for the first book The Emerald Atlas. If you have not read the first book, you may want to skip reading the review.

Emma, Kate, and Michael are back at the Edgar Allan Poe Orphanage in the present time. The day after Christmas, fifteen years prior, both Gabriel and Dr. Pim left on a secret trip. The children are not happy about being in the orphanage again, but at least they are together, until screechers appear. Kate uses the Atlas to remove a screecher and goes to the past, while Emma and Michael are taken away by Dr. Pim. Kate does not appear immediately, but Dr. Pim assures the two children that they will see her soon. Their focus in the meantime is on the second Book of Beginning, the Chronicle of Life. Kate had informed Dr. Pim of dreams she had and one of these concerned her being in the past and Michael as Keeper of the Chronicle. Emma, Michael, and Dr. Pim set out for the city of Malpesa to find the book, when they are attacked by Rourke, the main supporter of the evil Dire Magnus. The children are sent off with Gabriel to find the second book, while Kate is stuck in the past in the final days before the Separation of the magical and nonmagical worlds. There Kate befriends Rafe, a boy with strong magical powers and a grudge against humans and she loses the Atlas, since it disappears after a few hours when brought to the past. As Kate struggles to find a way to her siblings, she discovers an awful secret, which could destroy the future, while Michael and Emma must find the second book before the enemy does.

The second book is just as action-packed as the first and I loved learning more about the magical world Stephens has created. It was interesting to see how the world existed with magic and how prejudices could not be surpressed. Emma and Michael may mourn a world in which magic is hidden, but Kate realizes why it had to be so. I also like how the characters mature when they come into contact with the book they keep. In the first book, it was Kate realizing her parents loved her and that she must look after Emma and Kate. In this second book, Michael grows up and realizes he must take care of Emma. He also realizes he needs others and that fighting a dragon is not as big a deal as one would think. This series has magic like Harry Potter, but it is not a clone of the series. One of the main themes is the love between family members and how no matter what family ties can weather any problem.

Favorite Character: Kate is still my favorite character, even though I enjoyed watching Michael mature in this book. Kate is loyal and strong. She chooses what is right over what is easy, even though her choice will have dire consequences.

Favorite Quotes: "Each day, by our actions, we decide who we are."
 "But the point of life isn't to avoid pain. The point of life is to be alive! To feel things. That means the good and the bad. There'll be pain. But also joy, and friendship, and love! And it's worth it, believe me." That last one is a long quote, but it is so important. We often choose the easy way over the right way and I think that quote sums up why that is an awful choice.

This book was even better than the first and I can't wait to read the third book, especially since this had a surprise cliffhanger ending! 5 cups of cocoa!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reading Stack #25

I am over halfway through The Fire Chronicle and I hope to finish it by the end of the week. This series does remind me quite a bit of the magical world in Harry Potter, but it does have its own unique twists. I have also started Cold Fire which is my last Dusty Bookshelf read. I hope to start either Legend or Beautiful Darkness very soon, so that maybe I can finish my Fall into Reading list. What are you planning on reading this week?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Au Revoir Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

I am finally caught up on my Random Reads! This book was not what I expected, but it was a quick and interesting read.

Perry Stormaire lives the life his parents expect. He plans to attend Columbia University, because his dad wants him to go there and Perry gives up being on the swim team to study more. The only thing he keeps for himself is playing in his band Inchworm. However when his band has a chance at a big break, his parents force him to take Gobi, their foreign exchange student to the prom. Gobi, however is not who she seems. She is actually an assassin who takes Perry on a thrill ride through New York City as she plots to kill five people. Perry does not know why or who is driving her actions, but he believes his family is endangered by a bomb Gobi says she planted. Perry has to decide if he can trust Gobi with his life, his family's life, and possibly his heart.

I thought this was going to be a humorous read for some reason, which it did have some dark humor and sarcasm, but it was more of an action adventure/ coming of age type read. Not only is Perry dealing with Gobi's actions, but he also has to learn to stand up to his dad and choose his own life. Despite being a book about a female assassin, the violence is not extremely gory. It is a book that is hard to put down, because you want to find out why Gobi is killing people and if she is truly evil or driven by a higher motive. The suspense is great and I like Perry's sarcasm even in the face of death.

Favorite Character: Perry. I like how in the beginning he seems just like a smart, too sarcastic teen who is both self-absorbed and easy to walk all over, but who by the end of the book is more mature and truly in charge of his own identity. The events of his life in New York truly are life-changing and I like how that is reflected in his personality change.

Favorite Quotes: There are a few I liked in this story. This one illustrates Perry's sarcasm and sense of humor. "I couldn't remember the theme of the prom but it seemed to be along the lines of Social Darwinism Under the Stars."
"In the end memory is a cheat and a lie and no substitute for what he called the real stuff, the stuff of life."
"A tragic hero is an individual who, with every attempt to restore things to normal, only pushes himself further away from normalcy." I feel like this quote sums up so many of the characters I have read about this year!

This is not my usual type of read, but I really liked it and would love to start on the sequel soon. It is a great adrenaline rush of a read. 4 cups of cocoa.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

I finished my October Random November. October seemed to be a really busy month, but I am glad that I stuck with Girl in the Clockwork Collar, because it was a very exciting read.
There will be spoilers in this review for the Girl in the Steel Corset, because Clockwork Collar picks up where book one left off.

Spoiler Space

Griffin and his friends know they need to help Jasper and decide to travel to America to find out just exactly what crime Jasper has committed and to see if they can help him out of it. Griffin, Finley, and Emily believe he is probably innocent, but they would help him anyway. Jasper in the meantime is back in the clutches of Reno Dalton, the gang leader, he double crossed  and left behind when he went to England. Dalton was not the only person Jasper left behind and he is reunited with this person, the love of his life, Mei Xing. Dalton has trapped Mei and placed a clockwork collar around her neck, a device that will squeeze the life out of her if Jasper attempts to double cross him again. To save Mei's life, Jasper is willing to retrieve a device or rather pieces of a device he stole for and from Dalton. When Griffin and company arrive in America, they realize quickly that Jasper is not in jail, but in trouble of a different nature. Together with a lawman from the West, Whip Kirby, they try to prove Jasper's innocence in a murder case and Finley inflitrates Dalton's gang by proving her strength in the fighting ring without Griffin's approval. Can Jasper save himself, Finley, and Mei or will he have to make a desperate choice?

The second book was just as exciting and humorous as the first in the series. I love the mix of steampunk and fantasy and it is nice to read a book in which both the heroes and the heroines are strong. Finley and Emily may not really need Griffin and Sam to physically protect them, but it is also nice to see that the boys are not just weaklings, which can be the case when you have a really strong heroine. I also like that Cross plays up each characters' flaws. Finley is trapped wondering if her dark side will take over, which compensates for her inability to really be injured. Griffin's power over the Aether is matched by his lack of superhuman strength, which makes him feel weak next to Finley and Sam. Jasper has his quickness, but he is also vulnerable due to his loyalty and willingness to trust. I also like that the books could be read separately, but still have very strong plots and they have true endings. The first one did have the cliffhanger of Jasper being taken to America, but it also had a clear ending with their problems with the Machinist.

Favorite Character: I love tough Finley and her constant battle with her darker side. She is loyal and caring while also daring and strong. She can physically take care of herself, but emotionally she is very vulnerable. I also like Emily and her mechanical abilities. It is nice to see a female character with the ability to fix a machine! You also can't help but like the guys in this series and hopefully Jack Dandy will make a reappearance in the next book.

Favorite Quote: "He glanced at Jasper. 'Your window's seen a lot of traffic tonight.' The cowboy chuckled-a hoarse sound. 'Maybe I should put in a toll.'" I like that even during tense moments, Cross provides a bit of humor.

5 cups of cocoa! This was an entertaining read and I love reading a book in which I actually laugh out loud!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reading Stack #24

The only book I still have from my last reading stack is The Girl with the Clockwork Collar, but I have only about a third of the book left to read. I hope to finish it by the end of next week. I have also started The Fire Chronicle, which is one of the books on my list for the Fall into Reading challenge. I plan to start Au Revoir Crazy European Chick this week as well since it is my November Random Read. I have checked out a few other books from the library, so we will see if they make it onto my stack or not. For now though I will try to focus on these three books. What are you reading this week?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund and Persuasion by Jane Austen

I have finally completed my two books for the Classic Double Challenge! I finished Persuasion a couple of months ago and I finally found time to read For Darkness Shows the Stars. I have avoided looking at other post on the same books, so now I am interested in seeing what other people thought and if we had similar ideas.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is about the relationship between Kai and Elliot and a world that has been destroyed by technology and human experimentation. Elliot is the youngest daughter of a Luddite lord, Baron North. Elliot's older sister Tatiana and her father do not seem to care at all for Elliot. Elliot is the one who has to run the estate and protect the Posts and Reduced. The Luddites are the people who did not engage in genetic manipulation and their genes are "pure." The Reduced and Posts are people whose ancestors attempted to make themselves better by using a procedure called ERV. Most of the children born from those who manipulated their genes are Reduced, meaning they cannot really think or act for themselves sort of like being a two year old in an adult body. Things however are changing and some babies are being born normal and maybe even a little more enhanced. These children are called Posts and Kai is one of them. Many generations before Kai and Elliot the world was torn apart by the genetically modified when they realized their children would be Reduced rather than greatly enhanced. The Luddites hid with their children and the Reduced and survived this destruction, but most of the world did not, so at the beginning of the story, we learn our story takes place on an island and the people know little of the world outside their island.

As children Kai, Elliot, and a Reduced girl named Ro played together and even questioned some of the rules governing the world. The Posts and Reduced are tied to their Luddite lords who feel it is their duty to protect them. Kai wants to leave and make something of himself. He wants to see the world and so does Elliot. Elliot promises to leave with him, but her mother dies. She knows her father is a cruel man and her sister has no interest in the farm, so she stays to protect the Posts and Reduced. Kai leaves and for four years she misses him.

After four years, the Cloud Fleet asks to use Elliot's grandfather's shipyard to build a boat that will allow them to travel farther in the world. The North farm desperately needs money, because her father lives outside his means. When the Cloud Fleet arrives, Elliot immediately recognizes Kai, who is now Captain Malakai Wentworth. He is very cold to Elliot and verbally attacks her every chance he gets. Elliot in the meantime tries to get over Kai, while being dragged to the Post Cloud Fleet events by another group of Luddites, Olivia and Horatio Grove. Olivia and Kai appear to be falling for each other which hurts Elliot even more. While being around the Cloud Fleet, Elliot discovers dangerous secrets while hiding one of her own, and she must choose between love and lying or loyalty to her Luddite society. Can two people torn by the past ever reconcile and is love stronger than tradition?

Comparison of the two is actually pretty easy. Diana Peterfreund wanted to take the love story of Persuasion and apply it to a post apocalyptic society. Elliot is Anne and of course Kai is Captain Wentworth as they share the same name. Not all the characters can match up as easily, but many of them can be compared to characters in Persuasion. Peterfreund also uses them same type of society, the Luddites are like the rich estate owners who have long been peers of the realm. The Cloud Fleet Posts are the newly rich who do not have the pedigree of the Luddites. While in Persuasion, a marriage between the old wealthy and newly rich would be a little scandalous, in For Darkness shows the stars, it would be an outrage. This is due both to the history of genetic testing and the prejudice in society.

Also both writers made their heroine the best person in the story. Their values, morals, and sacrifices made most of the other characters seem shallow and selfish, which for the most part they are. Anne and Elliot have no comparison in the category of goodness, although this is less seen in Peterfreund's story.

For me, when someone writes a story based on another story, it is feelings and thoughts the story invokes that proves if it is a good retelling or not. When reading both Persuasion and For Darkness Shows the Stars, I felt breathless and I know I gasped out loud a few times. You can feel the tension in the story through the author's word choices and phrases and you wonder all the way up to the last page how the story will end. Persuasion is one of the Jane Austen books that I have not watched as a movie or mini-series, so I had no idea if it would be a happy ending or not. I won't give the ending away, but through out both books you feel the suspense and tension that this might not end very happily for Anne and Elliot.

The writing style was very similar too. In both stories I felt transported into a different time and even a somewhat different belief system. Both stories are very believable and you feel like you are part of the society and judging the characters too.

I did not want either of these two books to end and I am so glad I chose Persuasion and in turn chose For Darkness Shows the Stars. These are two of the best stories I have read this year. I actually tried to drag out reading both books as long as I could, because I just loved the feeling I had reading them and I loved the characters.

Favorite Characters: Anne and Elliot of course. They are both noble and loyal to those they care about. They are a little too self-sacrificing at times, but you can't help but admire them both.

Favorite Quote: Since Peterfreund used some of my favorite ones from Persuasion in the book, I will just use a quote from For Darkness Shows the Stars. It is actually similar to one in Persuasion.

"Once she'd thought there were no two people in the world who had more to talk about. They could say anything to each other-they had-and their affection had only grown stronger. But it had all come to nothing." I think this quote is so heart-breaking and expresses perfectly the feeling when love breaks apart.

Rating for both books: 5 cups of cocoa for sure!!

I can't wait to try this challenge again next year and actually get an earlier start on it! Hopefully I can read a few more classics next year and books with classic twists. I love fairy tale retellings, so I may read the original fairy tales and do a challenge with those. Thanks to Melissa at One Librarian's Book Reviews for hosting this challenge!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong

This post may have spoilers for The Summoning, the first book in the Darkest Powers series.

The Awakening is the second book in the Darkest Powers series, and it picks up shortly after the events of the Summoning. After Aunt Lauren's betrayal, Chloe and Rachelle are trapped in the institution controlled by the Edison Group. Chloe learns that Tori is there as well and blames her for betraying their escape attempt. Rae and Tori seem willing to stay with the Edison group, but all Chloe can think of is escape. When Dr. Davidoff tells her a little about the Edison group, Chloe wants to learn more. She hacks into Dr. Davidoff's computer and learns that experiments were conducted on 20 supernatural children and a few of these were considered failures. Rae, Tori, Chloe, Derek, Brady, and Liz are classified as failures and two of them Liz and Brady were terminated because of this. Liz continues to help Chloe, but Rae refuses to believe what Chloe tells her. When the Edison group decides to use Chloe as bait, she and Tori, who overhears the truth from her mother, escape and search for Derek and Simon. When the group is reunited, it will take all their wits and powers to survive on the street. Is there anyone that can be trusted and what is the truth behind the Edison group's experiments?

The second book is just as good as the first and I enjoyed hearing Derek's background and seeing Chloe develop her powers more. This is definitely a fast paced series with all the action and betrayals. I hope the third book will give more of Tori's and Rae's backgrounds. I am glad that Armstrong keeps the character's personalities, especially Tori's. She does not make Tori into a nice girl even though she is escaping with the group and helping the others. Tori is a witch both in her powers and her personality. The relationship between Derek and Simon borders on a love triangle although romance takes second place to trying to survive. The story is believable with a nice paranormal twist. I hope to add the last book to my to read list soon!

Favorite Character: I still like Chloe. She is as Tori puts it, too nice, but other than that, she is strong and loyal. She is also not judgmental and even cares for Derek after he treats her horribly. She is the weakest protecting herself and she is not suddenly superhuman over night, but remains in need of protection. However she is not a damsel in distress, just normal, except for the whole talking and controlling the dead thing.

Favorite Quote: "Harsh truth was better than comfortable lies. It had to be."

Usually second books are nowhere near as good as the first, but this one was just as suspenseful and attention-grabbing as the first. 4.5 cups of cocoa and I hope to start the Reckoning very soon!
Favorite Quote:

Random Read-November

Random Reads
This month's Random Read is Au Revoir Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber. This one is about a boy writing his college entrance essay and the crazy time he had with a foreign exchange student who is also an assassin. It sounds both funny and action-packed. This will be a nice break from all the paranormal romance I have been reading lately. I still have to finish Girl with the Clockwork Collar and I am about halfway through it. Hopefully I can finish both of these books before November ends!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Progress Report

So I finished Iron King, which means I actually completed the Spooktacular challenge! However I did not finish my Random Read for October :(. I am still reading Girl with the Clockwork Collar though and actually read 80 pages today! I also finished The Awakening and will be posting the review in the next day or two. I am debating picking a Random Read for this month, since I did not finish the last one. I will need to create a new list, since most of my titles are either on a list for another challenge or I finished them for the past two months challenges. I am thinking of making a list of books I would like to reread that I have not reviewed here or choosing a title from a list of ARCs and e-galleys. I will give it a little more time and maybe finish another book before I decide.