Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Young Adult

Book Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

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My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period…

Goodreads

I wasn’t expecting a lot from this book, to be honest. I was never a huge fan of the show growing up (although I probably was a little too young to appreciate it) and I never read the comics. I’m not even sure what possessed me to pick this one, but I’m glad I did, because it was a fun read.

Nina is an unlikely candidate for the role that is thrust upon her, especially when her sister Artemis has been preparing her entire life. She grapples with her own feelings towards her newfound role and the life she has come to know. Given the upbringing and neglectful mother she had, you can’t really fault her for being so bitter and confused. I liked the shift in the two sisters’ relationship. It’s definitely not a cliche, “we’re such a happy family” one, but a rather messy one. I appreciated this a great deal, as family relationships are not usually all they’re cracked up to be. Some of the secondary characters, like Leo and Doug, were great, but a lot of the others fell flat for me. Even Artemis, felt a bit too predictable and it grated on my nerves at times.

I wasn’t super familiar with all the lore and background of the Buffy series prior to reading this, but the author does a good job of giving you enough detail without it being overwhelming. I’m tempted to dive into some of the comics now, just to see how what I’ve been missing out on.

Books · Mystery · Young Adult

Book Review: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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My Rating:  4 out of 5 stars 

In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts…

His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

(Goodreads)

I’d never even heard of this book when I picked it up, but I knew right away that if it was written by author Carlos Ruiz Zafon that it would be a fun ride. (I highly recommend checking out the Shadow of the Wind  books, if you haven’t already) Marina was a thrilling and often unsettling read, filled with mystery and macabre events that will make your stomach do the flips.

It’s no secret that Oscar isn’t very complex or interesting on his own. Marina even cracks jokes about how simple-minded he is. That’s totally fine, however, because the story and other characters make up where Oscar lacks. Marina is a strange and serious girl living in a creepy old mansion. There’s a mysterious woman in black visiting an unmarked grave every month. A shady doctor and his daughter, washed up detectives, and sinister coachmen. Every one of them weaves a story that all lead back to a maniacal man who they should try to just forget about. Of course, Oscar and Marina can’t forget about the things they’ve seen and decide to pursue the mystery that decided to pursue them first.

As usual, the author tells this story beautifully and poetically. He transports you onto the streets of Barcelona and makes you see and smell everything that Oscar is seeing. Every twist and turn keeps you guessing and checking over your shoulder from time to time. Despite the complexity of the story, this one didn’t take me long to read at all because I couldn’t put it down. If you’re a fan of Gothic literature, you’ll enjoy this one.

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Young Adult

Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Meet Simon Snow, Mage extraordinaire. Actually, that’s not true. Simon is a pretty terrible magician, despite the fact that he has more power in his pinky finger than all the other students at Watford combined. It’s Simon’s last year at school and nothing seems to be going right – his roommate, Baz (aka his sworn enemy) hasn’t shown up, his girlfriend dumps him, magical families are at war, and the Insidious Humdrum is still out there threatening to end it all. What’s a Chosen One to do when he can’t even use his wand correctly?

I’ll be honest, for the first third of this book I was really confused. There are a lot of similarities to the Harry Potter series. So many, in fact that I actually Googled whether or not this book was supposed to be some kind of fanfiction crossover.

-Orphaned teenager who goes to a school for magic folks
-Nemesis who’s family thinks they’re better than other families
-Cryptic headmaster who tries to protect Simon
-The Chosen One (as foretold by the prophecy)
-Villain who repeatedly tries to kill Simon
-Magical war

A lot of the boxes are checked off. By the time I got halfway through the story, however, I began to see the differences in the characters and story and could appreciate them on their own.

Simon was okay as main character, although I wouldn’t call him overly complex or anything. He seemed a bit thick-headed at times, especially considering he’d been at Watford for 7 years at that point. I didn’t love Simon, but I did love the relationship between him and Baz. Baz was a bit of an ass, but he was complex and had a lot of shit going on his life, so who can blame him? Personally, I wouldn’t mind having a vampire/mage as a room mate who could kill rats and stuff. Sounds like a win all around. (Except for the rats. They definitely aren’t winning in this scenario.)

I would have liked a little more exploration of the other relationships in the book, but I don’t think the story is lacking without it. Overall, this was a fun read and I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. If you like stories similar to Harry Potter, this is a good one to read, especially if you don’t feel like investing time in a long series.

 

Book Reviews · Books · Young Adult

Book Review: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure. That is, until Libby died in a tragic car crash, taking Princess X along with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon—her best friend, Libby, who lives.

Part novel, part comic book, this one was a quick and easy read. Not that quick and easy is a bad thing. In fact, by the time I was halfway through this one I found myself wishing that the Princess X webcomic empire existed in real life. (Can someone make this happen, please?!)

The premise of the story is fantastic, being the perfect blend of crime and fangirl fiction. I found the way Libby’s past unfolded via webcomic, under the guise of Princess X’s story, to be incredibly clever. Telling this story this way made it feel like the princess was an actual character, rather than just a gateway to May discovering that Libby was still alive.

Despite the short length, the story was rich with detail and intrigue. The cast of characters was a colorful  blend of pretend princesses, heroes, hackers, and rogue punks. I wish we would have seen a little more from Trick (May’s hacker neighbor) because he and May made an unexpectedly good team. But that’s just me being picky. One thing that I did really like was the lack of romance in this book. You don’t see that very often anymore in YA literature.

This was a great read about the power of friendship and not giving up hope. Two thumbs up!

Books · Fiction · graphic novels · manga · Young Adult

Struggles of a Lazy Book Blogger

I’ve been somewhat lazy the last few weeks in terms of my book reviews. In my defense, my laziness is stemming from the fact that I’ve been utterly exhausted by the time I get home from work in the evenings. We’re in the middle of a huge office move/renovation and I’m pretty much in charge of making things happen…but you really don’t want to hear about that. What you want to hear about is the books. I feel a tad guilty for not writing reviews of any of these, but there’s no use in worrying about it, is there?

Here are a few that I’ve read recently, but have been too lazy to review:

  • Warcross by Marie Lu (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)
  • Death Note (I and II) by Tsugumi Ohba (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (Rating: 3 out of 5 stars)
  • Preludes & Nocturnes (Sandman #1) by Neil Gaiman (Rating: 5 out of 5 stars)

Here’s what I’m currently reading (that I do plan on reviewing):

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Let’s chat! Have you read any of the above books? What’s the best book you’ve read recently? 

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Sci-Fi · Young Adult

Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer…

Emika Chen is pretty down on her luck when she accidentally glitches into the biggest Warcross tournament in the world. To her surprise, her small mistake is a ticket to the streets of Tokyo and a personal relationship with Hideo Tanaka. Emika was a great protagonist, with her badass hacking skills and funky appearance. She made some really good decisions and didn’t get overly wrapped up in the potential romance blossoming in front of her, which made me appreciate her even more.

Hideo is a fascinating character. The chemistry, the frustration, and the mystery surrounding him made it hard to tell if you were supposed to love or hate him. (I’m pretty sure this was intended though.) I enjoyed getting to see his relationship with Emika unfold and present some unexpected surprises. I liked the other characters of the story, also, but to be honest none of them blew me away. We didn’t get to know any of them particularly well, but it didn’t seem to hurt the story.

This was such an intriguing read. The way Lu blends the modern world (at least, I’m guessing it’s somewhat modern. We’re never really told this.) with a world set in a virtual reality really blew my mind. At times I found myself envious of Emika, wishing that my own life paralleled that in which she lived.

The ending surprised me and left me yelling at the book. You know, because I didn’t want it to end yet. I may or may not have already rushed out to the bookstore and purchased a copy of Wildcard. 

Books · Young Adult

First Impression Friday: Warcross

It’s been quite a while since I did a First Impression Friday post. Now that I’m getting back in the swing of blogging after my unplanned, sorta-hiatus, I figured it’s time for another one.

First Impression Friday is a weekly meme created by J.W. Martin. The goal is to talk about a book you recently started reading. Share you impressions, predict what you think will happen, say whether you think you’ll enjoy it, etc.

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For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer…

I’m only about 60 pages into this one so far, but I already love it. Emika is very different than a lot of female protagonists that pop up across the YA genre. She’s run into a whole lot of bad luck and trouble with the law, but her heart seems to be in a good place, which makes me want to root for her. Plus, she’s got rainbow hair and tattoos, which is always a plus in my book.

I love the futuristic, tech-heavy world that the author has created. It’s not that far off from the current world we live in, but Warcross is an integrated part of society. I’m finding the whole concept of basically being able go about your daily life, while actively engaging in virtual reality quite fascinating. (Although, I’m predicting that there will be some pitfalls to this.)

I don’t know much about the other characters in the book yet. I’m guessing Hideo Tanaka will have some secrets up his sleeves…probably some that will be dangerous to the players of Warcross. Or maybe not. Maybe he’ll be the smart millionaire who becomes the love interest of this story. I kind of hope not, but I guess we’ll see.

I’m predicting that whatever Emika gets hired to do for Hideo, there will be other people out there, other hackers like her, who will be trying to thwart her endeavors.