YAckers Discussion: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater


Remember the YAckers Secret Santa that I mentioned a few weeks ago? Well, I participated in my first ever YAckers discussion and we talked about The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. The post can now be viewed over at the YAckers blog. Head on over there to check out our thoughts about the book. I’m glad the latest pick was a book that I’ve been planning to read for a while, The Raven Boys was one of my anticipated titles this year because I loved The Scorpio Races last year.

The Raven Boys from the library

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I had a lot of fun reading and discussing this with fellow YAckers and I look forward to more YAcking in the coming months.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

I know I’ve said this before but I love how hilarious Sarah Rees Brennan is. I follow her on her blog and Twitter and I think she’s really funny. I also know she has excellent taste in books, as proven by her Queen’s Thief Week guest post and by the number of recommendations that I’ve gotten from her. I’ve also enjoyed reading the first two Demon’s Lexicon novels (I know, I know, really need to pick up the third). So I was mighty curious when I first heard about Unspoken’s premise. I read this before leaving Manila a few weeks ago but because I’ve been having a reviewing slump, I haven’t gotten the chance to talk about it. Since it’s being released soon, I thought it’s high time I write a post about it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown — in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Kami lives in a quiet little town called Sorry-in-the-Vale. She has a pretty unusual life for a teenage girl – she has a quirky family and a best friend who’s beautiful but anti-social. Add the fact that she keeps talking to someone in her mind and it’s not surprising that her classmates find her a bit weird. Here’s a nice little snippet early on that illustrates this:

“Kami had been hearing a voice in her head all her life. When she was eight, people had thought it was cute that she had an imaginary friend. It was very different now that she was seventeen. Kami was accustomed to people thinking she was crazy.”

I liked Kami right from the start – she’s smart, petite, partly Asian, dreams of becoming an investigative reporter and has a unique fashion sense that I envy. I feel like we’d get along if we ever met in person. She’s like a modern-day Nancy Drew or a Mary Stewart heroine. The connection between Kami and Jared just added to my curiosity – I wanted to know what was behind their ability to silently communicate with each other even if they’ve never met in person.

“If I wasn’t going to be a world-famous journalist and if I didn’t have such respect for truth and justice, I could be an amazing master criminal.”

Kami, as illustrated by Jasmin Darnell

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Kami and her interactions with Jared, as well as the rest of the characters in the books. I liked that we get to know the secondary characters really well even though the focus of the story is Kami and Jared’s relationship. There was a lot of banter in the novel, which I expected since it’s written by Sarah Rees Brennan. I’m usually not a fan of love triangles but I didn’t mind that Unspoken sort of had something like that. Just a heads up though, there’s a cliffhanger ending so if you’re the type of reader who doesn’t like that, it might be better if you wait for the sequel. Can’t wait to find out what happens next to both Kami and Jared! Unspoken is a really good read, I liked it even better than the two Demon’s Lexicon novels that I’ve read. Highly recommended so go and grab a copy when it comes out on September 11. As an added bonus, Sarah Rees Brennan released this prequel short story called The Summer Before I Met You.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Cuddlebuggery Book Blog

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

I’ve given up reading YA paranormal romance because I’ve discovered that it’s not something that I enjoy. However, Unearthly received positive feedback from many reader friends last year so I thought it would be a good idea to give it a try. Readalong buddies Holly and Janice agreed to pick up Unearthly as our next read. Can I just say that I love that our readalongs have become a regular thing? Thanks again to my book BFF Celina for my copy of Unearthly.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly was a pretty easy read for me. I was surprised by how fast I went through it and I apologized to my readalong buddies that I wasn’t able to pace myself to read it in chunks for our discussion. It’s just that I kept wanting to find out more about the angel-bloods and Clara’s purpose (basically her mission in life as an angel-blood). However, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy reading Unearthly as much as I expected. I don’t know if it’s because my expectations were raised based on all the glowing reviews that I’ve seen or it’s really just a case of YA paranormal romance not being a good fit for me. The things that put me off the genre were present in Unearthly – girl chasing after a hot guy who seems perfect (even if it’s supposedly tied to her life’s purpose), love triangles, the story focusing more on the romance than on the worldbuilding. Clara is a smart girl and I wanted to tell her that she can find out more about her purpose, without having to go crazy over a good-looking guy who is already in a relationship with someone else. I wanted to whack her in the head with something. By the time a more reasonable love interest came along, I was too annoyed to find the romance swoon-worthy.

Did I regret reading Unearthly? No, I’m more frustrated than anything else that I don’t have the gene present in other readers who loved this. Like I said, Unearthly was easy to fall into. It’s just that I wanted the story to have a more solid foundation – maybe a concrete history of angel-bloods or deeper friendships between Clara and her new buddies. It felt like the mythology was a bit flimsy and I wanted something other than the romance to hold on to. If paranormal YA is your kind of thing or if you find the premise intriguing, then I have a feeling you’ll love this more than I did. I’m still curious about the sequel (and I already borrowed a copy) because I want to know more about Clara’s purpose – maybe her mom will reveal more details about her past. But I’m definitely not getting my hopes up. I have a feeling I’d find Hallowed easy to read but I don’t think it will end up in my list of favorites. Unearthly reminded me a bit of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, which I thought was amazing but didn’t work for other readers. So you never really know unless you give the book a try. Heads up, this post from Heidi of Bunbury in the Stacks shows pictures featuring the setting of the book – it might give you a better idea of how everything looks like.

Other reviews:
Janicu’s Book Blog
Bunbury in the Stacks
One More Page
The Readventurer

Trese by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo

Whenever I ask for Filipino fiction recommendations, the Trese graphic novels keep popping up. I thought I’d dive right in and check it out when I received the whole set for my birthday. There are four installments in the series right now: Murder on Balete Drive, Unreported Murders, Mass Murders and Last Seen After Midnight. I think I put off reading this one because I don’t read a lot of graphic novels or comics and I’m not a big fan of horror books either (because I’m a big scaredy-cat). But I keep saying I need to read more books written by Filipino authors so here we go. Here’s the summary of Murder On Balete Drive, the first book in the series, from Goodreads:

When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.

I want to kick myself for not getting into this series sooner but then again, maybe it’s better that I discovered it late because at least I was able to devour all four graphic novels one right after the other. I didn’t have to worry about the horror aspects of the Trese series – I read the books at night and wasn’t the least bit scared. I’d like to think of the series more as a blend of dark urban fantasy and mystery instead of horror. I had so much fun going through these books, the pages just flew by. It’s funny because even before I finished reading the series, I was already recommending it to my friends. I think that’s a sign that I’ve become a fan, yes? I love strong female protagonists and I’m delighted that there’s a kick*ss heroine in Filipino fiction that I can root for. You go, Alexandra Trese! She’s more commonly known as just Trese though. Here’s a snapshot that nicely describes Trese’s character:

Each graphic novel is composed of several short stories and by the time I finished the first installment, I had a lot of questions about Trese’s background. This is why the third book, Mass Murders, is my favorite – it focuses on Trese and how she became such an expert when it comes to Philippine mythology. Also, all of the short stories in Mass Murders are tied together so it’s like one story arc, broken out into several chapters. I felt like I was more invested in the story because of this and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that future installments will follow the same format. Aside from having recognizable local settings, one other thing that heightened my enjoyment of the series is my familiarity with the supernatural creatures that Trese regularly encounters. The stories are rooted in Filipino superstition and I’ve heard a lot about duwende, manananggal and aswang while growing up here in the Philippines. We’re not even halfway through the year but I’m pretty sure the Trese graphic novels will be included in my favorite discoveries in 2012.

If you’re curious about Filipino mythology or want to try a different kind of graphic novel, I highly recommend the Trese series. I asked Budjette if these books are internationally available and he replied that they could be ordered through the National Bookstore website. I believe they’re also working on releasing ebook versions and I’ll gladly spread the word about those when the time comes. I’m curious how the series will stand up to readers who aren’t familiar with Philippine mythology. More samples of the black and white artwork in the novels:

Other reviews:
One More Page
Taking a Break
Code Name Blue

Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

I’m an Ilona Andrews fan girl. I used to think I wasn’t a fan of urban fantasy until I discovered the Kate Daniels series and then the Edge series. Now, I have two urban fantasy installments to look forward to every year. Fate’s Edge is the third book in the Edge series, the first is On the Edge and the second is Bayou Moon. I enjoyed reading both and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Fate’s Edge throughout the months of 2011.

Here’s the summary from Ilona Andrews’ website:

Born to a family of conmen, Audrey Callahan left behind her life in the Edge for an unmagical existence in the Broken. Audrey is determined to stay on the straight and narrow, but when her brother gets into hot water, the former thief takes on one last heist and finds herself matching wits with a jack of all trades.

Kaldar Mar is a gambler, a lawyer, a thief, and a spy with some unusual talents that guarantee him lucrative work. When his latest assignment has him tracking down a stolen item, Kaldar doesn’t expect much of a challenge — until Audrey turns up to give him a run for his money. But when the missing item falls into the hands of a lethal criminal, Kaldar realizes that in order to finish the job and survive, he’s going to need Audrey’s help.

I think it’s great that each of the Edge books focuses on a different romantic pair. That makes it different from the Kate Daniels series and allows readers to get to know more characters. I really liked Kaldar in Bayou Moon and I was thrilled to discover that the next Edge book would be about him. A scoundrel, thief and conman for a leading man? Definitely my kind of character! As I keep saying here on my blog, I love thieves in fiction. In Fate’s Edge, Kaldar is out for revenge – he works for the Mirror, the secret service of Andrianglia because he wants to crush its rival organization, the Hand. Can I just say that the agents of the Hand are really creepy? But they make great enemies and I loved the fight scenes in this book just as much as the ones in the previous installments. Also, yay for secret agents – another type of character that I enjoy in my fiction reads! Kaldar is one smooth operator but he finally meets his match when he encounters Audrey. I thought their first meeting was hilarious. They both recognized each other’s skills right from the start and were trying to outsmart each other. This is how Audrey first describes Kaldar:

“This man was a rogue, not because circumstances forced him to be a criminal but because he was born that way. He was probably conning his mother out of her milk the moment he could grin. He’d charm the clothes off a virgin in twenty minutes. And if the poor fool took him home, he’d drink her dad under the table, beguile her mother, charm her grandparents, and treat the girl to a night she’d never forget. In the morning, her dad would be sick with alcohol poisoning, the good silver would be missing together with the family car, and in a month, both the former virgin and her mother would be expecting.”

It was a lot of fun seeing both of these characters fight their attraction for each other (well, it was mostly Audrey who was fighting it) while working on the case and while supervising their sidekicks: Gaston, George and Jack (younger characters from the other books in the series). I enjoyed all the scenes with George and Jack in them and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see more of them in the fourth (and last?) book or I’m hoping they’d get their own book. Fate’s Edge shows a deeper side to Kaldar’s character – he’s very loyal to his family and everything that he works for is to improve the lives of the Mars. What I like about Audrey is that she’s also different from the other two Edge heroines, Rose and Cerise, who are both fighters. Audrey’s skills lie in stealth and her magic reflects that. Another interesting aspect of the worldbuilding is how the authors keep on adding details to the world that they started – like how each person’s magic is tied to his or her personality so we get different kinds of magic for each character. I feel like I keep saying this whenever I review an Ilona Andrews but it’s the truth: I will read everything that they write. All of their books are fast-paced, entertaining and full of the kind of banter that I love. If you’re an Ilona Andrews fan, you probably don’t need any encouragement to pick this up. So I’m recommending this to fans of urban fantasy although I suggest that you read the first two books before this – why miss out on the fun?

Other reviews:
Lurv ala Mode
Dear Author
The Book Pushers

Magic Gifts by Ilona Andrews

Magic Gifts is a Kate Daniels novella and is Ilona and Gordon’s Christmas gift to their fans. It’s available as a free download for two weeks after they uploaded it on Christmas day. Hurry and grab a copy if you haven’t downloaded it yet! Ilona and Gordon are so generous for giving their fans a freebie like this. I’ve seen some of the snippets for this novella on their blog and it’s great to see all the scenes come together to form a story. Magic Gifts occurs after Magic Slays and at the same as Gunmetal Magic, which is Andrea’s book and will be released next year. The Kate Daniels series is my favorite urban fantasy series and this might contain some spoilery bits for the earlier books. Check out my reviews through these links: Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, Magic Bleeds, Magic Slays

Here’s the premise:

A dinner date after a hard day at work sounds heavenly. Of course, when that date is between the Beast Lord and Kate Daniels, things don’t go as planned. Before you know it, undead are running amok, heads are being chopped off, lawyers are deployed and used with extreme prejudice, and drunk vikings are calling people out.

I think I’ve said it often enough but I have a feeling I will keep saying it over and over again: I will read anything written by Ilona and Gordon. I read this as soon as I downloaded a copy on my Kindle. I love their short stories because they feel like bite size snacks compared to their novels – delicious snacks that readers can gobble up in one sitting. In Magic Gifts, we get a glimpse of how things are between Kate and Curran. I think it’s awesome that their relationship keeps on developing. I like how their romance spans the entire series and even when they’re already together, the banter between them is still funny and sweet at the same time. And yet this novella isn’t just about the two of them. There’s a little bit of Andrea, Kate’s best friend and business partner, as well as their shapeshifter sidekicks: Derek and Ascanio. I can’t wait to read more about Andrea’s story and I’m really interested in seeing where things will go for her. There are also a few scenes with Jim, Kate’s former colleague in the Mercenary Guild and the head of security of the Pack. I thought Jim and Kate’s arguments were hilarious. Aside from the characters, I also like the worldbuilding in the whole series and how each book and novella focuses on a different mythology (and the magic tied to that culture). Magic Gifts is about Norse mythology and Vikings. All in all, a lovely Christmas treat for Kate Daniels fans. Thank you again, Ilona and Gordon!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I already pre-ordered Daughter of Smoke and Bone but jumped at the chance to read the ARC when Hachette Philippines gave us copies for the Filipino ReaderCon. I’ve been wanting to read this ever since I fell in love with Laini Taylor’s writing in Lips Touch. I finished this book last week and I’ve been wanting to write a review ever since, to convince the rest of you to pick this up.

Here’s the summary from Laini Taylor’s website:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages – not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

Believe me when I tell you that I was really excited to read this book. It’s one of my most anticipated releases this year. I had high expectations because I wanted more of the author’s lyrical way with words and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not sure under what genre or category Daughter of Smoke and Bone will fall under but I’m guessing it’s either YA urban fantasy or YA paranormal romance and while I usually shy away from those kinds of books, I didn’t have to worry about not liking this one. I was torn between wanting to read the book slowly so I can savor the words and devouring the whole thing in one big gulp.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Karou, her upbringing and the chimaera who brought her up. Chimaera are creatures from another world, with various animal and human features mixed together. Others may call them monsters or demons but they’re more whimsical than scary. The novel is partially set in this world, in Prague, where Karou is based, as well as all the other places that she goes to for her errands. The other setting is in a world different from our own, where chimaera have been fighting a war against another kind of supernatural being for as long as anyone can remember. Look at me being vague to avoid spoilers. The worldbuilding in this book is something that I fell in love with – from the everyday descriptions of Karou’s life in Prague to the back story of the chimaera and their world. The atmospheric setting made me eager to go to Prague and see for myself if it’s really as lovely as the book described. It’s the kind of worldbuilding (and prose) that will suck you in and won’t let go until you reach the very end. And when you get to that part? It will leave you wanting more.

The romance was totally swoon-worthy. For me, what made the love story work were all the details and intricacies involved. There’s a lot of history tied up with the romance and there were valid reasons that made it as complicated as it was. I ate up the last few chapters of this book like they were pieces of chocolate, they were that scrumptious. I kept adding favorite quotes from the book on Goodreads and since I love Laini Taylor’s beautiful prose so much, I thought it would be a good idea to give a sample:

“Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and… cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.”

Even before I got my grubby little hands on a copy, I predicted that Daughter of Smoke and Bone will make it to my best of 2011 list and I was right. I truly cannot wait for the sequel to be finished. I have to wait a whole year before it will be released! I need to get my hands on those Faeries of Dreamdark books to tide me over while waiting. If I haven’t managed to convince you to read this book by now, I don’t know what else I could say. Enthusiastically recommended for fantasy fans, especially those who like the YA variety. I’m predicting that this one will become a hit.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog
Good Books and Good Wine
The Girl Who Read and Other Stories

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

I’m usually not a fan of short stories. I don’t know why but I never get to finish the anthologies that I buy. Since I wanted to give Laini Taylor’s writing a try, I decided to pick up Lips Touch: Three Times. I was also curious because I’ve heard such good things about this book from both Holly of Book Harbinger and Kristen of Fantasy Cafe and I know they have excellent taste when it comes to fantasy books.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

A girl who’s always been in the shadows finds herself pursued by the unbelievably attractive new boy at school, who may or may not be the death of her. Another girl grows up mute because of a curse placed on her by a vindictive spirit, and later must decide whether to utter her first words to the boy she loves and risk killing everyone who hears her if the curse is real. And a third girl discovers that the real reason for her transient life with her mother has to do with belonging — literally belonging — to another world entirely, full of dreaded creatures who can transform into animals, and whose queen keeps little girls as personal pets until they grow to childbearing age.

Lips Touch contains three short stories – Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses Such as These and Hatchling – set in different worlds. The common theme in these stories is that they’re all about kisses. Each story has its own set of lovely artwork done by Jim di Bartolo. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while now so I sneaked in some reading time in the bookstore and by the time I finished reading the first two stories, I decided that I’d love to own a copy. I was planning to wait for the paperback to be released because it would be cheaper but was worried that it wouldn’t include the artwork so I went ahead and got the hardcover instead. I’m not regretting the decision because I ended up loving it. Laini Taylor’s writing is lush and lyrical, exactly what I look for in my fantasy reads and her husband’s illustrations are the perfect enhancement to these stories.

To keep this review concise, I’m not going to comment on each story but instead share what I think about the book as a whole. I’m a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed reading these stories because the writing is a bit darker and grittier than my usual favorites. The more disturbing aspects of the stories were balanced out by the positive things like love and hope so I never had a problem with them. Also, I’m usually not a fan of YA urban fantasy but these stories had a fairy tale feel to them than I don’t even know if I can classify them as such. It was easy to fall into the atmospheric writing. I’m amazed at how much the author was able to accomplish in terms of worldbuilding considering that these are short stories with limited word count and not full-length novels. I felt like they were just the right length and didn’t feel that they were rushed. My favorite out of the three is Hatchling and I certainly wouldn’t mind reading more about that world. I hear that she’s planning to come out with a book with the same setting, can’t wait to read that. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to track down the rest of Laini Taylor’s books because Lips Touch left me hungry for more of her writing. Lips Touch is a lovely book that I highly recommend to all fantasy fans out there. It certainly deserves to get more attention.

Since I included a sample of the illustrations found inside the book, I thought it would be fitting to quote the author as well. This is a non-spoilery tidbit from Goblin Fruit:

Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, freeze an enemy’s blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn’t possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer’s small airplane, champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear an indigo veil against the stinging sand, just like the nomads.

Kizzy wanted.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Fantasy Cafe
Steph Su Reads
Presenting Lenore

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson is the first NetGalley book that I’m going to review on the blog. I really enjoyed reading Knife, which is the first book in a series about faeries. I already have copies of the sequels but I haven’t had the chance to read them yet. Since my request for Ultraviolet got approved, I thought I might as well bump this up the to-be-read pile.

Here’s the summary from R.J. Anderson’s website:

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori – the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

Such an unusual book! After finishing it, I had no idea how I’d write the review because so many unexpected things happened in Ultraviolet. At first, I thought it was going to be a straight up contemporary YA novel set in a mental institution for teens. I was worried that it would be too gritty or bleak for my taste but that didn’t happen. Instead, the novel transformed into something with hints of magic realism with maybe a bit of fantasy and to my surprise, science fiction was thrown into the mix. Sorry for being so vague! I really don’t want to ruin the reading experience for any of you – a huge part of why I enjoyed this book was because it kept me guessing. Just when I thought I had things figured out, something happened that completely changed the dynamics of the story. I was engrossed because I had no idea what would happen next so I kept reading until I reached the end. I have a feeling that other people might not like where the story went in the second half of the book but it worked for me.

I felt bad for Alison through the course of her story because it seemed like no one really understood her – her parents, her best friend and even her psychiatrist. She knows that she’s different from everyone else so she keeps a tight rein on herself – she tries to pretend that there’s nothing extraordinary about her. Alison is a reserved person as a result of that and she doesn’t normally reach out to other people. I really liked Alison’s point of view because she has a fascinating way of seeing the world around her. How she perceives her surroundings makes her descriptions of the scenes so vibrant and full of life. Alison is one of the main reasons why I think Ultraviolet is so different from other YA books out there. Half the time, I wasn’t even sure if Alison and her friends in the institution were really crazy or not. Although it wasn’t the focus of the story, there IS a romantic interest for Alison and I thought the whole thing was sweet. Again, I apologize for not being clear but I am hoping that what I’ve said has made more people curious about this book. I want to know what the rest of you think and whether you’ll enjoy reading this as much as I did.

Other reviews:
Reading, Writing and Waiting
Well-Read Reviews

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews is the fifth installment in the Kate Daniels series and one of my most anticipated reads for this year. I always thought I was more into epic fantasy than anything else but Ilona Andrews changed my mind and this series has become my favorite when it comes to urban fantasy. This review will contain spoilers for the previous books so don’t proceed unless you’ve read the others. Even the book’s summary is spoiler so pick up the other books in the series first before you read this one, I promise, you won’t regret it. Reading order of the books: Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes and Magic Bleeds.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Kate Daniels may have quit the Order of Merciful Aid, but she’s still knee-deep in paranormal problems. Or she would be if she could get someone to hire her. Starting her own business has been more challenging than she thought it would be — now that the Order is disparaging her good name, and many potential clients are afraid of getting on the bad side of the Beast Lord, who just happens to be Kate’s mate.

So when Atlanta’s premier Master of the Dead calls to ask for help with a vampire on the loose, Kate leaps at the chance of some paying work. Turns out this is not an isolated incident, and Kate needs to get to the bottom of it—fast, or the city and everyone dear to her might pay the ultimate price…

I devoured the first four books in this series last year and proceeded to read everything that Ilona Andrews has written. I read Magic Slays as soon as I can because it feels good to be back in Kate Daniels’ world. Everything that I loved in the other books is present in this one: the detailed worldbuilding with a different set of villains and mythology in each book (in this one, it’s Russian mythology), the characters who change and develop throughout the course of the series and the witty banter that had me laughing out loud. There’s also the magic vs. technology situation that’s always interesting.

What I really liked about Magic Slays is how the authors keep building on the world that they created, slowly revealing information to move the story along. We get to know more about Kate’s past but there’s still enough mystery to make readers speculate. I’m sure there will be more (and probably bigger) revelations in the next book. I also really enjoyed seeing the development in Kate and Curran’s relationship. Yes, it’s been established that they’re mated and we all know that they’re meant to be together but I loved seeing them work through the problems that rise up because they’re both complicated people with a lot of issues. Just when you think you couldn’t love Curran more, he goes off to do and say things that are unexpectedly sweet. Kate’s tendency to be a lone wolf makes it difficult for her to connect with anyone – her mate, her best friend, her ward and friends from the pack – and even though she’s mellowed out in this installment, it’s still not easy for her. Add to all that the usual amount of butt-kicking action than can be expected from someone like Kate Daniels and her circle of friends and you’re in for a book that you wouldn’t be able to put down.

The other day, I was telling friends who are also fans of the series that maybe it would have been a good idea to wait for all of the books to be out before I started reading them. But then I realized that I wouldn’t want to miss out on all the fun and I enjoy discussing these books too much not to read them as they’re released. I just need to learn to be patient and wait for the next installment after reading this. At this point, if you’re an Ilona Andrews fan then there’s nothing more that I can say because you probably have this book in your TBR pile already. If you’ve never heard of the series or you’re thinking of reading it (boo, you’ve seen the spoilers!), I hope you get to do so soon because the Kate Daniels books are awesome. I gobbled up Magic Slays and it still left me hungry for more. I think the stage is nicely set for the next two books in the series and as always, I can’t wait to read them.

Other reviews:
Lurv a la Mode

This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.