Friday, November 25, 2011

The Faerie Ring

Debut novelist Kiki Hamilton takes readers from the gritty slums and glittering ballrooms of Victorian London to the beguiling but menacing Otherworld of the Fey in this spellbinding tale of romance, suspense, and danger. 

The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.

Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist.

Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty… (from Goodreads)

So. Don't be fooled by the cover. It's okay, doesn't stand out in a crowd or anything like that, but the book is so much better than that. (Yes, I know, I always have to be picky about something.)

I adore paranormal-ish books set in history. To me, they're usually way more interesting, and The Faerie Ring's setting didn't disappoint. Victorian London, and I liked how some historical figures (like Prince Leopold) appeared as characters. Plus, there was even a masked ball, which might have been my favorite part of the book. One part, anyway. 

Tiki was a pretty good narrator. The only thing that bothered me about her was her name; to me, it doesn't sound very old-fashioned. Character-wise, she was great. I love how she didn't abandon Clara and the others when dealing with the fey. She's strong when she needs to be, but her past gave her have a soft and sympathetic heart under her tough exterior. 

And Rieker. Oh Rieker. There's really no other way to describe him. This was one book where I actually liked the romance. It was more of a first-love romance and we watch Tiki falling for him for about half of the book instead of the insta-love that happens so often today in YA books. I'm not saying that those are bad; I'm just saying that this was a refreshing change. It was easy to see he really cares for her, and he didn't stop her from doing anything he thought was too dangerous. 

Larkin was, to put it simply, insane. Her whole character is pretty much a spoiler, so I won't say anything more than that. 

My only problem with it (a minor one, really) was that the ending felt a bit rushed to me. It ended so quickly and so neatly that I thought it was a stand alone novel. But I heard that there's going to be a sequel. I can't wait to read it, and I'll be looking for more of Hamilton's future books.

This is one of the most original books (along with Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Name of the Star) that I've read all year. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Darker Still

The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing...

Jonathan Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul. (from Goodreads)

So I had high expectations for this book. Great concept, cool cover, and I heard that at BEA, ARCs of this book went like hotcakes. But for me, it just seemed to fall flat. 

The first thing I had a problem with was the protagonist's name. Natalie. This is New York in 1882. Yes, this name might have been around then, but for me, it seemed too modern for the setting. Something that seems out of place is one of my biggest pet peeves in historical fiction. This was also written in diary format, which isn't done very often in YA. The only problem was, it was obvious that she hadn't died or anything, because she was writing the entries. 

But my main problem was with the romance and with Natalie's character. (For me, it always seems to be the romance.) In essence, Natalie falls in love with a painting. Yes, a painting. She decides that on page 69. It's so ridiculous it's not even funny. A painting of a man with black hair and blue eyes. (Cue the eye-roll.) I am so sick of the romantic interest having black hair and green/blue/gray eyes. What exactly is the number of males with black hair and blue/green/gray eyes on this planet? Not a lot, I bet. And if his eyes were described one more time, I would have put down the book and/or flung it across the room. I don't care how handsome he is. I don't care if his eyes make the stars look dull. I really don't. (ends rant) To me, it seemed like the only reason Natalie helped Denbury was because of how handsome he was. Ugh. Just ugh. She's in love with a painting (this was before she figured out about his soul being alive and trapped in a painting and all that). And, of course, after like three days of knowing him, she decides that she's in love with him. Ick. Even more ick. And it's all because of his good looks. He's really flat; the only thing we know about him is that he wants to be a doctor. If that's supposed to make us like him, it didn't work. 

My second major problem with this book: Natalie's character. She was far, far too prissy and unbalanced. I mean, really. She snuck out of the house, yet she cowered behind Denbury in her nightmares and left him to fight. To me, it seemed like she was brave at heart, but didn't want Denbury to see it. *shakes head* 

And then there were the historical inaccuracies. There were so many, it wasn't even funny. One or two little ones I can take. But there was major one that I couldn't believe. Natalie was allowed to work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Back then, few women worked, and certainly not at the Met. Of course, her father ran the Met, but still. No one protested. 

About the plot. Sigh. The plot. To me, it felt as though Hieber hadn't really made up her mind about where the story was going. There were demons, art, hieroglyphics, murders, the names of saints, magic, clairvoyants, and Latin curses. I feel like Hieber's thinking processes went something like this: I need a reason only Natalie can enter the painting and a reason why Denbury's trapped there. Oh, I know! Let's throw the Egyptian parts of the soul in. I want to add some murders! I wonder how I could do that... and so on. Now, I know it's possible to write a book like this. It's harder, but it works. There just has to be a good explanation for everything. Imagine making cookies or something like that. If you don't want lumps in the cookies, you have to stir it well. Hieber didn't stir well enough, and so the plot was lumpy.

I also didn't understand two of the characters. I'm not really going to get into Crenfall because it's a bit of a spoiler. Maggie's also a bit of a spoiler. She, too, had a crush on Denbury. Only she didn't know that he was alive. She and Natalie get into a sort of fight over him, and that basically ends their friendship. Sigh. Over a painting. 

There was a mention of some society at the end, which I assume is what the sequel is going to be about. But the author brought it in too late.

Despite my 846-word review about the bad things this book has, there were some parts I enjoyed. Mrs. Northe was probably my favorite character; she was a motherly figure who, although she pushed the plot along in some parts, I never felt as though she held it back. I also liked the fact that it was up to Natalie to put the 'final battle/plan' into effect; Denbury was trapped in the painting, so he couldn't help. It made me like her just a tiny bit more. (Except, of course, when she thought of Denbury's 'love' for her, and so that was what made her work up the nerve.)

This book had promise, but as I said before, it fell flat. Very flat. Almost as flat as Denbury. It was obvious that the romance was the main part, and unless the book is a general fiction romance, I can't stand when this happens. 

Note: The ending. Oh, the ending. If the diary part had ended a chapter earlier, this book would have gotten a higher score. Maybe even a 4/5.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Love Triangles

They're such a popular romantic subplot these days. And I can't say I'm particularly fond of them. In fact, there's only one book series that I can think of that I actually like the love triangle it has: the Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. There are so many reasons I dislike love triangles, and here are just a few:

1) Half of the time it's not even a love triangle. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but for books like the Iron Fey series and the Hunger Games, I didn't really feel like it was a love triangle. The MC had already decided on who she wanted to be with; it was simply two guys lusting after a girl. It was just a way for publishers to hype up readers, because love triangles are 'in' right now.

2) The characters are really unbalanced. In many books, the guy who ultimately ends up the MC is way more developed and relatable than the looser. In Tempest Rising, the looser had an iota of time in the book, and I didn't get to know him very well. Although it probably happened unconsciously, the author sends a message right away to the reader.

3) The two guys are enemies/have some sort of horrific past/despise each other. Ash and Puck go way back, and their history isn't good. In Unearthly, Christian and Tuck aren't exactly best buds. This isn't a dislike, per say, but it's one of the reasons I love the Infernal Devices. Will and Jem are practically brothers. They respect each other, and in battle, they don't try to kill one another.

4) What ultimately happens is all the same. Especially if one guy is human and normal, or someone the MC has known all her life. The paranormal guy always wins. Yes, I get that he's way more sexy/hot/mysterious, but it would be nice for a little variation once in a while. 

5) It can make the main character seem really unlikeable. You have to be careful when writing love triangles because you don't want it to seem like the MC is cheating on one guy with the other. A lot of them are sort of done this way.

So it's not that I despise love triangles, it's just that they have to be done really well for me to enjoy them. Most of the ones I've read today aren't all that well done. 

Note: This is extremely picky, but they also bother me because of the name. 'Love triangle.' As I said sort of said yesterday in my post on Fury, I think it's very hard to be in love with two guys at once. But that could just be me. ;)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Sometimes sorry isn't enough....

It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems...

Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better--the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend.

On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel...something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.

In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay.

Em and Chase have been chosen. (from Goodreads)

So this book was like Pretty Little Liars with a paranormal aspect. For me, at least. Whiny main characters who I absolutely despised? Check. Teenagers doing naughty things then getting caught? Check. Stalkers? Check. A beautiful yet mysterious girl named Ali? Check. Yet: Staying up to finish the thing because I was hooked? Check. Being freaked out at the end by what happened? Check. Like I said before, almost everything was like PLL, except, of course, the supernatural part.

I found I connected more with Chase than Emily, even though he's star quarterback/Mr. Popularity, and she's a semi-geeky writer like myself. The reason? Chase was poor. He lived in a trailer with his mom; his dad died years ago. To me, he felt more realistic, and I could relate to his fears about being teased and found out. Emily just seemed kind of...flat. Plus, Emily had one thing that I absolutely hate in a character: she was hopelessly 'in love' with her best friend's boyfriend. Yes, I get that she might be attracted to him, that she might have a crush on him. And yes, I know that it's hard to deny those kinds of feelings. But when the whole first chapter is spent on her fantasizing that he feels 'those sparks she feels'...let's just say it's not a good way to start a book. I'm a realist. You aren't in love with someone in high school, especially if you aren't going out with them. And this romance wasn't the paranormal 'you're destined for me' type of romance. It was a simple high school romance. Emily might have felt that way, but this part really turned me off.

For about the first half of the book, nothing really major happened. Sure, Emily and Chase did some pretty nasty stuff, but that started to get static after a while, and we only learned who the three girls actually were in about the last quarter. And that last quarter went by very quickly. I know this is the first book in a trilogy, but still.

The characters were either cardboard or totally hyped up stereotypes, the mythology was moderate, the book was slow paced, yet this still gets a 2/5. Why? Elizabeth Miles managed to keep me reading up until midnight, when I finally finished the book. She might need work on character development and plot lines, but she's got a great way of hooking readers.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. (from Goodreads)

So. I am going to try my hardest not to compare this to Anna and the French Kiss, because that book was epic. This one wasn't as great, but I still enjoyed it.

Lola is a girl with a crazy sense of fashion. When I picked up this book, I thought her style would be crazy, but not outrageous, like how the girl on the cover is dressed. No. She literally dressed up - as in she dressed up as Cleopatra to go to school. It wasn't something that you normally see in books, so I liked that aspect. It also provided a good metaphor for later in the book

The characters are, in my opinion, what makes Stephanie Perkins' books. Both of them. The plots are okay, but I'm not a pure-romance kind of girl. Yet I love these books. And her characters are what do it.

Lola, even though she's pretty much the opposite of me in every way, still felt relatable to me. I'll say it again: Perkins' characters make the book.

The only character I had a problem with was Max. He was your average biker/rock band dude, and everything about him screamed 'bad boy'! I didn't even see why Lola was with him in the first place. All he did was make out/yell at Lola, and she put up with it. Even after he had done something that would have made me walk out on him forever, Lola was telling herself that Max loved her and that she should put up with it because he put up with so much from her parents.

The setting, too, was not as fun (for me) as in Anna. I've always wanted to go to Paris, and I've been to San Francisco. Part of the fun of Anna was discovering Paris as she did. Here, because Lola lived in SF and I'd been there, it wasn't as noteworthy.

Other than that, I found Lola to be a sweet book that provided an enjoyable several hours.