Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Down and Out in Paris and London: review

Title: Down and Out in Paris and London
Author: George Orwell
Rating: 4 stars
Summary: This unusual fictional account - in good part autobiographical - narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-out of two great cities. The Parisian episode is fascinating for its expose of the kitchens of posh French restaurants, where the narrator works at the bottom of the culinary echelon as dishwasher, or plongeur. In London, while waiting for a job, he experiences the world of tramps, street people, and free lodging houses. In the tales of both cities we learn some sobering Orwellian truths about poverty and society.

This is a very easy book to just read in one sitting. The writing is quick and the chapters just blend together. I'm kind of glad I didn't read this before my Europe trip, because I would have forgotten the time gap, and crossed those two disgusting cities off my list. (Which, I can now report, are much improved.)

There are two distinct parts to the book, the narrator's time in Paris, and then in London. I have to admit, for the first 30 pages or so, I thought this was a non-fictional account of Orwell's history growing up since the main character doesn't actually have a name, and the back cover almost implies it. But I think it's just based off of some of his experiences, because there are sure some dirty secrets I'm sure weren't common knowledge at the time.

I enjoyed the Paris work more, because though it was extremely gritty and depressing, it's Paris. And I'm growing fond of that city, no matter its faults. What amazed me the most is how little you can actually live on, after pawning all your possessions, and not eating for days on end. It made me lethargic just thinking about his days. Life as a "poulanger" (can't remember it exactly?) sounds awful, and I don't know how people did that sort of thing. There isn't life, it's just getting by; having no bigger purpose than a few hours work in the future.

For London, he mainly talked about where to sleep every night. Those spikes were described so horrendously, it was hard to believe. I am so glad the hostel-like places have improved since, at least, in the cleanliness factor. The thing that kept confusing me was all the different ways of adding up money. There's too many different terms for sixpence, halfpence, one and fourpenny, etc besides that, I mean, you can pretty much tell he's living dollar to dollar.

He did meet many unique individuals during his time in both cities, and those snippets of people's lives really gave this book a heart, and showed me people do this, or did this, and survived. Some of course, better off than others, but really it's quite impressive.

And that six-page chapter in the middle somewhere, describing all the slang and swear words of London in that time, was totally enjoyable.

I highly recommend this book.


I have yet to read his famous 1984 but I did read Animal Farm a while back which was...interesting.

How'd you like this? Should I do more non-YA book reviews? I do read a number of classics and adult books, just don't always take the time to review them.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Deepest Night: review

Title: The Deepest Night (The Sweetest Dark #2)
Author: Shana Abé
Rating: 4 stars
Summary: It’s 1915, and sixteen-year-old Lora Jones is finishing up her first year as a charity student at Iverson, a prestigious, gothic boarding school on England’s southern coast. While she’s always felt different from everyone around her, now she finally knows why: She is a drákon, a rare, enchanted being with astonishing magical abilities.

  As war hits Britain’s shores, and Lora reels from an unimaginable loss, she finds that her powers come with grave and dangerous responsibilities. At the request of Armand Louis, the darkly mysterious boy whose father owns Iverson, Lora will spend her summer at his lavish estate. To help the war effort—and to keep Lora by his side—Armand turns his home into a military hospital, where Lora will serve as a nurse. For Armand is inescapably drawn to her—bound to her by heart-deep secrets and a supernatural connection that runs thicker than blood.

  Yet while Lora tries to sort out her own feelings toward Armand, fate offers an unexpected surprise. Lora discovers there is another drákon, a prisoner of war being held in Germany. And that only she, with her newly honed Gifts, will be able to rescue him.

  With Armand, Lora will cross enemy lines on an incredible mission—one that could bond her to Armand forever, or irrevocably tear them apart.

 My review:

   This is the third good-second-book in a row this week. I'm happy. Authors, you keep these coming now, okay? *knocks on wood*

   For the most part, I have no particular strong feelings to point out in here. These are my escape novels, and I don't have to think more than "well, I wish I could Turn to a dragon like that." So that's a nice break, of course. My one complaint of course, was upon reding the first page and remembering my favorite character had died in the first book....still a bit mad that. But this romance sort of thing is okay, and I'm less annoyed at it now. Wow I managed that without any obvious spoilers.

   It's also refreshing to read a new book of an established author. Nowadays there are so many debuts out there; while that's great and exciting, it's also sometimes hard for me to read a bunch, because I can tell they're still trying to find their own niche and style in the writing world.

   While I'll always be a bigger fan of Abé's adult drakon series, little by little this series is growing on me. I do like how certain people/things subtly connect with the other books, but there are still so many unanswered questions, and I am now anxious for the third and final book in the trilogy.


My review of the first book is here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dance of the Red Death: review

Title: Dance of the Red Death (Masque #2)
Author: Bethany Griffin
Rating: 4 stars
Summary: In Dance of the Red Death, Araby’s world is in shambles—betrayal, death, disease, and evil forces surround her. She has no one to trust. But she finds herself and discovers that she will fight for the people she loves, and for her city.

Her revenge will take place at the menacing masked ball, though it could destroy her and everyone she loves…or it could turn her into a hero.

With a nod to Edgar Allan Poe, Bethany Griffin concludes her tragic and mysterious Red Death series with a heroine that young adult readers will never forget.

When I first heard this was going to be a duo, I got really excited because I really loved the first book. Them for some reason around the release, I started coming across a bunch of terrible reviews. So I warily ordered it from the library...and it was just as awesome and exciting as the first! A great conclusion of the story, and I can't wait for Griffin's next Poe retelling. Araby's world has such a vivid atmosphere, and I can guess the next story will be just as dark. (Because Poe, you know.)

Only a couple things bugged me. Both of those are called Elliott. (Not really. just the first.) I'm honestly not sure why everyone seems to be "Team Elliott" because I can't stand a single word that comes out of his mouth. And the fact that Araby is/was sort of in love with him or something...ugh. If the rest of the storyline wasn't so good, I would have serious issues with that character. He's possessive, selfish, arrogant, and downright sadistic and manipulative. (Yeah, I know. Bad childhood. But really??) I just don't get how anyone could like him. This is me being harsh. But it is my opinion.

The imagery with the masquerade ball and Prospero's palace, and the airship, swamp, even the Red Death victims....all very realistic. Still, still, cannot picture how exactly the porcelain masks work. Since this series is kind of steampunk, I think it would have been cool to have a few "info blurbs" and sketches every now and then in the books.

You can see my review of the first book, Masque of the Red Death here.

By the by, Bethany Griffin's next book will be another Poe retelling, called The Fall. <-- add on Goodreads!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Just Like Fate: review

Title: Just Like Fate
Authors: Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: review copy from the publisher for an unbiased review
Summary: Caroline is at a crossroads. Her grandmother is sick, maybe dying. Like the rest of her family, Caroline's been at Gram's bedside since her stroke. With the pressure building, all Caroline wants to do is escape--both her family and the reality of Gram's failing health. So when Caroline's best friend offers to take her to a party one fateful Friday night, she must choose: stay by Gram's side, or go to the party and live her life.

The consequence of this one decision will split Caroline's fate into two separate paths--and she's about to live them both.

Friendships are tested and family drama hits an all-new high as Caroline attempts to rebuild old relationships, and even make a few new ones. If she stays, her longtime crush, Joel, might finally notice her, but if she goes, Chris, the charming college boy, might prove to be everything she's ever wanted.

Though there are two distinct ways for her fate to unfold, there is only one happy ending...


   I hear parallel universes are the new dystopian now, eh? Well count me in because this is my first book in the subject, and I'm a fan already. (Honestly, I think I've seen quite a few parallel universe stories out there the past few years, I just avoid them because I can't stand mirrored covers. But I'm getting past those shallow thoughts...slowly)

   Picking this book up to read was a no-brainer since I've been a huge fan of Cat Patrick's from the start, and more recently started fangirling over Suzanne's newest book, The Program. I haven't read many co-authored books...actually at the moment, I can't recall a single one. I definitely recognized Cat Patrick's writing style over Suzanne Young's, but that's probably because I've read more of her books, and I've only read Young's dystopian/futuristic-esque. One thing I'm curious about; how did they write it? I wonder which author wrote which decision?

   So as far as the story goes, you have the two different paths, "stay" and "go" which flip each chapter, and I am so glad the choice is written on the bottom of each page because I think I would have gotten confused and mixed the two up. They're obviously different, but the same events happen this way and that, and I had to pause and trace things back from time to time. At first I was rooting for the events of "stay" to be the real one, (or whatever is supposed to happen at the end) but my opinion quickly swayed back to "go" and I liked the story a lot more in those chapters.

   From the perspective of a newbie in this branch of sci-fi, it was very cool to see a character's different choices. Like, instead of screaming in frustration for choosing one way or another, I was like, oh, I get my way too. So now I will be on the lookout for more parallel universe books, if anyone has good recs, I'm all ears. Just Like Fate is a light read; I read it in a day. But it did have some good thought provoking aspects for teenagers, and I really liked that. Also, the ending is satisfyingly ambiguous.


To read my reviews of Cat Patrick's books: Forgotten, Revived, The Originals
And my review of The Program by Suzanne Young is here.

Thanks again to Simon and Schuster for the book; this review is in no way biased, these are my honest thoughts.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Crown of Midnight: review

Title: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 5 stars
Summary: After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king's contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king's bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she's given a task that could jeopardize everything she's come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon -- forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice. 

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

Is it just me, or have there been more and more quality sequels coming out? *knocks on wood*

To start with, when I read Throne of Glass, I liked it. Celaena turned out to be a snarky cool character and the story had potential. But the book didn't stick with me. I don't own it, and I never really told anyone "dude you HAVE to go read this book." As far as fantasy goes, even though everybody was absolutely raving about it, my favorite aspect probably had to be the badass cover. (See my ToG review and cover comparison here.)

When I stumbled upon a galley of Crown of Midnight, I figured the first book had lots of potential, so I'll see if this second book is any good.

I am so glad I did.

There isn't much recap, but if you remember the main characters, that'll keep you in the loop. I was fuzzy on the rest, but as things kept moving forward in here, I just paid attention to what was in store next. There is literally no boring pages or chapters, and I finished the first half of the book in one sitting before I even realized it.

I have a feeling Maas has read some good fantasy, and used that knowledge to build a fantastical world of her own. She knows how to correctly make a fictional world. In Throne of Glass, you don't get to see much of the world besides the mines of Endovier, and the Glass Castle. It's really in the pre-novellas and the ones coming before Crown of Midnight that give you more of a glimpse of Celaena's world. I have a feeling the third book will open the world up yet again.

As far as POV goes, (one of the main points I pay attention to when picking a book,) it is third person like the first. We do get a handful of scenes in Chaol's, Dorian's, and the king's POV, but they're usually short and mysterious. And they're usually because Celaena's knocked out somewhere. For the most part, it works well for the writing style and the story.

There is some major character growth in here, guys. I can't say all I want to say without ruining the book for you. But whereas I thought the main cast of characters to be basic, rather shallow creatures in ToG, there is so much fleshing out and angles being uncovered, I am extremely grateful I kept going on the series. Even just Celaena, who has been keeping her past very secret. I kept asking myself "did I miss something from the first book, when her past is explained? Or the novellas?" Well, you'll see.

There has never been a more appropriate thing to say about this series: Who can you trust? Because I thought I had it all figured out a half-dozen times while reading Crown of Midnight. And Maas really has a way of making you think you know what's going on. Trust me, you don't.

Most of why my views did a one eighty in CoM, is full of spoilers, but when you read it and things start coming together, you will know exactly what I am talking about, and probably love it more than the first one as well.

Of course I can recommend this series to fans of Maria V. Snyder's Study Series, Cashore's Graceling books, and perhaps some old Eragon fans. (What? Really? Yes. Really.)

Did anyone notice how in Goodreads there's all the sudden six books in the series? At first I was annoyed, because I knew I would have to read them all. But after finishing CoM I am very, very glad. A lot of things need to happen. Artifacts to find...people to assassinate...I can't wait.

For those who have read Crown of Midnight, what'd you think of it?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I'm back! And some summer mini-reviews for you.

Hiatus over! I'm back from backpacking around Europe this summer. While I was gone, my Kindle kept me company, so I did not go completely without books. (It sure was hard though, and I missed my paper books at home very much.) I did read about 35 books, but here are a few I bothered to write mini-reviews for. These are also posted on Goodreads along with the rest of what I read on the trip.

The Girl Who Was on Fire: Hunger Games Trilogy essays anthology
Summary: In The Girl Who Was on Fire, thirteen YA authors take you back to Panem with moving, dark, and funny pieces on Katniss, the Games, Gale and Peeta, reality TV, survival, and more. From the trilogy's darker themes of violence and social control to fashion and weaponry, the collection's exploration of the Hunger Games reveals exactly how rich, and how perilous, protagonist Katniss' world really is.

• How does the way the Games affect the brain explain Haymitch's drinking, Annie's distraction, and Wiress' speech problems?
• What does the rebellion have in common with the War on Terror?
• Why isn't the answer to "Peeta or Gale?" as interesting as the question itself?
• What should Panem have learned from the fates of other hedonistic societies throughout history and what can we?

My rating: 5 stars
Review: These essays were great! None in particular, because they all kind of blended together, but there were some good point of views about different themes in The Hunger Games trilogy, and now I have more appreciation to Mockingjay. I don't hate it anymore, and I'm interested to read it again with a new mindset. I definitely recommend this book if you're at all a fan of the series.

Possible series SPOILER ALERT
Summary: Kaylee has one addiction: her very hot, very popular boyfriend, Nash. A banshee like Kaylee, Nash understands her like no one else. Nothing can come between them.Until something does.

Demon breath. No, not the toothpaste-challenged kind. The Netherworld kind. The kind that really can kill you. Somehow the super-addictive substance has made its way to the human world. But how? Kaylee and Nash have to cut off the source and protect their friends—one of whom is already hooked.
And so is someone else…

My rating: barely 2 stars
Review: When I hit the "I'm finished" button for this book I truly meant it. I'm finished with this book, and series all together, I can't stand it anymore and it's not worth my reading time. I can see why these books are popular but they're just not for me. I don't want to rant unreasonably but..

The idea of banshees is wonderful and unique, but when you stick it in a high school and have underlying everyday high school problems with a paranormal just loses the charm. Anyone know of other book series on banshees?

The adults here are badly written. First, the right thing is done because the adults are actually clued into the banshee business and everything; in fact they ARE banshees too. It's a genetic thing. The problem falls when at every turn of events the main character (wait what's her name again?) is in some dire circumstance (as happens in most climaxes) and she repeatedly refuses to call her dad, or clue in her uncle. Anything. Anybody. Why? Because she is afraid of getting grounded. You know, I really don't have to keep going on that subject. It's ridiculous.

And one last small thing. The protag's cousin Sophie, aka Ice Bitch Queen Character....yeah she's freakin 15 years old. Think of that. I can't even imagine being mollified by a fifteen year old. And I hope I'm using that word right, because I don't want to be sounding like a fifteen year old.
But REALLY, I get that the protag is only barely 17 or something, but that just makes me roll my eyes.

Okay rant over. I'm disappointed. I really wanted to like this series, and I figured three books were enough to judge a seven book series.

Oh. Don't get me wrong, there were aspects I liked about these books. Tod the reaper. Netherworld-building. 
Yeah that's it.

The first two books were bearable. This pushed me over the edge.

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors--or suitors of any kind--in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There's only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . . This witty take on the classic Regency--Patrice Kindl's first novel in a decade--is like literary champagne!

My rating: 5 stars
Review: Excellent book! I already wish I could read it for the first time again. There are many laugh out loud moments; the story doesn't take itself entirely seriously. Every time someone mentioned Lord Boring, or Mr. Fredericks did something stupid and tactless around Althea, my face broke out into a smile. If you've recently finished reading all of Jane Austen's books, or others of that kind and/or need something to get out of a book funk, you have to give Keeping the Castle a try. It's a short book but has depth and the writing style is sure to keep you entertained. Now, where can I find another book like it??

Summary: Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god. 

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning. 

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out. 

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

My rating: 5 stars
Review: Besides the slow (but steady) pace...totally awesome! I can't wait for the next one; Kendare is at her best, and I am still a little shocked at her brutality to her characters. Such dedication.
And yes, that is my entire review.

Summary: Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims' dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI's Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP) Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick. 

In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist's knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie's possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.

My rating: 5 stars
Review: Now another series from Eoin Colfer I can look forward to! It's full of action, witty dialogue, and nasty bad guys. I have a soft spot for time traveling, and this is now one of my favorites in that genre. It's for a tab bit older audience than the Artemis Fowl books, I think, because it's not as lighthearted. Great capture of the 19th century London streets though, I felt completely immersed.

Summary: Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to be known as a doctor, not a necromancer. But Tsar Alexander III forbids women to attend medical school; his interest in Katerina extends only to her ability to raise the dead. Twice now, Katerina has helped him by using her power to thwart the forces of darkness—vampires bent on resurrecting the lich tsar Konstantin Pavlovich so that he can take what he sees as his rightful place on the throne. Katerina thought she had bound Konstantin to the Greylands, the realm of the dead, but he has found a way out. Now he is searching for the Morning Star, a sword that will allow him to command a legion of supernatural warriors.

Katerina must find the sword before Konstantin does—and she must travel to Egypt to do so. Along the way, she puts up with unwanted attention from her former fiancé, the nefarious Prince Danilo, and struggles with her feelings for her true love, George Alexandrovich. But with the looming threat from Konstantin, Katerina's focus remains on the sword. Russia's fate will be determined by whoever wields the Morning Star—and delivers the final blow.

My rating: 3 stars
Review: I guess I never really was a huge fan of this series to begin with. I liked it enough to keep going, but the way it was written really made it hard to follow at all, so I just picked it up here and there and that's how I got through. Not saying it's a bad series by any means, you just have to pay attention to all the Russian names and relations etc. 

So it's a nice ending to the series, but the last chapters felt rushed and completely unexpected, a tad out of character? Also, through the last two books and most of this one, Katerina was striving to be a doctor, when women weren't doctors, and how it actually played out...well I'm still not sure I like it. She seemed to compromise a few of her beliefs to be with...the one who wins the love triangle. (spoiler avoided.)

Very neutral three stars.


Well there you go! I know that doesn't nearly make up for a three-month absense, but I have some pretty good books coming up in the next couple months, so keep an eye out! Have you read anything either outstanding or awful this summer?