October 10, 2012 § 4 Comments
Author: Kat Zhang
Series: The Hybrid Chronicles
Published September 18th 2012 by HarperCollins
What’s Left of Me explores what it might be like to be an unwelcome guest in your own body, within your own mind. In this world, each body is born inhabited by two souls. By age 7, most children have "settled", meaning the recessive soul has faded away leaving only the dominant soul. When this doesn’t happen, those left with two souls past puberty are considered hybrid. Hybrids are considered sick and dangerous and are sought out by the government to be hospitalized and corrected.
Addie is the dominant soul in this story, Eva the recessive. They have spent the past few years pretending that Eva has faded until a schoolmate finds out their secret. The schoolmate, Hally, and her brother Devin are also secretly hybrids as well as being foreign which means they are distrusted in the current political climate. Eva wants to trust them but Addie isn’t so sure, the consequences if their secret were revealed could be deadly.
The story is told from Eva’s point of view and was at times very poignant as I was forced to consider what it would be like having to constantly live in my own head pretending that I don’t exist to the outside world. The relationship between Addie and Eva felt genuine and the feeling between the two was expressed beautifully in the dialog they shared. With two souls inhabiting the body of each of the characters, you would think that the story would be confusing. Surprisingly, it was not. Each soul had their own individual voice and were easily identified.
I think that Eva was an especially well written character. Her great longing to be acknowledged, her loneliness, and her genuine love for Addie was expressed with poignancy and emotion and I found myself continually drawn to her.
I enjoyed the unusual storyline, the relationships between the characters, and the beautiful writing that compelled me to continue reading late into the night. If I have one complaint about What’s Left of Me it is that I would have liked to have had more information about the world and why children were born with two souls and why not settling is considered so dangerous.
Rating – 4 of 5
September 2, 2012 § 2 Comments
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Kingmaker’s Daughter is probably my favorite of the Cousin’s War series to date. It is written from the perspective of Anne Neville and gives yet another interesting point of view from this volatile period of history. One of the things I enjoy so much about Philippa Gregory’s novels is that she somehow manages to turn what could have been tedious political maneuvering into exciting intrigue that keeps me riveted from the first moment. I am not a historian so I have no idea how historically accurate this series is, but I can say that they certainly paint a vivid picture of what living in that time period might have been like. From the court customs, to the fashions, the scandals, the betrayals, and executions, each aspect was brought to life in such a way that I almost felt myself a part of the story.
Each character was shown from Anne’s point of view so was colored by her own biases and was a bit different from how these same characters were presented in the previous books. The story was focused so much on Anne, and to a lesser extent Isabelle, that many of the other characters, at times, felt a bit flat. Anne’s relationship with her sister Isabelle was reminiscent of the rivalry between Mary and Anne Boleyn in Gregory’s popular novel, The Other Boleyn Girl. While there was always that undercurrent of love, each sister didn’t hesitate to betray the other in order to further their own cause or that of their husband. I didn’t find either sister to be particularly likable, and sometimes thought that their personalities were a bit contradictory. For example, Anne seems to have grown from a bright, practical, inquisitive child into a fearful woman ruled by her superstitions and unwilling to even consider any point of view than that which painted her family in a positive light. I guess that the struggles she was faced with could account for such a drastic change in character but it was still a bit odd.
One of the things about this series, including The Kingmaker’s Daughter that I was not a fan of was the witchery and spells and magic that were included. However, after discussing this with a friend who is also reading the series, I can see how it may have been presented this way because of how the players so wholeheartedly believed that witchcraft was responsible for many things such as storms, sicknesses, and death. Curses were taken very seriously in 1400’s England and so reading from Anne’s perspective, I can see why an unexpected storm would be believed to have been whistled up by the witch who hated her. I guess this was a realistic danger in this time period, that any misfortune could be laid at the feet of someone believed to be a witch. This would have been a very effective way to discredit a powerful woman, as it seems to have done in the case of Elizabeth Woodville.
While The Kingmaker’s Daughter can be read on it’s own as a stand-alone novel, I would definitely recommend reading the entire series in order simply because it is a beautifully written thrilling story. Despite the fact that I found many of the characters to be a bit flat, the fast paced plot was such that I found the book hard to put down. I know many people, after reading Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction have been inspired to find out more about this violent era and these fascinating people. I would absolutely recommend this and any and every other book written by this author to any fans of this genre.
August 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Immortal Rules is a dark, violent, edge of your seat, up all night kind of story. And it is hands down the very best book I’ve read all year. I read and loved Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, but The Immortal Rules is even better. I mean, the first line of the story starts with a public execution, and it just gets darker from there. I was 9 pages in when I knew this book would make it to my favorites list.
The world that Kagawa has created is terrifyingly brilliant with an almost post-apocalyptic or dystopian feel. The US has been decimated by a disease that almost destroyed the human race to the point that vampires, who had before hidden among humans were alarmed that their food source was being wiped out and so created cities where they ruled and kept the humans penned in like sheep under the guise of “protection”. Because outside these walled cities among the ruins of other towns and cities were inhabited by mindless scavenging “rabids” which are essentially vampire zombies. Yes, I said Vampire Zombies. So the vampires protected the humans from these things as well as provided food and necessities to the registered and in return for this protection, the humans were required to give a quota of blood every couple weeks. Those unregistered humans were not required to give blood, but they also were not given food and the penalty for stealing is death. The majority of the humans live in what is called the Fringe, outside the walls of the inner vampire sanctum, but inside the walls of the city itself and out of reach of the rabids.
The main character, Allison, was basically a street urchin, living in abandoned building, eating garbage, bugs, rats or anything just to stay alive. Allie’s bravery, loyalty, and wit quickly endeared her to me. She seemed to be always struggling with a balance between self-preservation and the need to protect those she cared about. Kagawa certainly wasn’t kind to her, this poor girl, throughout the story gets the crap kicked out of her both physically and emotionally as she attempts to hang on to her humanity. While Allie was a kick-ass main character, everyone in the story had a depth and background that made the entire story just come to life. I was drawn so deeply into this story that there were several times that my husband spoke to me from right in front of me that I didn’t even notice him standing there. (He so loves when I do that :P)
And yes, there is a bit of romance between all the blood and starvation. Vampire Zombies be damned, teens will insist upon falling in love, no matter how hopeless it seems. In this situation, however, the romance was absolutely fitting. It built so slowly from them beginning to trust one another based on their actions, then coming to understand one another’s differences. It added yet another poignant element to the story and it definitely worked, despite their differences and despite how impossible things may seem.
The writing was stellar, flawless. Kagawa effortlessly built this bleak and frightening world populated with terrifying creatures, a broken society, and a heroine with a strength built on years of pain and disappointment and yet a capacity to love that almost defies that world she grew up in. I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up The Immortal Rules, but I know I had no idea I would be so completely blown away by this incredible story. If you haven’t read this yet, you should do so immediately.
August 21, 2012 § 5 Comments
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Monument 14 takes place in small town Colorado where 14 kids, ranging in ages from 5 to 16-17 find themselves trapped in a Greenway store while the world falls apart around them. On a seemingly normal day, Dean and his tech-savvy little brother Alex race to catch their school bus. On the way to school, crushing oversize hail begins denting the roof of the bus, breaking the windows, and in an effort to get the kids to safety, the two school buses quickly go to the Greenway store, which seems to be like a super Walmart. Once inside, the bus driver goes to find help and the 14 kids find themselves alone in the store as the riot gates come down essentially trapping them inside, which may be a good thing since they soon find out that a series of natural, and not-so-natural disasters are tearing the US to pieces around them. The Greenway store might be the safest place to be, unless they fall apart themselves.
The plot was pretty fast paced. It definitely kept me reading up into the wee hours of the night. The story had a sort of Lord of the Flies feel with the older kids having a power struggle about who would be in charge and how best to survive. I very much enjoyed the whole concept of the story while the execution sometimes left a little to be desired. Nonetheless, Monument 14 certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.
The story is told from the perspective of Dean, a bookish teen who is chronicling the events as they unfold. The interaction between all of the characters was fascinating. There is one particular character, a 5 or 6 year old named Max who told some of the most outlandish stories about his life. While there were a few crushes and hookups among the older teens, there wasn’t any real romance in this story, although it seemed to be heading in that direction.
The writing sometimes fell a bit short for me. I felt like using the teenage Dean to narrate the story was a way to compensate for less than stellar writing. The story felt choppy in places and jumped around a bit and I would have liked to seen some more character development in the older teens. However, as you see by my 4 star rating, I truly enjoyed Monument 14 and I won’t hesitate to pick up the next in the series. There was quite a cliffhanger ending and not much was resolved in this book, which is a pet peeve of mine and I considered only rating this 3 stars because of that. But I didn’t simply because I really liked this book, despite its flaws.