Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Eon Duology - Review

by Alison Goodman 

Eon (Eon, #1)  Eona (Eon, #2)

Sixteen-year-old Eon has a dream, and a mission. For years, he's been studying sword-work and magic, toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye-an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.

But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.

When Eon's secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic...and her life.

First of all, if you haven't seen these covers in person, you should. They are stunning when you hold them in your hands. Initially the covers are what drew me to this book because, as you know if you read my Five Favorite Friday - Key/Buzz Words, I love dragons and dragon mythology.

There is so much complexity and detail woven into this story. The world building is amazing and reading about this fictional culture could keep me interested for a long time. My knowledge of Chinese culture and history is limited. Even so, based on the cover art and the prevalence of the twelve dragons (which are named after the same animals of the Chinese zodiac) historical Chinese culture was a heavy influence in this book. I thought Goodman did an excellent job of submersing you in the world and quickly describing what a dangerous world this was to live in. Throughout the story we follow Eona as she moves in different circles and different social classes. I was impressed with the way Goodman kept every part of society distinct and consistent. It was more realistic that Eona had trouble adjusting to the expectations because they changed so often.

Character development is also fantastic throughout this book. Over the course of the two books characters are tested through physical and mental challenges. Eona and her friends must survive so many different experiences and you can see the wear and tear on them early on. I think one of my favorite parts of this book was the amazing relationships. So many of the characters are so fiercely loyal which made them very endearing to me. The trails and tribulations that Eona must face throughout this story changes her which again makes it very believable.

Lady Dela is my favorite character hands down. She is just amazing and her character is so interesting. Overall this book has amazing side characters that are just as interesting and complex as the main character. I loved the all so much.

That being said, I had trouble reading these books at times. I found it really really difficult to like Eona at certain points especially in Eona. I never became strongly attached to her and I think it was because she was rather hypocritical. I know that one of her character flaws was pride, but her pride made her seem selfish and almost mean rather than strong and confident at times. Overall I was easily frustrated by her character for a number of reasons that I don't want to explain because of spoilers.

This is an excellent set of book though and I definitely recommend them. I liked this series, but a lot of people seem to like it even more than I do! They are rather long (each book is 500+ pages), and I think each book is worth the time!

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Death Comes to Pemberly - Review

by P.D. James 

  Death Comes to Pemberley
A rare meeting of literary genius: P. D. James, long among the most admired mystery writers of our time, draws the characters of Jane Austen’s beloved novel Pride and Prejudice into a tale of murder and emotional mayhem.

It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy’s sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball.

Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a frightening mystery.

This sounds like a great idea for a book. The cover alone made me want to pick it up because the design I think is very elegant. However, I did hear some mixed reviews about this book so when I actually got my hands on it I was cautious.

The pace of this book felt painstakingly slow to me for a murder story. The plot was drawn out far longer than I was expecting. (The story actually takes place over the course of about a year) I feel like the description of this book is misleading and I was disappointed that it wasn't what I expected. I also may have anticipated the solution to the mystery well before the end of the book so I was a little bored with the slow pace.

I think what I was most disappointed in was Lizzy. She was changed from the bright inquisitive character that I know and love from P&P to a rather dull version of a dutiful mistress of Pemberley. This is understandable and a lot of her behavior was correct for the time period. However, I was struck by the change and the choice to make her less lively and witty. Maybe this was just because a lot of the story is told from Mr. Darcy's perspective so Lizzy literally isn't in the picture during certain parts of the story.

Even though I was disappointed in this book, I do not want to make it out as all bad. I did like the picture that James painted of the future of Pemberley and the future of the Bennett daughters. I always enjoy seeing how authors interpret what will happen after the end of Pride and Prejudice. I enjoyed the course the story took and how everything worked out in the end. I think this is a fun read and overall I ended up liking the book as a whole.

Do I Recommend? - If you get the chance to read it either by borrowing the book from a friend or the library or getting it for a good deal, I would say pick it up. I'm certainly glad I did not buy it to read it though.

Rating 2/5

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review - Ice


by Sarah Beth Durst

When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe. Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back — if Cassie will agree to be his bride.

That is the beginning of Cassie's own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her — until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice

I didn't review Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst because I borrowed it from the library and finished it right before I had to return it to the library. I was in love with it though. I thought the characters were awesome and the world building was fantastic. Not only that, but the ending was superb and different than typical YA books. I really really liked it and gave it a five star rating. Naturally, I thought I should pick up another book by Sarah Beth Durst. On the next trip to the library I picked up Ice.

I had a totally different experience with this book than with Vessel. I feel terrible, but I was close to hating this book by the time I finished it. Ice is a retelling of the fairytale; East of the Sun, West of the and instead of being fantastical and really well written, it fell flat for me. The characters and world building were lacking the sparkle that was so attractive in Vessel. Granted Ice was published three years before Vessel, but this retelling really didn't work for me at all.

It was also super weird and uncomfortable for me for most of the book. Cassie leaves to save her mother, but Cassie has no real relationship with her mother who I remember being essential in the original story (if I remember correctly?) Personally I found Cassie inconsistent and annoying in her loyalties and actions. I never connected with any of the main characters and the romantic element was really rushed. I find sudden realization moments that lead to sudden infatuation to be unrealistic and annoying. There were so many elements of this book that were weird and pushed me away from characters rather than being interested in them.

Overall I just really didn't like this book and found the interpretation of the fairytale to be too strange for me personally. I would recommend  Vessel over this book, but I hope to read another book by Sarah Beth Durst in the future, maybe just not a fairytale interpretation.

Rating: 1/5