Peregrine Harker & The Black Death
By: Luke Hollands
Release Date: June 3, 2013
Rating: 3 Stars
|Summary: MURDER SPIES EXPLOSIONS REVENGEPeregrine Harker is about to learn you’re never too young to die.London 1908: A secret society stalks the murky streets, a deadly assassin lurks in the shadows and a series of unexplained deaths are linked by a mystery symbol…
When boy-detective Peregrine Harker stumbles across a gruesome murder he sparks a chain of events that drag him on a rip-roaring journey through a world of spluttering gas lamps, thick fog, deadly secrets and dastardly villains.
Every step of Peregrine’s white-knuckle adventure brings him closer to the vile heart of a terrifying mystery – the true story behind the Brotherhood of the Black Death.
Luke Hollands obviously knows it’s every guy’s secret fantasy to be a suave secret agent, saving the world from evil criminal masterminds and getting the spunky damsel in distress. His character, Peregrine Harker, gets to do it all, uncover dastardly plots, fight for his life – multiple times, and yep, get the girl. So I have to say, even thoughPeregrine Harker and the Black Death is kind of silly and doesn’t offer much in the way of character or plot development, I still enjoyed it as a fast paced, breezy read that’s quite a bit of fun.
I do wish this book had a little bit more of substance to it though. For one, Peregrine Harker is just your average nosy journalist who dreams of becoming a spy until he quite conveniently gets himself involved in a dangerous conspiracy within the first three (quite short) chapters – beyond that there’s really no character development at all. I guess he’s cheeky and an entertaining enough narrator, but the frenetic pacing means the story is action packed to the point I really didn’t get much of a sense of him as a character – it’s just him going from one escapade to the next, always with one foot in the door of danger. So while it’s nice his childhood has prepared him for the challenges of his mission, that and the fact he’s an orphan didn’t help diferentiate him much from the average, generic male protagonist that populates these types of book. Except somehow, he sounds more like a forty year old guy than an fifteen year old boy, particularly with his descriptions and how he recounts certain events, though I just imagined he was eighteen instead and it really didn’t bother me that much.
The supporting characters too, they all feel really generic because I never felt like I got enough of them. Lousia Clayton is your average spunky heroine that I can favorably compare to any of the better Bond girls, but at the same time, she has as much character development as the average Bond girl too, which is kind of lacking for a book. Harker’s cousin Lt. Dearlove comes in and saves the day once or twice, but is more like that friendly guy you appreciate for save your ass out of the blue because of the way he’s incorporated into the story. I really liked Mr. Woofle as the tough as nails butler, but like every other character, he just does (some really cool) stuff without actually being fully fleshed out – his decision to help Harker for example could’ve really used a few more sentences of dialogue by way of explanation.
As for the plot itself, I would describe it as really simple – Harker stumbles on the conspiracy he’s always dreamed of and jumps through various fun but expected hoops on his way to defeating the villain behind the scheme. Though all the promised elements, murders, spies, explosions, and revenge, are here, I can’t help but feel that something’s missing – maybe the plot is so fast paced that one event’s over before it fully registers and Harker’s doing something else. Like there’s a scene where Harker’s ambushed in a hotel – he’s being shot at – and a few paragraphs later he’s racing away in a high speed chase through the streets of London. Especially with the sparse dialogue, focus on action sequences for much of the book, and the expected long monologue describing the point of the entire plot at the climax of the book, I guess the book has more of the feel of watching a thirty minute cartoon or a seventy minute action movie that, while fun, isn’t exactly the same experience as reading a fully fleshed out book.
If my review seems short, it’s because the book is really short, coming in at a mere hundred and fifty pages. And most of that again is the lightning fast paced plot. It’s enjoyable, but feels a bit thin now that I’ve finished.
Spirit (Elemental #3)
By: Brigid Kemmerer
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Rating: 4 Stars
|Summary: With power comes enemies. Lots of them.
Hunter Garrity just wants to be left alone. He’s learned the hard way that his unusual abilities come at a price. And he can’t seem to afford any allies.
He’s up to his neck in hostiles. His grandfather, spoiling for a fight. The Merrick brothers, who think he ratted them out. Calla, the scheming psycho who wants to use him as bait.
Then there’s Kate Sullivan, the new girl at school. She’s not hostile. She’s bold. Funny. Hot. But she’s got an agenda, too.
With supposedly secret powers rippling to the surface everywhere around him, Hunter knows something ugly is about to go down. But finding out what means he’ll have to find someone he can trust…
Brigid Kemmerer may very well be my favorite female young adult author writing about guys. That’s hard even for me to wrap my head around, given only a year ago Storm was one of my first reviews, and I think I gave it a tepid endorsement tantamount to saying, well at least this isn’t Twilight. Spark though really was a game changer, showing how much Kemmerer found her footing by establishing this series around an alternating cast of relatable male characters (and knowing me, that’s a huge deal), and I’m glad to see Spirit is just Kemmerer continuing to successfully do what she does best.
I have seen a few complaints that, plot wise at least, Spark was too similar to Storm. I’ll get into that some more in a bit and add in my thoughts about Spirit, but personally it’s never bothered me that the Elemental series really doesn’t have the strongest of plots – it’s all about the characters. Spark succeeded because Kemmerer took the focus off the female lead (Layne) and tapped into the anger and frustration behind Gabriel’s character, so even though I’m the farthest thing from any of the Merricks, way too easygoing and laid back (would be cool to see a character like that though hehe), Kemmerer managed something very few authors, male or female, has actually accomplished – get Gabriel’s emotions to actually come off the page and connect with me.
So now we have Spirit and Hunter, who’s no Gabriel, and you know what? She’s done it again! I don’t know if it’s a challenge switching to a different character, one who isn’t nearly as impulsive, one who has different problems and issues of his own, more of a silent and bear it kind of guy if you will, but I think Kemmerer has done a really good job creating a different character who, in his own way, is just as equally capable of showing that mix of frustration and weariness that makes Gabriel so relatable. Another part of it too is the source of Hunter’s frustration, his parent’s relationship over his dead father’s job as a guide – the stuff with Hunter’s mother was just very well done and added a huge chunk to Hunter’s character. Getting Gabriel right could’ve been a one off thing, but to do it again with a totally different character? That takes talent.
Now, as for the complaints about the plot, I really can’t help there. Spirit follows the same basic formula as Spark and Storm with a girl of course, this time Kate Sullivan, being in pretty much the same situation as Becca and Layne before her. Like with Hunter, I have to give Kemmerer props for making Kate as different a character from Becca and Layne as Hunter is from Chris and Gabriel; I’m mean, she’s really feisty and no nonsense and I sure hope all the girls I know don’t learn how to use car keys like she does, but even though she has an agenda, so to speak, unlike Becca and Layne, the plot, or basically the lack of one, means a lot of the book goes through same motions between Hunter and Kate as with Gabriel and Layne or Chris and Becca. There are a couple of villains, Calla returns with more of the same harebrained scheme to bring death on all the elementals and a new Guide tries to kill them all, but the general plot does remind me of a rehash of what happened in Storm with Becca’s father, except with one very surprising, very gutsy twist.
That said, as I’ve made pretty clear, I’m not in this for the plot. I think Kemmerer’s got a good thing going just doing character based books, so although I would appreciate, I don’t know, something happening, more of a overall story arc, whatever, it’s not a deal breaker for me. I happen to really like Kemmerer just focusing on one character, fully fleshing him out over the course of the book, adding events, details, back story, a female foil, the whole works in a sort of get to know him deal, and tossing in some neat connections with the characters of the previous books, you know, the bread and butter of a character based book. This time, it’s sort of big brother deal between Hunter and Michael, and although I didn’t buy Michael’s explanation for why all the Merricks ended up in a hotel – that was way too convenient, it’s still great to see another sequel where the characters actually interact with each other like people.
Would I be surprised if the next book had more of a plot than these last three? Absolutely. But would I read it even if it didn’t? Absolutely.
Dare You To (Pushing the Limits 2)
By: Katie McGarry
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Rating: 4.5 stars
|Summary: “I dare you…”
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….
Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….
Review: I had to knock a half-star because Beth really frustrated me.
When I read the summary, I thought, “Oh no, it’s going to be one of those books where the guy is dared to ask the girl out, they fall for each other, and she’ll find out.” But then, I really liked “Pushing the Limits,” so I thought why not. Turns out, that wasn’t what the story was about – at all!
I admit, I read the first few chapters and then set the book aside for a few days. I like sassy characters, but Beth was just downright bitchy. But she actually grew on me surprisingly fast – not because her situation gave reason for her attitude, but because she was a much deeper person than that.
What won me over was her insistence on helping her mother. (It was also the reason why I knocked off a half star because she blindness frustrated me beyond words. I just wanted to shake her and yell, “Wake up!”) However, it also gave her an edge over other characters written like her. Yes, she has a terrible life, and she took it out on the world. But her selflessness, her determination and her devotion to her mother was very admirable, even when her mother had let her down so, so many times.
I really liked the analogy of the bird trapped in the barn. To me, it meant so much. And the bottle of rain? I admit, I squeed a bit there. How utterly romantic. Call it cheesy if you want, but I was so caught up in the story that it just really moved me.
Ryan wasn’t too far off from your typical golden boy with problems at home. Maybe McGarry overdid it a little bit with all his problems – the brother, his father’s expectations, political campaigns, his mother’s social groups, everything else – but I didn’t mind it so much in this book. Ryan was just an overall likable guy.
And the book had some really great lines. The bickering had me smile a few times. Their exchanges made me squee every now and then. And yes, I shed a few tears – don’t worry, I wasn’t bawling, but yeah, moving on.
While I’m gushing. I really like Scott. I admire him for what he had to go through, especially when he was so young when Beth was born. And it’s inspiring to see that he got out. And I felt for him and how he tried so hard with her. And with everything that he knew, it must have been hard to try to keep it to himself to protect her – especially when you have a wife that is not so supportive of the situation. Sometimes you have to take care of your immediate family first, but when someone like a niece desperately needs your help, you could just easily turn away. I think it was awfully big of him to take on such a responsibility. My only complaint is that I wish I saw more from Allison – it was just a big leap from hating her so much to the last scene.
Overall, I really liked the book. I was emotionally invested in the characters, and yes, it was predictable, but it was very much enjoyable. McGarry hasn’t done me wrong yet, and I can’t wait for the next book. For Isaiah fans, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next book is about him.
The Runaway Queen (The Bane Chronicles Part 2)
By: Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Rating: 3 Stars
|Summary: Magnus Bane has a royal role in the French Revolution—if the angry mobs don’t spoil his spells. One of ten adventures in The Bane Chronicles.While in France, immortal warlock Magnus Bane finds himself attempting to rescue the royal family from the horrors of the French Revolution—after being roped into this mess by a most attractive count. Naturally, the daring escape calls for invisible air balloons…
This standalone e-only short story illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality populates the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series. This story in The Bane Chronicles, The Runaway Queen, is written by Maureen Johnson and Cassandra Clare
So, this review is titled ‘Cassandra Clare makes bad decisions (and I’m not talking about that Mortal Instruments anthology)’ *shudders* – because compared to What Really Happened in Peru (nothing), The Runaway Queen is actually… decent. Or at least we still have all the usual problems inherent with writing a ten part short story collection, the elaborate fan fiction aspect, the less than hundred pages not being nearly enough for any character or plot development of note problem, the obvious money grab angle, but at least Maureen Johnson seems to be actually trying here (for the most part). I love Sarah Rees Brennan (or her writing style and Unspoken at least), but What Really Happened in Peru was so obviously pointless filler and Brennan’s style just too flashy for historical, Johnson I think has a much better hand for the material and while the plot’s definitely still filler, at least there is a plot to speak of. That actually matches real history.
Which brings me back to why I titled the review the way I did:
Bad decision number one – skimping out on an editor: This one isn’t even funny. There are obvious typos like a character being named Axel and Alex and random names left as blanks, at this point I doubt anyone still thinks Clare cares but come on at least keep up the illusion.
Bad decision number two – letting Johnson write Magnus off a cheat sheet: His character is so by the books I should be laughing – from being insulted. There’s his flashy dress. The usual gay references. A monkey. And that’s it. Brennan’s take may have been outrageously anachronistic, but Johnson’s is just flat. There’s something seriously wrong when the setting’s well written and the character is… not.
Bad decision number three – not making this the first short story: With the obvious difference in quality, you gotta hook ’em in before you slack off. Despite flat Magnus my overall impression is way more favorable with this one and I definitely think anyone who’s read both will see why this should’ve been first. And she’s supposed to be a marketing genius. Lol.
Tldr(really?): I doubt Cassandra Clare even read these before hawking them to the general public.
with a little delay:
|The Runaway Queen
(The Bane Chronicles Part 2)
(Night School #1)
|The Dark Shore
(The Atlanteans #2)
|Thousand Words||Jennifer Brown||Contemporary
|The Book of Broken Hearts||Sarah Ockler||Romance
|All I Need||Susane Colasanti||Romance
The Summer I Became a Nerd
By: Leah Rae Miller
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Rating: 3.5 stars
|Summary: On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blond cheerleader—perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback. But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad. That she’s a nerd hiding in a popular girl’s body isn’t just unknown, it’s anti-known. And she needs to keep it that way.
Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her secret, she’s busted. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie’s whisked into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games. And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become…and the more she risks losing Logan forever.
3.5 stars – I thought this book was really cute. And then, it got a bit too nerdy for me.
This book was totally cliche, but I have to give Miller props for taking a more creative route to it. Instead of just your typical popular cheerleader falling for the nerd, Miller added some flair to it by giving the comics a storyline and actually creating a role-playing game of her own.
I really liked how the prologue gave us a little background on Maddie’s history and how she came to be who she is. Again, cliche but adorably cute. I also like that she was living this double life, and not just becoming the popular cheerleader and totally forgetting about who she really is. And I liked that she has always had a crush on Logan, not the typical – he’s nerdy, I can’t be seen with him, I’m forced to hang out with him, hey he’s actually a pretty good guy, oh I’m falling for him – storyline.
I really digged the whole comics thing, and that Maddie was interested in dressing up for role-playing games. But that’s kind of where my interests fell a bit when I said it got a bit too nerdy for me. Honestly, I didn’t really get the concept of the LARP. I mean, I was picturing a whole Lord of the Rings and Final Fantasy twist to the Game of Thrones mystery and crime, and the fight scenes were cool enough, but I didn’t really get the point of it all. And the dice too.
Oh well, I think I liked it enough. It didn’t have some totally awesome lines that made me squeal, but it was a feel-good read, and I do have to give Miller some brownie points for the way she went about the story.
Previously: I need a dose of straight of fluff.
The Lost Girl
By: Sangu Mandanna
Release Date: Augustus 28, 2012
Rating: 5 stars
|Summary: Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her “other”, if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it’s like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.Now she must abandon everything she’s ever known—the guardians who raised her, the boy she’s forbidden to love—to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.From debut novelist Sangu Mandanna comes the dazzling story of a girl who was always told what she had to be—until she found the strength to decide for herself..|
Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident. It is as common as life.
– Henry David Thoreau
I have to admit, I was not hooked from page one. I even put the book aside for a few days. Yeah I know, unimaginable. I don’t know if it was me or the book though, so in this case I’m going to use the line “it wasn’t you, it was me”. When I picked it up again, some days later, the story had me entirely captivated. I swear, if anyone would’ve come near me and my E-reader I think I would’ve growl, maybe even bitten.
I still don’t know how to categorize this book because apparently it’s not really dystopian (sorry not a pro). But to be frank I don’t care. This book is so much more! Indirectly, Mandanna kept throwing questions to my head. Mainly questions about life and death, which -even now, days after I finished the book-keep haunting my thoughts.
“Don’t be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin.”
– Grace Hansen
Eva, Amarra’s echo, was created -“stitched” by a weaver- so she can replace Amarra if one day something happens to the latter, something life-ending. Can you imagine yourself living your life waiting until someone dies? And when you get the change to replace that person, it’s just that, a replacement. Living the life of someone else. Pretending you are someone else. Or will the pretending stop after a while? Will it become your own life?
While the weavers are searching for a way to refine echo’s, Eva is still an “imperfect” version. She has her own feelings, opinions, thoughts, her own dreams and desires. She proofs she’s an individual by giving herself a name. In my opinion that is Eva’s way to stand up for herself, to go in against the ridiculous laws and to give the middle finger to the Loom.
I admired how Eva tries to search her own identity but also accepts her place in life without complaining. And although she accepts her fate, living the life of someone else, she fights for her own life the moment it is threatened. What made me sad is that although Eva spends years to prepare herself to take over Amarra’s life, it doesn’t feel good when it eventually happens. It is said that the life of an echo starts when the “other” dies, but I believe Eva already had a life. It is obvious that her guardians genuinely love her. My heart went out to all of them when Eva had to leave to start her life in India.
Once in India, although the start was not easy, everything is not that bad. I liked Neil. He is down to earth, sober, and tries in his own time to get to know Eva. Sasha and Nikhil stole my heart right away. I was touched by how they accepted Eva so easily and gave her the chance to be herself around them. I believe all of them, even the mom who so desperately wants that Eva really is Amarra, are capable of giving Eva a place in their family. And with that it might even be possible that there is a life for Eva in India after all.
“How terrible it is to love something that death can touch”
I guess you can say that Alisha and Neil turned to extreme measures out of fear to lose their children one day. At first I didn’t really care for Amarra, but I think that’s normal considering I lived the story through Eva’s eyes. But while reading, questions slowly started to make an entrance inside my head: what would I do if someone is waiting for me to die? Waiting to take over my life, my family, stealing my boyfriend and friends. Would I just accept that? Writing in my diary like a good girl, tell my copy everything? And that’s when I started to understand Amarra and her repulsion for Eva. Cause although my heart hurt for Eva when I read about the sleeping order, I understood Amarra’s reasoning behind it. The only thing that I might blame Amarra is that she never tried to talk with Eva, try to see past the monster, just like Nikhil does with his echo. And this is exactly what makes Mandanna’s writing style stand out. The author is capable to let you feel so many things at the same time and to sympathize with all sides and not just Eva’s. Let’s take Ray for example. When he snitched to the hunter about Eva, I was furious. I thought that Eva started to grow on him, that they were finally becoming friends. Maybe I even saw a tiny chance for more. So how the hell could he do that?! Then realization, and with that understanding, sunk in. Knowing that Ray did it because he loved Amarra so deeply and he was convinced he could get Amarra back that way, how could he refrain from trying? Wouldn’t you try to defeat death to get your loved one back?
To be honest, the world Mandanna created frightens me. The idea that there is somewhere walking an exact copy of myself doesn’t make me feel comfortable (and I’m sure I can easily find some other people who don’t like the idea of a second me either…).
But in the end, I don’t know what scares me most: being an echo and have to wait until your “other” dies to fulfil your only truly task in life: take over their life. Or being born as a “normal” person but to be afraid your whole life that something bad might happen to you because there’s an exact copy of yourself lurking somewhere, waiting to take everything that’s yours.
To conclude there is the ultimate question : sequel or no sequel? The main reason why I would say definitely! is because I loved this book so so much. The writing Mandanna does is so beautiful and captivating that I just want more. And there are still some unanswered questions and things that can be explored. The ending gives room to use your own fantasy and in general I don’t like open endings. The reason is simple: it can drive me entirely mad not knowing what will happen. For me, when it isn’t written then it isn’t there. My own fantasy isn’t good enough. BUT in this case I’m in doubt. I will definitely get more closure if a sequel gives me a “real” ending. However, I’m quite sure that one of the reasons why this book keeps haunting me is the open ending, the not knowing for sure. I keep speculating what will happen now. Will Amarra’s parents accept Eva for who she really is? Will Eva and Ray try to have a relationship? And if so, will it work? Will Eva stay with Ray because she wants to and not because it is expected from her? Can Ray love Eva for Eva and not because she’s all he has left of Amarra? Or is a relationship between those two bound to fail and will Sean and Eva find a way to be together?
Because of all those questions I still have, this book keeps invading my thoughts, and isn’t that exactly what makes a book so exceptional and memorable?