Monday, 28 December 2009

The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan

"Each year the magicians of Imardin gather together to purge the city streets of vagrants, urchins and miscreants. Masters of the disciplines of magic, they know that no one can oppose them. But their protective shield is not as impenetrable as they believe. Sonea, angry, frustrated and outraged by the treatment of her family and friends, hurls a stone at the shield, putting all her rage behind it. To the amazement of all who bear witness, the stone passes unhindered through the barrier and renders a magician unconscious. The guild's worst fear has been realised There is an untrained magician loose on the streets. She must be found before her uncontrolled powers unleash forces that will destroy both her, and the city that is her home."

This is the first book in the Black Magicians Trilogy, and I agreed to read it after two of my best friends told me I had to. After all the books I've forced on them in the past year, I figured it was only fair I tried it. I wasn't really sure I'd like it, feeling it would be a little more fantasy than I like, but I was quickly hooked and loved the book. I owe both friends an apology for being hesitant and taking months to pick it up and try it.

Sonea is a dwell, poor and living in the slums surrounding the city where the Magicians and upper class live. Along with her friends they throw rocks at the magicians magical wall of protection on the day of the purge, the day when all the dwells who do have somewhere to live, are kicked out and moved further away from the inner city. They've done this before, but this time is different. When Sonea throws her rock, instead of disintegrating as it hits the shield, it passes through and hits a magician on the head, knocking him unconscious. Terrified of what they'll do to her if they catch her, and knowing that they'll hunt her, she trusts her friends, the other teenage dwells, to keep her safe.

They live on the run, moving almost constantly as the magicians try to drop a net around her. Sonea and those who are trying to protect her, are convinced the magicians will kill her instantly. Hundreds of years and never has a dwell been treated as anything more than a beggar and a thief. Why would they let her in? But the magicians leading the hunt for her, Rothen and Dannyl, simply want to find her before her power destroys her, and train her to control it. But they don't have much time, and catching and convincing Sonea they mean her no harm, when others do, will be easier said than done.

The book is written in third person, but in the 'perspective' of several of the characters, Sonea and Rothen in particular, but several others get decent page time as well. The idea behind the story, a poor young girl with power she had no idea of, isn't something new or mind blowing, but this is still a well written story, with great likable characters (and a very unlikable bad guy) and a well thought out and described world. The plot moves along at a good pace and has some decent twists and turns. I was hooked right to the end and left wanting the next book immediately! Can't wait to get the other two books and see if they live up to the start of this one.

Rating: 9/10

Fade Out by Rachel Caine

Spoiler warning! No specific ones for this, but there are some for the previous books.

"Without the evil vampire Bishop ruling over the town of Morganville, the resident vampires have made major concessions to the human population. With their newfound freedom, Claire Danvers and her friends are almost starting to feel comfortable again...Now Claire can actually concentrate on her studies, and her friend Eve joins the local theatre company. But when one of Eve's castmates goes missing after starting work on a short documentary, Eve suspects the worst. Claire and Eve soon realise that this film project, featuring the vampires themselves, is a whole lot bigger - and way more dangerous - than anyone suspected."

After 6 books that are all continuing plots, this 7th book is pretty much the start of a new plot arch in the Morganville world. Things have calmed down for the 4 teen housemates, to a certain extent, and things appear to be a little safer. But then some new vamps show up and things start getting messy again.

I finished this book days ago, and still can't figure out if I hate it, or if it's simply okay. On the good side, Claire is showing she's done some serious (and much needed) growing up. There is the introduction to Kim, a girl who rapidly becomes Eve's new BFF and leaves Claire wondering what's going on and very jealous, and jealous too of Shane's (her boyfriend) previous relationship with Kim. Both of which are realistic and I'm sure teens reading the book will easily relate to the feelings expressed. Another good side plot is Michael's torn loyalties to the vampires and his human friends, and the strain it puts his relationship with Eve under. All of these things had me interested and enjoying the book.

However, there are several plots here that really don't work. Amelie, Morganville's unapproachable and unrelenting founder, is a completely different character here. She spends most of the book upset and not her usual 'white marble' self, which is both disappointing and annoying. The plot revolving around Kim, could have been good I think, but the main focus of anger and upset ends up on certain aspects that whilst yes, give cause for the reactions, should not have become the sole focus as they did. Likewise, the characters reactions, Eve's in particular, to the betrayal from another character seemed very weak and far too forgiving.

The other main plot involves Ada, the computer/ghost/vampire that 'runs' Morganville unseen. The idea of something like that is, as a friend so aptly put it, 'a little out there, even for me'. But here, she becomes a bigger player and it gets tired in about 2 pages. That it drags on for the entire book is bad enough, but the conclusion it comes to was frustrating and disappointing. The whole ending in fact was a real let down. In many ways nothing happened, and a lot happened. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it's true. Several little things happened to tie up threads, or leave new ones open for the next book, but nothing big happened. And after the build up through the book for something big, it was very anti climatic leaving me annoyed.

The book itself isn't that long a read, and it's pretty fast going. I was still pretty well hooked despite it's flaws and finished it in a couple days. But for me, it is a series very much aimed at teens rather than being a series that can be equally loved by adults. A little young at times, a little simple, but with good moments. A series I have to rate over Twilight simply because the characters don't annoy me as much as Bella and Edward do, but really, if you want a very good young adult vampire series, one with great characters and plots, you have to read Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series. There is no better in my view! Fade Out may be better than some Morganville Books, but it's not the best and the series is never going to be a favourite of mine.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Reign or Shine by Michelle Rowan

"As if trying to fit in at a new school isn't stressful enough, sixteen-year-old Nikki Donovan just found out that her long-lost father is, in fact, the demon king of the Shadowlands—the world that separates and protects us from the Underworld. When she is brought there by the mysterious—and surprisingly cute—messenger Michael, she learns that her father is dying, and he wants her to assume the throne. To complicate matters, a war is brewing between the Shadowlands and the Underworld, her half-demon qualities are manifesting, and her growing feelings for Michael are completely forbidden. Ruling a kingdom, navigating a secret crush, and still making it home by curfew—what's a teenage demon princess to do?"

Nikki has moved around a lot, her mom is on her fourth marriage, and she's always been an outcast. But to her surprise, life in the latest small town is not so bad. Things are going well at school, her best friend is the most popular girl and the hottest guy in school is interested in her. But then she meets Michael who starts telling her all this crazy stuff about other worlds and demons. And that she's a half demon princess. Nikki doesn't believe him at first, but it doesn't take her long to realise that he's not lying to her, although there is a lot he won't say. And as she begins to crush on him, she wishes things weren't as complicated as they are. The longer she spends around Michael and in the Shadowlands, the more Nikki realises that everything is not as it seems. But is there anything she can do to make things better?

This is the first book in the Demon Princess series, and it's the first book by Michelle I've read. I wasn't sure before hand if it was something I'd like, but I was pleasantly surprised. I loved this book. It's lighter YA than some out there, with plenty of humor. But it doesn't stop the characters from having depth and for me, that's what makes this book a winner. Nikki's view of high school, and the way she crushes on Chris, is familiar and something I think most readers will be able to relate with. There is a good balance between the humor and the darker aspects of the book, and I love Nikki's character. The secondary characters have a good depth to them as well and make for fun reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to the second book! 8/10

Monday, 14 December 2009

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

"Dru Anderson: Night Hunter. Knife Wielder. Heart Breaker.

Dru can sense evil, which helps when she and her Dad are tracking down ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional reanimated corpse. It's a dangerous life, but it's the only one she knows. Then Dru's dad turns up dead and she suddenly finds herself in the middle of a deadly game where every move she makes could be her last. Dru is more special than she realizes - and whatever killed her dad could be coming for her next. Can Dru stay alive long enough to fall for one - or both - of the guys hungry for her affections?"

Dru knows about the 'Real World' the one where the things that go bump in the night exist, she's been hunting those things along side her father for years. But now she's on her own in a new town with no one she can turn to and grieving the loss of her father, and trying to deal with the trauma of what happened with him. To her surprise, it's a human boy from her class, Graves, who comes to her aid giving her somewhere to stay and some much needed company. But Graves doesn't know about Dru's world and that's risky. For him and Dru.

While Graves is getting a crash course about the reality of the Real World, Dru is learning that it's far bigger than she imagined and that everything is not exactly what she's been told. The one enlightening her is Christophe, a (very cute) guy who isn't all human. And while he seems to want to help, there's a lot he's not saying. And whilst Dru is busy dealing with her grief, trying to keep Graves alive and deciding if Christophe can really be trusted, she learns that she's been targeted by a very nasty sucker (vampire) and she's going to need more than all the knowledge and skills her father taught her to stay alive.

This is the first YA book from Ms. St. Crow and I love it. It's dark and dangerous with great characters you can relate to. Dru is tough, but she's also very vulnerable, particularly after losing her father, and unlike so many heroines she does scream and run when she's attacked out of the blue. The way her relationship develops Graves is great reading. It's kind of slow, awkward and cute, and realistic. Both Graves and Christophe make excellent secondary characters, with their own history and issues to deal with.

The plot is pretty tight. There is a fair bit of world building in this first book which is necessary although a little slow at times, but despite that the plot moves along quickly with some great twists and turns. I was left wanting a lot more and seriously regretting being unable to buy more books until after Christmas! A fantastic book and I think the series is quickly going to be a favourite of mine. Dru is far from perfect, but she's easy to relate to and despite wanting to slap her a couple of times, I really, really like her. I'm looking forward to much more of her story! 9/10

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

"Amid the chaos of war, the Shadowhunters must decide to fight with the vampires, werewolves and other Downworlders - or against them. Meanwhile, Jace and Clary have their own decision to make: should they pursue the love they know is forbidden?"

This is the final book in the first Mortal Instruments trilogy and picks up just after the end of the events of City of Ashes. Clary is after a cure for her mom, and she discovers that someone who may know about the cure exists, in Idris home of the Shadowhunters. But Jace doesn't want her going and does what he can to stop her getting there. But Clary being Clary, she gets herself there anyway, ignoring all advice from those who know so much more than her. It doesn't take the young Shadowhunters long to realise things are worse than expected in Alicante and that Valentine is very close to achieving exactly what he wants.

It was clear from near the end of the second book to readers what the outcome of the Clary/Jace situation would be. And yet, it becomes the all consuming storyline through this book, with other things being pushed to the side for it, and you have to wonder why they didn't figure it out long, long before they did. The tension that should have been there wasn't, because it was far too obvious what was going to happen and Clary and Jace just repeated the same things over and over getting ever more tiresome.

Clary's inability to learn to listen to those around her who have far more experience with what she's dealing with has become annoying as well. The character death that occurs in this book should have been hard hitting, but it's quickly pushed aside for more angst in the Clary, Jace camp. There is a flashback scene in Valentines house which is well done and one of the few highlights of the book. Otherwise, the book is very predictable with few surprises along the way. It's pretty easy reading so you can finish pretty quick despite it's length, and I still liked it, but it could have been better. The main plots get well wrapped up come the end, but there are a few subplots that get just partially wrapped up very briefly. But things aren't so neat that there's no space for more with the characters, which is a good thing for fans of the series. For me, not sure I'd pick up another book about Clary and Jace. I think I've had my fill. 5/10

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Some spoilers for the previous books, but not this one. Read at your own risk ;)

"Yelena's apprenticeship is over - now her real test has begun. When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder - able to capture and release souls - spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before. Honour sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself - and save the land she holds dear."

Fire Study is the final book in the Study trilogy. I loved the first two books, and happily this one wasn't a disappointment. It gets in to the action pretty quickly with the master magicians still trying to decide just what to do with Yelena. She's remaining in Sitia for the time being, with the intention of learning better control of her magic. But she's quickly off on the trail of the escaped Cahil and Ferde, both of whom have big plans and part of that involves seeing Yelena dead. She's scared of Ferde, and pretty much terrified of what the men will accomplish, but she's determined to stop them hurting anyone else.

With the help of her brother, her story weaver and a couple new friends, and of course her horse Kiki, she sets out on the dangerous mission. But it quickly goes down hill as they realise things are far worse than they'd all thought. And more than they could have imagined.

For me, I found this a very satisfying ending to the trilogy. There were some good twists and turns and I found myself struggling to put the book down. The writing wasn't as smooth as the first two books, but in someways, I found it emphasized Yelena's state of mind. She struggles a lot through this book, not that she hasn't in the past two, but in this it's different some how. She knows a lot more now, and there are a lot of expectations and pressures on Yelena that she's not used to. And she's trying to deal with the consequences on being a Soulfinder as well. Fire Study shows just how human Yelena is, her fear getting the best of her at times and having serious consequences. Her relationship with Valek isn't going very smoothly either, and she's struggling to find her way in a world where she's not really welcome anywhere.

There were some really heartfelt moments, and some very funny moments as well, particularly where Ari and Janco were concerned. We got to see more of several characters and met some new ones, and with both we discover not everyone is as they seem. The end of the book was satisfying as well. Pretty much all the loose ends got tied up nicely, but not so tightly that you can't imagine future events for the characters. Thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to reading the second trilogy set in the same world as soon as I can! 8/10

Monday, 7 December 2009

LOLcats Vampire Academy

Okay, this has been done for the competition on Richelle Mead's blog I've never attempted anything like it before, my sister is the one with photo editing skills, so I apologize for it not being very good, but I had fun making it :)
With exception of the photos belonging to all photos belong to me. Though sadly not the cats in them. The bunny is mine though and I promise he wasn't harmed in the making of this ;)