Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Night Circus

The Night Circus:
By: Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors.
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful book. I'm going to keep this review vague because this book really is one that you should go into knowing little-to-nothing about. I will say that it has all of the following: imagery, mood, ambiance, magic, mystery, and whimsy.
The multiple perspectives, third (and occasionally second) person narration, and the variation of the timeline set the perfect tone for this story. There was so much variety in the way that the story was told and the characters it was told through, but together they melded into something different and wonderful.
This book enchants first and foremost with its atmosphere. It is an air of mystery that lends itself to the transcendent qualities of this particular method of story-telling. Luscious descriptions and unique details make this book unlike anything and everything else. I love reading books that are this organically original. It isn't concerned with its own originality, it just is what it is supposed to be.
I love how even the narrative enforces the idea that sometimes not knowing all of the gears behind why a thing is the way it is can make you appreciate it more. The perspectives are almost equally split between people who know the mysteries behind the circus (Celia, Marcus, Isabelle) and the people who are experiencing the magic of it for the first time (Bailey, Herr Thiessen, and the second-person perspective chapters).
I am not going to talk about the characters because I think it's better stumble upon them in the order the book intends you to meet them. That's the best way to meet them to understand them as you have to at first.
This book actively dissects many different concepts while telling this whimsical story. It talks about good and evil and gray areas, the importance of stories, fate, dreams, and reality. This is what great stories do, they give you a unique and engaging platform upon which to look at the world around you.
I love this book because it is dreamlike and fascinating and engaging. I'm convinced this is one of the most well-crafted books I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

*Helpful Hint: This audiobook is especially fantastic. It's narrated by Jim Dale (you know, the guy who did the Harry Potter audiobooks).*
"I prefer to remain unenlightened, to better appreciate the dark."
"Such pain is not lived with, it is only endured."
"You're not destined or chosen. I wish I could tell you that you were if that would make it easier, but it's not true. You're in the right place at the right time and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes, that's enough."
"Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act?"
"The truest tales require time and familiarity to become what they are."
"Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast...someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener and for each and every ear it will be different and it will affect them in ways they can never predict, from the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift."

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Luxe

The Luxe
By: Anna Godbersen
The Luxe (Luxe, #1)
Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan's social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City's elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone - from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud - threatens Elizabeth's and Diana's golden future.
Addictive and hard to put down. I haven't been reading enough historical as of late and this was a really great way to jump back into the genre again. This is easy-to-read historical with interesting characters and a pretty engaging plot.
I don't have too much to say about this book other than that I did really enjoy it. It wasn't the most original or inspirational book I've read, but it was really fun to read. The plot is pretty predictable (I called it from maybe a fourth of the way in), but that didn't do anything to lessen my overall enjoyment of the book.
The characters are interesting, if not overly complex. I am excited to continue with this series to find out what happens to everyone.
I guess my main problem with this book is that I don't feel like I came out of it with anything. By that I mean that while I enjoyed the time I spent reading the book, I didn't come out of it knowing more about the world or about myself. I know you can't expect that with every book, but I do hope for it each time. (And that might have more to do with my connection to the book rather than the book's objective quality).
This book did re-awaken my long burning love for Historical Fiction. I've let that love fall by the wayside too much recently. I am now going to be making a conscious effort to read the genre more often because I do love it so.
"Up above her, the universe was expansive and incandescent, but it seemed to...be mocking her, reminding her that while it was large and glittering, her own world was small, unforgiving, and inescapable."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ignite Me

Ignite Me
By: Taherah Mafi
Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)
Juliette now knows she may be the only one who can stop the Reestablishment. But to take them down, she'll need the help of the one person she never thought she could trust: Warner. And as they work together, Juliette will discover that everything she thought she knew - about Warner, her abilities, and even Adam - was wrong.

UGH. I have been putting off this review because I am still in the minority over a certain thing. But I really did enjoy this book. Taherah Mafi's writing is absolutely stunning, as always. She finds a way to keep you fully engrossed in this book even when there isn't all that much going on. I think this was a really wonderful ending to the series.

*Warning: this is the review of a series-ender, so it's going to include spoilers. Consider yourself forewarned.* 

Juliette: I had faith in Taherah Mafi. I always trusted her to give Juliette some seriously fantastic character development. It's safe to say that's what she DELIVERED. I mean, by the end of this book Juliette is practically a different person, but it's wonderful because you can see the progression.
In this book Juliette is funny. And commanding. And initiating necessary confrontation. Basically she's finally stepping up to the plate. You can see the Juliette that been hiding in snippets of the other books, but this time that Juliette is in charge.
Juliette was my favorite part of this book.

Adam: Okay, this guy needs some discussing. I think he's a pretty sucky human being a lot of the time, but an extremely interesting character. I think he's incredibly realistic. I have met guys like him in my life, they think they are doing you favors, they are kind and sweet and protective until you do something they don't approve of. It was in his feelings like Juliette owed him something even months after they'd broken up. I actually threw my book when he pressed Kenji and Juliette's hands together. He risked his supposed best friend's life just because he didn't get his way.
That's disgusting. He's disgusting. (But like I said, well-written and interesting nonetheless.) I think the cool thing about him is that you can see that side of him crop up a few times through the other books. Taherah was leading us to this side of Adam all along.

Warner: Annnd this is where I start losing everyone. Hear me out. Warner is fascinating and his motive has always, always, always made sense. I think he is a well-written and unique character. Taherah Mafi has done a brilliant job crafting him.
I can't say that I necessarily like him and Juliette for each other. It's just that I find it hard to excuse him for torturing another human being or for the emotional he caused Juliette in the beginning. I know that there are reasons for it and whatnot, but he just never seemed as regretful as I think I needed him to be.
That's not to say I didn't feel for him, because I did. His life was so tragic and difficult. It all tailored into his character and his development so well.

Kenji: Man, I love Kenji so much. His friendship with Juliette has been well worth the slow build up to it. They're hilarious together, but they find ways to be serious and supportive at the same time. I want desperately  wouldn't mind a whole series on Kenji's life and where he ends up after this series.

Well, there wasn't much going on until the last fifty-or-so pages, but this book made me not care about that. I couldn't put it down. This series has always been much more character-driven, which ends up working  for it most of the time.

Which brings us to, Taherah Mafi's writing. It's absolutely beautiful. Most of her prose flows more like a poem. Her words are lyrical. I think my favorite kind of writing is the kind that makes me sit back and think, 'wow. I would never have dreamed up that sentence in a thousand lifetimes, but now I have it inside my brain and it is gorgeous.'
That's what Taherah's writing does. I think part of this stems from that she understands every single inch of her characters' emotions and can describe so universally, yet so precisely that you feel it yourself.

Which explains why I've included about 100,000,000 quotes (even after narrowing it down).


"I want to laugh because all I can think is how horrible and beautiful it is, that our eyes blur the truth when we can't bear to see it."
"But there's something about the darkness, the stillness of this hour, I think, that creates a language of its own. There's a strange kind of freedom in the dark; a terrifying vulnerability we allow ourselves at exactly the wrong moment, tricked by the darkness into thinking it will keep our secrets. We forget that the blackness is not a blanket; we forget that the sun will soon rise. But in the moment, at least, we feel brave enough to say things we'd never say in the light."
"I want a pocketful of punctuation marks to end the thoughts he's forced into my head."
"Words, I think, are such unpredictable creatures. No gun, no sword, no army or king will ever be more powerful than a sentence. Swords may cut and kill, but words will stab and stay, burying themselves in our bones to become corpses we carry into the future, all the time digging and failing to rip their skeletons from our flesh."
"And we are quotation marks, inverted and upside down, clinging to one another at the end of this life sentence. Trapped by lives we did not choose."
"And every moment in the world drops dead just then, because they woke up and realized they'd never be as important as this one."
"Words are like seeds, I think, planted into our hearts at a tender age. They take root in us as we grow, settling deep into our souls. The good words plant well. They flourish and find homes in our hearts. They build trunks around our spines, steadying us when we're feeling most flimsy; planting our feet firmly when we're feeling most unsure. But the bad words grow poorly. Our trunks infest and spoil until we are hollow and housing the interests of others and not our own. We are forced to eat the fruit those words have borne, held hostage by the branches growing arms around our necks, suffocating us to death, one word at a time."
"We are hours and minutes reaching for the same second, holding hands as we spin forward into new days and the promise of something better. But though we'll know forward and we've known backward, we will never know the present. This moment and the next one and even the one that would've been right now are gone, already passed, and all we're left with are these tired bodies, the only proof that we've lived through time and survived it. It'll be worth it, though, in the end. Fighting for a lifetime of this."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Into the Still Blue

Into the Still Blue
By: Veronica Rossi
Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky, #3)
Their love and their leadership have been tested. Now it's time for Perry and Aria to unite the Dwellers and the Outsiders in one last desperate attempt to bring balance to their world. The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe-haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do-and they are just as determined to stay together.

I have so much love for this book, for this series, for these characters and this world. And it's all the more welcome for not expecting it. I'm so sad that I've reached the end of this story, but it had such a satisfying ending. This book was beautiful and fantastic and perfect.
I have been putting off writing this review for about four days now. I don't know how to sum up how much I loved this series and I don't want it to be over.

Aria: Throughout this book I was overwhelmed by how proud I was of Aria. Her character development was so wonderful through this series. She's compassionate, but passionate. Fighting for the people she loves is a huge part of her. Particularly her relationships with Perry and Roar are so amazing to read. I love it when a book can convey the varied types of relationships that exist. As well as when it can show that a person can remain themselves even while being different depending on who is around them.
Perry: Oh wow. I really liked Perry before this book, but he was sort of tiresome. But toward the end of Through the Ever Night he finally took up the mantle of leadership that being a natural lean toward leading put on him. I loved him in this book, because you can see how far he has come from the kid he was at the beginning of Under the Never Sky. Particularly I love how he finally started showing the people in his life how he felt, what they meant.
Roar: Roar is such a well-crafted character. He's quick-tempered and emotional and funny and caring to those he loves. I loved his protectiveness over Aria, his brother-like relationship with Perry, even his slowly evolving friendship with Soren. I think his characterization was always executed perfectly. Every line of dialogue he spoke had his name written all over it.
Cinder, Talon, Willow: I honestly loved all of the kids in these books. They behaved like actual kids would. I loved each of their relationships with Perry and with the other adults of the Tides. It might be a small detail, but I thought it added a sort of realistic depth.
Sable: A convincing villain if there ever was one. Seriously this guy gave me the creeps, in the way a villain should. He's cold and calculating, manipulative, cruel. Yet he pretended to himself that he had some sort of moral code that he stuck to. You never knew what he was going to do next, but you were always reassured of all that he was capable of.

HOLY WOWZA. Yes. This plot was so phenomenal. It kept the reader engaged and guessing, while also providing a clear goal to be met. There were so many different groups with different agendas all working around each other trying to meet a common goal. There were rebellions and agreements broken and fights that broke out. It was thoroughly engaging in a way that kept your focus on the characters as well.

Somehow I have failed to say this in my review of Under the Never Sky and Through the Ever Night, but the writing in these books is lovely. It creates the tone of the story that matches the themes and the world. The dialogue is always spot-on. The descriptions aren't overly done, but are really well-done. The characterization is beautiful. Veronica Rossi knows exactly what she's doing.

THIS is how you end a series. All the loose-ends were wrapped up I walked away feeling satisfied and couldn't stop thinking about the expansive story of this series. These characters will stay with me because they were so realistic, so heroic, so thought-provoking.
I am going to miss these characters. But this ending was exactly what they deserved. Pain, loss, love, strength, triumph, family.


“We have to tell each other the little things, the bad things. Maybe they’ll hurt for a while, but at least they won’t become big things. If we don’t, we’re just going to keep hurting each other. And I don’t want to do that anymore.”

“We all have the potential to do terrible things, Soren. But we also have the potential to overcome our mistakes. I don’t know… I need to believe that. What point is there otherwise?”

“The feeling of incompletion—of wishing he could have done more, or differently, or better—wasn’t new. But he was tired of bashing his head against the past. He tried to do right—in every situation. Sometimes that wasn’t enough, but it was all he could do. The only thing he truly had power over. He was learning to accept that.”  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Top Nine Fictional Couples


In honor of today being Valentine's Day, I thought I would run through a list of some of my favorite fictional romantic relationships. Because fictional love can teach us a lot about real life love (and because it's incredibly fun to talk about).

Disclaimer #1: These aren't in any particular order.
Disclaimer #2: These are just my opinions, you are still free to think whatever you want about these characters/relationships.

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)1. Etienne and Anna
These kids are just plain adorable. One thing I love about their relationship is that they share their sense of humor. They understand each other so much and that shows itself in how easily they can make the other laugh. They support each other, tease each other, and generally make each other's lives better.

Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1)2. Finnikin and Isaboe
I have major love for this couple. They love each other so deeply, so sacrificially. They each realize that the other is strong and smart and brave. I particularly love how Finnikin and Isaboe treat each other. They have fights, but for the most part they truly respect each other and try to protect each other as much as they can.

3. Percy and Annabeth
The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5)How can you not love Percabeth? Honestly, I haven't heard one person who read the books and had doubts about them or their relationship. What I love about them is how they slowly transitioned from friends to best friends to a couple. Their progression is flawless and natural. You root for them from the very beginning, and that build-up really pays off.

4. Ron and Hermione
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)*CONTROVERSY* (frankly, controversy where there shouldn't be controversy. You heard me, Miss J.K.), but I am going to try not to mention that (any further) here.

I've always felt that Ron, as a character, is vastly underrated by a lot of people. But I love him and Hermione because they are opposites who understand each other. Ron is awesome, but he's not the hero. Something that he's always felt self-conscious about, but Hermione chooses him. And he deserves her. And she deserves him. Their friendship ensured that they saw every part of each other, and still they chose to love one another.
 (I could go on for days about how much I love Ron and Hermione together, but I'll stop there for now.) 

5. Harry and Ginny
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)Another relationship that doesn't get the praise it deserves. I never thought that Harry ended up with Ginny just because she was a Weasley or because she was already an established character. Harry ends up with Ginny because she's funny and clever and brave as heck. She's the kind of outright, determined girl that the Boy who Lived has always needed.

6. Aza and Ijori
FairestOh goodness. They were, by far, my favorite fictional couple when I was younger. I identified so much with Aza. I understood her struggles, her actions, her thoughts. So knowing that she ended up with an Ijori, with a guy who loved her that deeply not despite how she looked or what she felt and did, but because of those things was the magic of this story for me.

7. Levi and Cath
FangirlALL OF THE ADORABLENESS. What I love about this relationship is how Levi wanted into Cath's world, was willing to jump in with both feet to support her. She didn't have to change one weird habit or quirk for him to recognize that she is amazing. And he was perfect for Cath because she could get so caught inside her own mind, but he brought her out of that by just being his happy, kind self.

8. Alanna and George
Lioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness, #4)This relationship, man. Alanna never needed someone to protect her or support her, she needed someone who understood her. That's what George does. He accepts both sides of Alanna, the knight side and the woman side. In fact, he goes beyond that to recognize that they make up just one person, those sides make up the one Alanna that he loves.
Also, they're hilarious as all get out when they are together.

9. Emma and Mr. Knightley
EmmaIt was difficult, but I made myself choose between my two favorite Austen couples for this (the other being Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy). But Emma and Knightley are newer in my heart, so I went with them.
I think the beautiful thing about Emma and Mr. Knightley's relationship is that it's built on honesty. They've been friends for ages. So they feel comfortable being honest about the other's shortcomings and virtues. They don't coddle one another, but they give advice with loving truth.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Through the Ever Night

Through the Ever Night
By: Veronica Rossi
Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky, #2)

Now Aria and Perry are about to be reunited. It's a moment they've been longing for with countless expectations. And it's a moment that lives up to all of them. At least, at first. Then it slips away. The Tides don't take kindly to former Dwellers like Aria. And the tribe is swirling out of Perry's control. With the Aether storms worsening every day, the only remaining hope for peace and safety is the Still Blue. But does this haven truly exist? Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

WOAH. This book was so fantastic. It really showcased how complex this world is that Veronica Rossi has built. This series has stunningly well-written characters, tons of purposeful action, and a world that is unlike anything I've ever read. I've fallen in love with this series. I've been really wanting to marathoning a great series since the beginning of the year, but didn't quite find the right one until I started this one.
Aria: I love Aria so much. I think she's really a great character. She's thoughtful, smart, and pretty kick-butt when she needs to be. As much as I like Aria and Perry when they're together, I think it was really important for their development to see them apart in this book. She held her own in the wilderness and in negotiations. She made mistakes, but did her best to fix them or make up for them. And Aria's friendship with Roar is the BEST THING. I think it is important to note that she is truly a great friend. Their relationship is so well-written and great to see (especially in an area that male-female purely platonic friendships aren't given the credit they are due). I mean, this line was perfect.
"You know, you could do a lot better than him, ladybug."
Aria shook her head. "No. I couldn't."
Perry: I love seeing him in the leadership role. It suits him in a way and it suits the story. He has these huge responsibilities weighing on him. He doesn't take them lightly. Even though he can get tiresome at times, I think that's also an important part of his character. He's forever blaming himself for things gone wrong, which is both endearing and frustrating (in a good way).
Roar: Like I said in my review of Under the Never Sky, I LOVE him. Especially in this book we see so much of him. He makes me feel sad and happy and like laughing. I think that's the true measure of a supporting character, if they make you feel deeply for them. Yet the wonderful thing is that Rossi never allows him to steal scenes in a way that detracts from either Perry or Aria. Rather his presence makes them both better characters, he makes them stand out even further.
Marron: I think he is a fascinating character. He doesn't have that big of a slot, but when he shows up I am always interested in what he has to say.
Cinder: Poor baby! I am so worried for him now. And I want him to finally get an existence outside of everything he's had to deal with.
It is getting crazy. and I love it. There are so many forces moving against and around each other, coming together, betraying each other or working together. I love that no one knows for sure what they're doing, where of if they are going to be able to find safety. It adds urgency and purpose to the story. Now we're off Into the Still Blue (not a spoiler if it's the title of the next book ;) ) and I can't wait to find out what the heck is going to happen to this world.
Just as engaging as the first book, perhaps more so even. There was a paragraph on how the Aether came to be in this book, but it is still sort of sketchy. That being said, I could not care less. This story is too well-told, too immersive and too wonderful for me to get bogged down in that. And, again, like I said in my review of  Under the Never Sky, the world that we see in the here-and-now of the story is so unique and vivid.
"I'm tired of settling for this because I don't know if something better exists. It has to. What point is there otherwise? I can do something about it now. And I will."
"When it came to pain, reasons didn't matter."
"Ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Under the Never Sky

Under the Never Sky
By: Veronica Rossi
Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland--known as The Death Shop--are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild--a savage--and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile--everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
Why did I put off this book? To be honest, I was avoiding this series on purpose because the summary sounded too much like a ton of other mediocre books I'd read. It just wasn't a series I was most interested in. But then I started seeing good reviews, really, really positive ones from people I trust. I also saw really good reviews of the other two books in the series. Naturally that increased my interest.
But having read it, I am kicking myself for not reading it earlier. I loved this book. It was so good and so different than I was expecting.
I loved the characters. Aria, Roar, Perry, Cinder, Marron. They all felt real. Their emotions were legitimate and easily felt by the reader. Their motives made sense and really progressed the story in an excellent way.
Aria: I really like her. She's interesting, in that she felt like her own person. She wasn't a conglomeration of traits that the author thought would go well together, she was a teenage girl whose emotions and actions matched how she grew up and what she was going through in the story. I guess what I'm trying to say is that she didn't feel as contrived as some characters come off, she didn't feel contrived at all. I particularly loved her desire for knowledge. She didn't just allow herself to be dragged along by Perry. She asked questions about the world outside, she tried to obtain the knowledge that she thought might help her in the future. She made it her goal to learn about the new world she had found herself in, as frightening as it was to her. I think that would take its own kind of bravery, to open yourself up to everything that you had previously been ignorant about.
Perry: I also really like him. His struggles made me feel for him, but not in a pitying way. It made his actions, even the questionable ones, make sense, but didn't try to justify them. I was particularly interested in his view of himself. He saw himself as both lesser and more. He knew he had skills, extraordinary ones. But he also blamed himself for so much, things that were ultimately beyond his control. I think he's been set up for some stunning character development in the coming books.
Which leads me to my point concerning both Aria and Perry. I thought it was so well-done how both of their perceptions of one another at the beginning of their acquaintance played into the other's most sensitive topics. Aria thought Perry a savage, which is how he already considered himself or feared becoming. Perry thought Aria was worthless and weak, what she was afraid would be her doom in the outside world. But slowly they learned to see each other truly and revised their impressions.
Roar: I love him. As a supporting character he leaps off the page. In the training bits he had me laughing out loud. I'm excited to read more about him in the coming books of the series. I've heard that he comes into his own even more throughout the series.
While there were a couple of lags, they were necessary for the set-up of the rest of the book and I'm assuming the set-up of the series. But once I hit a certain part I flew through the rest of it. The overall plot was really well-done. It had direction and a point that it was working toward within the sphere of its own storyline (I'm not entirely sure that sentence made sense). What I mean is that it wasn't *just* set-up stuff. It had a definite goal that you knew would be reached before the end of this book. At the same time it made me really excited for the events and progression of the larger story of the series.
Here's the thing about this world-building. It's simultaneously well-done and questionable. The world-building within the book, the things that we are seeing and experiencing within the course of the book make sense in the world. Veronica Rossi doesn't info-dump, yet you come to understand Scires, Auds, Seers, Pods, Realms, all of the things that made up this world. It was immersive and easy to fall into while remaining really interesting and different.
The questionable part comes in when you look for details for how the world got the way it was. It cites jumps in development for the extra powers. But the history of the Aether is never explained or how the world became the way that it is.
BUT, If a story is good, if it is told well, and if I am invested in the characters then I am a reader who finds it easy to overlook that.
And like I said, the world that is contained in the book is well-explained and genuinely interesting. I couldn't find fault with this book other than that, so I find myself being more than okay with how the world-building is dealt with.
"Fall off your own roof, Perry."
"The lyrics flowed out of her, springing straight from her heart. Words full of drama and wild abandon that had always embarrassed her before, because who flung themselves at raw emotion like that? She did it now."
"How everything was about searching and missing. How none of it was coming together the way it should."

"A world of nevers under a never sky."

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet
By: Arthur Conan Doyle
A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)
In the debut of literature's most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio's Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes.

There's no doubt that Sherlock is a huge character in our modern culture. It revolutionized detective stories and opened the door for the countless shows, books, and movies we have now about crime and detective work. But I was interested to see if the original works measured up to their reputation. (As I also was curious about this when going into The Lord of the Rings, I shouldn't have been surprised when it not just met, but exceeded my expectations.)

I've always loved Sherlock Holmes stories. I've watched quite a few different movies and I adore BBC Sherlock. Season 3 was especially fantastic, but then it ended. I was in the mood for more Sherlock, and I'd always been intending to pick up the books. So I started. AND I LOVED IT. I think it was an interesting story told well and with interesting characters, everything that you expect from the infamous Sherlock Holmes.

I think the deductions translate well on paper. They come out in this sort of rapid-fire train of thought that is just plain fun to read. The language is simple, but well-used and clear. It feels like a real life adventure story to me, even in the slower bits.

This was just a really fun, well-written, fast-paced read. I cannot wait to delve further into the original canon that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created.


"...I meditated upon the many-sidedness of the human mind."

"I ought to know by this time that when a fact appears to be opposed to a long train of deductions, it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation."

"It is a mistake to confound strangeness with mystery."

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Realms of the Gods

The Realm of the Gods
By: Tamora Pierce
The Realms of the Gods (Immortals, #4)

During a dire battle against the fearsome Skinners, Daine and her mage teacher Numair are swept into the Divine Realms. Though happy to be alive, they are not where they want to be. They are desperately needed back home, where their old enemy, Ozorne, and his army of strange creatures are waging war against Tortall. Trapped in the mystical realms Daine discovers her mysterious parentage. And as these secrets of her past are revealed so is the treacherous way back to Tortall. So they embark on an extraordinary journey home, where the fate of all Tortall rests with Daine and her wild magic.

An enjoyable conclusion to a wonderful tale. Having finished the series, I can now emphatically say that I really loved reading Daine's journey. However, I didn't connect to it on the same level that I did Alanna's story. By no fault of the series, I just identified more with Alanna. But the interesting thing about reading The Immortal series was loving a character so different than myself.

I liked the plot of this one, weird as it was. It wasn't what I was expecting out of a final book, but I really enjoyed that about it. It was unexpected, sort of new territory. While it did feel too quick to me. There wasn't enough build-up. Everything was solved in one fell swoop and then we were at the final end of the series. I think it was that this ending felt too much like the endings of the other books, rather than like an ending to a whole series.
I wish Daine's relationship with her father had been cultivated a little further. I know there wasn't much time to do so, but there was all of this emotional background leading up to it. I expected a bit more. We've been told how she never knew who her father was, then she finds out he's a god. But she doesn't seem all that interested in getting to know him, which just struck me as odd.
But those were really my only complaints. I liked seeing all of the characters from various books again, seeing them defeat the final enemy. Tamora Pierce is great at creating engaging stories without the use of manipulative tricks or cheap thrills. You are invested in the story because it is told well and because you are invested in the characters.
I try not to say this in every review, but these books feel really refreshing. They don't pretend to be something that they're not, and you easily learn to love what they are presenting.
"Haven't we all thought something's a joy, only to find that it's evil inside?"
"It is her nature to strive, to overset, to imagine all as being different...Still, to follow one's nature is no excuse to openly defy one's parents."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Emperor Mage

Emperor Mage
By: Tamora Pierce
Emperor Mage (Immortals, #3)

Sent to Carthak as part of the Tortallan peace delegation, Daine finds herself in the middle of a sticky political situation. She doesn't like the Carthaki practice of keeping slaves, but it's not her place to say anything -- she's just there to heal the emperor's birds. It's extremely frustrating! What's more, her power has grown in a mysterious way. As the peace talks stall, Daine puzzles over Carthak's two-faced Emperor Ozorne. How can he be so caring with his birds and so cruel to his people? Daine is sure he's planning something. Daine must fight the powerful Emperor Mage, knowing that the safety and peace of the realm depend on stopping Ozorne's power-hungry schemes.

Ahhhhh, yes. After the bit of a let down that the second book was, this brought back everything that I loved about this series and more. It was very interesting to see Carthak firsthand and meet all of the characters from over there. Daine was herself, but developed a lot from the last time we saw her. We got to see Alanna and Numair again and meet a whole new cast of characters.
Daine: Like I said, she's continuing to grow and develop both in character and in skill. She can change fully more easily, can shift parts of her body to enhance certain senses. But she's also wiser now. She is in more control of her temper and her emotions and she knows how to help when there is trouble and she's the only one around to do anything about it.
The plot was much quicker and more complex in this book. You had the emperor of Carthak and the peace negotiations, everything that he was trying to pull off behind the scenes. This book kept me engaged the whole time, whereas Wolf-Speaker left me on the outs several times.
I loved Kaddar. He was a good friend and someone genuinely trying to do good for his kingdom. I hope we see him again because I liked his dynamic with the Tortallans and especially with Daine.
Also, I didn't think I loved Rikash, or even liked him, until this line:
"Ozorne screamed..."I have magic! I-I have stormwing magic."
"Of course you do, sweetheart," Rikash said pleasantly, "Do you know how to use it?"
The sass on this one.
I don't have much else to say other than that this was exactly what I've come to expect from this series, but even more improved.
"Well, no, but everyone says they do." Someday I must read this scholar Everyone...he seems to have written so much - all of it wrong."
"There's drawbacks to any power, Your Highness."
"I have a bad enough time just knowing human sadness, let alone the sorrows of every other living creature."
"Scary with you is better than scary without you."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


By: Tamora Pierce
Wolf-Speaker (Immortals, #2)
When humans start cutting down trees and digging holes in peaceful Dunlath Valley, the wolves know that something is wrong. They send a messenger to the only human who will listen -- Daine, a fourteen-year-old girl with the unpredictable power of wild magic. Daine and her closest companions heed the wolves' cry for help. But the challenge they are about to face in the valley is greater than they can possibly imagine...
Here's the deal, this book was slightly less enjoyable than the first in the series. In the middle it got a bit dull and a bit repetitive. That being said it was still a solid read. I still love the new characters and the new aspects opening up in Tortall.
In this book we see more of Daine's flaws. This made me love her even more, even in the times when she was annoying or impulsive. I love when books in a series still have the characters showing realistic, but evident growth within the space of each book. Daine is not the Daine that we first met any more. She knows how to use her magic, how to change herself, yet she still has a lot of things to figure out about her life in Tortall.
One of the most interesting parts of these books is the Immortals. I like being introduced to new kinds of Immortals, it keeps things interesting and immersive. You never know what kind of creature could pop up next. In this book I loved the addition of Tkuu the basilisk. We see more of Kitten (Skysong the dragon), too.
Overall the plot of this book was good. Its pacing, however, left a little to be desired. I wish there had been more time dedicated to the resolution and a little less to the build-up. The build-up was the part that stretched out too long and left some of the middle sections sort of boring.
Despite its minor problems though, this book was great in Tamora Pierce's typical style.
"...one thing I've learned is that humans cling to their first knowledge of you, particularly if they have no experience of you once you've changed."
"It is not just for food that you need a pack. It is for warmth, and the pack song. The wolf who sings alone is not happy."