The Grisha Trilogy: Shadow and Bone [Leigh Bardugo]

Overview:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

-Google Books

Front Cover

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review: I was sitting in the library and this book caught my eye. I recognized the cover, because I had seen it before, and I decided to read the first page. The words were so well placed and well written that I felt I had no choice but to take it out. I knew just from reading the first page that this book would be one of the best I have ever read.

When I read a book, it is not the mental images, or the plot line that compels me to read more. It is the quality of words. I do not appreciate poorly written novels, even if the story line is captivating or interesting. Leigh Bardugo, however, used her words in such a beautiful way, that it was impossible to resist.

There were so many surprises that I was incapable of keeping a steady reading pace. As soon as I settled into reading comfortably, something big would happen and it was difficult not to skip forward to see the result. I was constantly on the edge of my seat. This is another attribute that attracts me.

Bardugo has a wonderful way of opening up her characters for us to read (no pun intended) while keeping a certain mystery about them. The main character, Alina, is very amiable and understandable, but also has many secrets that she doesn’t reveal until near the end of the book. For example, Alina has a scar on her hand that she always touches out of habit. The readers never find out how it was procured until the very end. I find this a fascinating technique to get the readers to connect with the character more. To make us feel as if we all have small things that comfort us but we dont want to share.

In Alina’s struggle to control her ability, Bardugo does an amazing job at showing her inner struggle and frustration. Alina experiences a lot of self-doubt at the beginning because she never knew she had a power. She believes that it will disappear inside her again and she will be viewed as a fraud. This is another way I felt connected to the character.

Another thing I loved about this book was the surplus in obstacles. There wasn’t just one goal that had to be fulfilled, there several, one after the other. Of course Alina wanted to control and develop her ability throughout the entire book, but this was contradicted with many problems and blockades.

I did not give this book a five out of five for one reason. There were tiny moments where I was slightly confused as to what to believe. This is a personal preference because I prefer to know everything that is happening and to not contradict myself. I realize that Bardugo was confusing the reader intentionally as to include the reader to the storyand link them to Alina, but that tactic is not to my liking.

Besides this, Shadow and Bone is by far, one of the best books I have read. I’m 100% glad I took the risk to read the first page. 🙂

 

review by: dharmaayla

 

The Mortal Instruments Series: City of Bones [Cassandra Clare]

Overview:

When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder. Much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with odd markings. This is Clary’s first encounter with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons – and keeping the odd werewolves and vampires in line. It’s also her first meeting with gorgeous, golden-haired Jace. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in an ordinary mundane like Clary? and how did she suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

Rating: 5 out 0f 5

Review: As soon as I read the first sentence, I was hooked. Most authors begin their book with a small introduction on the setting and the characters’ lives and a little foreshadowing here and there but Clare just jumped right into the action. Right from the literal beginning of the novel, there was no stopping.

Cityofbones

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest.
He stared down at the boy in the red zip-up jacket and shook his shaverd head.
“You can’t bring that thing in here.”

The development of Clare’s characters was very well presented. Right away, I knew Clary’s personality and habits. It was as if I had been friends with the characters my whole life. That is a very rare feeling. Also, I loved the way she presented new characters. For the Shadowhunters, Clary met them in a moment where they looked feral and savage. She caught them in the act of killing a demon. It was very realistic. Clare was very clear that the Shadowhunters did not want to trifle with the ‘mundane’ world. She was also very good at portraying that there was a whole other world in Clary’s city that she was literally blinded from. 

Another quality that I thoroughly enjoyed about Clare’s writing was her intricacy. The whole plot line was a big spiderweb, woven together by small details and finally all joined together at the center. There were so many little details in the book that I never found relevant. But as soon as I hit the climax, everything slowly came together. It was genius. When I thought I realized what was coming up, instead of being predictable, Clare created something entirely different and I was totally caught off guard. This was a brilliant way to keep people hooked.

Clary and Jace’s relationship was another brilliant feature of this book. It is not something you can simply explain but she created something so realistic between the two of them. You could tell at first that they both didn’t know what to think of each other. Jace was an arrogant teenage boy, and even though he was gorgeous, Clary did not like him at first. But she would glimpse moments of softness and vulnerability which made Clary curious. They drove each other crazy. Clare had a good way of making you feel the frustration between them. But she also had a good way of making you fall for their love story. Which makes it such a big surprise when Clare whips out the final twist of the book. This part of the book was the hardest to read because it was so terrible. It was one of those twists where you are horrified but you had to read more because you believed it impossible. Clare made it seem as if the universe was for and against Clary and Jace’s relationship at the same time.

Another thing I quite enjoyed about the Shadowhunter world was The way Clare treated the Downworlders (vampires, werewolves, faeries, and warlocks). She never made it stereotypical and it was a ll very realistic. They were just as much a part of the Shadowhunters as the demons. They played a big role with Clary’s adjusting and her friend circle in this new world. I liked the way Clare used them in her book.

There is not much I can comment about on the plot without giving to much away but there was so much going on that it was literally impossible to put this book down. There were always unanswered questions that made you itch to know more, the characters were always going on dangerous quests that caught you off guard, the enemy was always tormenting the readers with snippets of their intentions. It was a roller coaster ride.

A beautiful job. Well done, Cassandra Clare!

review by: dharmaayla

  • Next week, read the review of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Gone with the Respiration: Dearly, Departed [Lia Habel]

Overview:

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.
In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: The thing that was so amazing about this book was that the plot and the detail was so different and interesting than any other book I had ever read, that I had no choice but to get right into it. Who else would have come up with a way to interpret the future, the past and an apocalypse all in one era. Nora’s world is so diverse. Habel interprets the technology of 2195, the society of the 1800’s and the imagination of 2012. Simply amazing. I love this world.

I was really swept along with the turn of events. There were no breaks in this book, just event after event. In the beginning, Nora is finishing school for the holidays and in a matter of days she has been kidnapped by zombies and falls in love with one.

I really like how Habel changes perspectives every few chapters. She alternates between Nora, Bram, Pamela (Nora’s bestfriend), Victor (Nora’s father), and Wolfe (the general in charge of the zombies). This way you always know what is happening in every aspect of Nora’s kidnapping. The victim, the kidnapper, the family, the villain. you know everybody’s thoughts and everybody’s motive. Which is great, but sometimes slightly frustrating because the other characters don’t know what is going on.

Habel had a way of piecing all the untied ends together at the end. Picture it like a water slide.  You get faster and faster down the slide and then when you least expect it, you reach the end and a big, drenching splash is created. That is how I would describe this book in a nutshell.

Habel was good at playing with Nora’s skepticism on the “good zombie” subject. When Nora was kidnapped, Bram was ordered to lock her in a dorm and keep her there until further notice without any sort of contact to the outside world. Bram had thoroughly opposed to that request so he, instead, put her in his own room. Nora stayed there for days on end, terrified of what stood on the other side of the door. Bram, knowing that she must be confused and scared, began playing a game with her, a little like twenty questions. Nora asked questions about her situation and about Bram’s former life, and slowly but surely, the connection between the two grew very deep. At one point in the book, Nora begins having a panic attack because she wants to talk to Bram and he isn’t outside her door. She starts screaming and shouting at all the doctors who are trying to calm her down (the only alive people for miles) and didn’t stop until she heard Bram’s voice. It is oddly ironic yet quite cute.

In most books, the end of the bookholds a big battle and the death of the enemy. In Dearly, Departed, Habel has made the fighting quite limited, which is nice. Sometimes too much fighting is annoying. The climax is mostly Pamela’s rescue from the “bad zombies” and a very intense phone call with the enemy (Wolfe). It is more intense and suspenseful than death-filled and tragic.

I am so very excited to read the second book of the series: Dearly, Beloved. I have a hunch that it is going to be more action filled and more passionate than the first one.

review by: dharmaayla

  • Next week, read the review of City of Bones

The Steampunk Chronicles: The Girl in the Steel Corset [Kady Cross]

Overview: 

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the “thing” inside her.When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no “normal” Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of “them.” The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin’s investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help–and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on–even if it seems no one believes her.

 

 

Rating: 3.5 to 4 out of 5 (varied throughout the book)

Review: When I first saw this novel on the library shelf, I was very intrigued by the title. It sounded very dark, mysterious and suspenseful. I was right in a way. The plot was exactly as I just described it but the way the author (Cross, Kady) worded the situations and the characters’ thoughts didn’t fit the darkness of the plot. 

But once I got into the book, it didn’t take me long to forget about the way she wrote. I was so entranced with everything that was happening I definitely could not put the book down. Cross created the perfect recipe for a book by adding just the right amount of action, romance, conflict (between others and oneself), predictability, and suspense and frustration.

When Finley Jayne joins this band of “misfits”, she is immediately swept into helping Griffin find The Machinist and destroy his plans to take over England. She must go undercover and discover what rumors are being spread about him and she is forced to use her “other side” constantly in battle (and against her peers, at times). Also, the others must join her. Sam, a mandroid, is the strangest man in England and must help Finley defeat some of the Machinist’s automatons. Emily, a machine genius and (SPOILER ALERT) machine-speaker (can understand and talk to machines) must put her skills to the test as she is up against The Machinist and his indestructible automatons. Jasper, an american cowboy that can move very fast, also used his ability to his advantage against The Machinist by moving so fast they could barely see him. And finally, Griffin King. His connection to Aether is  probably the most dangerous and lethal ablility out of all of them. (SPOILER) At the end of the book, Griff and The Machinist go head to head for what they believe in. All the fighting kept me on the edge of my seat, waiting for more. Once I got into the book, there was barely time to breathe.

There wasn’t too mush romance at the beginning, which was refreshing. But as the book went along, Finley and Griffin grew closer and began to feel affections for each other. Neither of them knew that the other one liked them back though. Finley was scared she was too much of a low-life to ever tempt the richest man in England into marrying her, and even if she did, she didn’t want to ruin his reputation. Griffin was afraid that Finley did not like him back, and did not want to make any unwanted advances. Also, Sam and Jasper were both fighting for Emily’s affection and she had to chose one or the other. cross did a very good job in showing the struggle going through Emily’s mind. I also really enjoyed the growing friendship between Finley and Emily. As the book went along, you could tell they were both grateful to have someone to talk to and share their feelings with. They were true best friends. This is always very nice and refreshing to see, since there is always either too much action or too much romance, and not a lot of simple moments between friends and family.

They way Cross explained Finley’s inner struggle with herself was very good. I could understand her pain immediately. She didn’t want to be a person where she couldn’t control her bad side, but she also thought she deserved to live with it because of all the things she had done. It is very easy to relate to her situation. Should she leave because she didn’t deserve such hospitality and kindness, or should she stay because she hated the other thing inside her and she needed to learn to control it. At one point in the book, Finley runs away because she blacked out for the first time and she couldn’t remember what her other side was doing. She was accused of murder the same day and the trauma of possibly having killed someone was too much for her to bear and she runs away and stays with a very handsome, very cunning criminal named Jack Dandy.

Overall, I found this book very entertaining and I was very satisfied with my having read it. Yes, it was very good. Yes, I was excited to read the second one. Yes, I would buy it and read it again.

Review by: dharmaayla

  • Next week, read the review of Dearly, Departed