Author: Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl
Series: Caster Chronicles #1
Date: February 2010
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. WhenLena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
I’ll admit I’m a late adopter. I picked up Beautiful Creatures because of all the hype about the film and numerous references to it on my Twitter feed. It seemed like not having read it was a big minus to my YA street cred, so I rectified that immediately. That and I hate watching movies before I’ve read the book.
Broadly, I enjoyed it. For anyone who hasn’t yet read it, the story is told from the point of view of Ethan Wade, who has lived in Gatlin, a small town in Southern USA (where everybody knows your name), his entire life. His life gets a shake-up, however, when new girl Lena Duchannes moves into town. She is instantly a pariah because she lives with her uncle Macon Ravenwood, the town recluse, in the creepy Ravenwood manor.
It comes to light after some bizarre dreams, strange telepathy and a shattered classroom window that Lena isn’t a normal girl from a normal family. She’s a Caster, a member of a family who have varying supernatural abilities. Unfortunately in her family, when a Caster turns 16 they get allocated to either the ‘Light’ or the ‘Dark’. So she and Ethan spend the months leading up to her 16th birthday trying to uncover the reasons behind this and what can be done to prevent Lena going to the ‘Dark’ side (insert obvious Star Wars joke here).
I actually liked the way the authors classified the different Casters and found the powers varied and interesting. My favourite part of the book though, was the underlying historical mystery. An enigmatic locket with initials, flashbacks and a sordid American Civil war romance doomed to repeat itself centuries later—I was officially hooked.
As far as the characters go, while I enjoyed Ethan’s point of view as a narrator (a refreshing twist on the standard paranormal formula), I wasn’t wholly invested in Ethan and Lena individually and in their relationship. I felt sympathetic towards them, but at the same time I didn’t really care too much if they managed to stay together or not. I found a lot of the other characters, particularly Ridley’s blend of evil nature and good intentions and Amma’s fierce authority more interesting.
I was also somewhat disappointed by the ending. It was very big in scale, but lost a lot of the heart of the book, the individual struggles each character has as they get caught between the Light and Dark. It also felt a bit like a cop-out, a way to prolong the story of Lena being in between for another year (and another book). In short, it was interesting an enjoyable first book, but I’m not racing to read the next instalment. I will probably go see the film though.
Author: Niall Leonard
Publisher: Random House
Published: September 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher
To catch a killer, Finn Maguire may have to become one…
Everything changed the day Finn found his father in a pool of blood, bludgeoned to death. His dull, dreary life is turned upside downas he become’s the prime suspect. How can he clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him?
Facing danger at every turn, uncovering dark family secrets and braving the seedy London underworld, Finn is about to discover that only the people you trust can really hurt you.
Like everyone else, I was intrigued by this NaNoWriMo project written by the husband of the author, E.L. James (you may have heard of her). Crusher is a tight crime novel set in West London, which follows 17 year-old Finn Maguire as he tries to discover the reason behind his father’s murder. I definitely enjoyed this debut more than I did the Fifty Shades books, although I’m not sure how reliable that benchmark is.
You can sense Leonard’s screenwriting background throughout the book. The descriptions of the settings and people were really detailed and well-imagined, but there was a certain complexity lacking with the dialogue (and indeed the characters). Despite that I was utterly engrossed in it. The suspense just pulled me in—I was nervous for Finn and it kept me wanting to read more.
Finn is the reason I enjoyed the book. He’s interesting—instead of the genius detective or well-connected journalist you usually get as a crime protagonist, he’s a dyslexic teenage drop-out, living in squalor and working a dead-end job at a fast food restaurant. He has no natural talent for solving mysteries and barrels into situations without much thought. He’s scrappy and determined to do what’s right, even though the universe (i.e. the police) seem to be conspiring against him. He also seemed emotionally disconnected, but to me it was a self-preservation instinct, considering what his life has been like so far. I was drawn to Finn and cared about what happened to him, and when he did show emotion, it gave the book real heart.
Most of the other characters are like a checklist of crime fiction: mafia boss, bad girl, know-it-all detective, even evil henchmen. We didn’t really get into their heads, which again I think is a symptom of the screenwriting—they were easily digestible but lacked true depth. They mostly served a plot purpose, mainly as red herrings. In a weird way the book benefited from it because Finn, as the main character, was the only one I really connected with as a reader and I liked him.
The plot was a little thin in places, but I enjoyed the story and I’m pleasantly suprised by variety of issues Leonard tackles. I liked all the plot twists and was surprised by the ending, so as a crime novel it worked for me. If you’re looking for an entertaining read, then this is the book for you.
Thank you to Random House for providing a copy of the book for review.
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Series: The Assassin’s Curse, Book 1
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Published: October 2012
Source: ARC on Netgalley
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.
I wanted to read this debut due to a review that said one of the main characters reminded her of a certain scarred prince close to my heart. I also love high fantasy, pirates, assassins and eastern-influenced culture and this book had it all in spades. While the world building was phenomenal, the aforementioned main character was a complete let down. In fact, both of them were.
Ananna of the Tanarau is the only daughter and successor to a wealthy pirate clan. In order to carry on the legacy, her parents arranged for her to marry Tarrin of the Hariri, another pirate clan. Like every girl who finds herself with an arranged marriage, she felt it would crush her dreams of being the captain of her own ship. So instead of going through with it, she goes all runaway bride and takes the risk that the Hariri clan would send an assassin after her for disgracing them.
Author: Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy, Book 2
Publisher: Viking USA / Headline Book Publishing (UK)
Published: July 2012
Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.
Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.
After the whirlwind of genres that the first book in the series gave us, I was thrilled to learn the second book would dip into one of my favourites, Historical Fiction. I wasn’t disappointed, as the story took us to Elizabethan England (one of my favourite time periods) and seamlessly incorporated famous historical figures like Christopher Marlowe and Queen Elizabeth I herself. However, as much as I loved being in Diana and Matthew’s historic world, the book moved slowly. While I loved some aspects of the cross-genre writing, the best part of the book for me, the plot, suffered as a result.
What I can say about this book is that it’s smart. Details are meticulously researched. I enjoyed how out-of-place Diana worked hard at speaking, writing, dressing and behaving in correct 16th Century fashion. I loved the flash forwards that showed how Diana and Matthew’s foray into the past left traces on the modern day. Harkness also brings to life into the science of Elizabethan alchemy (a precursor to modern chemistry) and the menace of the witch-hunts going on during that time.
Author: E L James
Series: Fifty Shades
Publisher: The Writers Coffee Shop Publishing House
Published: September 2011
Daunted by the singular sexual tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house.
But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.
While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.
The second book in the Fifty Shades series, in my opinion is not quite as good as the first.
I still enjoyed it and I’m still looking forward to reading the third one but I just felt that it was missing a little something. And I also became a little exasperated with the two main characters.
What I did like about this book was the extra characters and storylines that are brought into play. The first book was very much about Christian and Ana getting to know each other and so it generally just focused on the two of them. And although the story in Fifty Shades Darker is also focused on Christian and Ana, there are other storylines and characters introduced too. Such as the evil ‘Mrs Robinson’, and Ana’s rather inappropriate boss. And it was great to have more chapters with Christian’s family in them.
I think these extra side plots gave some great dimension to Ana and Christian’s already hectic relationship.
Another compliment I have for this book is the character development of Christian and Ana. By the end, they are hardly recognisable as the same two characters we were introduced to at the beginning of book one. The author has done a great job of letting them develop and grow and compromise with each other and portrays a very realistic story of two very different people falling in love gradually. This was so refreshing.
Therefore, I am a little sad that I didn’t love this book as much as I wanted to. My problem was mainly the exhausting ups and downs of the relationship. I understand these arguments and ‘make ups’ had to happen for Ana and Christian to be able to move forward but, it just happened so often! Like, every day there was a new drama that would cause them to fall out dramatically… and then make up ‘dramatically’. It felt like being on the ‘big dipper’!
So ultimately, if the third book can take the excellent pacing of the first book and marry it together with the character development and relationships of the second book then I will be very happy!