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Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Friday, December 25, 2009
In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are both feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises:the Grace of killing.

As a Graced killer who has been able to kill a man with her bare hands from the age of eight, she’s forced to work as the king’s thug. Feared by the court and shunned by those her own age, the darkness of her Grace casts a heavy shadow over Katsa’s life.

Yet Katsa remains defiant, and when the King of Liend’s father is kidnapped she investigates, and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap the old man, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced man whose fighting abilities rivalled her own?

The only thing Katsa is sure of is that she no longer wants to kill. The intrigue surronding the kidnapping offers her a way out and little does she realise, when she takes it, that something insidious and dark lurks behind the mystery, something spreading form the shadowy figure of a one eyed king.

I loved the world the author has created as the setting (I dreaded the map at the beginning fearing it would make me confused but after finishing the book, I could almost draw it out on paper without looking to it!) The concept of Gracelings is very interesting I was looking forward to how they would be used.

A problem I found was the climax was built through suspense after reading Katsa's tiring journey for hundreds of pages and Bang! in a few sentences the person that needed taking care of was eliminated. In my opinion, what started as a fantasy adventure novel, turned into romance novel with a fantasy backdrop. I didn't really feel the connection between Katsa and Po. There was a lot of explaining about their feelings which I found myself wanting to skip and get into the adventure of the book. I can't see how Po likes Katsa...she's angry and agitated the majority of the time.

Other than that, Graceling was a very engaging read. I enjoyed the action, suspense and gasp-worthy moments.


Darkness be my Friend by John Marsden

Saturday, December 12, 2009
There are only five of them left now. Ellie and her four friends, Lee, Homer, Kevin, and Fi, have reluctantly returned to New Zealand from Australia to lead more guerrilla attacks on the enemy. When they were rescued and airlifted to New Zealand, they thought the nightmare was over. But now they have been sent back to Wirrawee to guide a party of adult raiders on a planned sabotage of a strategic airfield. Something goes wrong; the adults never come back from the raid, and Ellie and her friends are again left on their own to do what they can--and must--to survive.

The 4th book in the tomorrow series, we continue the journey of Ellie and her friends and we see them deal with the violence and pain produced by the war. They continue to be in danger without the guidance of adults and it is an immersive and heart pounding adventure.

In this book I felt that the main character Ellie did so much recount of the past (before the war) for at least a quarter of the book. I felt she got angry really quickly and had strange mood swings which is understandable in her circumstances but I somehow sensed that it was a completely different character. However, recognition of the same Ellie as in the previous books picked up half way. The action occured in the last half of the book which was really good and made me fly through the pages wanting to find out what happens next. It was a rollercoaster of emotions I felt with the characters - fear, shock, anger and empathy.

A problem I had with this book, more than the previous books in the series, was the recount of Ellie's past. The author writes in a female point of view which must be hard but I find some of the things he writes aren't really what goes in the mind of females. For example, "Lots of boys in New Zealand wear shorts to school. They have a Seventh Form too and even some of the Seventh Formers wear shorts. It looks kind of silly, because they seem too old for it, but it gives you a good chance to perv on their legs" and reminiscing when Ellie and her best friend Corrie were children: "We tried to peep at the shearers through a little hole in the wall of their dunny".

Ellie learns a lot in this book, which is recounted in the Epilogue. Some of her actions at New Zealand at the beginning of the book I saw was unnecessary and uncharacteristic of her, but she regretted it and reflected that it was a bad move which was great to see.

The ending left me hanging and was quite a shocker so I can't wait for the next in the series, Burning for Revenge.


1st in a Series Challenge

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This challenge is hosted at The Royal Reviews @ Blogspot. Sign up under Mr.Linky here.

Challenge Guidelines:
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
2. There are four levels:
-- Curious - Read 3 novels that are first in a series.
-- Fascinated - Read 6 novels that are first in a series.
-- Addicted - Read 12 novels that are first in a series.
-- Obsessed - Read 20 novels that are first in a series.
3. Any genre counts.
4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010. Only books started on January 1st count towards this challenge.

I'm aiming for Fascinated - 6 firsts.

1. Poison Study by Maria Snyder - completed 28 March
2. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting - completed 9 April
3. I'd tell you I love you but then I'd have to kill you by Ally Carter - completed 22 April
4. Marked by PC & Kristin Cast - completed 10th May
5. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater - completed 16th May
6. Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar - completed 17th June

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Monday, December 7, 2009
St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school - it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s - the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi - the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires - make Lissa one of them forever.

The author has created a unique and intriguing world of vampires. Vampire Academy sets up the series really well by introducing us to the academy and the main character Rose. There are two types of vampires that are in conflict and half vampires known as Dhampirs. This is way better than the usual vampires vs. weak humans!

The first chapter presents a lot of mystery to be solved. Lissa and Rose have run away from the Academy but the readers are left in the dark as to why. Even when they are dragged back to the academy, we still don't find out as they resume their previous daily lives.

Within the academy there is plenty of high-school-ish drama - jealousy, crushes, revenge, gossip - which made it seem like a human environment even though they are vampires. I loved this aspect because at times it made me feel like I was reading a paranormal novel but at other times realistic fiction that looks at teen issues.

In my opinion, the beginning was quite slow as the main character Rose mingled with peers and constantly worried about Lissa's developing depression, when comparing it with the relatively faster pace toward the end of the book. There was a few comments throughout of it being dirty to drink blood while doing it and incidents regarding it, which kind of turned me off a bit because it felt like unnecessary information (sounds twisted even if not mentioned). Also disturbing was some slitting wrists involved but not too graphic.

Of course there is the romance and the forbidden aspect of it explored in the book. The male interest Dimitri didn't really stand out for me in the beginning of the book probably due to the few scenes with Rose. By the end of the book, his actions regarding Rose and himself surprised me and heightened my interest of his relationship with Rose. Also, I didn't like Rose much but as a reader I could see the change in a playful and reckless Rose into Responsbile Rose by the end of the book which made me like her better. It was really refreshing to read about a kick-ass, confident and strong female lead, getting things done instead of staying idle or relying on others.

Another things I liked was how the history of vampires was included - St Vladmir's history, the terms to explain different types of vampires. It was explained by Ms. Mead very well and allowed me to be transported to and be part of the Vampire Academy world. The climax was really good and was an omg wth moment.

The ending is satisfying but leads to many questions and open ends! I'm ready to get stuck into the Vampire Academy world once again with Frostbite.


Winter Reading Challenge

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This challenge is from The Royal Reviews @ Blogspot. Sign up under Mr.Linky here.

My List:
1. Read a book not set in the USA or England.
Darkness be my Friend by John Marsden - Completed December 12th.

2. Read a book with "Ice", "Frost", "Chill", "Cold" "Winter" in the title.
ICE by Sarah Beth Durst - Completed February 3rd.

3. For Valentine's Day, choose an author whose first or last name begins with L
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery - Completed January 27th.

4. Choose a book that is not part of a series.
Liar by Justine Larbalestier - Completed February 24th.

5. Read a book written in the first-person point-of-view.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead - Completed December 7th.

6. Read a book with "Mr", "Mrs', "Miss" or "Ms" in the title.
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl - Completed January 29th.

Challenge Guidelines:
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
2. You must read all six books to complete the challenge.
3. Any book format counts.
4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
5. Challenge begins December 1st thru to February 28th, 2010.

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Some secrets shouldn't be kept...
Up until three months ago, everything in sixteen-year-old Camelia's life had been fairly ordinary: decent grades; an okay relationship with her parents; and a pretty cool part-time job at the art studio downtown. But when Ben, the mysterious new guy, starts junior year at her high school, Camelia's life becomes anything but ordinary. Rumored to be somehow responsible for his ex-girlfriend's accidental death, Ben is immediately ostracized by everyone on campus. Except for Camelia. She's reluctant to believe the rumors, even when her friends try to convince her otherwise. She's inexplicably drawn to Ben...and to his touch. But soon, Camelia is receiving eerie phone calls and strange packages with threatening notes. Ben insists she is in danger, and that he can help--but can he be trusted? She knows he's hiding something... but he's not the only one with a secret.

Deadly little secret is a fast paced book about Camelia, her meeting with the new boy rumored to have murdered his ex-girlfriend but who saved her from an accident, and her stalker who has been frightening her with photos of her at various locations and threats.

There are a number of male characters in Camelia's life which makes it tricky to guess which one person is the stalker. The author has used some chapters to write in the stalker's point-of-view and has cleverly written so that the reader cannot cross off anyone on the suspect list - John the soccer star, Ben the new guy who's rumored to have killed his ex-girlfriend, Matt the ex-boyfriend but now friend, Spencer the older guy who is in charge of the store where Camelia takes up pottery. The entries of the stalker gives me goosebumps and chills up my spine because they're obsessive and creepy.

Although quite a short book, the pace felt just right. There were no overly slow parts because even in the dullest moments, in the back of the mind of the reader, Camelia is in the realm of danger and the suspense keeps you hanging.

I read most of this book at night/past midnight and it was scary. There were many parts of the book which included phone calls, unlocked doors and chilling moments such as where Camelia searches for her mobile phone but there's no signal, and going to her room scared of what or who may be lurking. The author does a good job of transporting the reader there. You can't help but look around the room and check if doors are locked and the windows closed.

There is romance amidst the mystery but I felt that it wasn't really developed. The male character felt only like a puzzle who Camelia wanted to figure out. (she doesn't know much about him but feels an attraction every time her touches her...) I felt that friendship could've been a better start and maybe romance could play a bigger role in the second book?

The cover is really pretty but hasn't got to do much with the book, although the glowing hand does symbolise something, but not correctly (not to do with the main female character).
All in all, a quick and engaging read!