Monday, June 30, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #2

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews

I finished with the first two books- Magic Study and Poison Study- of Maria V Snyder's Study Series and I'm waiting to get my hands on the next book Fire Study with breathy anticipation. So, it goes on the very top of my TBR list.

While I was re-reading some of my favourite parts from the Covenant series by JLA (yeah, i tend to revisit my favourite books from time to time), I had the urge to stack up my TBR shelf with books featuring greek mythology. And hence, my next two choices which I picked up due to some glowing reviews and recommendations from fellow bloggers.

After the Study series, my appreciation for kickbutt female protagonists has reached a new limit and hence Robin LaFevers' Mortal Heart also goes in my TBR shelf. Another fascinating piece of historical fiction that I'm dying to read is The Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman, which is the love story of Hitler's pet and a Jewish Reporter.

Review: Magic Study( Study #2)- Maria V Snyder

392 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Luna

“Living is a risk," I snapped at him. "Every decision, every interaction, every step, every time you get out of bed in the morning, you take a risk. To survive is to know you're taking that risk and to not get out of bed clutching illusions of safety.” 

Goodreads Synopsis


With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she'd been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can't help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways—and her newfound friends and relatives don't think it's for the better....

Despite the turmoil, she's eager to start her magic training—especially as she's been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia's throne for a lost prince—and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.

If that wasn't bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with all her new enemies

My Review
“I'd wish you luck, but I don't think it would help,"
"Why not?"
"My lady, you make your own luck.” 

There's this feeling that one gets after reading an absolutely mind blowing 2nd book in a series they have high hopes for. I call it bliss! The utter satisfaction of discovering a book series that you won't abandon and new characters to fangirl over is almost indescribable. 

Where Poison Study wowed me, Magic Study just took up all its awesomeness and multiplied it two fold. Yelena is back with a bang in the strange and mysterious world of Sitia, far away from Valek, Ari, Janco and the comfort of the north. She embarks on a perilous journey to find her magical prowess with Irys, her instructor. Along the way she gets reacquainted with her family- her adorable parents who accept her with open arms and her douchebag brother who is convinced that she's a northern spy. 

Yelena's talent for trouble also resurfaces and she unearths a heinous plot by a group of barbaric psychopaths who are incidentally very powerful magicians planning to take control over the world. As Yelena tracks down a string of brutal murders, Snyder once again weaves an enchanting plot that had me devouring the book in one go. 

Plot intricacy? 
Perfect! There was action, family drama, romance, some engrossing world building and best of all- unpredictability. 

Oh Yelena, how I love thee? She is everything I love in a YA heroine- strong, independent, impulsive, formidable and dangerous. Valek, Ari and Janco make a reappearance. There are also some new supporting characters who are delicately layered in shades of grey. 

Hotness Quotient?

“When I carved this, my thoughts were on you, love. Your life is like this snake's coils. No matter how many turns it makes, you'll end up back where you belong. With me.” 

Sizzling of course! Although Valek doesn't appear until much later in the book, the limited pages he does occupy are a treat. We get to see a more playful and less reserved side of him along with his usual dangerous and purposeful one. I have to admit I had a hard time deciding which one was more desirable.

The chemistry between Yelena and Valek is absolutely scorching and they were adorably cute together. 

“He made a weak attempt to look innocent, but I knew better.
"Should I guess how many concealed weapons you have or should I strip search you?"

"A strip search is the only way to be absolutely certain." Valek's deep blue eyes danced with delight.” 

Not a cliffhanger, thank Merlin! I don't think I could have handled that. My need for the next book is urgent enough as it is. 

Overall a perfect entertainer!
Highly recommended. Rating: 5/5 stars!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Review: Poison Study- Maria V Snyder

Published March 1st 2007 by Mira 

Goodreads Synopsis

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison...

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear

My Review
"But you’ve slipped under my skin, invaded my blood and seized my heart.”
“That sounds more like a poison than a person,” was all I could say. His confession had both shocked and thrilled me.
“Exactly,” Valek replied. “You have poisoned me.”

Poison Study was one of the books which had been recommended to me countless times and it had been on my TBR list for forever. I'm so glad I finally got around to reading it.

The book was a perfect blend of all things I adore in a paranormal fantasy- a badass female protagonist, a swoon worthy hero, a psychotic villain, an engaging plot, truckloads of action, a subtle yet passionate romance and some compelling world building. The book was similar in design to The Throne of Glass, another of my favourites and the protagonist Yelena was a toned down, less cocky version of Celaena. Valek and Chaol were almost identical in essence and I grew to love both characters almost immediately.

The concept of food tasters, assassins, rebellions and magic provided a heady mix and the absence of the oft found love triangle in most YA books was a relief. Yelena's suffering at the hands of her brutal caretakers touched a chord and was mildly nauseating. But her uncrushed spirit and dauntless enthusiasm were admirable. I loved the gradual development of Valek and Yelena's relationship- how Valek goes from wanting to kill his new food taster to killing for her sake. His sarcastic and serious demeanour were, to put it bluntly- HAWT and I fell for him long before Yelena did. Yelena's friendship with her trainers Ari, Janco and Maren was precious. Ari and Janco's light humour and protectiveness for Yelena along with Maren's grumpy exterior were cute. 

Most of the twists and turns of the story were absolutely unprecedented and enhanced the appeal of an already excellent story. 

Highly recommended for all paranormal fantasy enthusiasts with a preference for strong female characters and an irresistible male lead.

Rating: 5/5 stars!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Blog Hop: Feature & Follow #2

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee’s View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it’ll allow us to show off more new blogs!

This weeks Question:
Post a photo of your favorite coffee mug (or mugs if you can’t choose just one).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stacking The Shelves #1

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews

Summer has arrived in the earnest, bringing it with heat and holidays, and there is nothing more appealing than a stack of books, a comfy couch and a jug of cold coffee right now. This week I added a few books to my ever growing and now frankly quite daunting TBR list. 

Dying to read as soon as I can:

The Immortal Crown- Richelle Mead
The Boleyn Deceit- Laura Anderson
Poison Study- Maria V Snyder

Currently reading:

Paper Towns- John Green

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: Be Careful What You Wish For (Clifton Chronicles #4)- Jeffrey Archer

Hardcover387 pages
Published March 11th 2014 
St. Martin's Press / MacMillan 

“If you've struck gold, why go in search of brass?” 

Goodreads Synopsis

Bestselling author Jeffrey Archer's Be Careful What You Wish For opens with Harry Clifton and his wife Emma rushing to hospital to learn the fate of their son Sebastian, who has been involved in a fatal car accident. But who died, Sebastian or his best friend Bruno?

When Ross Buchanan is forced to resign as chairman of the Barrington Shipping Company, Emma Clifton wants to replace him. But Don Pedro Martinez intends to install his puppet, the egregious Major Alex Fisher, in order to destroy the Barrington family firm just as the company plans to build its new luxury liner, the MV Buckingham.

Back in London, Harry and Emma’s adopted daughter wins a scholarship to the Slade Academy of Art where she falls in love with a fellow student, Clive Bingham, who asks her to marry him. Both families are delighted until Priscilla Bingham, Jessica’s future mother-in-law, has a visit from an old friend, Lady Virginia Fenwick, who drops her particular brand of poison into the wedding chalice.

Then, without warning, Cedric Hardcastle, a bluff Yorkshireman who no one has come across before, takes his place on the board of Barringtons. This causes an upheaval that none of them could have anticipated, and will change the lives of every member of the Clifton and Barrington families. Hardcastle’s first decision is who to support to become the next chairman of the board: Emma Clifton or Major Alex Fisher? And with that decision, the story takes yet another twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Be Careful What You Wish For showcases the master storyteller’s talent as never before – when the Clifton and Barrington families march forward into the sixties, in this epic tale of love, revenge, ambition and betrayal.

My Review

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” 

The Clifton Chronicles always remind me of a dramatic Hindi soap spanning across several generations. The similarities are uncanny- evil exes striving for revenge and coming with diabolical plans to destroy their targets even after repeatedly being beaten down, one ignoble villain with minions in secret places trying to dismantle the family, unforeseen tragedies, people miraculously thwarting death and the usual circle of love, hate and merriment. Though the books change, the central protagonists change and the story changes; the essence of the plot and the chain of events remains constant. 

But this stuff is almost like a guilty pleasure. You know it is going to be nothing more than an endless cycle of revenge, betrayal, narrow skedaddles and reconciliation, but you're still hooked on until the last page. 

Be Careful What You Wish For was no exception to this rule. The book is more focussed on other characters than Harry and Emma Clifton. Their love story no longer holds the limelight. Instead it is shifted onto the future of the Barrington company. Don Pedro is back with a vengeance with the sole purpose of ruining the Clifton and the Barrington families. There's a set of new characters featuring as friends and foes of the two families and the book ends on a cliffhanger….again. One would think that after 4 books the story would become lack lustre and soulless. But surprisingly, while the gist of the story is predictable the plot itself is quite incalculable. The moment you think that a character is finally beaten down by the circumstances, he makes a striking comeback and adds the spice of unpredictability to the story. Latinquid pro quo at it's best.

What I liked best about the book was it's emphasis on Emma's achievements. The fact that her character had a life of her own, separate from that of Harry's was like a breath of fresh air. Her ambitiousness, intelligence and competence were very appealing. I loved that she was a cool, level headed and self dependent woman who made excellent choices and admirable decisions and was unfazed at times of crisis. 

“You’re so bossy.” 
“Why is a woman always described as bossy, when if a man did the same thing he’d be thought of as decisive, commanding and displaying qualities of leadership?” 

The ending was frustrating. In a good way, the made-me-crave-for-the-sequel way. After this book it is evident that cliffhangers are also an integral part of the ever-present-elements list of the Clifton Chronicles. 

If you enjoy pure unadulterated drama served with a tantalising British garnishing, then this is the book for you.

Rating: 3/5 stars!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) - Laini Taylor

Hardcover, US, 418 pages
Published September 27th 2011
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?” 

Goodreads Synopsis

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” 
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hairactually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

My Review

“Wishes are false. Hope is true. Hope makes its own magic.” 

This one had a really interesting synopsis. Otherworldly war? Devil's supply of human teeth?!! Star-crossed love? Violent pasts?

Needless to say, I was hooked.

The book started out on a mysterious note, with our protagonist Karou- an art student in Prague- being harassed by her stalkerish ex boyfriend who lands up as a model in her art class to torment her. But Karou repays him in kind with a bit of 'wishful thinking'. 

For real. As in the kind where she wished him a nasty case of itches and it came true. 

This is where her bizarre character development starts and keeps getting more mystifying- ranging from the blue hair that grows straight out of her head to her frequent visits to one terrifying teeth collector who lives with a snake woman in some other dimension which can only be reached through a portal.

It's a while before the world building starts to make sense and I was able to discern that the story revolved around Chimaera and Angels- arch nemesis by birth and caught in a brutal and bloody war for centuries. Though this explained the basis of the forbidden love and the war, other aspects of the story like the teeth collector and Karou's relationship and past(?) with Akiva, the gorgeous angel remained a conundrum for quite some time. 

The world building was electrifying. Neither overdone and perplexing, nor wishy-washy and nondescript. Karou and Akiva were both perfectly balanced characters and fit together nicely. The plot was intriguing and writing was fantastic with an almost lyrical twinge to it. 

“Love is a luxury.
No. Love is an element.
An element. Like air to breathe, earth to stand on.” 

The only thing that struck me as odd was the casual way in which the two worlds- the supernatural and the normal one- were mixed together. For instance the blasé acceptance of the townsfolk of flying creatures resembling human beings and the apathetic attitude of Karou's friend towards her powers and upbringing were a bit unsettling.

Apart from this minor snag the book was quite a riveting read with a painful ending that had me craving for the sequel immediately. 

Book Trailer:

Highly recommended. Rating: 4.5/5 stars!