Thursday, March 28, 2013

The 10 Books I Want to Read the Most Right Now

You all remember how big my to be read pile is I'm sure? No? Oh I'm sure you do...anyway, I thought tonight I would share the 10 books from that pile that I am the most excited about reading. So without further ado, the list:

1. Deck Z: The Titanic: Unsinkable. Undead by Chris Pauls & Matt Solomon

Why I'm excited to read it: I'm absolutely fascinated by the concept of taking historical events and adding a taste of the Supernatural, the Titanic disaster is something we all know a lot about so I'm really interested to see how they've incorporated the zombies.

Why I haven't read it yet:I won my autographed copy through GoodReads at a very inopportune tune; I've been insanely busy. I've read books still and I keep wanting to pick this one up but I want to be able to really focus on it.

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Why I'm excited to read it: I've heard nothing but good things about it! Everyone I know who has read it loved it and told me I would too so I am eager to sink my teeth into it.

Why I haven't read it yet:I was convinced it was going to be the first book in a series and I REALLY didn't want to start ANOTHER series only to be waiting months and months for the next book and then not reading it because it's been sooooo long since I read the first and I don't have time for a re-read. But then the author confirmed that this book is most definitely a stand-alone so now I really want to get to it!

3. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Why I'm excited to read it: It's the conclusion of the Inheritance cycle. That right there should say everything. I need closure, I need to know what happens to all the characters and the world. But most importantly I need to know if my theory about the final Rider is true!

Why I haven't read it yet: This book suffers from that problem I mentioned just above; it's been SO LONG since I read any of the previous books that I just can't motivate myself to re-read them so that I can read this. But I want to read it so bad so I may cave soon and re-read the first three.

4. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Why I'm excited to read it: I read the first book in the series after about six months of waffling. Once I read it I was hooked, it was so good, I was so excited for the next one. She left it with a good cliffhanger that left me hungering for more.

Why I haven't read it yet: And then I had to wait, and wait, and wait for book two. And it finally came out, and I bought it right away! And it's been sitting on the pile ever since for the same reason as Inheritance.

5. Serpent's Kiss by Melissa de la Cruz

Why I'm excited to read it: Are you sensing a theme here? This one is yet another continuation of a wonderful series. I reviewed the first book in this series back in January. I'm definitely eager to see what's happening to all the characters in this world.

Why I haven't read it yet: It's part of a pattern I have. I'm excited about the sequel so I buy it the day it comes out and then I can't be bothered re-reading the first book so it just sits...

6. Tiger's Voyage, Tiger's Destiny, and Tiger's Dream by Colleen Houck

Why I'm excited to read them: Because I loved the first two books in the series and I must finish it!

Why I haven't read it yet: This time it's gotten so bad I'm three books behind! I need to break this pattern! This is my curse apparently! Must be something about folks named Ren and curses...

7. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Why I'm excited to read it: I'm a big Rick Riordan fan. I think he's an amazing writer and I just adore what he can do with mythology. I think I've read everything in mythological series except for this book at the moment. Also: OWL on the cover, I love owls.

Why I haven't read it yet: I received this for Christmas and honestly it just got plopped in the pile and I kind of forgot it was there oops. And then I remembered and figured I probably need to re-read Lost Hero and Son of Neptune first. 

8. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Why I'm excited to read it: Similarly to Midnight Circus I've heard mostly amazing things about this novel. And as with Deck Z it melds historical fiction with paranormal fantasy both of which I love. Plus I've always been fascinated by Lincoln AND vampires independent of one another so I imagine mixing them will be good. Especially if the movie is any indication because I quite enjoyed the movie.

Why I haven't read it yet: I will be completely honest; there have been more books that have been more compelling to me, but I do really want to get to this one, soon. 

9. Prodigy by Marie Lu

Why I'm excited to read it: If you've been following this blog you've likely surmised my love of dystopian fiction, and given that I wrote a review on the book this one follows (Legend) it's logical that this one would be here. It only recently came out and I really want to read it.

Why I haven't read it yet: I am actually hoping to start this one this weekend; I broke out of my pattern! I figured I was a book ahead in my book challenge count I had time for a fast re-read so I've been skim reading Legend before bed every night this week so that I can start Prodigy ASAP and hopefully still not lose my lead on my challenge counter.

10. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Why I'm excited to read it: Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge Potterphile, and a really big fan of J.K. Rowling's writing ability. Since the minute this book was announced I have been waiting for it. I bought it the day it came out. I look at it frequently. It's actually THE book I am MOST excited to read so...

Why I haven't read it yet: Because I am nervous and scared. As a fan of J.K. Rowling and a Potterphile I fear reading this book. I've built it up so much in my head that I'm going to love it and it's going to be amazing so I'm terrified of reading it because what if it's not? Is it allowed to not like a single book by an author you otherwise adore? I need reassurance that just in case I don't like this book it doesn't make me less of a fan. I don't want to psych myself out but I am! I just want to read and enjoy this book!

What books are on your to read list that you're most excited for?

-- Ren

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bookmarks - Epic Fantasy

It's almost the end of March! I can't believe how fast this year has gone already. It's true what they say I suppose, the busier you are the faster time goes, and boy have I been busy these last few months! I'm just trying to keep on top of everything! So along that line I have for you tonight another set of readers' advisory bookmarks. This time Epic Fantasy Series, along the same lines as the list in 5 epic fantasy series you may have missed.

Oh look three of the series on these bookmarks also appeared on my 5 epic fantasy series list, clearly you can tell that I definitely like those series and I think fantasy fans should read them! They're targeted at A Song of Fire and Ice fans because they were created just before the last book came out, or was it just after? I haven't read that series yet myself (It's on the pile I swear!) so I haven't kept track of the release dates of the books. Either way it's still appropriate because they're still waiting on the next book now, and it will also work just as well for fans of any fantasy series. 


-- Ren

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Companion Books

You bet I bought the Collector's Edition of
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
I absolutely adore the companion books that accompany many book series; I have a sizeable collection of them, mostly Star Wars and Harry Potter companion books. I especially love the companion books that are created by the author of the respective series, the fact that they're willing to make that much effort and share that much detail never fails to prove to me how committed they are not only to their worlds' but also to all of their fans. 

Whether its maps, family trees or timelines; or simply encyclopaedic  entries that expand on information about the characters, subjects, themes and locations; I want to know everything about my favourites series and that's why I love companion books.

My top 5 favourite companion books are:

1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 
You really can't go wrong with a companion book written for a charity that uses comedy to help people. This book is not only informative about a wide number of the creatures you'll encounter in the Harry Potter series, it's absolutely hilarious. Any Harry Potter fan knows that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the title of one of the in-world school textbooks that Harry and company use and JK Rowling ran with that with this companion book she presents it to us as being Harry's copy of the book. It's filled with humours hand scrawled annotations and commentary by not only Harry, but also Ron, such as the ever so mature circling of the word bum in Glumbumble. Madame Pince would've had their hides if she'd seen the way they defaced this book! 

2. Star Wards the Essential Atlas
This is THE official guide to the galaxy far, far away. One of the best parts is the extremely detailed map of the entire galaxy that even maps the major trade routes. The map shows every world that has ever appeared in any of the films and any of the expanded universe novels. There's an overall history of the universe, and then a history of each region in Part I. Part II is devoted to the profiles on each planet, which includes a full colour illustration, complete physical stats and a brief (half page) description/history. Part III includes historical maps of the galaxy, for example there's a map that tracks the origins of the Jedi from approx. 25,000 years before the battle at Yavin. I love the scale of this particular book, it must have been a HUGE undertaking. The level of detail is so impressive and I like to imagine how much science must've gone on the create accurate planets.

3. Star Wars the New Essential Chronology
I love this one for similar reasons to the previous Star Wars companion book. The level of detail makes me so happy. It's a 230 page time line of every single event that has ever happened in a  Star Wars plot. It's basically a history textbook for Star Wars fans. It's also a cheat sheet for those who haven't gotten around to reading every single book in the Expanded Universe. You can find out about all of the major plot events in this one companion book, and they're not long entries, you get max. about 3 pages per event. Because of it's nature as a complete chronology and the fact that you can cheat with it, if you don't like spoilers STAY CLEAR of this book. I personally don't mind spoilers with a series on the scale of Star Wars so that could explain why I enjoy this book. Although it's still one of my major reading goals to eventually read the entire collection of Expanded Universe the correct chronological order. Why does that task sound like it would be on par with me declaring that I intended to read War & Peace in Russian with no knowledge of Russian? (I actually know someone who attempted that, I'm not sure if she ever did succeed)

4. the Pocket Companion to Narnia
Spoilers galore in this one! A definite steer clear if you haven't read all 7 books and don't want the end spoiled! I love this book because a) maps! I love maps! but more importantly b) encyclopaedic entries that expand on EVERYTHING. And I do mean everything. Themes, characters, locations, and things! It even includes spoiler alerts which is lovely! It's so nice that the author respected the readers enough to mark where he might be spoiling things for us! There are a lot of interesting things in this little book. There's a list of all the biblical allusions in the series and where to find them. Also the meaning of the name Cair Paravel which according to the book means "city in the valley" which is hilarious when you remember that Cair Paravel is located on a cliff overlooking an ocean, high ABOVE the valley. Another handy tidbit in this book is the list of comparative ages of all of the main characters throughout the series. And this is just the pocket version, apparently the full sized version has even more information.

5. Princess Alyss of Wonderland
Last but certainly not least is the companion book to Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars trilogy. This book was insanely hard to get my hands on, not easy to find at all, but I am SO happy I did and very pleased to have it in my collection. Beddor's series is one of my absolute favourites, it's an amazing re-vision of Alice in Wonderland which as you all know is one of my all time favourites. This is one of those fantastic companion books that doesn't only contain facts and information about the series, it also contains Artifacts! Artifact books are the best books because no matter how old you are they make you feel like a little kid. They let you discover the series in a whole new way.The entire book is a diary of Alyss's account of her time on earth. There's a handwritten letter from Alyss to her best friend Dodge on the very first page. It's heartbreaking to see RETURN TO SENDER stamped on the envelopes of all of the letter Artifacts. Midway through there's even a recipe for tarty tarts and at the end there's a hand made deck of Wonderland cards and instructions for playing looking glass wars.


I have to confess though, my favourite companion "book" isn't actually a book. It's Pottermore. Hello? It's the ultimate testament to an author's respect and appreciation for her fans. It's interactive, what fan doesn't love that? And the information it delivers! OH! Be still my beating heart! I was part of the early beta, and I still adore it. I was especially excited to actually get sorted (I am a Slytherin! This was only somewhat of a surprise, turns out I'm more driven by ambition than I thought I was!), and to read the description about the Hufflepuff Common Room (which I was able to see thanks to all of my friends who got sorted into Hufflepuff) because it was the only Common Room Harry didn't visit during the series. And I have to say from her description of it, I kind of wish I'd been sorted into Hufflepuff because their common room sounds awesome, except for the entrance, I don't even like tube slides so I can't imagine how I would've handled climbing through a tunnel to get in and out of my House multiple times a day...

So those are my favourite companion books, what are some of yours? Which ones should I check out?


Monday, March 18, 2013

If you liked: The Maze of Bones

If you liked...
The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones
Then chances are you'll probably like this...
Have you ever felt like the people around you were hiding things from you? Carter and Sadie Kane have been feeling that way a lot lately. Ever since their mother died they've been living separate and very different lives. Carter has been living out of a single suitcase travelling all over the globe with their archaeologist Dad Dr. Julius Kane who specializes in Ancient Egypt. They visit museums, dig sites and universities, but they never stay anywhere very long, only long enough for the local kids to make fun of Carter because Julius makes him dress like a miniature professor; sometimes they arrive at a place only to leave again right away with no explanation from Julius, which makes Carter wonder if someone is following them. Compared to Carter’s life with their dad, Sadie’s life with their maternal grandparents in London England is like living the high life, she gets to go to a normal school and do normal things, like have friends, plus she gets her very own room, privacy and even a pet! Carter has always been jealous of Sadie’s normalcy, and Sadie has always been jealous that Carter gets to spend more than two days a year with their dad; they both wish things could change; but when they get their wish they realize it’s not all they hoped for. It starts when Carter and Julius arrive in London to visit Sadie, their dad is presumed dead after he blows up the British Museum, and then they get whisked away to New York by an uncle they didn't even know they had! It’s in New York that their Uncle Amos reveals the truth to them, their mother didn't die the way they were told, she was killed in a magical accident at Cleopatra’s Needle, their father isn't dead, he’s just been trapped in the Underworld after another failed magical accident. All this talk of magic mind boggles the kids, but they need to get used to it because they’re wizards, the descendants of powerful Ancient Egyptian families, and they can commune with the Egyptian gods, who really do exist. Oh, and they've started hearing voices and having out of body experiences, but that’s not their biggest problem. The big problem in The Kane Chronicles Book 1: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan is that their dad’s experiment released five powerful Egyptian gods, including one of the most evil of them, Set, into the world. Now Carter, Sadie and their new friends and allies are in a race against time to master their powers, find some way to save their dad AND defeat Set before he can destroy them and the world…will they make it?

And at least some of these...

1. Airman by Eoin Colfer

2. The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer

3. The Keys to the Kingdom Book1: Mister Monday by Garth Nix
4. Larklight by Phillip Reeve

5. The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

6. The Edge Chronicles: The Curse of the Gloamglozer by Paul 
Stewart and Chris Riddell

7. The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

8. Legend by Marie Lu

9. Ergaon by Christopher Paolini

10. The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

Friday, March 15, 2013

First Read Friday: Snakecharm by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

     Title: Snakecharm (The Kiesha'ra, #2)
     Author: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
     Publisher: Laurel Leaf
     Published: September 28, 2004
     Number of Pages: 167
     Genre(s): Fantasy, YA
     Date Read: February 17, 2013

In the wake of Charis Cobriana's death, Zane Cobriana, Diente to the Serpiente and Danica Shardae, Tuuli Thea to the Avians are still married and still ruling the two different tribes together; they divide their time between the Serpiente court and the Avian Keep trying valiantly to bridge the divide between their two peoples and further the tentative peace that their marriage has created. They have settled into this routine of travel, it is comforting, familiar and happy. But that happiness is not to last.

Syfka, a Royal Falcon has come to their court with a message from the immortal Empress Cjarsa; there is a Falcon hidden among their court and the Empire wants them back and will stop at nothing to secure them. Danica and Zane are in disbelief, they don't understand how a Falcon could have hidden themselves amongst the avians and serpiente. Syfka explains that Falcon magic enables them to change their appearance, including form and colouring, at will. Syfka refuses to tell them anything about this supposed criminal they should be seeking and not knowing her motives puts everyone on edge. 

Matters are only made more stressful when it comes out that Danica is pregnant with Zane's child; the child with be a hawk-cobra---and the Falcons do NOT like interspecies breeding; they don't even like it when a peregrine and a gryfalcon breed!  So when Danica and the would be child are almost killed, Zane knows exactly who to blame this time.  But that's not the only concern about the babe, will it be accepted? Can a half-breed truly rule both courts? Or will it destroy the peace simply by existing?

All he wants is to find this mysterious lost falcon so that they can send Syfka away and his wife and child will be safe. Will Syfka actually stay true to her word and leave? Will they even be able to find the Falcon? Will they like what they find when they do? Can they really give up someone they love to the monstrous Falcon empire? And what of their child? They know the Falcons won't accept her...but what about their own people? Surely their own people will accept their child as the heir to both courts? What other choice is there?

As one would expect from a sequel this one picks up pretty much exactly where Hawksong left off. Zane and Danica are settling into their fledging new rule when the dangerous Falcons start trying to stir up trouble. It was rather obvious that their rule wasn't going to be smooth given the events at the end of Hawksong but the Falcons waste no time sticking their beaks in.

This book switches perspectives, where Hawksong was narrated by Danica we get Zane's point of view for Snakecharm, which was a dead give away from the title of the book; rather obvious. I personally prefer Zane to Danica, he's more in touch with himself and with the people around him than Danica was. But I have major problems with this volume in the series, and I think most of my problems stem from the issues that seem to come up whenever Atwater-Rhodes puts a major focus on a male character. She has a problem developing her male characters, it's something that I and countless other fans of hers have noted throughout all of her books and Zane suffers the same fate. He had so much potential when he was the secondary character in Hawksong, but then he became the narrator and all of that potential just flew out the window. She didn't develop him, she didn't develop his relationship with Danica, instead she used him to focus on everyone and everything else around him. He does well doing that, he's insightful and a very good narrator, but he's also a let down because he was built up in the first book to be this badass character, but he doesn't actually do a whole heck of a lot, and certainly nothing I would describe as badass. 

After getting to the end of this particular book, I wish Rei had been the narrator instead; in fact I wish there had been two stories of these same events; that way Zane could have focussed on narrating his growing marriage and impending fatherhood, and Rei could have focussed on the political intrigues and his own budding romance. That way we could have also been treated to content about what exactly happened on Ahnmik.

That's the worst limitation and pit fall of first person narrators; they can't provide us every detail because they can only share with us the things they experience or what other characters tell them. Snakecharm could have been improved by either doing what I suggested above, or just simply changing to a third person narrator.

At least the villain here isn't repetitive; yes their end goal is still to destroy the tentative peace Danica and Zane are building. But Syfka and the formidable and intimidating Falcon empire taken it to the extremes; they don't just want to break up the peace they want to plunge the two races so far back into war that they will never be able to break out again. What makes that so ominous is the fact that we don't get to find out their motives for this desire until halfway through Falcondance.

Overall it's a good second volume, it has it's flaws and it could be better, but it does what it sets out to do; it drives the plot forward and introduces the series Big Bad. But it suffers the problem most sequels suffer, it just doesn't end up living up to the memory of the first book.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bookmarks - Dystopian Science Fiction

My apologies for being MIA for the last week faithful readers! I was prepping for, and then having, and now recovering from wisdom tooth extraction, having 3 wisdom teeth cut out of one's head is no fun!

To make it up to you tonight I have something for you all to download and use, the first of many! A bookmark set this one of Dystopian Science Fiction novels and their respective film adaptations. These are useful tools for Readers' Advisory in both Public and School Libraries and general classroom use as well!

I hope you enjoy them!

-- Ren

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

5 Books about Books

Who doesn't like a story where the plot in some way revolves around a book? I know I always enjoy one! So here are 5 books (and their sequels) about books that I have enjoyed:

With 155 unique publications the late Joan Lowery Nixon is one of those ubiquitous YA authors that most tweens/teens  will end up reading at least one book by in their time, or at least she was in the 90s when I don't know how popular/widely consumed her books still are. That being said there is a Library collection dedicated to her works at the University of Minnesota. This particular book was one of my favourites by her; it's a murder mystery, the murder of an author, the reason he's killed? The contents of his latest tell-all book, he'd brought all the people in the book together on an island to tell them about the book, and one killed him. It's up to his nosy, aspiring author great-niece Samantha to discover who the killer is.

The Library of Shadows
Mikkel Birkegaard

Has a book ever physically compelled you before? Because that happens to me on a semi-regular basis, I feel physically drawn toward certain books to the point that if I don't read them I actually start to feel kind of bad. Maybe I'm just weird. Anyway, this was one such book, it called to me while I was shelving at the WPL. It's   a bit mystery, a bit suspense/thriller, and a bit fantasy, and if I may say  would not be out of place in the same verse as Warehouse 13   and Eureka, it's got the same vibe. Jon Campelli inherits his estranged father's beloved book store after his mysterious death, but figuring out how and why his father died is really the least of his worries; after an arson attempt on the shop within days of Luca's death Jon has to go digging into the family's history. He discovers that his father and the bookstore have been hiding a remarkable secret; the store is home to, and his father was the leader of, a secret society of book lovers and readers who have been in charge of maintaining an immense magical power that dates back to the days of the Library of Alexandria, and there's someone out to steal that power from them and use it for evil. Only Jon has the strength to harness the power and stop them.

Pearl North (aka Jessica Freely, aka Anne Harris)

Libyrinth and it's sequels, The Boy from Ilysies and The Book of the Night  take place in a fantasy world where there is a huge ancient depository of books called the Libyrinth run by a race of folks called of course Libyrarians. The series is all about their search for  the  titular Book of the Night to bring peace to the world. The author, Pearl North, is just as intriguing as this series! Pearl North is just one of the pseudonymous for Anne Harris, it's her YA Fantasy pseudonym. Under her real name she write fantasy and romance novels. And under the name Jessica Freely she publishes novels and fanfiction of the male/male erotica variety.

Deborah Harkness

The author is a history professor who has multiple published non-fiction works related to science and history, so it really shouldn't be surprising that her most famous work is A Discovery of Witches which is a book about a history scholar who makes a discovery a book about the alchemical powers of witches. This history scholar conveniently happens to be a witch. The discovery of this book happens to draw to her a host of supernatural creatures who all want the book, including a very handsome 1,500 year old French vampire. Of course. It's such an amazingly well written book, a really addictive read. It had me completely absorbed, I have book two Shadow of Night on the pile but I haven't reached it yet. Discovery will be getting a re-read for sure once I get to Shadow though!

Ray Bradbury

To quote Commandant Lassard, last, but certainly not least, not in any way...Fahrenheit 451, really no list of books about books could or should be complete without it. It's about firemen who SET fires! TO BOOKS! Bradbury has created a disturbing dystopian future that seems like it could really happen one day, which is terrifying for me as a bibliophile, where books are banned. Fire squads are charged with the task of hunting down delinquents  who have the forbidden contraband and not only with torching their collections but also their houses and them as well. But there is hope, in the form of Guy Montag a fireman who comes to steal a book he should be burning, who comes to learn the value of books. Every time I think about this book since watching V for Vendetta I end up thinking about the scene in the movie where Stephen Fry's character is talking to Natalie Portman's character about his forbidden Qua'ran and the fact that just owning it could get him killed. Eerily similar societal structures in play there methinks. This is also without a doubt Bradbury's most famous work, and that's saying something for a guy who had 682 distinct works published. His death last year was a great loss to literature.

So what other books about books have you read? Which ones would you recommend I check out?

-- Rena

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

     Title: Bitten (The Women of the Otherworld, #1)
     Author: Kelley Armstrong
     Publisher: Vintage Canada
     Published: October 1, 2001
     Number of Pages: 422
     Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance
     Date Read: January 2011 (and also last night...)
     Acquired: Christmas gift from my Aunt!

Elena has  been living and working in Toronto for a year now, leading the normal life she has always dreamed of, including a stable job as a journalist, a nice apartment with a lake view (if you stand at just the right angle at the right time of day), and a wonderful, caring boyfriend who sends her flowers and cooks for her...and doesn't question the fact that she likes to go out for "walks" at 2 in the morning. Those secret midnight prowls are her way of protecting her secret, you see she's the lone female werewolf in existence. She hates it. 

She's heading back to Stonehaven though, the Pack needs her expertise; when she was with them she used her position as long female wolf to help control the renegade lone wolves. Now some of those renegades have formed an alliance and they are hell bent on exposing and annihilating the Pack. And although Elena is obliged to rejoin her "family," she vows not to be swept up in Pack life again, no matter how natural and comfortable it might feel. She has made her choice. Trouble is, she's increasingly uncertain if it's the right one. Especially the more time she spends with Clayton.
Her crisis deepens when it turns out that the renegades plans for destroying the Pack specifically revolve around her. They want her, bad. Jeremy and the Pack, especially Clayton, will do anything and everything it takes to keep Elena safe and stop the renegades, but things get out of control fast. In the end  it comes down to Elena, can she do what needs to be done? Can she save herself and the Pack? Can she choose which life she wants more?

Just last year ago she was living a very different life, not one she had chosen, but one that was chosen for her by someone she loved (still loves if she were capable of being honest with herself). After being changed several years earlier she was adopted by the Pack, living with them in Stonehaven NY.  She had spent a long struggling with her resentment at having her life stolen away. Finally, torn between two worlds, and overwhelmed by the new passions coursing through her body, her only option for control was to deny her awakening needs and escape. That was how she'd ended up in Toronto.

My aunt gave me the first three books in this series (Bitten, Stolen, Dime Store Magic) for Christmas because my Mum had mentioned to her that I'd bought the 4th, 5th and 6th books of the series when I saw them on sale a few weeks before Christmas. Being a fan of the series herself she wanted me to start right from the beginning, which I always think is a good plan with series. I remember the first time I read Patricia C. Wrede's The Enchanted Forest ChroniclesI accidentally read the last book in the series first...didn't make them any less enjoyable though. But back to the point, so she bought them for me and I started Bitten at some point in January (it was the 6th book I'd read that month I can't remember when exactly I read it) and I really loved it. I am a big fan of Supernatural Fantasy, I enjoy seeing different authors interpretations of the different species. For awhile I contemplated getting a graduate degree in English and focussing on the evolution of Supernatural Fantasy, now it's just a hobby.

Female werewolves don't pop up all that often in the genre in my experience, so having not only a major character, but the narrator of the book be not just A female werewolf but the ONLY female werewolf sparked my interest right off the bat. It's not what one usually expects and I enjoy unusual. Elena is a strong female voice. Fiercely independent, sharp, intelligent, but also deeply flawed. She's definitely not the perfect heroine that romance readers are used to and that's another thing I find that makes this novel so enjoyable. And it's not just Elena's characterisation, Kelley Armstrong is an AMAZING characterisation writer, all of her characters are really well thought out and developed I feel. Take Clayton for instance, on the surface he comes across as a possessive, violent, selfish jerk. But when you stop and look at everything he does through the lens of his motivations, beliefs and past, it's understandable why he appears that way but appearances can be deceiving. He's actually a very moral and traditional character who cares intensely about his pack, especially their Alpha, Jeremy, and Elena of course. She's also a little too good at portraying the sleazy characters of Victor and LeBlanc, they give me the creeps.

I like the mix of plots, it's not strictly romance, although the romance element is important of course because Elena is struggling to choose between two lovers; but it's not just the lovers she has to choose from, it's the lifestyles and the realities they represent. Plus while she's dealing with her identity crisis she's also got to help the Pack deal with a group of rogues who want to alternately kidnap her and use her as a brood mare, or kill her, depending on which Mutt you ask. So there's lots of good fighting action going on as well.

Overall it's a fantastic first glimpse into the Otherworld, my only complaint would be that because of the insular nature of the Pack there's no mention of the other species, but that more than gets rectified in the next book so I'm not complaining too loudly.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Reading to the point of Distraction...

Sorry everyone, proper blog post tomorrow, tonight I was driven to distraction by the book I was intending to review, made the mistake of opening it up to re-familiarise myself with it in order to write the review, and ended up re-reading it! Whoops!

-- Ren

Friday, March 1, 2013

First Read Friday: Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

     Title: Hawksong (The Kiesha'ra, #1)
     Author: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
     Publisher: Laurel Leaf
     Published: July 8, 2003
     Number of Pages: 243
     Genre(s): Fantasy, YA
     Date Read: February 15, 2013

A long, long time ago in a far away land lived many magical races of Shapeshifters, from birds, to snakes, to tigers and wolves these being could take the form of animals and of humans. This is the saga of the Kiesha'ra, the races of The Serpiente and the Avians who all descended from the ancient Kiesha. These two factions have long been divided, they have been at war for so many generations neither tribe can any longer be entirely certain of why they started fighting but they continue now out of retribution and because they know no other way. They are so diametrically opposed in their values and views that neither populace believes peace is even possible, their hatred is so entrenched.

But everything these two great tribes think they know is about to change when the young heiress to the title of Avian Tuuli Thea, Danica Shardae, a Hawk, ventures out onto the battle fields and holds the dying Gregory Cobriana, one of the sons of the ruling house of the Serpiente in her arms so that he will not die alone and will die knowing comfort, even though he had just murdered her brother Xander. That single act cements her desire to see peace between their two peoples, so that no Avian or Serpiente ever has to lose another loved one. She vows to do whatever it takes.

At the same time word gets back to the Diente of the Serpiente, Zane Cobriana, Gregory's older brother, about Danica's actions and he too is moved. Long having desired to see peace between the Avians and the Serpiente Zane has been formulating a plan for years and now he sees his moment to enact it. Arranging for the Hawk Royals to meet him at the encampent of the Tiger King for arbitration and negotiations he seeks out Danica in her bedroom and makes his proposal, literally, he proposes that they join their two houses and kingdoms by marrying one another. At first Danica is scandalised by the idea, but the more she thinks about it the more she agrees with Zane that it is the only way. So she agrees.

Can their relationship survive? Will the Avians accept a snake as their Tuuli Thea's alistair? Will the Serpiente accept a bird as their Naga? Is love really enough to overcome centuries of brutal, bloody war?

I still remember the first time I picked up a book by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, I picked up her very first book, In the Forests of the Night right around the time it came out I believe, because that was during my poet phase and I was really really into the William Blake poem she used as inspiration. If I remember correctly that may have been the book that was responsible for getting me interested in vampire's been so long I cannot recall with 100% accuracy. So yes, I am a long time Amelia Atwater-Rhodes fan, so I really can't believe it took me so long to actually read this particular set of books by her. I mean really, it's been out almost 9 years. That being said I'm really glad I finally got around to it. HawkSong is really interesting.

In the early books of her main series, The Den of Shadows she alludes to the Shapeshifters very briefly, like with Jaguar in Midnight Predator. Hawksong and it's four sequels are a companion series to The Den of Shadows giving more history and background on three of the tribes of Shapeshifters. 

While the Hawks and the Serpiente in this book are interesting I am disappointed that she didn't choose to expand on some of the tribes that she'd already mentioned in The Den of Shadows. I'd love to know more about the tribe that Jaguar descended from, and I know the Tigers actually got mentioned in this series before they got mentioned in Den but they were in Hawksong so very briefly that we learned next to nothing about them, certainly nothing that comes close to hinting about what we learn about them in Poison Tree.

Aside from the intricacies of the cultures, the story line of Hawksong really isn't complex at all, and I feel like it's been done to death. Two races at war, the children of the ruling houses decide to join the two kingdoms by marrying, tentative peace is achieved, and then you're left with a cliffhanger about whether or not it could really last. It's a tired plot line and the reader knows how it's going to end, but I still think the journey in this case is fun, if only because of the cultures of the tribes as a whole. This novel is from Danica's POV so we're locked into her Hawk sensibilities as she tries to understand and immerse herself in the Serpiente culture. I like the fish out of water angle of it and I like that Danica, by the end of the book, really, really is trying to open her heart and mind as much as possible to the Serpiente people.

What do you think, can you enjoy a book that has a plot line that's been played out to the point of becoming predictable?