Review: Aurelia by Anne Osterlund

Review: Aurelia by Anne OsterlundAurelia by Anne Osterlund
Published by Penguin on 2008-04-17
Pages: 256
Genres: Fantasy YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:

An impressive debut, equal parts commercial appeal and literary prowess.

Princess Aurelia is next in line to rule the kingdom of Tyralt, but she would rather be one of the common folk, free to learn and roam and . . . not marry the next tyrannical prince that comes courting. Naturally, the king wants Aurelia to marry for political power. Aurelia wants to marry for love. And someone in the kingdom wants her . . . dead. Assigned to investigate and protect Aurelia is Robert, the son of the king's former royal spy and one of Aurelia's oldest friends. As Aurelia and Robert slowly uncover clues as to who is threatening her, their friendship turns to romance. With everything possible on the line, her life, her kingdom, her heart, Aurelia is forced to take matters into her own hands, no matter the cost.

Thoughts: I adored Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund when I read it back in… many years ago. She immediately went onto my list of “why-must-they-be-so-perfect” authors and I hoped my next foray into Osterlund-land would be just as impressive. Years later and – at last! – I finally got the chance to read her debut novel, Aurelia. And it was good. Very good, even. But it’s no Academy 7.

Let’s start out with the good: the characters. Aurelia features a POC heroine who is doing her best to cope with a very complicated life. Boys and her hair are not her priority – but she isn’t oblivious to those things, nor is she dismissive of girls who do make that the centre of their world. Meanwhile, Robert, he book’s male protagonist, is a genuinely good human being. He may be trying to protect Aurelia, but certainly doesn’t believe he has a “right” to her. All in all: big thumbs up.

The bad: Aurelia is far, far too short. Sure, there was drama and intrigue and whatnot – but it didn’t build long enough for me to truly care about its resolution. And the ending? Rushed and unsatisfying. Of course, I know there is a sequel, and many of the outstanding issues should be resolved in the next book, but… I want some kind of real conclusion. Not just a big “TO BE CONTINUED…”. Not cute. But, then again:

  1. this is Osterlund’s first book,
  2. I’m sure it was heavily edited to fit the publishing world’s many-sequel model, and
  3. despite #1 and #2 it is still very entertaining.

Bottom line? In spite of the not-so-great aspects, Aurelia is worth a read – especially if you are into good historical YA novels. But, for God’s sake, go read Academy 7 already!

Review: Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

Review: Shadow Study by Maria V. SnyderShadow Study by Maria V. Snyder
Series: Study #4
Published by MIRA on 2015-02-24
Pages: 416
Genres: Fantasy YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Poison Study, Magic Study

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she's back with a new tale of intrigue.

Once, only her own life hung in the balance… Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she'd survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek's job and his life are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret—or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is—while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous…

Thoughts: Let me start off by saying that I am one of those fans. You know, the one of the fans that loved the Study series but was really disappointed by the final book, Fire Study. I mean, I still recommended the hell out of the series – but always with a caveat. So when I heard about Shadow Study I was both excited and nervous.

Well, I needn’t have worried. While not as stellar as the first book in the series, it was the perfect continuation of a series I had considered complete. For starters, it jumps between Valek and Yelena’s POVs – thus answering all those “but where is VALEK?” questions I had in the other books. Not only do we know where he is and what he is up to, we also get the chance to learn more about his childhood, his relationship with the Commander and his background as an assassin.

Actually, the best scenes in this book were Valek scenes. Watching him – the master of disguise – live as a woman for months in order to sneak up on a mark. Seeing how his priorities begin to shift – from the Commander to Yelena – and the impact of such a decision. From the little details to the big revelations… it was all Valek and glorious and wonderful and I wanted MORE.

Which is probably why I wasn’t quite as enraptured with Yelena’s mystery. I still adore the woman, of course, but I had such faith in her ability to handle things on her own that – well – I wasn’t too concerned about seeing her actually get out of trouble. “You’ll be fine,” I thought, rushing forward to Valek’s next chapter. That’s not to say that plot-line wasn’t good but, hey, I had other things on my mind. *cough* Valek. *cough*

I was also happy to see how Ms. Snyder incorporated her Glass series into the Study series without over or under explaining. I’m afraid I’ve read none of Opal’s books, but I was still able to get the gist of the characters and events. I imagine a lot of fans who skipped those novels will want to give them a go after reading Shadow Study.

Bottom line? Shadow Study was a wonderfully pleasant surprise. Rather than simple fan service,  Shadow Study is a solid, plot-heavy and logical continuation to the series. There was always meant to be a fourth book, it seems, and here it is.

Note: I was tempted to take this book down half a star after reading the ending! MAJOR CLIFFHANGER, people, and I do NOT approve! (Though maybe everyone else will love it? I dunno. Either way, I was NOT PREPARED. *cries*)

Shadow Study Blog tour

Review: The Holders by Julianna Scott

Review: The Holders by Julianna ScottThe Holders by Julianna Scott
Series: The Holders #1
Published by Strange Chemistry
Pages: 276
Genres: Fantasy YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from author
Add to Goodreads
Rating:

17-year-old Becca has spent her whole life protecting her brother - from their father leaving and from the people who say the voices in his head are unnatural. When two strangers appear with apparent answers to Ryland's "problem" and details about a school in Ireland where Ryland will not only fit in, but prosper, Becca is up in arms. She reluctantly agrees to join Ryland on his journey and what they find at St. Brigid's is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together information about their family's heritage and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they've been waiting for. But they are all, especially Becca, in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.

Thoughts: I have some mixed feelings about The Holders. There were some things I really enjoyed, but there was a lot that made me feel… iffy.

Let’s start off with the good, though. The Holders has a Harry Potter-esque vibe to it that I could totally get behind. Talented, magical kids whisked off to the British Isles? Say no more. Perhaps that’s a wee bit too referential for some, but I didn’t mind. I also really liked the fact that the book centred around a brother-sister relationship (I’m a Supernatural fan – siblings give me feelings).

That said, The Holders felt very much like a debut novel: there was a lot of tell with absolutely no show. The book was a series of conversations and half of the drama came from people not having the right conversation at the right time. Um, hello? That’s not drama, that’s stupidity. And add to that, you’re expecting me to believe that this girl will hop on a plane to Ireland with her brother and then wait weeks upon weeks to get all the info needed to make her final decision? Hell, even Harry Potter made sure to get all the juicy details out of Hagrid before he hopped on the Hogwarts Express. And he was eleven.

It was all just a bit too easy; it was all just a bit too simple. Maybe this book would have been better in the hands of a 12/13-year-old… someone who hasn’t already read this particular story. Especially if that kid is a girl – because, despite the somewhat rocky beginning, Scott managed to take a rather icky, non-feminist Universe and spin it on its head. Without giving away any plot twists, I do have to give a shout-out to Scott for the old-fashion “girl power” she snuck into this book.

Bottom line? Not bad but not great – don’t go in expecting anything too original.

Review: Before I Wake by Rachel Vincent

Review: Before I Wake by Rachel VincentBefore I Wake by Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers #6
Published by Harlequin Teen, MIRA
Pages: 346
Genres: Fantasy YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: My Soul to Take, My Soul to Save, My Soul to Keep, My Soul to Steal, If I Die, With All My Soul

Spoilers for previous books! Covering up her own murder was one thing, but faking life is much harder than Kaylee Cavanaugh expected. After weeks spent "recovering," she's back in school, fighting to stay visible to the human world, struggling to fit in with her friends and planning time alone with her new reaper boyfriend.

But to earn her keep in the human world, Kaylee must reclaim stolen souls, and when her first assignment brings her face-to-face with an old foe, she knows the game has changed. Her immortal status won't keep her safe. And this time Kaylee isn't just gambling with her own life….

Thoughts: Before I Wake was just an absolute treat. We’re six books into the Soul Screamers series now, and I can firmly state that none of the characters we met in the first book are the same – Kaylee most of all.

And thank God for that! Kaylee is one of those characters that has rather frustrated me over the years. She always feels pathologically responsible for the decisions of others – which leads to books and books of guilt, guilt, guilt. It’s been frustrating beyond belief.

But her death in If I Die and her break up with Nash have, well, made Kaylee grow up. This is rather sad, in a way. A lot of reviewers have commented on how they felt sorry for Kaylee in this book, that she was so depressed and that it was sad to see her that way. I understand where they are coming from. After all, she died. She can’t just “get over” that. But I happen to think that overcoming her death made her grow as a person – even if she’s not the same (happier?) girl we met in the first book. Bad things happen and they suck – but that’s part of growing up and sometimes people can come out the better because of them.

Gosh, that was maudlin.

Anyhow, I also loved what Vincent did with everyone else in this book. I very nearly felt sorry for Nash in this book (an absolute first for me, devoted anti-Nash fan that I am), and I certainly felt for Sabine (who I’ve always liked despite her insanity). Both Sabine and Nash have to deal with their own fallout from Kaylee getting together with Tod, not to mention Nash’s never-ending addiction problems. I am so glad I am not reading a book from their POV, because that would be epically woeful.

Vincent also went all out plot-wise. The ending of Before I Wake was an absolute shocker and all I could think was, “wow”. Love that this series can still surprise – considering all the bombs Vincent has dropped in this series, you’d think we’d see it all coming! But no… she’s still got us on tenterhooks.

Best for last: Tod. He remains one of my favourite characters ever and fortunately there is plenty of him in this book! I don’t want to give a single thing away, so all I will say is this: every word out of that boy’s mouth was a bloody gift.

Bottom line? While not quite as stellar as stellar as If I Die, but up there. I cannot wait for the seventh and final book in this series: With All My Soul.

Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn DolamoreMagic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
Series: Magic Under #1
Published by Bloomsbury on 2010-08-28
Pages: 256
Genres: Fantasy YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:

Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.Look out for the follow-up to this book, Magic Under Stone, out next year!

Thoughts: I was really disappointed with Magic Under Glass. It had been on my wishlist for so long, and when I got a copy I was really eager to dive in.

There was just so much I wanted to love – an interesting, fantastical world filled with magic, faeries and complex social divisions.   Unfortunately, there is nothing here that is all that special.  The universe is basically Regency England with faery foreigners and a bit of magic thrown in for the hell of it.

And the characters? Extremely one-dimensional.  Leading lady Nimira felt more like a plot tool than an actual character – moving from scene to scene for the sake of it.  Her love interest, Erris, was as mechanical as his automaton exterior – and needless to say their “tragic” love felt forced and unrealistic.

Magic Under Glass was supposed to be a lovely wholewheat-brown-bread guaranteed good read.  But it was the literary equivalent of white bread.  Very disappointing.

Bottom line? Magic Under Glass is an old-school faery tale – lots of plot, no character.  I didn’t think it was a bad book, it was a bland book.

Page 1 of 212