Thursday, 10 November 2011

Hades by Alexandra Adornetto

Jake Thorn and his demons have been banished and Xavier and Bethany settle down to resume a normal life. But on the night of Halloween, a childish prank goes terribly wrong and Jake is summoned back to the sleepy town of Venus Cove. Bethany is deceived and like the mythical Persephone she finds herself dragged into the nightmarish underworld of Hades.

While the angels call on higher powers to help rescue Bethany, Jake decides to play dirty and goes after the one thing she loves more than anything. But to spare Xavier's life, Bethany must make the ultimate sacrifice.

Will she make a deal with the Devil?
And what will happen to an angel in Hell?

What a disappointment.

My expectations for this book were at a fair height. The calm, small-town-by-the-seaside feel and orderly, sweet, though fairly uneventful plot of Halo were reasonably enjoyable, and at the time that I was reading it I was in love with it (later reflection has changed my opinion, but c'est la vie).

Hades was original, definitely. I really loved the whole deal with the seance, and the interpretation of Hell (or Hades) was refreshing and horrifying. I literally felt sick and panicky when I read about the tortures in the fiery pit and the demon orgies. Scary. Also, despite how overdone angels are in Young Adult fiction, it's rare to see a novel where the angels are actually a traditional, religious interpretation and on the God-side. It's not as sexy as FALLEN angels or whatever, but refreshing.

Character-wise, this had nothing going for it. Bethany is among the most annoying main characters I've ever read. She is silly and dependant. Her every thought is of Xavier and she always considers him when she makes a decision. She often says she can't live without him. She's an angel, not a human with wings. Yeah, I know the idea is that she is supposed to feel what humans feel and understands them, but she goes one step further than that- she's twice as oblivious as them.

I also hated the fact that she was always assuming that Xavier was thinking of her, like "I knew he was thinking about me...". She talked like she was omniscient, but she wasn't, and it really bugged me. Xavier himself was alright. He talks like a teenage boy. He acts like a teenage boy. But teenage boys usually aren't so deeply committed to their high school girlfriends (not being sexist, it works vice-versa too). I guess he's in too deep with Bethany to just be devastated but useless, like a normal teenage partner when the other goes missing. But still.

I don't understand how Molly could have a crush on Gabriel. He does not sound crush worthy. He sounds really "beautiful" and all, but also too distant to become attached to. I never saw the attraction. Ivy was more bitter this time, it wasn't consistent with the previous book.

Jake was the best character, because he has the most depth. He is unpredictable, selfish and cruel, but truly seems to care for Bethany.

As for the plot...well, it was original but completely ridiculous. It's the kind of plot where complications are solved too easily. There's not much more to say about it than that, not without giving too much away, except that stuff did happen in it. The storyline was never dull or idle, and that was enough to make the book "alright" instead of "not good". The "climax", however, was laughable. Literally, laughable.

Bethany's POV is irritating a lot of the time, because of her naivety and weak character. So, when she is still able to narrate what happens to Gabriel, Ivy, Xavier and Molly while she's in Hades and they're on Earth, you start to get fed up (also a product of "easy-problem-solving" mentioned above). If the book was split perspective, which I usually find annoying, it could have been improved.

All-in-all, I enjoyed the action in the plot, disliked the characters, liked Jake, thought the resolutions were too easy and thought that the whole thing was alright. I'll still read the third title in the series, "Heaven", because I like to finish things.

I would only reccommend this if you have already read Halo.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Two New Covers

These are also for inkpop projects: I was a Vixen is a poem I wrote and Chimes of Distress was something someone else wrote and I just made a cover. What do you think?

Monday, 31 October 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work- buying teeth from hunters and murderers- nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.


This book is totally different to anything I've ever read. I first heard about it when I watched a video recording of an editors' convention, where people from different publishing houses talked about books they were editing. Daughter of Smoke and Bone was one of these and I was absolutely ready to jump into it when the presentation had finished. Alas, I had to wait many months, but I have read it now and can tell you all about it.

Karou, the protagonist, is an amazing main character. She has a personality that definitely stands out from the Mary Sues and depressed girls that dominate the romantic young adult fiction scene. She's so independent and strong. She's good with knives and combat but isn't just a fighter girl. She's beautiful, but isn't incredibly shallow or vain. She wished for blue hair and the disappearance of skin afflictions, but we never really hear about her clothes. Her loyalty to Brimstone, the chimaera (more on that later) who raised her, is remarkable, though she still has the natural urge to disobey his orders so that she can satisfy her curiosity. Her background story is interesting and heart-breaking and makes perfect sense.

Akiva is not as good as Karou, character-wise. He's the typical guy-with-wings that you have to fall in love with because he's gorgeous and shows the ideal boyfriend material with his deep, brooding thoughts and amazing love for his girl. However, his story with Karou and his history with a girl called Madrigal are soulful and very non-boring.

Plot-wise, it was incredibly original. Apart from the fact that there were ANGELS, which we know are somewhat overused in young adult fiction these days, the mythology was basic but unique. Pretty much, there are the chimaeras- creatures that are a mixture of animal and sometimes human body parts- and the angels- who are simply winged people with great combat skill and some magic. These two races are at war in their world, Eretz. Humans aren't really essential to the story, except for the fact that Karou lives among them and Brimstone has portals leading from the human world to his magical shop of wishes. The wishes are the main part of the story, along with the fact that Brimstone buys teeth of all sorts from people in exchange for wishes. We don't find out a lot about the trades until the end. It follows Karou's search to discover who she is and to find her loved ones.

This story focuses on the idea that "magic" is dangerous and painful and that the real magic is in human will and hope. This theme is reiterated at regular intervals through the book, the power being demonstrated more and more as it occurs. It's incredible how characters can solve their problems through hope. Romance is explored, particularly the idea of love and fate being intertwined, but the good thing is that the plot doesn't focus on love entirely. It's sort of a secondary theme, in between the foreground and the background where it looks really quite nice. The lovers in the book have a beautiful chemistry and are pleasant to read.

This is an amazing read for teenagers and older. It hasn't got any flaws that I can conjure from the top of my head. There isn't really a lot that happens in this first book, except in some flashbacks, but you don't notice because of how engaged you are. If you like books with magic, romance and mythological creatures, this is a perfect addition to your "To Read" list. 

I rate it: 


Laini Taylor is epic!

Monday, 19 September 2011

My Cover for Cirque La Vie

So, I'm on! My username is Unsuspected Evil Butterfly (I got it from the Simpsons) and my writing project of the moment is called Cirque la Vie. To find out more about it and read some, click on this link:

So, in order to personalise my project, I've been mucking around with Photoshop, making book covers and this is one I am particularly proud of. It's so pretty, isn't it? Is it?

Friday, 29 July 2011


C.C. posted this on one of her sites and naturally, I just had to share it! Can't wait til the book comes! 

The fog was thick, muffling sound and sight; whereit parted, Will Herondale could see the street rising ahead of him, slick and wet and black with rain, and hear the voices of the dead.
Not all Shadowhunters could hear ghosts, unless the ghosts chose to be heard, but Will was one of the few who could. As he approached the old cemetery, their voices rose in a ragged musical chorus: wails and pleading, cries and snarls. This was not a peaceful burial ground, but Will knew that; it was not his first visit to the Cross Bones Graveyard near London Bridge. He did his best to block out the noises, hunching his shoulders so that his collar covered his ears, his head down, a fine mist of rain dampening his black hair.
The entrance was halfway down the block: a pair of wrought iron gates set into a high stone wall. Any mundane passing by could see the thick chain that bound the gates shut, and the sign declaring the premises closed—it had been fifteen years since a body was buried here. As Will neared the gates, something no mundane would have seen materialized out of the fog: a great bronze knocker in the shape of a hand, the fingers bony and skeletal. With a grimace, Will reached out one of his own gloved hands and lifted the knocker, letting it fall once, twice, three times, the hollow clank resounding through the night like the rattling chains of Marley’s ghost.
Beyond the gates, mist rose like steam from the ground, obscuring the grave markers and long, uneven plots of earth between them. Slowly the mist began to coalesce, taking on an eerie blue glow. Will put his hands to the bars of the gate; the cold of the metal seeped through his gloves, into his bones, and he shivered. It was a more than ordinary cold—when ghosts rose, they drew energy from their surroundings, depriving the air and space around them of heat. The hairs of the back of Will’s neck prickled and stood up as the blue mist formed slowly into the shape of an old woman in a ragged dress and white apron, her head bent.
“Hallo, Mol,” said Will. “You’re looking particularly fine this evening, if I do say so.”
The ghost raised her head. Old Molly was a strong spirit, one of the stronger Will had encountered. Even as moonlight speared through a gap in the clouds, she hardly looked transparent: her body was solid, her hair twisted in a thick yellow-gray coil over one shoulder, her rough, red hands braced on her hips. Only her eyes were hollow, twin blue flames flickering in their depths.
“William Herondale,” she said. “Back again so soon?”
She moved toward the gate with that gliding motion pecu liar to ghosts. Her feet were bare and filthy, despite the fact that they never touched the ground.
Will leaned against the gate. “You know I missed your pretty face.”
She grinned, her eyes flickering, and he caught a glimpse of the skull beneath the half-transparent skin. Overhead, the clouds had closed in on each other again, black and roiling, blocking out the moon. Idly, Will wondered what Old Molly had done to get herself buried here, far from consecrated ground. Most of the whispering voices of the dead belonged to prostitutes, suicides, and stillbirths—those outcast dead who could not be buried in a churchyard. Although Molly had managed to make the situation quite profitable for herself, so perhaps she didn’t mind.
She chortled. “What d’you want then, young Shadowhunter? Malphas venom? I ‘ave the talon of a Morax demon, polished very fine, the poison at the tip entirely invisible—”
“No,” Will said. “That’s not what I need. I need Foraii demon powders, ground fine.”
Molly turned her head to the side and spat a tendril of blue fire. “Now what’s a fine young man like you want with stuff like that?”
Will just sighed inwardly; Molly’s protests were part of the bargaining process. Magnus had already sent Will to Old Mol several times now, once for black stinking candles that stuck to his skin like tar, once for the bones of an unborn child, and once for a bag of faeries’ eyes which had dripped blood on his shirt. Foraii demon powder sounded pleasant by comparison.
“You think I’m a fool,” Molly went on. “This is a trap, innit? You Nephilim catch me selling that sort of stuff, an’ it’s the stick for Old Mol, it is.”
“You’re already dead.” Will did his best not to sound irritable. “I don’t know what you think the Clave could do to you now.”
“Pah.” Her hollow eyes flamed. “The prisons of the Silent Brothers, beneath the earth, can ‘old either the living or the dead; you know that, Will Herondale.”
Will held his hands up. “No tricks, old one. Surely you must have heard the rumors running about Downworld. The Clave has other things on its mind than tracking down ghosts who traffic in demon powders and faerie blood.” He leaned forward. “I’ll give you a good price.”
He drew a cambric bag from his pocket and dangled it in the air. It clinked like coins rattling together. “They all fit your description, Mol.”
An eager look came over her dead face, and she solidified enough to take the bag from him. She plunged one hand into it and brought her palm out full of rings—gold wedding rings, each tied in a lover’s knot at the top. Old Mol, like many ghosts, was always looking for that talisman, than lost piece of her past that would finally allow her to die, the anchor that kept her trapped in the world. In her case, it was her wedding ring. It was common belief, Magnus had told Will, that the ring was long gone, buried under the silty bed of the Thames, but in the meantime she’d take any bag of found rings on the hope one would turn out to be hers. So far it hadn’t happened.
She dropped the rings back into the bag, which vanished somewhere on her undead person, and handed him a folded sachet of powder in return. He slipped it into his jacket pocket just as the ghost began to shimmer and fade. “Hold up, there, Mol. That isn’t all I have come for, tonight.”

The spirit flickered while greed warred with impatience and the effort of remaining visible. Finally, she grunted. “Very well. What else d’you want?”
Will hesitated. This was not something Magnus had sent him for; it was something he wanted to know for himself. “Love potions—”
Old Mol screeched with laughter. “Love potions? For Will Herondale? T’aint my way to turn down payment, but any man who looks like you has got no need of love potions, and that’s a fact.”
“No,” Will said, a little desperation in his voice, “I was looking for the opposite, really—something that might put an end to being in love.”
“An ‘atred potion?” Mol still sounded amused.
“I was hoping for something more akin to indifference? Toleration … ?”
She made a snorting noise, astonishingly human for a ghost. “I ‘ardly like to tell you this, Nephilim, but if you want a girl to ‘ate you, there’s easy enough ways of making it ‘appen. You don’t need my help with the poor thing.”
And with that, she vanished, spinning away into the mists among the graves. Will, looking after her, sighed. “Not for her,” he said, under his breath, though there was no one to hear him, “for me …” and he leaned his head against the cold iron gate.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares

After I fell in love with the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, I looked to more of Ann Brashares' books to fill my time. I came across The Last Summerand thought I would be immersed in a story of love, friendship and emotion. The blurb led me to believe so. 

The blurb LIED. 

Certainly, you immediately got the feel of a laid-back beach town. It was sleepy and pleasant in the beginning and seemed the perfect place for the perfect teenage romance. I liked the way that Alice, Riley and Paul each told some of the story. I liked the way that Alice and Paul's relationship started to develop- slow, shy and magnetic. I liked the way that Riley was so self-absorbed and determined. 

After the illness, however, everything was different. The relationships became annoying and taut. The sleepiness of the island started putting ME to sleep. Riley wasn't allowed to be Riley any more. The writing style was dull and the plot was just too uneventful for too long. 

I couldn't finish reading this book. While I had it on loan from my school library, I lost it at least three times. I left it in the school hall, at my lunch seat in the school grounds and in one of my previous classes. I was bored and unmoved. 

I wouldn't recommend this, personally. I didn't feel the story or the characters. I was completely unimpressed. You can do better, Ann.


Passion by Lauren Kate

Luce has been confused about her relationship with Daniel for long enough. Now, she’s going to delve into their past to get the answers she wants…a past that goes right back to the Fall from Heaven…
The Fallen series has FINALLY changed. This book was a clear stand-out from Fallen and Torment- in these books, Luce and Daniel’s relationship is shrouded in depression, confusion and secrecy- a monument to the love of a girl who’s been left in the dark and a boy who’s afraid and unwilling to show her the light. In Passion, the absence of the dark, soggy mood and the distractions of other guys, we can see the real beauty behind this once never-ending love and let ourselves relax with a soft, sweet read of a mutual, instinctual adoration.
Luce is FINALLY taking control. She knows what she wants and she’s not letting Daniel stop her from running her own life, even if she is and always will be crazy about him. She is still too quick to accept help from other, unfamiliar people, a short-coming that has been seen throughout the series and the one washy quality she retains from her boarding school days. It is good to see that she has grown independent, unique and a little bit special, even if she is stupid.
The really interesting thing here, however, is the variation between her past personalities. We get up close and personal with many different Lucinda’s and see sides of her that we never would connect with her name.
Daniel is FINALLY not presenting himself as overbearing, uncaring, rude, forceful, or a jackass! And just when I thought that he could never redeem himself… This is a place to take a break and watch how Daniel really feels about Luce…how he’s always felt about Luce. He’s totally focused on her now, not on keeping her from blah blah blah and saving her from blah blah blah and not letting her know blah blah blah. This is about him getting her back, just so that he knows for sure that she is safe. He hasn’t grown, necessarily, but he’s different in Passion, and it’s a side of him that I like infinitely better.
The writing style was quaint and low-key- it was a good representation of the mood of the story and the feeling of taking a break from the drama. Until, of course, it becomes evident that we are hopping right back on the Drama Train. The format- a backwards chronology- is good and nicely relevant to the  way this story needed to be played out. The new twist here would have been shocking if a certain someone hadn’t told me what it was and you’ll be surprised to find the evil in this tale that can’t possibly be all sunshine and rainbows.
This is a book that is well-deserving of the 


that I gave it. If you can find more faults with it, then I’m going to guess you preferred the doom and gloom to the romance and you found it over-whelming and unrealistically soppy. If that is your opinion, then we’ll have to agree to disagree. I loved Passion and most people should as well. (Not that I am implying that my opinion is more important than anyone else’s.)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Families are really the most amazing things in the the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy and their friend Laurie grow up, they encounter struggles, triumphs and griefs, and learn lessons in love, sadness and life.

I'd read this book in the children's form when I was eight or nine and bought the second part [entitled Good Wives] at the age of ten. Back then, I'd appreciated the story and enjoyed it a lot, but hadn't fully understood it. I'm glad to have read the full story in its original form- I now see lessons and morals I hadn't seen the first time and, having grown up some myself, I can empathise and connect with the characters and their wants and troubles- particularly with Jo.

What characters they are too! Meg is sure of herself and sensible, reaching for things that she shouldn't have to strain for and getting what she can safely expect. She is the pinnacle of old-fashioned womanliness and a usual first child. Jo is a great contrast to her elder sister- she represents young women of today! She is wilful and wild and ambitious. She likes her freedom and is eager for independence. Beth is the perfect child- sweet, helpful and selfless, she never thinks of herself and is brave and the strongest of the four girls. Her fate is saddening in its unfairness. Amy is a good, fashionable lady. Fond of socialising and dreaming of a life of luxury and bliss, Amy is the girl that most of us are deep down- eager to look nice, to please people and to receive wanted male attention. Laurie is a funny boy who grows up through the book in a way similar to that of Romeo. An unrequited love brings him into a mood and he is revived by a more willing recipient of his affections. He's good fun and his brotherly spirit keeps the story from being all girl.

As for the actual story- it is an outdated outlook on life, but one which can be applied to our lives all the same. Though ideas of wives being for housekeeping and things like that are expressed, it's easy to see how the story would go if it were to happen in our time. It is very sentimental and very much about how to grow up without losing your childhood. The end was near tear-inducing with its charm, simplicity and age-old beauty.

If you're a woman or girl looking for a wake-up call, some good classic novel or simply a sweet read, or even a boy who feels he might appreciate the story, I'd say "full speed ahead!" and dive into it!

My Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Van Alen Legacy by Melissa de la Cruz

The world of the Blue Bloods is falling apart as we begin to spiral towards a conclusion of a great series and a dramatic struggle for survival...

This is the fourth book in the Blue Bloods series and it doesn't disappoint. There is a good balance of action and slow-paced stuff. With revelations, tours of the world, more flashbacks and a great surprise at the end, the plot was rich and interesting.

Romance has taken a back seat now. There is less of it in every book, though I suspect that the Schuyler-Jack ending in this book suggests that the flame will be rekindled in the next instalment. This was very much a book of secrets and confrontations, with plot twists and turns that can be a little confusing if you don't concentrate. The split perspective between Schuyler, Bliss and Mimi keeps you on your toes and the contrast between their personal stories at this point is heavy.

Schuyler is very much an unchanging character, but a strong one. She is motivated and very prepared to do anything to stop the Silver Bloods. Her romance with Jack doesn't impact on the story much, but a twist at the end leaves us confused as to what has changed between the two...

Bliss is my favourite of the three main characters- she is a lovely person with a dark secret. I think that this book is really about facing your demons and holding on to normality for her. She's under a lot of stress from the events of the previous books and she's not herself, but she is still a sweet, darling girl to everyone. She's consistent and a rock and she may be the only one of the three main girls who has her head screwed on straight.

We're starting to see Mimi grow up. While there is no drastic change, her relationship with Kingsley and the work she does in this book show us that she's got her priorities in a slightly more sensible order- survival of the coven, survival of herself, Kingsley, safety of small children in Rio. She seems to care less for Jack in this book and the feeling is mutual.

As a note- these characters are sixteen, seventeen years old. They don't really feel like sixteen-seventeen year olds. Their behaviour, thoughts and actions- especially where Mimi is concerned- are all those of young women in their twenties- or at least that's how it seemed to me. I was unable to relate much to them.

The pivotal point of the series, The Van Alen Legacy is a compelling read that paves the road to Misguided Angel with anticipation and expectation. If you've read the previous Blue Bloods books, it's definitely worth reading on- randomly reading Van Alen Legacy without reading the others first could cause confusion and a lack of interest.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, 17 June 2011

Sixsational by Meg Cabot

Princess Mia's had a lot on her plate lately...just like always!

This was a well-written sixth instalment to The Princess Diaries, where Mia's life is still as chaotic as ever, but without being so chaotic it's no longer something girls can relate to.

This was the instalment where I really connected with Mia. I suppose it was her birthday that clicked me on in the previous instalment- mine was happening a couple of days after I read it- but as I was reading Sixsational, I picked up on some stuff:

1. We share a love of writing
2. We're both seeming to do better at maths than english, when we would much rather be better at the latter
3. We both have our limits in the love-life department
4. We're both on the nerdy side without nerdiness taking over our lives
5. We're both opposed to the generically popular crowd

That being said, I'm sure there's a side of Mia that any young girl could relate to. It's as though Meg Cabot has designed her like this- like a leader for the girls who are thrust to the pits of school society, to show them that they are just as good- if not better- than the crowds who thrive on popularity for ridiculous reasons.

Mia is something of a Princess of Misfits.

The plot was, as usual, entertaining and original. I've never read anything quite on the level of this series, except, perhaps, the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, which was more focused on the humour of being a teenager and romantic  developments in this time.

This is a great read which WILL make you want to read on. Prepare to be hooked on a series.

I think any girl over 13 should have access to this series.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Shiver by Maggie Steifvater

The town of Mercy Falls is small, quiet and uneventful- until a boy is supposedly killed by the wolves of the forest. Grace feels a connection to these wolves and needs to find out more about what's happening, to help save them. She would risk anything to keep HER wolf out of harm's way...

This was an amazing read! Just like the town where the story takes place, the pace is slow and mostly uneventful, but what does happen in between combines teenage romance with paranormal mystery in a beautiful way.

Grace and Sam are both well-written, unique characters who really do have an air of true love about them. Grace is strong and independent, with an apathy towards her parents and Sam is poetic and decent, wanting to find his way in the normal world without leaving his own behind.

The quality of Maggie Stiefvater's writing is magical- it is slow and descriptive, not leaving any details behind while still just keeping it simple. It doesn't bore at all- it moves you and you will put the book down at the end feeling hungry for more.

My Rating: 5/5

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood

The Septembers are back for another summer, still bearing the wounds and lessons of the one before and ready to make more memories worthy of the Travelling Pants...

This was one sequel that didn't disappoint. The story continued with the same themes of friendship and with more life-lessons learned. It follows a similar pattern to that of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, the first book in the series. Tibby, Lena, Bridget and Carmen encounter problems with love, life and family. It's a great story about finding yourself (again), learning the weight of your actions, the proper place that romance has in young lives and about remembering those that inspired us in the first summer of the Pants.

I enjoyed this book pretty well and think that it's got a lot of great lessons and morals. It had a slow pace that didn't leave you bored and every story was one that you were interested in. It was realistic and an accurate portrayal of the lives of teenagers. I can't wait to read The Third Summer of the Sisterhood!

my rating: 4/5

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

In the Paris of the 1930's, a young boy lives alone in a cramped roof apartment in a train station, where he tries to escape notice and desperately works to continue his father's legacy. Hugo faces complications along the way, however, in the form of a nosy, bossy girl and a grumpy, secretive old man. Can Hugo evade his fears and complete his task?

The Invention of Hugo Cabret was an interesting, beautifully illustrated graphic novel with warm themes and a cold situation. The character of Hugo was beautifully portrayed in an array of soft lead sketches and words. He is a quiet, determined, intriguing boy who is driven to be evasive and intelligent enough to get his way in most situations. His lonely situation makes you feel sorry for him often. He is an admirable character.

I was captured by the illustrations and story line of this graphic novel. The mixture of "stills" (the pictures) and words organised into chapters made for a complimentary set up- particularly for this story. I enjoyed the mystique and the classic Audrey-Hepburn-feel that the setting and old movie references and stills thoroughly and couldn't wait to see what answers would come from Hugo's project. It is a quick read, however, and you would get more out of it if you concentrate on the pictures. Try not to be tempted to just flick through them all.

I reccommend this book as a short read for anyone who can read fluently.

My Rating: 4/5

Monday, 18 April 2011

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

It seems that everything has just gone right in the world of Shadowhunters, demons and magical beings, but, in reality, the great triumph for the Shadowhunters against Valentine has opened up a world of even greater evil…
When Valentine was killed, the Downworlders given a place among the Clave and Clary Fray and Jace Lightwood finally got together, everything seemed to turn back to normal. Simon Lewis, however, is feeling anything but normal. His vampire compulsions are getting stronger and his unusual condition forces him into the world of vampire politics, a place he never wanted to be. His two girlfriends and new werewolf friend aren’t helping. Jace is acting very strange and his relationship with Clary is getting dark and noticeably tense. An old girlfriend of Magnus Bane’s pops up and there’s something scary going on with human babies not far away...Can Jace and Clary work out what’s going on with Jace? Will Simon discover and take the right path for his new, vampiric self? Can the whole group stop the evil lurking in all their lives before a new horror arises?
Cassandra Clare has been welcomed lovingly into the arms of the young adult fiction fan base, her Mortal Instruments series thrilling, delighting and ensnaring many young-ish readers. The latest instalment to this series, City of Fallen Angels, was highly anticipated by these readers and is something that I couldn’t wait for!
I wasn’t sure whether I liked C.O.F.A. or not. On the one hand, it was just as exciting as ever and still closely linked to the plot of the previous three books in the series, which I wasn’t expecting- where I thought that the old problem would die down and something new would come up elsewhere, a stronger, more disturbing issue has risen from the ashes of Valentine’s failure and Clary’s mistakes. On the other hand, there is an immense contrast between C.O.F.A. and the first half of the series- the quality of Clare’s characters has been lost, for the best in everyone except Jace. Jace’s problem has robbed him of his wit, sarcastic humour and self-centred attitude. The Mortal Instruments series just seems so much emptier without the humour that Clare had no way to pair with the darkness of her themes.
I think that the book being predominantly in Simon’s point of view was a good thing. Simon has grown as a character and his story is one of the most interesting by far, because he is so unsure of what he’s going to do about almost everything! It was good to wonder what side he would take in the vampire’s political troubles, which girl did he like the most out of the two he was dating and how was he going to cope with the struggles of his bloodlust. People that I spoke to before reading C.O.F.A. were pretty negative about Simon’s point of view and I am happy that they were more or less wrong in their presumptions.
This was a sufficiently exciting story with a strong plot and a good link to the first half of the series. Upset though I was with the absence of Jace’s usual character traits, I am intrigued by the rest of the story and cannot wait until the next book comes out. I recommend this to any teenager seeking an adventurous, action-packed, dark read with watered-down horror (very watered-down, or I wouldn’t have been able to read it).
My Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Wings/Spells by Aprilynne Pike

In a small California town, fifteen-year-old Laurel is sent from a sheltered life of home-schooling into a normal high school when her family move house. Already nervous about school and settling in cautiously, there is more stress and tension added to her life when a giant white flower- shaped like a pair of wings- grows out of her back. On a trip back to her old home, which her parents are trying to sell to someone that gives Laurel the creeps, Laurel meets Tamani, someone who tells her that she's a Fall faerie and...something else. Laurel is sucked into the magical world where she belongs, battling trolls and her inexperience to claim ownership of her old house for the good of the faeries.

The story continues in Spells, where Laurel finds herself off to Avalon to finally learn the ways of the Fall faeires. Her new-found knowledge is put to the test upon her return home to her well-informed human parents and she still hasn't completely won the battle against the trolls...and now, she has to worry about the mysterious humans that have been taking too much of an interest in Laurel's safety. Also, Tamani and Laurel's human boyfriend David are getting jealous of each other and Laurel can't decide who she wants to be with more!

The first two books in this series were a little different to anything I'd ever read. Aprilynne Pike's version of faeries is the most original take on them that I know of. The plot...not so much. It's pretty Twilight-ish, except that it has less focus on romance and more on the weirdness of Laurel's species and how she adjusts to it.

Laurel was a Mary Sue in my opinion- she was quiet, smart, unsociable, too nice and unwittingly caused romantic turmoil. She's one of those people that look nice in the background and is highly reminiscent of Bella Swan. I felt that, as a main character in a book series that was showing some promise in every other area, she could have had some other, more realistic qualities- a genuine bad side, something that made her only human, in every sense that can be applied to her. Somethings that I would have liked to see is vanity, being self-assured and assertive and getting really angry. Main characters need something that makes them stand out- Laurel lacked that.

Tamani and David are a lot better. Tamani's very clever and confident, with a very supportive attitude to the faerie hierarchy system and, from his description, he is very hot. David is perfect boyfriend/best friend material- he's supportive, eager to help out, sweet, smart and, most importantly, he's funny. Both of their relationships with Laurel, however, are not what they could be.

I also feel that the climaxes weren't incredibly interesting, although the idea of trolls isn't something used a lot in YA. A lack of adrenaline coming frfom Laurel was mostly to blame, but the situations themselves were fairly boring as well.

The chronological, third person writing style that Pike adopted in this series made the story easy to follow and understand.

Despite main character issues, I found these books interesting and unique. If I can get my hands on the third book, Illusions, I will continue reading the series, to see how Laurel resolves her issues with the trolls and her boy troubles, as well as to find out if the series will get anymore exciting.

My rating- 3/5
 Meanwhile, Disney has recently claimed the rights to the film of Wings and are already starting on it. Miley Cyrus has been tipped to play Laurel, although I'm not entirely sure how that will work out.


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Beastly by Alex Flinn
Beastly, a novel written by Alex Flinn is a modern take on the classic fairytale, Beauty and the Beast. It takes the story and tells it to us in a way that most people our age can relate to…except this time, we hear the story from the Beast.
Handsome, popular Kyle Kingsbury angers a witch named Kendra with a tasteless practical joke, causing her to turn him into a beast. The only way he can turn back into himself is if he falls in love with a girl who can love him back despite his ugliness and only if they kiss within two years of the casting of Kyle’s curse. When Kyle, secluded and lonely, is given the opportunity to fall in love with Lindy, who’s father tried to rob Kyle’s house and made a deal with Kyle (he would give Kyle Lindy if Kyle didn’t call the police), Kyle finds himself falling in love and desperately tries to get Lindy to reciprocate the feelings before the two years are up.
This story was one of the most romantic things I’ve ever read. The thoughts of the main character- which are portrayed beautifully by the first person point of view- are sweet and often had me squealing in enchantment. I took delight in the darkness of the depths of Kyle’s mind. The writing style and language used were very relatable for teenagers. I found nothing wrong with it, unless you can count the devastatingly short time it took to read it.
A wonderful story where the prince must earn his princess and where romance is so thick it almost rolls off the page in smoky fumes, I recommend this to any girl over the age of thirteen- there are some adult references in the book and this really is a girls’ book. I enjoyed it immensely and cannot remember ever being more hyped for the main character to get their dream kiss in my life. I’m sure most people will enjoy Beastly.
My rating: 4.5/5

With a Sword in my Hand by Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem and Pat van Biers
 Set in the 14th century, this is the exciting and romantic adventure tale that describes the life of Marguerite van Male, a young Flemish countess who is the only child of a man who wants a son. Told through Marguerite’s own perspective, we hear about her childhood in the castle of Flanders where she lives, her dealings with men and boys and her various rebellious deviations from the path that her father had chosen for her. Marguerite begins the tale by recounting the story of her own birth. We next hear of her mother’s insanitation and of how she is sent to stay with monks. Afterwards, Marguerite begins to grow up. She takes it upon herself to secretly learn swordplay and horseback-riding, skills that only boys were allowed to learn.  She also runs around with the young squires of the castle, and teases her governess constantly. Then, when she is fourteen, her father chose to marry her off to an English prince, Edmund. Marguerite desperately tries to put an end to the marriage, eventually succeeding. The pestilence is brought to Flanders and death and disease is suddenly everywhere. Marguerite eventually marries Philip, a rich young Frenchman. They live in his own castle until he dies, prompting Marguerite to leave her life as she knew it for a life in a convent. Right at the end, her father tries to steal her away from the convent again and engages her in a sword fight. It is during this fight that he finally shows a good nature.
Marguerite Van Male is a strong character, based loosely on a real woman of the same name. She has great qualities, like determination, courage and pride. She doesn’t let anyone push her around, regardless of age or gender, unless she has something to benefit from it. She always has her own best interests at heart. She has a bad relationship with her father, full of hatred, and has a stronger father-bond with the man that teaches her swordplay, a cynical Italian. She loves her governess as a mother figure, despite her teasing. She despises Edmund and likes Philip. She gives her affection to those who are good to her and dislikes anyone who treats her unkindly.
The antagonist in this story is Marguerite’s father, the Count of Flanders. He tries constantly to put an end to her fiery spirit and bull-headed ways with threats. He craves a son and resents Marguerite for being his only child, calling her a cruel joke and saying that she is “the gods laughing at me”. You feel very badly about him, right until the end, when he finally shows some good qualities.
The authors of this book use a very simple format. It is perfectly chronological, with a first person point of view (Marguerite) and conservative language. There isn’t any Elizabethan language, such as “thy” or “doth” but simply an older way of putting words together, using “I am” instead of “I’m” and not contracting many words at all. They’ve played with the genres of adventure, historical and romance, blending them together very well. They focus on themes of strength and determination, leaving us with the message that we can only get what we truly want if we are willing to fight and fight hard for it. We are also told that friendship can only happen if both friends are going to keep it up. There is only one real climax in this book- the fight at the end of book between Marguerite and her father. However, this did not make reading it very dull, because I was always eager to learn of what would happen to Marguerite in her next small adventure.

This book was enjoyable and a quick, easy read. It was perfectly understandable and contained great content. I thought it was an excellent example of medieval feminism, a theme which I enjoyed immensely. With its happy yet realistic ending, I was thoroughly satisfied. I’d recommend this to anyone older than twelve years of age as a brief time-filling read.
My rating- 3.5/5