Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton

Book Description via Goodreads:

Advanced Bound Manuscript, 352 pages
September 27, 2011, Tor/Macmillan USA

Debut novelist Kiki Hamilton takes readers from the gritty slums and glittering ballrooms of Victorian London to the beguiling but menacing Otherworld of the Fey in this spellbinding tale of romance, suspense, and danger. 

The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.

Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist.

Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty…

Source: Kiki Hamilton (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Hamilton presented a London that had so many abandoned children, orphans and pickpockets. It was a fragile and problematic time wherein money was hard to earn and food came scarcely. I was entirely sold out to how the world was built. It seemed real, complete with all the drama of everyday life in the streets. I found it easy to sympathize with the street urchins of The Faerie Ring because here in my country, there are a handful of them too. Their situation was really heartbreaking.

Tara Kathleen, aka Tiki, was one of a kind. Born into a well-off family, she had luxuries as a child. She was well-loved and taken care of. But everything changed when her parents died. She wound up in the streets, penniless, hopeless and lost. She met Fiona and Shamus, two cousins who lived in the streets, striving to live and getting money from pickpocketing. Fiona and Shamus, among two other children – Clara and Toots, were Tiki’s new family. They were unfortunate victims of fate but they tried to make the most out of their situation. They were not related by blood but they lived together and helped each other.

Tiki had found Clara in a pile of trash, almost dead. She struggled to nurse Clara back to health. But with the lack of food, lack of clean clothes and water, Clara kept getting worse. But with Tiki’s amazing find, the Queen’s ring, she might just be able to get enough money to pay Clara’s hospital bills, bring her home, buy a house and supply enough food for her family. But it turned out, getting the money was going to be difficult.

Rieker, a known name among pickpockets, bumped into Tiki a couple of times. He had noticed the strange birthmark on her wrist – a swirl of vines and leaves – and had become intrigued with her. With his handsome face and his charm, he was easy to admire. But Tiki was worried about his interest in the Queen’s ring. Tiki did not trust him. Could Rieker prove that his intentions were good before it’s too late?

The Queen’s ring held the fire of the treaty between the royal family of London and the fey. With it gone missing from the palace, anyone (any fey) could easily get rid of it and then the treaty would be broken. War will set loose. The fey could conquer London.

As usual, there were two fey courts: Seelie and Unseelie. However, only Unseelie fey appeared in The Faerie Ring. They wanted to break the treaty, get back what was once theirs – London. Hamilton portrayed them as vicious, hot-tempered and unpredictable creatures donning human skin. Larkin, the blonde fey, was absolutely intriguing. Even though I hated her, I have to admit that her character kept me reading on.

The Faerie Ring is a perfect fusion of historical fiction and urban fantasy – the best of both worlds, outstanding in tragedy, suspense, peril and magic. Enthralling, dark, mysterious – the story took my breath away with every passing shadow, every budding doubt and every unearthed secret.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Book Description via Goodreads:

Paperback, 398 pages
January 11, 2011, Razorbill

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming. 

Source: Borrowed from Kai (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Revis’s dystopian world was distinct. It stood out in the expanding field of dystopian works. It gave me the same claustrophobic feeling that Inside Out gave me. But the enclosed and limited space was not the only reason why I felt unease and discomfort, it was also because of the society itself. The people were too detached, too obedient and too silent for me. It was weird and off-putting. I immediately wanted to know what was up with them. I wasn’t disappointed with the revelation. The harsh, cruel edge of Across the Universe clashed with the sensitive and pro-human views of a human girl from Sol-Earth, Amy.

I felt connected with Amy. Her character was well-developed. I felt her sadness, her pain and her loss. Her part of the novel was what intrigued me the most. The beginning of the story was a fabulous and chilling kick-off scene. Amy and her parents went to the place where they were about to be cryogenically frozen, preserved for hundreds of years. Her parents had important roles to play in the New Earth but Amy didn’t have any. She just wanted to be with her family. She was also leaving something behind – her school, her friends, Jason and her life. It was a painful but necessary sacrifice for her. But everything that people told her could never prepare her for the actual freezing and sleeping for 301 years.

Elder, the next leader of Godspeed, was a curious, somewhat disobedient and somewhat reckless teen. He had lots of questions about everything happening around him but at the same time, he was also a part of it. He was part of Godspeed and didn’t really see the wrongness, the weirdness that was surrounding him. Having been born on the ship, he has become accustomed to these changes. One of the recent changes that he had to deal with was living with Eldest, the oldest and wisest man onboard and the Captain. His relationship with Eldest was quite strained. Though he respected Eldest, there was a part of him that wanted to rebel, wanted to question and wanted to demand answers. When he met Amy, he thought she was the most beautiful girl he had laid his eyes on.

Amy woke up in a different time, a different place with totally different people. She was a stranger – a sort of outcast because of her difference. Her white skin and her red hair were like neon signs pointing to her, saying ‘Freak, over here!’ But the reaction of the people to her was something she could deal with. What she couldn’t deal with were the wrong things that she witnessed onboard Godspeed. Trying to define and explain what was normal in a place where everyone was controlled and led to believe lies for years and years, was a big challenge for Amy, especially since she was moving against Eldest. Together with Elder, she tried to find out who was responsible for unplugging her and the other frozens.

One of the most shocking books I’ve read this year, Across the Universe is a thrilling, alarming and ambitious exploration of humanity, love and truth. I highly recommend this!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: Tiger's Quest by Colleen Houck

Book Description via Goodreads:

Hardcover, 457 pages
June 7, 2011, Splinter

Kelsey Hayes is no ordinary college freshman. In fact, the eighteen-year-old girl has just returned from India, where she risked her life—and her heart—to rescue a handsome Indian prince from a terrible curse. Back home in Oregon, Kelsey is determined to move on, despite the lingering feelings she has for the man she left behind. She meets Li, a completely average guy who offers the promise of an ordinary, curse-free life. But just when Kelsey is ready to move on, Ren reenters her life, on a quest to reclaim her heart. Danger threatens their newly rekindled love and to save him, Kelsey must journey with someone else—a man who wants her for himself. The saga begun in Tiger’s Curse continues in Tiger’s Quest, as Kelsey finds herself in an epic battle between good and evil. From the shores of the Pacific Northwest to the jungles of India, the mountains of Nepal and Tibet, and the mystical realm of Shangri-la, this suspenseful tale of love, sacrifice, and redemption is not to be missed.

Source: Bought

My Thoughts:

Tiger’s Quest kicked off with a sad separation. Kelsey decided to go back to US and leave behind Ren in India. It hurt her so bad to stay away from him but she wanted to give him a chance to think, to live life freely without having to feel pressured of giving back Kelsey’s love. She was surprised with what waited for her arrival. With this, she was more than capable of having a fresh start. She started college and kept herself busy. But no matter what she did, her heart always longed for Ren. She still felt the connection between them, which has stretched between two continents. His absence made her stronger and switched on her survival instinct. She tried to move on, one step at a time.

Just like Kelsey, Ren was also suffering. Every moment hurt but he respected that Kelsey wanted him to stay away and start his new life. But he couldn’t stay away from her anymore. He came back in her life with renewed passion. He followed Kelsey in the US. From then on, Ren and Kelsey’s relationship was smooth-sailing. They had so many things in common and their sweet and thoughtful nature drove them closer. Ren was a surprise planner, romantic, poetic, sweet, dedicated and overprotective. He owned Kelsey’s heart. But his brother, Kishan, also loved Kelsey. He was the darker, bad boy version of Ren. Daring, straight-to-the-point and true to his feelings, he was a man on a mission. He was determined to be there for Kelsey, to express his love for her, no matter how much it would hurt him. I have to admit, I wanted Ren for Kelsey in the beginning of the series. But with Kishan unleashing his charm and being a shoulder to cry on, he became a perfect rival for Ren. With his arms ready to catch Kelsey anytime she falls, she found herself tempted, charmed and even in danger of falling.

With Ren held captive, Kelsey had no choice but to go with Kishan on the next quest. They embarked on a tedious, challenging and life-changing journey to find the airy prize. The Indiana-Jones-mixed-with-tomb-raider-feel of the quest was something that I thoroughly enjoyed. Kishan’s flirty attitude, humour, persistence and strength made things spicier. Hot guy + dangerous situations = a good chance of making Kelsey really notice him.

Like in Tiger’s Curse, the goddess Durga guided them and gave them gifts to aid them in their journey. The quest was focused on the element of air. With it came various creatures like sirens and iron birds. The world that they encountered was as surreal as the one in Tiger’s Curse but it was more magical, more beautiful and more dangerous all the same. The action and the pulse-pounding factor went a couple of notches up in Tiger’s Quest. The blend of the various mythologies from all over the world was fascinating. I’ll say this once: nothing can beat Houck’s hypnotic storytelling and her diverse fantasy worlds.

Tiger’s Quest is an adventure filled with romance, peril, thrill and dilemma. Engaging and intense, this installment will leave readers panting and seeking for more. Tiger’s Quest is the perfect drug for fantasy and romance lovers. This sequel deserves more than 5 stars! Don’t pass this up, you will never regret it! I highly recommend this series!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Book Description from the ARC:

ARC, 307 pages
September 27, 2011, St. Martin’s Griffin

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.
Source: Sarah from Macmillan USA (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

In Glow, two ships were traversing a nebula; both were headed to the New World. They had the same mission but the leaders and the culture of the ships were very different. The Empyrean, headed by Captain Jones, was prosperous and had succeeded in overcoming their problems with fertility. Men from Captain Jones’ circle were powerful and some of them took advantage of it. The other ship, New Horizon, was headed by Anne Mather, a religious leader. They have failed in overcoming their own issues with fertility but everything else that they had was better than what Empyrean had. Glow had many similarities with Across the Universe. It focused on the survival of the human race, too. But the Captain of the ship was more open, more transparent and more honest in Glow. The control on the people was not like a vise.

About the characters, I found myself more in tune with Waverly than with Kieran. She was taken against her will, forced to obey and forced to stay silent. But within her, she was brave, bold and extremely loyal. Throughout her stay in New Horizon, she resisted Anne Mather’s charm and thought for herself instead of just swallowing the woman’s lies. I liked the strength and resilience that she showed. Meanwhile, Kieran was left behind at the Empyrean. He tried to lead the devastated boys to do what should be done. He tried his best but it was clear that he wasn’t ready to be the acting Captain yet when all the adults died. He was a bit arrogant and bossy but there was a soft side to him that constantly worried about his parents and longed for Waverly. His situation was made worse by Seth, one of the boys, was giving him a hard time. Seth was the most intriguing of them all. Like Kieran, he had a soft spot for Waverly but on the outside, he was hard, cold and harsh. In the beginning, I liked him for Waverly, but as the story progressed, I found myself hating him. The characters were quite unpredictable as all of them dealt with their problems and acted on their beliefs. They were all flawed and I loved how realistic they seemed.

New Horizon supposedly was a ship of faith, peace and prosperity. Anne Mather, the ship leader and called Pastor of the ship, had a very useful charm. Her words gave strength to the people of New Horizon. They waited, listened and held on to them. They never questioned her. I was amazed with how much control Anne Mather had on them. But like any leader, all she wanted was to serve the people, to ensure their safety and survival until they reach the New World. Her past and her struggles were interesting and added color and complexity to the story.

The religious aspect of Glow surprised me. I never imagined that there would be one. But I have to say that it worked. I was convinced with the devotion of the people and their willingness to believe in the vision. But Glow showed that something so pure, so good could become distorted and ugly when seen through a twisted perspective.

One of the constants in Glow was the thrill and suspense. It was pulse-pounding, indeed! The action, the risk, the kept secrets and the complications, wrapped in a current of violence, created an effective combination. I couldn’t stop reading. I recommend this to dystopian readers!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Winner of Hades by Alexandra Adornetto!

Thank you to everyone who entered! I’m sorry I couldn’t include everyone – the publisher is the one who’ll send the book to the winner.

And the winner is…Cesya Cuono!

I’ve already emailed you, Cesya! :) You have 24 hours to reply to me.

To everyone who didn’t win, there will be another contest here in Fragments of Life! I have a few of them lined up actually. Just waiting for the ‘dates.’