Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: "Book of Shadows" by Cate Tiernan

Title: Book of Shadows
Series: Wicca #1
Author: Cate Tiernan
Publisher: Speak
Year: 2007

"Something is happening to me that I don't understand.

I see things, feel things in a new way. I can do things normal people can't do. Powerful things. Magickal things. It scares me.

I never chose to learn witchcraft. But I'm starting to wonder if witchcraft is choosing me."

Note to self, I probably should have bought the omnibus version, 200 pages simply does not last me very long. And it is so much colder in the bus stop if you have nothing to read. 
Also, the blurb is a little misleading. It makes the book sound mysterious and dark, whilst the story is quite a bit lighter. But then again the blurb was one of the things that made me read this book. So it balances out.

But to the book. This was the first time I read this particular book, although I have read Cate Tiernan’s “Immortal Beloved” (which I liked). Her writing style is still very nice and flowing. The pages flew by and made for a gripping story.

I found the story quite enjoyable, it moves at a nice pace and is well written. It reflected the protagonists feelings well. At first it bothered me slightly how Morgan just looked at Cal and then she was oh-so in love. But I tried seeing the story from a teenager’s perspective. Often the initial attraction is based on looks and there is no reason why this could not be real. And as teenagers sometimes do, maybe she is making it sound a little deeper in her head than it actually is. Which made me realize that Tiernan had actually a lot of insight into a teenagers world view when she wrote this story and that is very impressive.

Tiernan obviously went through great lengths to understand Wicca before putting this on the paper and for that she has my respect. I think it is really important that she was careful and thorough with this because unlike magic systems that are based on fantasy alone, Wicca is a real religion and Tiernan gave it the respect every religion deserves. You can see it especially in times when Morgan was conflicted about what she was doing due the opposition from her parents who were Christians.

Morgan is an interesting character who does quite a bit of self-discovering in the book and I think she is a well-developed character. I do hope that Cal (and his Wiccan mother) get more back story in later books. At first I had some trouble trying to keep up with all the numerous characters, but I liked how we got the extra information on them woven into the story. It was smooth and made the characters individuals.  

I think this is a great story and would definitely recommend it, especially to teens. But I have a feeling that when the story develops it will also be very insightful for the older readership. “Book of Shadows” deserves three and a half stars and they are strong ones, shining bright next to the waning moon of the goddess.

This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: "The Alchemyst" by Michael Scott

Title: The Alchemyst
Series: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1
Author: Michael Scott
Publisher: Ember
Year: 2008

"He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

The records show that he died in 1418.

But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects—the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Sometimes legends are true.

And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time."

I first read this book many many years ago, in my native language, Estonian. As a kid who loved myths and legends growing up, this was a special kind of treat. So now that I have access to the wonderful bookstores of UK, I thought that it was about time I relived my childhood. 

Somehow I remembered Scott’s writing style as more fluent but that might have been the translation I read at the time. That is in no way to say that it is bad. It is great, just not my favourite. Just like I have quite a specific taste in writing style that makes pages fly by for me, there are many people for whom this could be the perfect cup of tea. 

But lets get to the good parts before you start to think that I did not like this book, which would be a colossal lie (really Pinocchio, get a grip). 

First of all, the story. If you like mythology, any kind of mythology, then this is an amazing book. I cannot even imagine the amount of work that went into creating the world and backstory of this book. The idea that Nicholas Flamel is still alive is an intriguing. Doctor John Dee actually was an advisor to Queen Elizabeth. And then the gods and goddesses of old: Hekate, Morrigan, Bastet, the list goes on. Combining so many different mythologies and stories could turn out to be so ridiculous. But Scott creates a world in which they co-exist in a way that makes sense and is exciting beyond belief.

The only bone I have to pick with this book is that almost none of the characters were clear-cut. I mean I like the mysterious stranger as much as the next fan girl. But while one of the twins, Josh, got a fair share of backstory, I felt like Sophie was a little neglected. I felt like they were supposed to steal the show but ended up being the talented sidekicks.
Scathach remained very vague and I would have loved to learn more about the ancient Irish warrior. Then again I liked that you could never really decide if Nicholas Flamel was as good as he seemed to be or not. 

That said I will hold on to the right of changing my opinion after reading the next books. It might turn out to be one of those stories which are good but not amazing and then something in the later books makes it all click and you just have to put the book down for a moment, stare at nothing and say: “Sh***t...“

All in all „The Alchemyst“ was an good read. It lures you in, has a lot of action and makes you (okay, me) giddy with excitement when you see a familiar legend brought into the fold. I think when I first read it I was in the intended demographic, I was about 14 at the time. And it was a bit better the first time around. Therefore by my personal opinion “The Alchemyst” ranks 3.5 stars. But it is worth mentioning that half of one of those is a nostalgia star. 

This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: "Divergent" by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Series: Divergent #1
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year: 2012

"In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her"

This was the second time I read „Divergent“. In the light of the 3rd book, „Allegiant“, being released at the end of October I decided that it was time to reread this brilliant book. Imagine my disappointment when I went to the bookstore two days after the book was released just to find out a) It had been sold out. And b) the cover that matches the books that I have was only released in hardback and will not be out in paperback before February. Goodie. I would have torched the place if I would not love it so much.

When I first read Divergent, about a year ago, I had already heard a lot about it. It was developing a large fan base very fast and was quickly labelled the next big thing. And since Twilight (bleh) was the next big thing once, I was hesitant to pick it up. It was actually when I bought „The Golden Lily“ by Richelle Mead and that had a „Buy one get one half price“ sticker on it, that I picked up „Divergent“.

I started reading „Divergent“ for the first time on a trip around last Christmas. I first opened the book at 11 PM and did not close it before 4AM. By that time my eyes were hurting from the weak light but I was still sad I could not keep going. It had a similar effect on me when I was rereading it last week. It is impossible to put down. I was late to my lecture because I kept telling myself that I just need to finish one more page. And I already knew what was going to happen!

Veronica Roth has one of the most amazing writing styles. It flows so smoothly and if by the help of some black magic you actually put the book down then it is so easy to get lost in it when you pick it up again.

The story. I do not want to spoil anything for someone who has yet to start with this book (what on earth are you still waiting for). But this book made me love dystopian novels. The world that Roth creates is amazing. The story is a brilliant, unique idea. I had never read anything like it before.

The characters deserve applause. Tris is a character that evolves. While she doubts herself from time to time, she is very tough. I like my female protagonists tough. Tris turned from shy to badass, quickly but not too soon. And I liked that the male-interest is kind of a jerk at first. It made the whole thing so much more believable. Tris has some cool friends, each different and awesome in their own way. They are no place-fillers. Each of them could stand alone and still be interesting.

Can I think of anything bad to say about this book? You know what, not really. The things that caught my eye while reading were blown from my mind by the whirlwind of awesome that was „Divergent“.

For these reasons and more, this deserves full five stars.

 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I cannot believe I am finally doing this

You know those moments when you are looking at other peoples book reviews and those shiny  advanced reader copies and you think that "Hey! I could totally do that."

I have thought that about 2 + n (add a number you think explains the gravity of the situation) times. I even might have set up a blog once or twice. Then I decide that there is so much to do and I will do my first proper review tomorrow. In that wondrous land where we all start that diet, do our homework and clean that bedroom. But the joke is on tomorrow today because I am doing this. Try and stop me! Mwhahahha...

Following this introduction there will be a review of the last book that I finished. I aim to review something once a week. As you can see from the picture below I have material to work with. This is the bookshelf that I put together at 1AM (much to the joy of my neighbours) on a warm August night this year. At the moment that picture was taken I had been living in the UK exactly 1 year. And I came here with one book. (For the curious ones it was Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone). I have read my fair share of these books but there are so many more to go.  Here is to hoping that I will read all these books but never catch up with my ever growing bookshelf.


 This rant has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day
- Linda.