Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Title:  Incarnate
Author:  Jodi Meadows
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Pages:  374

Rating:  C-

Synopsis from  Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows was so disappointing.  I had first noticed it because of the gorgeous cover art, and while the concept didn't seem like something I'd normally like, I decided to give it a chance anyway.

Where to begin?  First, the book description is completely misleading.  From the way it's described, I expected to find something similar to the Salem witch trials.  "Its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?"  I did not see this at all.  Two or three people grumbled about having Ana around, but that was it.  And this dragon/sylph attack doesn't happen until the very end of the book, so it doesn't even play much of a part in the story development at all.

Second, the whole book from beginning to end is mostly about Sam and Ana's relationship.  Ana barely spends any time trying to find out who she is or how she happened.  Mostly she's just trying to spend as much time with Sam as she can, while simultaneously pushing him away to keep from getting hurt.  Make up your mind!  Do you want to be with him or not?  I could say the same thing to Sam as well.  He kept seeming to be torn between wanting her and keeping her at a distance.  By the time I was three-quarters of the way through the book, I was practically screaming "Just kiss already!"  I mean, I don't approve of insta-love, but sometimes the complete opposite can be ridiculous.  And then when they finally do get together, Ana keeps doubting the relationship and herself.  Seriously, apart from the whole keeping-his-distance-while-he-figures-things-out thing, Sam is perfect (a little too perfect, honestly), and he treats her from the very beginning like she's the most amazing thing that ever happened too him.  What more does Ana want?  Does he need to jump in front of a dragon to prove his love is real?

Third (and final) point -  While the book's main focus rarely touched on the religion of Heart, it still had its very anti-religious moments.  Throughout the first half of the book, all mentions of the god of Meadow's world, Janan, are neutral.  Some people believe; others don't.  Typical of all societies.  But then, the further I got in the book, the less neutral things became.  The people who devoutly believe in Janan are seen as crazy fanatics who need to be patronized by those around him.  Those who don't believe are often portrayed as smarter, more level-headed, and normal.  Perhaps Meadows did not mean for her book to seem so anti-religious/God/faith, maybe she wasn't trying to make a statement about God at all, but that's how I interpreted it.  Honestly, it made me a little uncomfortable, just as a somewhat preachy pro-God/religion book would make a non-believer uncomfortable.

Between the lack of action, the ridiculously slow & annoying relationship development, and the possible anti-God sentiments, I really didn't enjoy Incarnate the way I'd wanted to.  And I won't be picking up the sequel any time soon.  C-

Book Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Title:  Entwined
Author:  Heather Dixon
Genre:  YA Fairy-tale retelling
Pages:  472

Rating:  B

Synopsis from  Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation. Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was very excited to read Entwined when I found out it was a retelling of the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses.  So many other fairy tales are adapted and retold, but this one rarely gets touched.  Needless to say, I was intrigued, but I didn't really love the book.

The book has a great premise.  After their mother dies and their father leaves for war, the twelve princesses discover a magic pavilion run by the dark and mysterious Keeper, where they can dance to their hearts' content to forget their sorrows.  But it turns out that there's more to the Keeper than they realized, and now they're trapped into doing his bidding.  I loved this concept, the overall plot, and the action; the final climax was awesome.  The romances that developed between several of the princesses and their suitors were also sweet or funny or both, depending on the situation.  I'd fall in love with Mr. Bradford too!

The only problem with the book was the princesses themselves.  The littlest ones didn't really have personality, and the middle sisters just whined and complained a lot.  If the book had simply been about the three oldest princesses- Azalea, Bramble, and Clover (yes, they're in cliched alphabetical order and named after plants)- I probably would have enjoyed Entwined so much more.  Even though Azalea is the story's main character, these three princesses each had a distinct and unique personality that got a chance to shine.  Sadly, Bramble & Azalea both tended to become bratty at points too, especially when dealing with their father, but overall I liked both their characters.

Perhaps if the author had taken more time to give the nine younger sisters more character development, rather than spend a lot of time describing the dancing they did, the book would have been better.  That being said, I still thought it was a good read, with its magic, battles, mystery, and romance.  B

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #10

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.  This week's topic is the top 10 most frustrating characters ever.  I can think of plenty of really annoying or frustrating characters that I've endured over the years, but to choose only ten?  Well, I chose the ten that immediately came to mind as soon as I heard about this category.

Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever
  1. Everyone  (Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes) -  Flat, two-dimensional, and stereotyped.  I just wanted all of them to shut up or die by the end of the book.
  2. Rincewind  (The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett) -  When a character spends 95% of his time whining, you get sick of him very quickly.  I had no sympathy for him at all, even when it wasn't his fault that he was in life-threatening situations.
  3. The whole Bennett family, except Jane & Elizabeth  (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen) -  Everyone who's read P&P knows Mrs Bennett is ridiculous, constantly throwing her daughters into awkward situations and predicting ruin for them all.  Mr. Bennett has no authority in his house, or if he does, he chooses not to exercise it until it's too late.  Kitty & Lydia are practically the same person- flighty, shallow, and flirtatious.
  4. Mr. Collins  (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen) -  He's so over-the-top, so oblivious to everyone around him or to the rules of society, so obsessed with other people's importance or wealth.  I couldn't wait for his part in the story to be over.  Is it really surprising that Elizabeth wants nothing to do with him?
  5. Buttercup  (The Princess Bride by William Goldman) -  I love The Princess Bride, but Buttercup can be such an idiot.  In the beginning, she's so full of herself.  Then later, after thinking her love Westley has died, she withdraws into herself and becomes very boring.  And then after learning he's alive, she actually believes Prince Humperdinck's promise that he'll let Westley go free.  Naive and kind of worthless, she's pretty much just there to be rescued.
  6. Marianne Dashwood  (Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen) -  I think the reason I find Marianne so frustrating is because Colonel Brandon is such an awesome hero, and she just doesn't deserve him.  She's so obsessed with the handsome Willoughby that she throws caution and self-respect to the wind, but in the end, still somehow manages to get the better man.  How does that even happen?  Oh yeah, it's fiction.
  7. Mia Thermopolis  (The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot) -  I felt like the whole book was just a catalog of whine.  "My life sucks...whine... the hot guy doesn't pay attention to me...whine... I'm a princess and that sucks too...whine... the hot guy turned out to be a jerk... whine."  By the end of the book, I really didn't care what happened to her anymore.
  8. Flavia de Luce  (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley) -  My sister loved this book, and I wanted to as well, but I just couldn't get past how much I disliked Flavia.  I kept thinking that she was an arrogant little brat.
  9. Edmund Bertram  (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen) -  Edmund annoyed me so much because he was so wishy-washy.  One minute he's standing by his morals & beliefs, and then as soon as a pretty girl asks him to, he just throws all of his principles aside.  I know Fanny is usually the Mansfield Park character no one likes because she's so meek and never stands up for herself, but at least she never gives up her morals.
  10. Arthur Dimmesdale  (The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne) -  GROW A SPINE!!  Enough said.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Title:  Falling Kingdoms
Author:  Morgan Rhodes
Genre:  YA fantasy
Pages:  412

Rating:  C-/D+

Synopsis from  In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects' lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:

Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.

Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.

Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword. . . .

The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Everyone's calling this book the "young-adult Game of Thrones", and I agree with them, in that the book just feels like a watered-down attempt at mimicking Martin's popular series.  After reading so much cliched writing in the first few chapters, I knew by page 45 that I didn't want to finish this book, but I forced myself to, just to make sure it wasn't going to miraculously get better.  It didn't.  

Falling Kingdoms has so many characters that they actually have a Who's-Who guide in the front of the book.  Unfortunately, most of these characters are two-dimensional and flat or extremely stereotyped, or worst of all, their personalities would randomly flip completely around at points.  I really felt that there were only one or two characters who got any actual development.  And I really dislike the ridiculous romances that spring up between characters that barely know each other.  Especially ones that are only thrown in there just as a minor plot point.

The story itself had a couple of exciting moments.  There were battles, fighting, and...and... I literally finished the book an hour ago and cannot remember what was in it.  That tells you just how memorable it wasn't.

The author bio in the back of the book states that under a different pen name, Rhodes is actually a national bestselling author of paranormal novels, and this is her first attempt at high fantasy.  Well, it's obvious that she's never done this before, and I think in the future she should stick with what she knows.  C-

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Title:  The Goddess Test
Author:  Aimee Carter
Series:  Goddess Test #1
Genre:  Young adult/Mythology retelling
Pages:  293

Rating:  A-


It's always been just Kate and her mom--and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear that her mother won't live past the fall.  Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.  Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she suceeds, she'll become Henry's future bride and a goddess.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Goddess Test is a far more satisfying Hades/Persephone retelling than Abandon.  With better characters, a more interesting plot line, and a way more believable romance, I feel much more invested in finishing this series.

Kate is totally believable as a girl struggling with the inevitable upcoming death of her mother, whom she's been caring for throughout high school.  You can feel her tension and sadness.  So when an opportunity to help her mother arises in the form of Henry (Hades), it's understandable that she'd take that chance.  Henry is an awesome new take on Hades.  Rather than the forceful and stern ruler of the Underworld, he's quiet, lonely, and a little sad, but still powerful.

There's no love-at-first-kiss in this book, thank goodness.  The relationship between Kate and Henry feels real because it develops slowly as they actually get to know one another.  I love every scene where the two of them are together.  I also love the relationship between Kate and her friend Ava.  Ava is Kate's complete opposite, yet they work well together.

The story itself was really good.  Despite the fact that it wasn't heart-stopping action and suspense from beginning to end, it never dragged or grew tedious.  It kept my interest throughout, thanks to the great character development.  I love the twist at the ending, although I saw it coming from a mile away.  Perhaps that was my only problem with the book; it was just a little too predictable at times.  A-

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Title:  Legend
Author:  Marie Lu
Series:  Legend series #1
Genre:  YA Dystopian
Pages:  305

Rating:  A+

Synopsis from  What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So much love for Legend!  From the opening line, "My mother thinks I'm dead" to the last sentence, I didn't want to put this book down.  I actually had to ask my mom to hide the book so that I wouldn't stay up late to finish it.

One of my favorite things was that the story was told by both the main characters- June & Day.  The book switched between both of them each chapter.  And to make each voice seem even more distinct, the fonts were different for the two characters.  June, the military agent, has a standard black font, neat and sharp.  Day, the rebel, gets a rounded yellow font.  It helped separate the voices, and it also added an extra little touch to their personalities.

The story has everything - romance, corrupt governments, fighting, plagues, friendship, family, secrets, rebellions, betrayal.  All of it was there, and all worked together to make an exciting story that kept me on the edge of my seat.

And the best part of all - the sequel, Prodigy, comes out on Tuesday!  A+

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #9

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.  This week's topic is on settings we'd love to see in books or see more of in books.  I really struggled with this topic because unless the book is a travelogue or memoir, the setting doesn't usually influence my tastes.  Especially since most of what I read is fantasy, so the settings are rarely anywhere recognizable.  But occasionally, when picking up a new book, I might be intrigued by a setting if it's unique or interesting.

Top Ten Eight Settings I'd Like to See in Books
  • Middle-Earth -  I love Lord of the Rings, and Middle-Earth is just beautiful.  But I wouldn't just want to see more of it in any book.  It could only be by Tolkien himself, or even his son.  I keep hoping that Christopher Tolkien is going to find some long-lost manuscript of his father's with even more stories about one of my favorite settings of all time.
  • South Korea/Japan -  My sister is crazy-in-love with Kpop, and she's gotten me into it as well.  I'd love to read more books that take place there, or in Japan, and experience some of their culture and geography.
  • English manors/castlesDownton Abbey is so amazing and beautiful.  I'd love to read some more books set in elegant drawing rooms and English gardens.
  • Rome/Greece -  I've read several books that take place in modern Rome, and maybe two that take place in ancient Rome.  I loved the descriptions of the Colosseum and the Roman markets.  But I've never (to my memory) read anything that fully takes place in ancient or modern Greece.
  • New Zealand -  Thanks to Peter Jackson, the whole world now knows how beautiful New Zealand is.  And I so want to visit there, especially now that I actually know someone there.  But since that doesn't seem likely in the future, I'd love to read about it instead.
  • Italy (Venice/Tuscany) -  Some of my favorite memoirs take place in Tuscany or Venice, so I'm always open to reading more about those places and the people there.
  • Disney World -  Disney is a huge part of my childhood and life in general.  I have so many great family memories there, and it's probably my favorite place to be (I'm going back in May!).  I love the Kingdom Keepers series, and I hope more authors will use Disney as their setting too.
  • New Jersey -  Don't roll your eyes.  I've lived in New Jersey my whole life, and people really don't know how awesome this state really is.  All anybody ever thinks about when they hear Jersey is Camden, Trenton, oil refineries, the Jersey Shore.  The New Jersey I know is Cape May with its stately Victorian homes, Sussex county with its farmland and hiking trails, my hometown with its mountains and lakes.  I'd love it if someone wrote a book with the real New Jersey as its setting, and not the Jersey you can see off the Turnpike.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Book Review: Abandon by Meg Cabot

Title:  Abandon
Author:  Meg Cabot
Genre:  YA mythology retelling
Pages:  304

Rating:  B-

Synopsis from  Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.  But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid. 
Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.  But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I'm seriously torn about this book.  I love the Persephone/Hades story, and usually the retellings are good too.  But this one was so up & down, I'm not sure how I feel.  I mean, I was really nervous about Abandon simply because Cabot is not my favorite author (I hate The Princess Diaries), but I decided to give it a try anyway.

Here's what I liked:
  • A different take on the Hades/Persephone retelling -  Pierce dies and ends up in the Underworld, instead of being kidnapped.  When she gets there, she meets John Hayden (the Hades of this story), who offers her a place at his side.  She's only fifteen so she understandably freaks out and makes a run for it.  She's able to escape and make it back to land of the living, but now John won't leave her alone.
  • The characters (sometimes) -  I like John Hayden in the very beginning and in the very end.  Pretty much only when he's actually in the Underworld.  Honestly, he really doesn't have a huge part in the book.  Maybe the next one?  And Pierce is a great character when she's acting confident and strong, when she's ready to protect her family.  Of the few secondary characters who get any development, I think I like Uncle Chris the best, even if he's barely in the book.
  • The plot twists -  The book definitely had its share of unexpected plot twists, especially one big one at the end that I didn't see coming.
  • The structure -  I really liked how Pierce told about all of her past experiences (dying, meeting John, waking up again) a little at a time in flashbacks, as the rest of the story happens around her.  It was interesting and different.
What I didn't like:
  • The romance -  One minute Pierce hates John, calling him a jerk (which he kind of deserved) and giving him back the gift he gave her, and then as soon as they kiss, BOOM!  She's in love with him.  There was no build-up to it, no tension, no real romance.  John's apparently been in love with her the whole time (he has a crazy way of showing it), and all it takes is one make-out session for her to fall for him.  I'm really hoping that their relationship gets a little more depth in the next book.
  • Lack of character development -  Pierce obviously gets all the character development, and everyone else is kind of two-dimensional.  Some of them are just painfully flat stereotypes.
  • The characters (sometimes) -  Pierce is great, sometimes, but the rest of the time, she can just be so stupid.  And annoying.  And just so.... I can't even describe it; I just want to slap her.  And based on the way John acts outside of the Underworld, I'm not sure why Pierce would want to fall in love with him.
  • Plot holes -  So many plot holes!  What's the deal with Alex's hatred for the popular kids?  Why does Kayla hate them too?  And then alternatively, there were other parts that were just full of too much information.  The whole segment with Richard explaining death deities felt so long and boring, and was simply there as a lesson in how the Underworld works.
So like I said, I'm torn.  I really wanted to like this book, and there were parts of it that I did enjoy.  Then there were other parts that made me want to put down the book and stop reading.  But I didn't, and I still intend on reading the next book, and the final book when it's released, because maybe Cabot will fill in the plot holes, include some character development, and flesh out the romance in the next books.  And also simply because I love mythology retellings, and now that I've started this trilogy I want to see how it turns out in the end.  B-

Book Review: Splintered by A.G.Howard

Title:  Splintered
Author:  A.G. Howard
Genre:  Fantasy/Retelling
Pages:  384

Rating:  A-

Synopsis from  This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As soon as I found out this was a sequel/revamp of Alice in Wonderland, I knew I had to read it.  And then after reading the first few sentences, I knew it was going to be an awesome book.
"I've been collecting bugs since I was ten; it's the only way I can stop their whispers.  Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick... Crickets, beetles, spiders...bees and butterflies.  I'm not picky.  Once they get chatty; they're fair game."
Obviously, Splintered is a much darker revamping of Alice in Wonderland.  All the familiar characters you fell in love with while watching the Disney cartoon are completely different - twisted and dark and usually evil.

Alyssa, the great-great-great granddaughter of the original Alice, is no innocent little girl in a blue dress.  She's a skateboarder girl who works for a vintage clothing store and embraces her punk side.  Her love interest Jeb is also your atypical hero, a fellow punk skater with a pierced lip and cigarette burns on his arms.  And yet, he's one of the most awesome "heroes" ever.  I'm absolutely in love with Jeb.

Funnily enough, I read this book right after having a conversation about love triangles with another blogger.  I usually like love triangles in books, especially when they're well-written.  But sometimes authors throw one in their book that just doesn't make sense or you just hate.  In the case of Splintered, the "love triangle" just didn't work.  It's my only complaint for the whole book.  It's so incredibly obvious that Jeb is awesome, perfect, and in love with Alyssa, and she's in love with him.  Then she runs into Morpheus in Wonderland, and despite figuring out that he's unreliable, manipulative, and deceitful, Alyssa is still drawn to him.  Why????  I guess the whole sexy and mysterious thing is working in his favor (and I usually like the "bad boy" for those very reasons), but in this case, I had no sympathy.  Jeb is no boring white knight; he's the perfect combination of bad boy and hero, with all the reliability and strength of the hero & all the mysterious sexiness of the bad boy.  So I could've done without the triangle, but that's my only complaint.

Everything else about this book is amazing.  The characters, the story, the settings, the plot twists - I was thrilled with this darker, punk revamping of Alice in Wonderland.  Plus, that cover art is beautiful.  A-

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Review: Altered by Jennifer Rush

Title:  Altered
Author:  Jennifer Rush
Genre:  YA Dystopian/Science fiction
Pages:  336

Rating:  A

Synopsis from  Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you, Jennifer Rush, for writing this awesome book!  From the minute I picked it up to the second I put it down, I was on the edge of my seat... well, edge of my bed in this case.  I started it so late last night because I got distracted by my iPod (I'm addicted to the Bejeweled Blitz app), and I only intended to read a few chapters before going to sleep.  Obviously that didn't happen.  The story is engaging and addicting.  There are so many twists and turns and revelations that I didn't want to stop reading until I'd discovered them all.

Altered has an incredible plot and amazing characters.  Every single one of them had a distinct personality, and each had a chance to shine.  Even the secondary characters never seemed flat.  I would have loved a little more development in the character's backgrounds, but since they don't even remember their pasts, I figured that it would be unlikely to happen.  

Cas is probably my favorite character because he's lighthearted and fun, and he helps break the tension during rapid-pace action.  And I do love the relationships that develop between Anna and the boys, whether it's friendship, romance, or animosity.  Just as each boy has a very different personality, they also each play a different role in Anna's life.

I love a book that's unpredictable, and Altered fits that description.  The plot is original and heart-stopping.  And I never knew what was going to happen next.  Every time I thought I'd figured it out, the book went in the complete opposite direction.  So exhilarating!  I cannot wait for the next book to see where things go from here.  A

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Finds - Jan. 18th

FRIDAY FINDS is hosted by Should Be Reading and showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (They're not necessarily books you purchased.)

This week's finds are: 

  • Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed -  I love Downton Abbey, so this book sounds perfect for me.  The fine balance between the wealthy and their servants, a family scandal, romance- all set during the Victorian era.
  • Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith -  I'm both intrigued and scared of this book.  I tend to avoid contemporary fiction, so this is definitely out of my comfort zone.  But the premise sounded too good to pass up.
  • Enchanted by Alethea Kontis -  Fairytale retelling!  This one's a retelling of the Frog Prince, and I'm always super-excited for new twists and adaptations of fairy-tales.
  • Eve by Anna Carey -  I'm totally in love with dystopian literature now, and this one sounds really exciting.  Plus the cover's awesome!
  • A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont -  This looked really interesting because it's a fun take on classic literature.  To get thrown into your favorite book and become the main character would be an epic adventure, especially when it involves Mr. Rochester.
  • A Touch of Scarlet by Eve Marie Mont -  This is the sequel to A Breath of Eyre, and while I didn't enjoy The Scarlet Letter, I think it would still be fun to see what kind of spin they put on it.
  • The Holders by Julianna Scott -  Kids with mysterious powers go to a school for kids with mysterious powers.  Sound familiar?  The premise has worked in the past, and it got glowing recommendations from some fellow bloggers, so I think I'll check it out.
  • Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton -  A girl who can see emotions as personified beings?  Who can't be touched by any of them except Fear?  Who has to rely on Fear to help her?  This just sounds so cool!

To Review or Not to Review: That Is the Question

During the past couple of weeks, I've been reading other bloggers' bookish resolutions for this year, and I saw one resolution come up a lot - to review books they read before they started blogging.  It started me thinking about my own blog and all the books I've read and movies/TV that I've watched.  And I decided to seriously think about whether I would want to attempt the same thing.  Should I post reviews of my pre-blogging books & movies, or should I just stick to posting reviews of books/movies as I read/see them?  Should I, at the very least, post reviews for books & movies from the past couple of years that I just forgot to do?

While thinking about this question, I did some research, and here's what I discovered.
  • On, my current list of movies/TV shows that I've watched has hit 1440, and I still haven't even finished going through a quarter of all the titles on the site.
  • When applying for college, I included with my applications a list of all the books I read during high school.  The list is around seven pages long, single-spaced.  (Books are my favorite things!)
  • My read list is currently at 446, and that's without really trying to find all the books I've ever read.
  • It's a struggle to publish the posts and reviews I'm doing now, since I have to borrow family members' computers while my laptop is broken.
So in conclusion, I'm going to stick with what I've been doing.  The numbers are just daunting, and I'm not even sure I could remember exactly how I felt about half of those books and movies.  I'll keep adding and rating old books on and movies/TV shows on, but as for posting reviews here, if I ever decide to do one on a pre-blogging book/movie, it will have to be one I recently reread/watched (which I love to do) or just feel very strongly about.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review: The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

Title:  The Cadet of Tildor
Author:  Alex Lidell
Genre:  Fantasy/Young-adult
Pages:  400

Rating:  A

Synopsis (from  There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown's inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I don't even know where to begin.  I started & finished The Cadet of Tildor this afternoon; I couldn't help it.  Once I started reading it, I just couldn't put it down.  There was so much intrigue, excitement, and adventure.  The characters development was amazing, and the ending was great.  The only thing I'm upset about is that it's over!

Renee de Winter is a kick-butt heroine, eager to prove her worth not only to her peers but also to her father.  She's so real because she makes mistakes along the way, and she doesn't suddenly become this perfect swords-woman who can take on anything after a few lessons.  Her friends, Sasha and Alec, are interesting; Alec more so simply because his character plays a much bigger part throughout the book.  He did  grate on me a few times, but I think that's where the author was trying to go with him.  The new trainer at the Academy, Korish Savoy, is a great character.  At first he just seems very harsh and egotistical, but as the story goes on, there are more sides to him that you didn't see in the beginning.  (Best line: "I don't do hugs.")  None of these characters ever seemed flat or two-dimensional.  They all received great character development that made them come to life.

The plot was incredible.  The king is a young man who's just taken the throne, and his actions to step up fighting crime are met with hostility.  There are two rival crime syndicates in Tildor - the Family and the Vipers.  The Family are just like how they sound, a very mafia-like organization that's very political and tries to stay just outside the line of legitimate business without crossing too far.  The Vipers are far worse.  Kidnappers, murderers, human-traffickers - they're not afraid of going too far or even of really hiding their crimes.  These two groups not only cause problems for the kingdom but also for each other, which is what causes most of the adventures in the book.

There was tons of fighting.  The action never stopped; the story never dragged or got mired down by the politics.  And there was constantly a new twist or unexpected turn that you just didn't see coming.  There was the teeniest touch of romance, but overall it didn't play much of a role in the story.  This book was more about Renee's growth into a soldier and her adventures in Tildor.  I'm still just so sad that it's over.  I cannot wait for Lidell to write another book.  A

Book Review: The Beggar Queen by Lloyd Alexander

Title:  The Beggar Queen
Author:  Lloyd Alexander
Series:  Westmark trilogy #3
Genre:  Fantasy/young-adult
Pages:  256

Rating:  B+

Synopsis (from goodreads):  In the third and final volume of the Westmark trilogy, Michele, once a street urchin, is now queen of Westmark, a thriving kingdom with an undercurrent of unrest. Can she rule without causing even more trouble on the streets she used to call home?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's really hard to finish a series you started in middle school/high school when the books are out-of-print.  Fortunately for me, people had used copies on amazon and, so I lucked out and got a copy that was in great condition and had the same cover art to match the rest of the books.

Side note:  Am I the only person out there who hates it when cover art gets changed after a few years, sometimes mid-series, so then your books don't match?  It really bugs me.  An example is The Unicorn Chronicles.  Because it took Coville so many years to finish his series, the cover art changed from book 1 to book 2, and then changed again for book 3 & 4.  And they're all radically different sizes too, which drives me nuts.  I'm not usually OCD, but in the case of cover art, I guess I can be.  (I may have mentioned this before, but it was relevant to this book since I wouldn't buy a used copy that didn't match my first two.)

Back to The Beggar Queen-  I was right that the second book, The Kestrel, was really just a stepping stone to this book, because this book is action from beginning to end.  The kingdom taken, the resistance working silently, and the people uprising are just some of the exciting things that happen.  Which leads to my biggest problem with this book.  There is just so much happening in only 256 (small) pages that Alexander sometimes fails the "Show; Don't tell" rule.  His descriptions are brief, sometimes non-existent, and it takes away from the experience.  He had enough material in this book that if he'd expanded on parts more, this could have been two books or at least a much thicker book.  I think he did a much better job with The Prydain Chronicles, which had five books so he had more room for description and expansion.

There were plenty of redeeming qualities though.  Mickle and Theo's conversations are wonderful.  Mickle knows exactly what to say to him, even if he doesn't want to hear it.  And she can be wickedly funny.  I could have done without more of Theo's soul-searching dialogue, but there was considerably less of it in this book than in the last.  And Weasel grows into a great character too.  He's funny, surprising, resourceful, and intelligent.

Some of Alexander's experiences from WWII obviously influenced his writings.  His reflections on government and power and mob rule are seem throughout the series.  And he's not afraid to kill off a host of his characters (including some of my favorites) in battle or show the negative effects power has on human nature.  B+

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #8

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten 2013 debuts you're dying to read.

At first, I couldn't imagine only choosing ten.  My original list had seventeen debuts I'm psyched for.  But in order to get it down to ten, I first got rid of the three I just got in the mail, and decided only to put the ones I don't own yet.  And then, I somehow managed to narrow the list down to only ten.  So here they are - the 2013 debuts I'm dying to read.

Top Ten 2013 Debuts I'm Dying to Read

Book Review: The Kestrel by Lloyd Alexander

Title:  The Kestrel
Author:  Lloyd Alexander
Series:  Westmark trilogy #2
Genre:  Fantasy
Pages:  256

Rating:  B

Synopsis (from  In the second volume of the Westmark trilogy, Theo is about to be Prince of Westmark, a province marked by great poverty and corruption. But an assassin's pistol shot makes things even more dangerous for the new monarchy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It took over ten years to finally read this book.  I started the Westmark trilogy in junior high/high school (not really sure anymore), and I bought the second book, The Kestrel, right after reading Westmark.  But for some reason, I never read it.  Now that I have, I'm not really surprised.

The story starts out interesting, with Theo and Mickle each having their own separate adventure.  Queen Mickle rides off to be general of her army, and Theo gets shot by an assassin and then joins the renegade army that's led by his friend Florian.  Things are really exciting and tense, and then... they just drag on and on and on.  I know the whole point was to show Theo's growth and how war changes him and those around him, but about halfway through, I just started skimming the pages, waiting for the conclusion to finally come.

I think the biggest problem with The Kestrel is that it's the second book of a trilogy.  It's pretty much just a stepping stone from point A to point B.  Obviously there was some adventure (battles, deaths, escapades), and a few minor characters from the first book got a lot of interesting character development (I think Sparrow's my new favorite character).  But overall, the book felt like it was just there to lay the groundwork for the final book.  B

Monday, January 14, 2013

In My Mailbox - Jan. 14th

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by The Story Siren.  In order to take part in the Debut Author Challenge, I ordered some just-released books from Amazon.  And just because I wanted some new books after finishing all the ones I got for Christmas, I ordered even more.  I know I shouldn't have bought so many, considering that what I really need to buy are new clothes that fit, but I didn't even buy as many as I wanted to.

The New Books

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Random Thoughts - January 13th

I'm in the process of painting and redecorating my bedroom, and right now all of my books have been pulled out of my shelves to make the bookcases easier to move.  I've been thinking about how to organize them when I finish painting, and the more I think about it, the more I wonder- is it even worth it?

The room would start out looking like this:

But after a while, thanks to my less-than-stellar organization skills, it would only end up like this:

So is there even a point to trying?  Just my random bookish thought of the day.  :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Finds - Jan. 11th

FRIDAY FINDS is hosted by Should Be Reading and showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (They're not necessarily books you purchased.)

This week's finds are:

Book Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Title:  The Host
Author:  Stephenie Meyer
Genre:  Sci-fi/ young adult
Pages:  619

Rating:  A-

Synopsis (from  Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, didn't expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.  As Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she's never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.  Featuring one of the most unusual love triangles in literature, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the essence of what it means to be human.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book, and I stayed up way too late to finish it last night, so I apologize in advance if my thoughts aren't coherent.  I had about a fourth of the book left around midnight and decided to finish it, even if it meant I'd be a zombie at work today.

I don't know why I like them so much, but I heart stories with love triangles.  Especially interesting love triangles like this one, because this one involved three bodies but four people.  It's kind of more like a weird love square.  I loved the Ian/Wanda relationship; I was rooting for them the whole book.  Ian is sweet and kind and caring, but he's also strong and forceful.  He's also probably the most rational of the love "triangle."  At first, Jared reminded me so much of Gale from The Hunger Games (Team Peeta!) that I wasn't sure if I was going to like him at all, but fortunately he turned out to be a better guy than Gale.

The Wanda/Mel character was incredibly interesting.  Wanda's the "soul" controlling Mel's body and doing all the talking and interacting with people; the story's told from her point of view so you get to know her best of all.  She's strong and self-sacrificing and smart.  Mel, who's consciousness speaks to Wanda in her mind, is also strong, but with a different kind of strength from Wanda, as well as stubborn and resilient.  They're both very loving and caring, and their internal conversations help them find a balance to their strange relationship.  I thought this idea, of having two personalities existing simultaneously within one body, was original (to me) and thought-provoking.

My favorite character of the whole book isn't any of those four involved in the "triangle".  It's actually Mel's brother Jamie.  He's a sweet kid who's had to face some tough times, but he never loses a little of his innocence.  He's such a refreshing change from the seriousness around him.

The story itself is not action-filled; it's mostly character and relationship development.  There are moments of action and excitement, but that's it.  Just moments.  But I never felt like the story lagged due to lack of adventure.  I did keep waiting for some huge climactic battle, but it never happened, and I honestly didn't mind.

Second thoughts:  While getting ready for work and driving and even writing my first thoughts, I've been thinking over the book more.  And I have to throw in something that bugs me.

In the book, Wanda describes her alien kind to the humans she's staying with, and she says that when her kind are born, they can't exist without a host.  Even the grown "souls" live in cryotanks until they can be put into a new body.  So my question is - what was the first species they occupied?  They never explain how these frail creatures that need other beings to survive are able to build spaceships to take over other worlds.  Is there another creature on their origin planet that they never mention?  Is it only on planets outside their own that they can't survive without a host?  And if they have to be surgically inserted into their hosts, how did they accomplish that on planets where they were "seaweed" or "flowers" or "bats"?

I would have liked it if Meyer had added more of the science to her science fiction.  I know that wasn't the main point of the story; it was supposed to be a romance and a look into humanity.  Maybe she's going to fill in the blanks in the next two books, because apparently this is going to be a trilogy.  Whether she does or not, I think if you're going to write any type of science fiction, you should have all the scientific details straight and mostly laid out in the first book, as second & third books are usually entirely action and adventure, once the first book's finished introducing the characters and story.  A-

2013 Debut Author Challenge

This year I've decided to participate in a reading challenge.  Usually, reading challenges and I do no get along well, but I think I'll be able to complete this one.

The Debut Author Challenge is hosted by Hobbitsies, and is intended to give new authors exposure, as well as help readers find new books.  I'm one of those people who had no idea what new books were coming out last year, so I really like the idea of this challenge.

The Rules
  • You have to read and review at least twelve debut books.
  • You have one year to complete the challenge.
  • The books must be young adult and/or middle-grade.
  • The books must be the author's young adult and/or middle-grade debut.
I'm excited for this challenge because I actually have a bunch of 2013 debut books on my crazy TBR list.  For January, I'm going to start with the following:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #7

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & Bookish.  This week's topic is your top ten bookish goals for 2013.  Usually in January, I post a list of goals/resolutions that I want to accomplish during the year.  Focusing only on the "bookish" ones was hard, so after the TTT list I've decided to included a couple more general resolutions I have for 2013.

Top Ten Twelve Bookish Goals for 2013
  1. To read the rest of John Green's novels - so far, I've read three.  I still need to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Looking for Alaska; and Let It Snow.
  2. To read at least a quarter of my crazy TBR list  - that comes to about 90 to 100 books a year now (see list here).
  3. To renew my expired library card  - I still can't believe that a library card can expire now.  I've had that card since I was in first grade, and a couple of months ago they mailed me a letter saying it had expired.
  4. To not let TV distract me from reading  - I know this was a big problem for me this year.  I love the TV shows I watched, but I seriously did not read nearly as much as I usually do.
  5. To keep on top of my reviews  -  Despite my TV watching, I still read more books than I reviewed this past year.  I really want to post my reviews right away too, so that my feelings and thoughts about the book are fresh in my mind.
  6. To continue reading aloud to my little sister  - I started reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy to my sister around Thanksgiving, and we're now about to start the final book.  I've loved reading to her not only because I'm so thrilled to have yet another LotR fan in the family, but also because it's been an awesome bonding experience.
  7. To read more books outside of my comfort zone  - I tend to avoid any and all books outside my comfort zone, and I'd really like to break that habit.  The few times that I did read something other than fantasy, regency romance, or historical fiction were rewarding because it's how I discovered John Green.  So I'd like to go outside my comfort zone more often.
  8. To meet some authors/go to a convention  - I'm always reading about these conventions or author meet-&-greets on other blogs, and I'm so jealous.  I'd like to meet at least one author or attend one convention this year.
  9. To keep a book diary  - I'd like to keep a personal book diary where I can write my favorite passages & quotes, and write my thoughts/hopes as I'm reading.  It'll not only make reviewing easier, but this way I won't forget some of my favorite quotes.
  10. To be more involved with other bloggers  - I want to start commenting on more people's blogs and maybe make a few blogger friends.  I have a couple of friends right now who blog, but I'd like to expand that circle.
  11. To join/start a book club  - My best friend and I started a book club in high school, and I loved it so much.  I miss the discussions we had over books and characters.  I'd love to get involved in an existing club, but if I can't find one, maybe I'll start my own.
  12. To write my own stories/books  - It seems really sad that after graduating with a degree in creative writing, I've barely written anything.  I wrote all the time, mostly poetry, in high school and college, but since then, I've written almost nothing.  I need to get past my fears and insecurities about my writing, and just sit down & write!
A Few Non-Bookish Resolutions for 2013
  • To continue Weight Watchers  - I've lost 24 pounds so far and gone down two sizes.  I'd like to lose another twenty this year, and then just maintain a healthy weight.
  • To become more financially responsible  - I'm terrible at saving money, which is a bad thing.  I need to not only save money, but also to give myself a real goal to motivate my saving.
  • To get my laptop fixed  - It's been almost a year since my laptop went out of commission, and it's kind of ridiculous that I haven't gotten it fixed yet.  I need to either take it to the Geek Squad or buy a new one, because I can't keep borrowing other people's all the time.
  • To go to New Zealand for the next Hobbit movie premiere  - Okay, this one's not serious at all.  But it's fun to dream.  :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: Daughter of the Earth and Sky by Kaitlin Bevis

Title:  Daughter of the Earth and Sky
Author:  Kaitlin Bevis
Series:  Daughters of Zeus #2
Genre:  Mythology retelling
Format:  ebook

Rating:  A+

Synopsis (from  Some vows can never be broken.  Persephone thought she could go back to her normal life after returning from the Underworld. She was wrong. The goddess Aphrodite is born among the waves with more charm than she can control. Zeus is stalking Persephone and her loved ones, and Thanatos is no longer content with Persephone’s silence. He wants her soul.

Persephone can’t tell anyone about Thanatos’ betrayal, and it drives a wedge between her and Hades. Her mother is still keeping secrets, and Melissa’s jealousy of Aphrodite threatens to tear their friendship apart. Alone, Persephone turns to a human boy for comfort. But will their relationship put him in danger? Sacrifices must be made, and Persephone must choose between her human life and her responsibilities as a goddess. If she doesn’t, she could lose them both.
But will either life be worth choosing once Zeus is through with her?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OMG!  OMG!  OMG!  I cannot believe I have to wait til May for the next book!  Usually the second book in a series is a placeholder, a stepping stone to get from the beginning to the end.  But Daughter of the Earth & Sky is amazing, and it completely stands on its own.

Persephone faces even bigger problems in this book because while some of her issues are being caused by other people, a lot of what she's facing is internal.  She's dealing with the weight of keeping a huge secret from the man she loves, and with the distance this is putting between them.  She's also becoming more and more isolated from the people around her.  It's amazing that she doesn't crack.  And Hades is just as smoldering and intense as ever.  I really wish he'd played a bigger role because he's incredible.  I also missed Cassandra; she's so funny and spunky.  But since most of the story takes place outside of the Underworld, her role in this book is tiny.  The addition of Aphrodite was a bit annoying, but I guess that's probably what Aphrodite would be like - spoiled, entitled, slutty.

Besides the character and relationship development, the story also contains a lot more action than the previous book.  There never seemed to be a moment when anything dragged.  I started the book just after dinner and finished it within a couple of hours because I just didn't want to put it down.  I'd get distracted by someone for a minute, and then immediately turn back to the book.  I even forgot my hatred of ebooks because I was so wrapped up in the story.

And that ending!  So twisted and unexpected!  It was so intense that when I got to the end I actually yelled "No!" out loud, because I didn't want it to be over.  What an insane cliffhanger!  Even if the rest of the book had been terrible (which it definitely wasn't), I'd still want to read the next book because of that crazy cliffhanger.  I cannot wait for May so I can read The Iron Queen.  I hope it's as amazing as the first two.  A+

New cover art!

I'm so psyched for the upcoming book Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.  And they just released the cover art, which I had to share.

New plot summary (from

There are no heroes.

Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil.

Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.

It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.

My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.

I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.

Book Review: The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer

Title:  The Unknown Ajax
Author:  Georgette Heyer
Genre:  Regency romance
Pages:  373

Rating:  B+

Synopsis (from  When the irascible Lord Darracott's eldest son dies unexpectedly, the noble family must accept their estranged Yorkshire cousin as heir apparent. They are convinced he will prove to be a sadly vulgar person, but nothing could have prepared the beleaguered family for the arrival of Major Hugo Darracott.  His clever and beautiful cousin Anthea is sure there's more to the gentle giant than Hugo's innocent blue eyes and broad Yorkshire brogue would lead one to believe. But even she doesn't guess what he's capable of, until a family crisis arises and only Hugo can preserve the family's honor, leading everybody on a merry chase in the process . . .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I should have known this was going to happen.  When trying to decide which to read first, The Talisman Ring or The Unknown Ajax, I thought that this book might be better to save for last, as it sounded more like a typical Heyer romance than the other book did.  Unfortunately, it was the wrong choice.  While The Unknown Ajax is a good book, it is nowhere near as good as The Talisman Ring or most of Heyer's other works.

I think my biggest complaint about this book is that it took forever for anything to happen.  Most of the book was just a very slow lead up to the last fifty or so pages.  I just kept waiting for the plot to really begin, and it never happened.  There were funny moments here and there that helped break up the dragging sections.  But the book lacked much of Heyer's usual witty dialogue that makes her books so much fun to read.  Fortunately, those last chapters were incredible and made the first 300 pages worth reading.  (I also realize that I'm reviewing this book right after reading The Talisman Ring, which was non-stop humor and adventure, so my opinion of this book could change if read again at a different time).

There were some good characters in the book, a couple of annoying ones, and a few that were just blah.  Anthea, who the book description describes as "clever and beautiful" was one of the annoying ones.  At first I liked her, because she had spunk.  But then the spunk seemed to become more and more shrewish, until the very end when she suddenly became fun again.  Her cousin Hugo was one of the good characters.  Humble, strong, and kind with a hidden sense of humor, he was the perfect addition to the Darracott family, who lived under their irritable and ruthless grandfather's rule.  The one character I wish had gotten more attention and development was Anthea's aunt, Lady Aurelia.  Quiet and stern, she's incredibly intelligent and quick, and not afraid of her father-in-law in the slightest.  I wish Heyer had written a whole book about her.

The Unknown Ajax was a good read, but hard to get through.  I can often read a Heyer book in a day or two, usually because the dialogue is so good, I don't want to put the book down.  In this case, it took me four days with a break in there to read Persephone.  Not my favorite Heyer book, but I'd read it again for those hilarious last chapters.  B+