September 4, 2010

Kristin Cashore: Graceling

Anyone who knows me may slightly drop their jaw as they read this in wonder that I had not read this book long ago. Do not be fooled. I read it recently as a reread. This is why, of course, that I had to blog about it. Who cannot love the beauty of Graceling?


In the world in which Graceling takes place, there are those people who are graced. The graced are a select few who possess great skill and strength with a particular talent. Sometimes this may be a very useful talent and sometimes not. In either case the graced are marked, one eye one color, the other eye, another. In the non-fiction world, I deem this as beautiful, but in Graceling's created world of fiction? People may shrink away from such a sight. These eyes are not lovely but feared.

Main character Katsa is both graced and a princess of the Middluns of the Seven Kingdoms. Though Katsa's a princess, her uncle, the king of Middluns, sees better purpose for his niece because of her grace: to be his "lady killer." More simply put, Katsa's job is the role of a killer who happens to be a woman. Her skill for causing death is widely known. This is how it is that the traveling and graced Prince Po of another kingdom has already heard of her reputation. Like Katsa, Prince Po possesses strong and impressive fighting skills. After befriending one another, Prince Po teaches Katsa more about herself in this tale of an incredible journey.


On first looking up this book and seeing what it was about, I worried that it might just be one of those books with a pretty cover. Sometimes that happens. We're sad when it does, but that's what we get for picking up a book based on the book's cover. Not that this was the case for my choosing to read Graceling! Some friends had really enjoyed it. How glad I was that such thoughts about pretty book covers were horribly incorrect involving this book. I later happily read it's prequel Fire, published after Graceling, with an equally beautiful cover and story.

Some of these characters are kind of incredible. Since I'm against spoilers, let's stick with Katsa. She's quite evidently very strong, quick, and smart. Sometimes because that her grace made her have to grow up too fast, she's almost inhuman, out of touch with how things like friendships work. This can be played out two ways. It gives her strength of course by her not trusting too easily, but it also is one of those things that can make her seem less dominant. Despite this, Katsa's the perfect gender-equality kind of character. Men don't have to be in charge of her world, which I think makes her a superb character.

Graceling has a lot of other great characters, too, and I am quite eagerly anticipating the release of the sequel to it and to perhaps seeing some familiar characters in it. I feel doubtless to having any objections whatsoever to whatever Kristin Cashore may have in store next. Bitterblue, Cashore's next book, is currently undergoing editing. The release date is unknown.

About Fire

It will probably be a while before I blog about Fire because I'm saving a reread of it for one of those 'rainy days.' I would rather blog about a favorite book closer to the time that I reread it. I will say that it's a beautiful story, one that I immediately loved from the first few pages, and I love it more than Graceling.

YA Fantasy Showdown

As some people may well be aware and others sadly not, there was a two-week long Young Adult Fantasy Showdown going on last month created by this blogger. I found it to be incredible and very exciting, enough that I could not stop myself from a Graceling reread. I missed the opportunity to vote for a couple of the rounds from being busy, but it was always in the back of my mind at the very least. The YA Fantasy Showdown introduced me to a lot of characters I had never heard of and I really look forward to reading their stories. I recommend that you check the battles out despite the battles being over. I intend to blog about a couple of those characters whom I read about for the showdown next. Though I still haven't read about all the characters, I picked up books for a decent amount of them and will likely blog about those ones at some point, too.

August 26, 2010

Juliet Marillier: Heart's Blood

I've mentioned this book title already and yet had failed to give this book it's very own post. I wanted to make sure I got Marillier's Bridei Chronicle series blogged in order. I'm sorry for the delay. This, of the eight books I've read by Marillier, is the one that I love best. It's a standalone, too, so it's a perfect way to sample her work.


Heart's Blood is a tale that holds a connection to the well known story of Beauty and the Beast. It follows the point of view of Caitrin, a young woman with a mysterious past who has clearly suffered something terrible. Whatever has happened and for whatever reason, Caitrin cannot return home. With hardly any money to her name at all, she is in luck that at least she is a woman gifted with the ability to read and write. This allows her to be a scribe, and a scribe is exactly what is needed at Whistling Tor.

Whistling Tor has its secrets, too, and the people nearby will not go there. One reason is for the curse that is on them and the family of the chieftain, Anuluan, who lives at Whistling Thor. The other reason is because the people say Anuluan's horrible. Bearing this in mind, Caitrin sets out for Whistling Tor anyways, determined to find work and a place to stay for a while.


I enjoy many different types of books be they historical fiction, classic literature, books about well-loved classics that can make me smile or laugh, fantasy, young adult, and the occasional nonfiction book. Sometimes readers might crave a particular type of book at any given time. As a reader I've begun to realize it doesn't seem to matter much which kind of book I'm most desiring to read, that if given an extraordinary fantasy, I'm quite happy.

With outstanding books as these, it's not just a fantasy I'm reading. Everything about the book just seems to glow. The language is beautifully written so that the words jump off the page. The setting is strong with powerful-seeming places where scenes take place. Characters are amazingly developed into deep, 3-D beings. This isn't to say they're 'real people' as you and I, just that their traits, personalities, and such are quite known. You can think, What would (fill in the blank with a character name here) do? and know the answer.

A great fantasy can lock you in within the first few pages and make it near impossible for you to abandon. There are things you should be doing that, because you're reading a great book, you procrastinate. You read it at work, or, if you ordinarily bring books there anyway like me, you read so quickly that you never have the chance to carry the book around long enough to read it anywhere but in one place. When it comes to be time that you should be sleeping, you're heavily lost in the book's pages and don't notice the time passing by. Hours can pass by after this while you are still reading. You may just read all night, or, if you're a graveyard worker, all day.

That was this book for me.

Now that I've said how much I love Heart's Blood, I just want to say how beautiful that cover is. Just look at all those books! I adore my edition. (Please note, I most certainly did not choose this book for its cover!)

August 19, 2010

Juliet Marillier: The Well of Shades

This is the final book in the Bridei Chronicles. I was really excited when I learned that it strongly focuses on the Gaelic spy Faolan once more, continuing his story from where Blade of Fortriu left off. This book left me without any disappointments and was a welcome ending to the series. As with the last book, it still keeps in touch with main characters from earlier in the series and shares their point of views.

Someone is needed to go north and explore to see how people are living on the land in a region once reigned by those outside of Fortriu. Who better to send than Faolan, native those lands, a spymaster, and, when he has to be, a killer? He is ready and eager for the mission with a couple of personal missions of his own to complete before he returns. On one mission he meets Eile, a young woman with an unfortunate and terrible story. Another mission takes him back to his past to his family whom he deemed would never forgive nor love him for a terrible deed forced upon him long ago. The third mission is business. With each step for these missions Faolan is changed. Life holds much in store for him and Fortriu.

As I mentioned with Blade of Fortrui, I had not been happy with how it ended. This book went above and beyond, completely making up for it and more. I debate now which book in the Bridei Chronicles is my favorite. It would have to be The Dark Mirror or The Well of Shades, though they were all good. I may safely say that this is the book in the series which has touched me most. If I never reread the series as a whole, which I very much doubt, I would at least reread this book.

August 17, 2010

Juliet Marillier: "Blade of Fortriu"

This book is book two in the Bridei Chronicles. It takes place five years after The Dark Mirror. While dealing with some of the same characters, it more so focuses on the story of other characters. Its main focus is on princess Ana of the Light Isles and on Bridei's best spy, Faolan.

A war is being planned, but before it can begin, a few loose strings need to be tied. Princess Ana of the Light Isles, who for eight years has been a comfortable hostage at Fortriu's court, has to be married off to form an alliance. Fifteen people in all will take the journey to where her new home will be, lead by Bridei's friend and spy, Faolan. Trouble meets the group along the way and two people who find each other utterly disagreeable form a friendship. Upon reaching their destination, the chieftain that Ana is to marry is found to be horrible. Both Ana and Faolan sniff out the mysterious secrets lurking about while Ana prepares herself to live a life of unhappiness.

Before reading Blade of Fortriu I saw some reviews written by people who were unhappy with this book. Their distaste was based on the book only loosely following staring characters from the series such as Bridei and Tuala. I must say that I personally found this book as well as Ana and Faolan's stories enjoyable. The story didn't end in the way that I wished it to, however it was solid and a good tale. It was good enough that getting to enjoy the point of views of characters whose stories were focused on more so in The Dark Mirror were more like a bonus.

August 9, 2010

Juliet Marillier: "The Dark Mirror"

Having really enjoyed everything else I've read by Juliet Marillier, I decided to give another series a try. The Dark Mirror is the first book in the Bridei Chronicles which consists of three books.

In this book a very young boy, Bridei, is taken from his family of noble blood to be raised by a foster parent, a powerful druid known as Broichan. Never revealing just what he has in store for Bridei's future, Broichan raises Bridei in a way that prepares him for a very meaningful future. Bridei is given the best of educations from Broichan and others in their community. While Bridei is still young a baby is left at their door. From that time on Bridei sets himself to protect and care for her, a girl deemed by others to be of the untrusted Fair Folk. Bridei and the girl, Tuala, become very close friends. Once Bridei is nearly an adult he begins to live the life planned for him and the two friends are deliberately separated in fear that Tuala will cause the ruin of Bridei's greater purpose in life.

Some parts of this book were sad indeed. Bridei is a child of merely four years old when taken away to where he must be tough and learn to be wise. Taula had her own sadness, outcasted at different times and in want of her only true friend. Despite hardships and pain this book works into a beautiful story. I knew when I was still in the middle of the book that I wanted to continue reading the rest of the series. This is why I'm still in the midst of the series as I type this.

My favorite of Marillier's books remains Heart's Blood after having read that, the current four books in the Sevenwaters series, and two out of three books in the Bridei Chronicles. I'm really looking forward to reading the final book to this series.

August 7, 2010

Rebecca Maizel: Infinite Days

I've read a lot of vampire books, so when I got this one to review I wasn't sure how much I'd like it. One eventually begins to wonder if each new vampire book will seem much the same as some other novel previously read. For this book, that's definitely not the case. The gripping story posses a strong female main character not at all like other vampires from literature. She wants to be human!

Rebecca Maizel's Infinite Days tells the story of a vampire queen who cannot stand to live in the world of the dead any longer. Lenah wishes for freedom of the living and all that she missed from having died at the young age of sixteen. There is but one way to gain such a gift. Luckily for her, a dear friend, Rhode, loves Lenah enough to be able to give her such a gift, though at a terrible cost to himself. Lenah becomes a human teenager once more and attends a private high school where she must be careful to keep hidden from those who will seek for their unknowingly-turned human queen. Falling in love with both life and a human, it's only unpreventable that her past may catch up to her.

This book sucked me in right away, a choice of wording that I now have the pleasure of knowing would cause the main character to either smile or laugh. I couldn't stop reading until I'd finished. At times I wondered if some characters could be more in depth. However, it was never usually long after such thoughts that I would read something new and then snicker for a connection I'd find between myself and a character as their personalities, opinions and such came into better view.

I laughed, but I did not cry. I think I should have been able to do that. One possible explanation is that it may be that this story could benefit from a deeper connection between readers and the main character, along with the different types of relationships she has within this book. I strongly feel though that I may have simply been stubborn believing Lenah to be meant to be in love with someone else. Oh, well. This being book one in what I've read is to be a series, I can't wait to get my hands on the next book.

August 2, 2010

Jacqueline Lepore: Descent into Dust

I received my copy of this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. Jacqueline Lepore's Descent into Dust is Victorian with a vampire twist to it. It's written as a gothic novel with all the mystery needed to make it a bit spooky. I loved it.

Main character and widow Emma Andrews is on a trip to visit family. She quickly arrives at Dulwich Manor. There seems to be a plague going on in the neighborhood, and while people are reassured that all is well, it isn't so. Emma begins to see and hear things, causing others to think she's inherited her mother's maddness. Another guest, Valerian Fox, helps Emma discover truth to mysteries lying about, including one about herself: Emma is destined to be a vampire hunter. Something of a vampire hunter himself, they work together to hunt an ancient vampire, Marius.

When I first began reading this book, I was a little nervous. I'd never read anything quite like it. Lepore showed me that sure enough, vampires can be written into a Victorian and gothic novel. It was done very well, I might add. My nervousness had slowed my reading pace toward the beginning of the book, but when I got further along I couldn't set the book down. It's a book that I want to reread, as I will be just before it's sequel is released. Originally titled The Cyprian Queen, just this week Lepore has shared that she wishes to title it Immortal with a Kiss.

I'm very greatful to be chosen to receive this book so thank you, Avon, for donating it to the program, and thank you, Jacqueline Lepore, for writing it. It was enjoyed very much.

Blogging Again

Well-assumed from this blog post title, I am blogging again after a long period of not doing so. I've missed blogging very much during the time that I haven't been. I hope to be blogging regularly once more. I'm truthfully not sure how often that will be. We will just see.

There are certainly a lot of books I could talk about here that I've read during the last year. I'm not going to blog about every book I've read during that time, however I will about some of my favorites. Books aren't going to be posted in order that I've read them in, either. However, I am going to try to have a sense of organization, posting things that seem to go together, posted near each other. (Example: Pride and Prejudice and Zombie books, books that belong in a series, etc.) There are some wonderful books that I want to reread this year that I read while not blogging for which I'll be waiting to blog about until after my reread of each of them in turn.

Fairly notable I'm sure, I've changed my blog layout once more. The other had too many odd things about it that I didn't know how to solve. I think it also goes without saying - but I will say anyway - just how much more I love this one. I think it's absolutely perfect and very fitting.