Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Series: N/A
Pages: 240 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (May 13, 2014)
Rating: 4.25 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

 

GoodReads Synopsis

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

The novel, We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart describes the summers of Cadence Sinclair Eastman at a secluded family island.

Warning: Review contains spoiler!

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Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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Title: Lady Midnight
Author: Cassandra Clare
Series: The Dark Artifices | Book 1
Pages: 720 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books; 1 edition (March 8, 2016)
Rating: 5 stars (Read It!)

 

GoodReads Synopsis

The Shadowhunters of Los Angeles star in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.

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Review: Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord

Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord

Title: Sol of the Coliseum
Author: Adam Gaylord
Series: N/A
Pages: 262 pages
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing (September 17, 2015)
Rating: 4.5 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

 

GoodReads Synopsis

Deep in the bowels of the Coliseum of the mighty Astrolian Empire, the orphan, Sol, is raised by a makeshift family of guards and fellow slaves to become the most famed Gladiator in all the land. Alongside K’nal, his giant Frorian fighting partner, Sol must battle cunning warriors and fantastic beasts to delight the crowd and stay alive. But when an oppressed populace transforms Sol into a revolutionary folk hero, the Empire sends its most ruthless assassin to put an end to the uprising. Sol’s only chance is to do what no slave has ever done: escape from the Coliseum and the only home he’s ever known.

With elegant prose, Adam Gaylord tells a fast-paced gladiator story with layered, multi-dimensional characters. Sol of the Coliseum is not your typical Hollywood gladiator story. It is a story about someone just trying to survive to see the next day with their humanity. Even though he is a famous gladiator, Sol (the main character) kills only for survival, has strong values (despite his circumstances), and tries hard to keep his humanity, which I admired.

The author’s skilled prose made reading great fun (despite the small smart phone screen I read on). When Sol must fight in the Coliseum, the fights are detailed and descriptive with Sol more often than not having a clear strategy in mind for how he and his fighting partner (K’nal) are going to survive.

I am giving Sol of the Coliseum 4.5 stars, but there were just several small things that were preventing me from giving the extra half star. While the majority of the book was very suspenseful and action-packed, the beginning got off to a slightly slow start, so I had to power through for a small stretch before things started to pick up. However this wasn’t too much of a problem because the author took that time to help the reader gain a better understanding of Sol’s world and its inhabitants. Also I would’ve liked to see more character motivations/objectives/goals. Does Sol really want to escape or just live to see another day? Why is Lysik the evil sadistic assassin that he is? Why does he serve the empire and how did he come into its service?–since I don’t see a clear motive for his homicidal streaks other than that he is clearly insane, does he have some secret backstory or history?

On a positive note, I really liked how the author had the main POV’s storyline and then minor POVs’ storylines told and then at the end they all came together and fell into place. Also I liked how there was no love triangle between Sol, K’nal, and Korra and just a friendship, which is a hard phenomenon to come by sometimes. I’m also pleased that there was more than what meets the eye with Slink (a guard who puts up an unfriendly front who is constantly enduring ridicule from the other Colisium guards) instead of just having Slink being the classic nasty guard. Furthermore, Sol was actually mature enough to listen to Occi (his mother figure) and try to be nicer to Slink.

Overall I immensely enjoyed Sol of the Coliseum and am pleased that I got the chance to read it in exchange for an honest review as I do not think that I would’ve picked up this book (much less heard of it) on my own. This book is definitely a hidden gem in gladiator stories and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a unique gladiator story. I’m left with wondering whether there will be a sequel after Sol of the Coliseum‘s ending–what will happen to Sol, K’nal, Korra, and Slink?

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski

 

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Title: Nightfall
Author: Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski
Series: N/A
Pages: 368 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (September 22, 2015)
Rating: 3.5 stars (Choose It!)

The novel, “Nightfall,” by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski tells a haunting story of an island where day and night come every fourteen years.

Around the island, night is rapidly falling. The air is becoming colder and the shadows are growing longer. Following tradition and superstition, the villagers are studiously rearranging and a their houses. Traditions must be followed and no one asks why.

Marin helps her parents prepare the house for the long night as they await the arrival of the farriers who will ferry the island’s villagers to the Desert Lands (her mother’s homeland) where night comes every three days. But Kana, Marin’s twin brother, has taken to his room after being plagued by terrifying visions and nightmares.

Every fourteen years, the ferriers would travel to the island and ferry the villagers to the Desert
Lands (Marin and Kana’s mother’s homeland) where night comes every three days.

But when Line–Marin and Kana’s friend–goes missing, they must find him before it’s too late, even if it means endangering their own lives.

GoodReads Synopsis

The dark will bring your worst nightmares to light in this gripping and eerie survival story, perfect for fans of James Dashner and Neil Gaiman.

On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and  Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

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Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles | Book 1
Pages: 448 pages
Publisher: Square Fish; 2nd edition (January 8, 2013)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

The novel, Cinder, by Marissa Meyer tells the story of Cinder, a cyborg in New Beijing with a mysterious past as her life becomes entangled in an impending war between the Earth unions and the Lunars.

GoodReads Synopsis

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

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Review: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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Title: A Thousand Pieces of You
Author: Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird trilogy | Book 1
Pages: 384 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; Reprint edition (November 3, 2015)
Rating: 4.5 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

 

Book 1 of the Firebird trilogy, A Thousand Pieces of You, by Claudia Gray describes sixteen-year-old Marguerite Caine’s quest for vengeance to kill Paul Markov, her parents’ (two famous scientists) prodigy and lab assistant, after the theft of the Firebird: a device which allows users to leap between different dimensions (realms of different outcomes and possibilities).

GoodReads Synopsis

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her parent’s handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she expected.

Lately, A Thousand Pieces of You is the second book I’ve read with multi-dimensional travel, but I think it is the first book I have ever read that completely delves into what multi-dimensional travel would really look like. In this book, people travel to different dimensions by using the Firebird to transfer their consciousness into a dimension that had another version of them. While in that dimension, they would inhabit and control the body of their other dimensional self.

In different universes, especially the “Russiaverse” (where Marguerite is a grand duchess), this makes for “moral” conflicts, especially when Marguerite makes some big decisions for her other self while she is inside her body. This added an element of character vs. self and made the plot more interesting as Marguerite also grappled with external conflict as she hunted down her father’s suspected killer and the thief of the official Firebird prototype through the dimensions.

Another story aspect I liked were the plot twists. As Margeruite learns more about multi-dimensional travel, she discovers a secret about her travel companion. When the main character discovers not once, but twice, that two things she thought were true weren’t, it makes for some very suspenseful moments.

Like in The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, the author starts the book in the thick of things (Margeruite chasing her father’s killer through the dimensions) and then jumps back in Margeruite’s memory throughout the chapters to give the reader background information on events. I’m not a big fan of this, but it did not make me want to stop reading.

However, Claudia Gray did do an excellent job of developing the characters. Chapter by chapter she reveals a new layer of the characters, which makes them more believable. It also altered my opinion of them for better or for worse.

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Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands | Book 1
Pages: 416 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (January 5, 2016)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

The novel, Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard describes a richly imagined world of witchery.

Hot headed and impulsive domna Safiya (Safi) fon Hasstrel is a Truthwitch and heiress to the Hasstrel lands. Although witchery is prevalent in the Truthlands, Safi must keep her witchery a secret lest she become a political pawn with her ability to discern truth from lie. Despite being a domna, Safi is far from proper and regards her title as a restraint to her freedom.

Isuelt Midenzi, a Threadwitch is scorned by many because of her Nomatsi heritage. After leaving the Midenzi settlement, she and Safi cross paths and become Threadsisters: a bond developed through a shared life-or-death experience.

But with the end of the treaty that keeps the several empires of the Witchlands from fighting approaching, Safi and Iseult’s peaceful lives will dissipate as they are both forced to run to stop Safi from becoming a political pawn.

With the help of Safi’s uncle’s arrangements, Safi and Iseult manage to make a wild escape and ride a ship to Nubrevna captined by Prince Merik, a Windwitch. However with secret political deals and a vengeful Bloodwitch on their trail, their fight for freedom to live their own lives will not end when they reach Nubrevna.

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Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

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Title: Snow Like Ashes
Author: Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes series | Book 1
Pages: 448 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray; Reprint edition (September 15, 2015)
Rating: 2 stars (Leave It!-Choose It!)

The novel, Snow Like Ashes, by Sara Raasch describes protagonist Meira and the other Winterian refugee’s journey to retrieve their fallen kingdom’s locket.

GoodReads Synopsis

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

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Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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Title: Murder on the Orient Express
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: N/A
Pages: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper; Reissue edition (March 29, 2011)
Rating: 5 stars (Read It!)

The novel, Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie describes an enthralling murder mystery on the Orient Express.

GoodReads Synopsis

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stopped the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train was surprisingly full for the time of the year. But by the morning there was one passenger fewer. A passenger lay dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.

As usual, Belgium detective Hercule Poirot must solve the mystery of who the murderer is. But as he begins investigating, every new fact he learns complicates everything he already knows about the mystery. Can Poirot find the killer before they escape?

Warning: This review contains spoilers!

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Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Series: N/A
Pages: 181 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (June 3, 2014)
Rating: 5 stars (Read It!)

The novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman weaves a psychological thriller about an ‘ocean’ at the end of a lane where a man (unnamed deliberately by the author) lived as a young boy.

GoodReads Synopsis

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

Despite it’s relatively thin length for a novel (181 pages), The Ocean at the End of the Lane compacts a lot of meaning into those pages. And it left me still thinking after I’d finished it with the thought-provoking plotline. The author, Neil Gaiman, did a good job holding my interest through every page and generating intrigue.

A unique twist on the classic good vs. evil story with an adult tone to it, The Ocean at the End of the Lane took a little time to set up before fully launching into the story. I think what made this book fascinating was the surprise ending, and–highlight for spoiler– (the horridness of one Ursula Monkton), and how the author described memory and trauma.

One aspect of the novel that I found to be an interesting choice on the author’s part was the deliberate decision to keep the man (the main character) namelesss throughout the novel. In a way, I thought that it made sense.

Although the novel’s synopsis did not  intrigue me, I decided to give it a try and I’m glad that I did. Once you begin to read the book, it grips you and does not let you go until you finish. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel from the excellent writing, plot development, and character development.

I’d recommend this book to people who’ve read and enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s other novel Coraline or are looking for a good horror-psychological-suspense novel.