Review: The Bronze and The Brimstone by Lory S. Kaufman

Lizzie     Nov 10th, 2011     Dystopian, Fantasy, Reviews     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Fiction Std (June 7, 2011)
Source: Received from publicist
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1936558084
ISBN-13: 978-1936558087

Hansum, Shamira and Lincoln, three teens from the 24th-century, are trapped in 14th-century Verona, Italy. They’ve survived many deadly experiences by keeping their wits about them and by introducing futuristic technology into the past. Principal among these inventions is the telescope, which brought them to the attention to the rich and powerful.

But standing out can get you into unexpected and dangerous situations. The nobles of Verona now believe Hansum is a savant, a genius inventor, especially after he brings them plans for advanced cannons and black powder. Being the center of attention is great, but the potential for trouble is now exponentially greater because people are watching Hansum’s every move.

Meanwhile, artistic genius Shamira has fallen for a Florentine artist with bloody and disasterous consequences. Lincoln, considered an incompetent back home in the 24th-century, has blossomed – at least until he’s shot in the head with an arrow. And Hansum, after secretly marrying his new master’s beautiful daughter, Guilietta, is offered the hand in marriage of lady Beatrice, daughter of the ruler of Verona. To refuse could mean calamity for all the teens.

Amazingly, none of this is their biggest challenge. Because a rash illness is spreading across Verona – and it is threatening to consume everyone.

Do they have a future in this past?

Lory Kaufman is one of the most creative writers I’ve read this year. I really enjoyed The Lens and the Looker but I think, without a doubt, I liked The Bronze and The Brimstone even better. Much, much better. I can tell Lory really caught his footing as he wrote this.

In this book, the danger gets real. Hansum is playing a dangerous game with the people of the fourteenth century, and some of them are starting to suspect so. On top of that, a strange illness is spreading throughout Europe. You can probably guess what that illness is but for the characters, it’s all the more terror. Things heat up and go awry.

And I loved every minute of it. Like the last book, it took a little bit of time before things really got going, however there was a lot going on in the beginning. As well as the intense action that picks up, there are several heart wrenching scenes that broke my heart. I actually teared up! And trust me, I don’t do that often. There’ve been very few books this year that I’ve read that have made me tear up or cry. When a book can do that to me, and then rip me into scary action, I know it’s a hit.

What do I think overall? Lory is an amazing, creative writer who is invested in his books. You can tell he did a lot to make sure the story did match up with history (and then shake it up with introducing technology before its time). I cannot wait to read the last book of the trilogy, The Loved and the Lost! Is it here yet?! I’m so interested to see where that one goes.

Review: The Lost Heiress by Catherine Fisher

Lizzie     Oct 14th, 2011     Fantasy, Reviews     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Dial (June 14, 2011)
Source: Bought
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0803736746
ISBN-13: 978-0803736740

Even though Tasceron and its Emperor have fallen, there is a rumor that the heiress to the throne still lives. If so, her life is in grave danger, especially from the Watch. Galen and Raffi must race to find and protect her.

This review is going to be short because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who’s not read the first book!

Yet again, Catherine Fisher has managed to captivate me with her books. Quickly, the Relic Master series is turning into one of my favorites of all time. In The Lost Heiress, we learn more about the characters, who, in turn, come into their own fully in this book. There is a more in-depth look into the world that is Anara. And we learn there may be a way to save Anara from the Watch…

If you haven’t started this series yet, what are you waiting for?! There’s hints of science fiction, dystopian, and fantasy in it, which will satisfy any type of reader. I can’t say anything else without spoiling anything because unfortunately, my favorite parts of the book would spoil the first book totally. BUT! Let’s just say, I really, really loved everything about this book. Catherine is one amazing fantasy writer. The way she draws you in and introduces you to this new world she’s created is brilliant. She knows what she’s doing and that shows in the way she world-builds.

I also highly recommend Incarceron and Sapphique by Ms. Fisher. I know you’re like, “You want me to read SIX BOOKS by this author? COME ON!!” But it’s so worth it; get over it. 0=) What is even better about this series? Penguin published all four of them simultaneously over the summer to the US! Way to know how to draw a girl in, Penguin. ;)

And this has been a short-but-not-nearly-as-short-as-I-originally-intended review. Also, it was a bit fangirl-ish. No shame.

Review: The Lens and The Looker by Lory S. Kaufman

Lizzie     Oct 10th, 2011     Dystopian, Fantasy, Reviews     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Fiction Std (March 16, 2011)
Source: Received from publicist
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1936558025
ISBN-13: 978-1936558025

It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences (A.I.s) have finally created the perfect post-dystopian society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.

In this first of a trilogy, we meet three spoiled teens in the year 2347. Hansum almost 17, is good looking and athletic. Shamira, 15, is sassy, independent and an artistic genius. Lincoln, 14, is the smart-aleck. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to find his insecurities.

These three “hard cases” refuse the valuable lessons History Camps teach. But when they are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy, they only have two choices; adapt to the harsh medieval ways or die. The dangers are many, their enemies are powerful, and safety is a long way away. It’s hardly the ideal environment to fall in love – but that’s exactly what happens. In an attempt to survive, the trio risks introducing technology from the future. It could save them – or it could change history.

When I first started reading this book, it wasn’t all that interesting to me. I thought the premise sounded genius, absolutely fantastic. The concept of History Camps was so cool, something that, even though it is reserved for misbehaving children in the book, I would love to go to! I mean, living as they did in the fourteenth century, but without the concern for disease! Maybe I’m weird but I think that would be so cool.

But the beginning just wasn’t interesting to me. It took a little less than a hundred pages for the story to finally pick up and then I couldn’t put it down.

I liked that the story didn’t focus on just one character throughout. It touched on the perspectives of Hansum, Shamira, Lincoln, and even others who appear during the book. It did so in a way that it wasn’t confusing but rather refreshing. There are so many YA novels out there today that don’t even bother giving you a glimpse at other character’s point-of-views, or do so in a distracting and confusing way.

There wasn’t as much as action as you’d expect, seeing as it takes place in a time where survival was a struggle year round, unless you were handsomely wealthy. However, the action that was there, was executed finely and had me on the edge of my seat.

Allow me to touch on the cover for a moment, too. It’s definitely eye-catching but at the same time, it is almost kind of . . . classic. I can’t even find the right word for but it reminds me of book covers from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s which is a great thing to me. I adore it, and the cover of the sequel, The Bronze and the Brimstone, which I’ll also be reviewing soon.

Lory is an author that can’t wait to read more of. Even though I don’t know too much about the fourteenth century, I felt like I was right beside Hansum, Shamira, and Lincoln as I read The Lens and The Looker. He’s great at creating visuals and I’m excited to see where the story goes next.

Review: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher

Lizzie     Sep 24th, 2011     Fantasy, Reviews     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Dial (May 17, 2011)
Source: Bought
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0803736738
ISBN-13: 978-0803736733

Welcome to Anara, a world mysteriously crumbling to devastation, where nothing is what it seems: Ancient relics emit technologically advanced powers, members of the old Order are hunted by the governing Watch yet revered by the people, and the great energy that connects all seems to also be destroying all. The only hope for the world lies in Galen, a man of the old Order and a Keeper of relics, and his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Raffi. They know of a secret relic with great power that has been hidden for centuries. As they search for it, they will be tested beyond their limits. For there are monsters-some human, some not-that also want the relic’s power and will stop at nothing to get it.

Allow me to sum this up in two words: Freakin’ AWESOME!

When I started the book, though, it was more of “Meh.” I was intrigued but it wasn’t doing much for me for a bit. I was getting very disappointed because Incarceron and Sapphique are two of my favorite books. And while I wasn’t comparing them (that actually never crossed my mind), The Dark City was not living up to what I thought it would be.

That all changed about half way through the book. By that time, I simply could not put it down. The world Catherine builds, with all its mysteries and the Sekoi (cat-like people), grabbed hold of me and sucked me in. I love how at the beginning of chapters, there are “excerpts” from books that exist in the world the book is set in. To me, I find it really neat to know what the characters are talking about when they discuss said books. The adventure, the strange happenings, the relics they had and were finding, the eerie places Galen and Raffi found themselves in… I didn’t want to stop reading.

I liked the character of Raffi but he had quite a few downfalls. Raffi is Galen’s successor as a keeper, in a way. Galen is teaching him the ways, secrets, and stories of the Relic Masters. At times, I really felt like Raffi wasn’t trying hard enough for this big job he was being entrusted with. His first instinct in dire situations wasn’t to use the things he’d been taught, even though Galen had been teaching him for four years. He was quite forgetful. And that tortured Galen, who’d lost his powers in an accident.

Thankfully, though, by the ending, Raffi grew as person and as a keeper-to-be.

And that ending! Oh my goodness. I didn’t see it coming. If you’ve read this book, you may know what I’m talking about. Before I got to a certain part I was thinking along the lines of a 3 1/2, maybe 4 star review. But the ending threw both of those out and immediately replaced them with 5 stars. Yes. It was that good. As soon as I closed the book, I sat there for ten minutes, with a huge grin on my face, saying, “Oh, that was so cool. I did not see that coming. That was SO COOL. SO COOL!”

You get it, surely? It was so cool.

Overall, I definitely say pick this one up! I’m never ceased to be entertained and delighted by Catherine Fisher’s books and since she has so many of them, I think I ought to pick up more of them. :-)

Review: Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Lizzie     Jun 7th, 2011     Fantasy, Reviews     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 15, 2011)
Source: Purchased
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062002325
ISBN-13: 978-0062002327

This debut, the first novel in a trilogy, is achingly romantic, terrifying, and filled with blistering action.

When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers – monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell – she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie’s powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her – an assassin who has already killed her once.

While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie’s soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian’s most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives – including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Maybe you remember me saying how excited I was to be going to meet Courtney, Leah Clifford, and Lisa Desrochers last Wednesday? Yeah….. didn’t happen. Ugh! Of course, what’s the one day that I get sick, after something like a year of NOT being sick? Last Wednesday. Yep. So basically, I missed the signing and did not get anything signed for the upcoming giveaway. Ugh again! Do not fret though, because there will be a signed book in the giveaway. Once I reach 25 followers (which, as it seems, will be quite soon! Hello new followers!), I’ll stick the post up containing all the details. There will be two winners, two books, and a lot of swag for those two winners and books. Woo! Okay, onto the review.

For me, it’s been really hard to find books based on angel mythology that I actually end up enjoying. The Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare are my all-time favorites series but on the same foot, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick was a disappointment to me; it didn’t live up to the hype, and if I’m being honest, I did not like it nearly at all.

I was nervous that would happen with Angelfire too. I’m just too picky about angel mythology, perhaps. I don’t know why; I just am. I absolutely loved Angelfire though! Courtney is such a fantastic writer. I was enthralled from page one.

Ellie, from the beginning, was a very strong, real character. I couldn’t exactly relate to her—not with the Audi A4 she got for her birthday (um, jealous much! Gotta love an A4) or the parties she attended or the boy who was in love with her even though she didn’t realize it or even the awesome best friend she had. But she came alive as soon as I started the book. I think that’s one of the hardest things about writing fantasy for most authors—the character either ends up bland and flat, with no depth or personality, or with some fantastical, superior personality that ends up getting annoying quickly.

What I loved most was the flashbacks Ellie got from her previous lives. They ranged from Ancient Egypt (my favorite!) to Chicago, forty years prior to the time of the story. They were scary and fascinating. And the fight scenes! When Ellie and Will are fighting the reapers, it’s like you’re right there with them, fighting just as hard as they are.

I wish there had more learned about Will. He was so secretive and it was always hard for Ellie to get straight answers from. His reason was because he wanted her to remember on her own but at some point, I wanted to throw the book across the room, Will was frustrating me so badly! I really, really hope that with the next book, more will be revealed about Will’s past.

Courtney is one fantastic writer and I really cannot wait to read Wings of the Wicked. Even more, I can’t wait to see what other books she has stored up in her minds, as I’ll be sure to read them!

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Lizzie     Jun 6th, 2011     Fantasy, Paranormal, Reviews     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books (June 7, 2011)
Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1594744769
ISBN-13: 978-1594744761

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

I’m going to start this off by saying, this was a very peculiar novel. The name was all too fitting. It was very unlike anything else I’ve read. And not just because it involved literature and some very creepy photography.

The storyline actually engrossed me so much that I was reading while my mother watched television in the same room, which is something I’m normally entirely incapable of, because it distracts me easily. Instead, I found myself reading this quickly, reading over a hundred pages in an hour (another thing I’m normally incapable of). It was like I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!

Miss Peregrine’s, admittedly wasn’t exactly what I expected. I expected entirely creepy ghost children shifting out of the walls, monsters hopping out in front of Jacob in the dark, and nightmarish creatures. Actually, what I got was a lot better and a whole lot less cliche than what I expected. Which was awesome! Yes, it was creepy, particularly in the first half of the story, and there was plenty of nightmare-causing things in the book but more than that, the story followed a path entirely captivating but I can’t even reveal more about that without spoiling the book for everyone.

The photographs added a lot to the enjoyment of the story, though I think even if they hadn’t been apart of it, I still would’ve loved it. I absolutely loved that they gave you a better visualization of the characters and happenings throughout the book. The fact that those photographs are actually real (though some are manipulated) is amazing. They’re all so fascinating, that I would’ve finished a lot sooner with the book if I hadn’t spent so much analyzing and staring at the photos.

Sometimes, I got very confused. Still, I’m very confused about some parts of the novel, because there was a lot left open. At the same time, the layers to the story have left me wanting a sequel to this so I can dive back into this fascinating, confusing, mind-blowing world. I would love to know more about Jacob’s grandfather’s past, Jacob’s past (and future), and where the story is going next!

Review: Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Lizzie     Dec 20th, 2010     Dystopian, Fantasy, Reviews, Science Fiction     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Dial (December 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0803733976
ISBN-13: 978-0803733978

The only one who escaped . . . And the one who could destroy them all.

Incarceron, the living prison, has lost one of its inmates to the outside world: Finn’s escaped, only to find that Outside is not at all what he expected. Used to the technologically advanced, if violently harsh, conditions of the prison, Finn is now forced to obey the rules of Protocol, which require all people to live without technology. To Finn, Outside is just a prison of another kind, especially when Claudia, the daughter of the prison’s warden, declares Finn the lost heir to the throne. When another claimant emerges, both Finn’s and Claudia’s very lives hang on Finn convincing the Court of something that even he doesn’t fully believe.

Meanwhile, Finn’s oathbrother Keiro and his friend Attia are still trapped inside Incarceron. They are searching for a magical glove, which legend says Sapphique used to escape. To find it, they must battle the prison itself, because Incarceron wants the glove too.

*Note: This review contains no spoilers of Sapphique but may spoil Incarceron if you haven’t read it. Read my Incarceron review here.

I absolutely loved Incarceron so when I was able to get my hands on a copy of Sapphique, I was SO excited. I was also a bit nervous because I knew it was not only the sequel but also the closure of the series. But I can honestly tell you that it was amazing in every way!

Now, Finn is out of the Prison and preparing to take up his duties as Prince of the Realm, but he runs into some problems… like a strange character who claims that he is the real Giles. The author makes even you begin to doubt that Finn is the real Giles, that everything you thought you knew about the Realm and Finn isn’t the truth. There’s so much more evidence that supports the Pretender’s (as he is called in the book) claims. I had my own doubts as well but none that I could say without spoiling it. ;)

I loved that even though Finn has escaped from Incarceron, there was still a storyline that focused on Keiro and Attia’s own attempt at escape. I loved every second of their journey, especially that so many more levels and depths of the Prison were searched and discovered than in the previous book. You get to see an even darker, twisted side of Incarceron. If you’re thinking, “How could Incarceron get any more twisted than it already is?” then I’ll just tell you this: It does.

When you start this book, you’re once again tossed and yanked and ripped into the pages and taken on an incredible adventure. I had such a hard time putting this book down, that some nights I’d be up well passed 2 AM reading it because it’s so awesome. I don’t know how Catherine does it but I can tell you this; She is a master. Her writing is enthralling and interesting, and keeps you interested long past the last page.

Granted, while this is the finale, I still felt like there was a lot to be tied together past the end. Easily, I think a third book could be added and have so many places to go. As a finale, though, it was one of the most satisfying endings I’ve read in a long time (and yes—even more satsifying than Mockingjay’s ending!). Overall, I loved just about everything about it. I even ended up liking Claudia more than I did when I finished Incarceron. It’s bittersweet to see the end of this amazing series so soon but so amazing that so much action and adventure was packed into just two books!

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