Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Jennifer Donnelly has been one of my favorite authors for a very long time. I was beyond excited when I was presented with the opportunity to review her upcoming YA novel, Deep Blue. Not only is it a magical and action-packed story brimming with Donnelly’s characteristic wit and voice, it is also about mermaids. Really, you can’t lose.

Deep Blue is the story of Serafina, the principessa of Miromara. On the day of her Dokimi (the ceremony where she proves her lineage, demonstrates her ability to rule and exchanges betrothal vows with her future husband), she dreams of a prophecy is made predicting a nightmarish future unless Sera can find five others who can help save the merfolk.

I personally haven’t encountered many mermaid books, so this was a really interesting concept to me. Donnelly does a great job of incorporating the history of the mer people and introducing their culture, politics and lifestyle. Continue reading “Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly”

Defy by Sara B. Larson

It’s pretty early in the year, but I can confidently say that I’ll have a hard time finding a new release in the upcoming months that I enjoy as much as I enjoyed Defy by Sara B. Larson. Defy is Larson’s debut novel, and it’s an incredible story full of wit, magic and romance. When evil sorcerers destroy her village and kill her parents, Alexa Hollen must pretend to be a boy to avoid a life in the breeding houses – brothels where underprivileged girls are forced to get pregnant for the sole purpose of expanding the king’s army. Years later, she is the best fighter in Prince Damian’s personal guard. She has guarded the secret of her true identity, but after she, the prince and one of her fellow guards are kidnapped, she learns some people know the truth about her. After years of suppressing any type of romantic feelings for fear of being discovered, Alex suddenly finds herself in the middle of an unexpected love triangle. She must learn how to navigate the world of romance while doing everything in her power to save her country from evil.

Alex is one of my favorite female characters of all time. She is extremely strong, both physically and emotionally. She lives her whole life with the burden of a gigantic secret that could get her killed, but she’s still a friendly and entertaining person. While she struggles to admit when she’s wrong and ask for help when she needs it, she knows what her weaknesses are and isn’t afraid to address them. Basically, she’s the type of girl we all want to become.

The romantic subplots in Defy are extraordinarily well done, and it’s especially great because Alex all of a sudden has to deal with two suitors after a lifetime of thinking she’d never be able to be openly in love with anyone because everyone thought she was a man. Continue reading “Defy by Sara B. Larson”

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

When I began reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, I entered the process with extremely high standards. Shannon was heralded as “the next J.K. Rowling” by The Telegraph, The Daily Mail. USA Today, Forbes and many other high-profile media outlets. In my eyes, there is no higher literary compliment.

While I didn’t think the book quite lived up to all the hype, it was still a very good novel and I look forward to reading more of the series, which is expected to be seven books long.

The Bone Season is really hard to sum up without giving too much away, so bear with me while I attempt to generalize.

Paige Mahoney is a clairvoyant in 2059 London – she can throw herself out of her body and travel the astral plane. Scion, the entity that runs England’s government, sees clairvoyance as a disease and known voyants are constantly at risk of being arrested and never seen again. It isn’t long before Paige discovers the real reason so many voyants have disappeared, and she has to decide if it’s better to live as a slave to the mysterious supernatural beings behind Scion or to risk her life and rebel. Continue reading “The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon”

The Pentrals by Crystal Mack

Antares follows people for a living. Her job is to track one person’s movements. She has to monitor them as closely as possible, and there are drastic consequences if she strays from her job. No, Antares is not a spy or secret operative of some government organization. Instead, the main character of The Pentrals by Crystal Mack is something much more common – a shadow.

Antares is the Shadow assigned to Violet, a teenage girl living in the opulent, mirrored city of Talline. She is a Class Two Pentral, or a Shadow or Reflection assigned to mirror the movements of a living creature.  She doesn’t feel emotions, and her only form of interaction is the brief moments she crosses paths with other Shadows and can exchange thoughts.

After tragedy strikes Violet’s group of friends, Antares begins to notice drastic changes in her Person. Violet becomes withdrawn and starts taking Lift! – a drug that makes it impossible for Antares to remember anything that happens afterwards. Eventually, Antares has enough of Violet’s changed attitude and suddenly is filled with a blinding rage and tries to rip away from her Person. Violet falls and collides with the Shadow, and, after briefly losing consciousness, Antares wakes up in Violet’s body. Suddenly able to openly communicate, emote, and move freely for the first time, Antares comes face to face with a city-wide conspiracy and has to expose the truth before it is too late.

To say this book is unique would be an understatement. Continue reading “The Pentrals by Crystal Mack”

A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon

A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon, pub. Aug. 2013, 292 pg.

Rating: 5/5 stars

I have always been a huge fan of both historical fiction and fantasy, so when I picked up A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon and realized it combines my two favorite genres, I couldn’t wait to keep reading.

Astoria Harding is not considered a normal young lady by the standards of society in 1857 Londinium, Anglica. Instead of wishing for a husband, she spends her time learning about the natural sciences from her Grandpapa and longing to make a scientific discovery that would get her inducted to the Royal Society. When her family has to move to Bharata (a land full of magic and mysticism), Tori undertakes her Grandpapa’s legacy to find a magical giant, golden lotus that is rumored to exist there. Little does she know, Bharati forces as well as the Anglican government also want to find the lotus, and both sides will do whatever it takes to ensure they find it first.

This book was right up my alley for a number of reasons, the first of which is Tori herself. Continue reading “A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon”

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, pub. June 2013, 181 pg.
Rating: 5000/5 stars

I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane about a week ago, and it’s taken me up until now to feel that I can clearly tell you how I feel. I was so overwhelmed with how amazing the novel was that I couldn’t think straight, and every attempt to blog about it turned into an incoherent jumble. I hope this is clearer than my previous attempts, but I know that no matter how hard I try, I won’t do this book justice.

When I heard that Neil Gaiman was going to be releasing a new book this summer, I emitted squeals of glee and ran in crazy circles around my apartment. He’s one of my all-time favorite authors, and I could not wait to read something new.

And then, of course, I got caught up in other books and other things and momentarily forgot that The Ocean at the End of the Lane was released in June, so it took me far longer than I would have liked to get around to reading it. But from the moment I picked it up, I was entirely enchanted. In his newest book, Gaiman creates a brilliant combination of fairy tale, coming-of-age, and retrospection.

After many years away, our narrator (who I don’t believe is ever named in the story) returns to his childhood home for a funeral. Needing some time alone, he goes for a drive and ends up on the street where he grew up. His body automatically guides him to the farm at the end of the lane, and while visiting his old neighbor, long-forgotten memories of magic and monsters slowly begin to return.

Neil Gaiman is a wonder with words. He has this beautiful, elegant, witty and yet somehow still conversational way of writing that make all of his books a joy to read. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no different. Continue reading “The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman”

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, pub. 2011, 423 pg.
Rating: 4/5 stars

I’ve been having an enormous amount of luck with choosing books this summer. Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson was another amazing novel, and now that I’ve finished, I can’t wait to get my hands on its sequel.

Elisa isn’t a conventional princess. Unlike her slender and elegant sister, she is chubby and prefers spending time with her nurse and her lady in waiting to attending court functions. She also bears the Godstone, a sacred jewel bestowed upon one person by God each century that seemingly connects her to a higher power and signals that she will commit a great act of service. At sixteen, she is suddenly and secretly married off to the young, widowed king of a neighboring kingdom. Her homeland and her new country are on the brink of war with invaders from the north, and Elisa may be the only one who can bring peace and safety to the ones she loves.

I loved Elisa so much. She is such a fabulously flawed character and someone readers can see bits of themselves in. When we first meet her, she’s self-conscious, easily embarrassed, and almost painfully shy at times. By the time the book ends, she has evolved entirely into one of the strongest characters I’ve read in recent memory.

The plot is amazing and intricate, bouncing from serious to silly in a matter of pages, but never losing its elegant tone. The Godstone was extremely interesting, and I loved reading how it interacted with Elisa and learning more about what it is and what it does as she learns. The only thing that lost me a little bit was its location (mostly because the stone is lodged in Elisa’s bellybutton, a body part that is entirely comical to me). Continue reading “The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson”