Thursday, February 12, 2015

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

★★★★✩
Tsukuru Tazaki once had a group of friends that enriched his dull ordinary life. Without any explanation they told him they never wanted to see him again. A painful loss that has haunted and impacted the way he's lived his life. Tsukuru has become a man with a simple lifestyle and very few friends. The future he wants to create depends on facing his past and learning what truly transpired.      

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage is a melancholy story that explores loneliness, friendship, and identity.

I really liked the story's retrospective take on the coming-of-age tale. The story highlights Tsukuru's sense of self during high school and college interwoven with his current mindset as an adult. It was interesting to see how Tsukuru navigated each of the transitional phases and how they shaped the person he became.

The mystery surrounding Tsukuru's past unfolds gradually with each new piece of information expanding upon it. It was interesting to see how his friends were affected and learn what happened to them through the years. The ending is open but I thought it gave a sense of closure to the overall story and the mystery it focused on.  

I loved the cadence of the prose and its ability to capture existential ideas and reiterate them through colorful concise metaphors. I thought it was interesting how the story used slight touches of supernatural surrealism to underscore introspective moments. I especially liked the story's incorporation of music and how it enhanced the themes of the story. 

Overall, I enjoyed reading the story and look forward to reading other books by the author.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Revenge Of The Witch by Joseph Delaney

★★★★✩
Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son, gifted with an awareness of the supernatural. Arrangements have been made for him to become the next apprentice to the Spook. He'll learn how to combat and trap frightful creatures in order to protect the countryside. When he unknowingly releases a powerful witch from her imprisonment, he must rely on his limited knowledge to defeat her. This is the first book in The Last Apprentice series.

Revenge Of The Witch is a middle grade, young adult story. It's an engaging blend of fantasy and horror. It manages to create an eerie undertone that enhances the suspense.

I enjoyed reading this story and was surprised by how creepy it was at times. The settings were wonderfully portrayed and atmospheric. I especially enjoyed the large amount of paranormal and supernatural elements packed into the story. It has everything from hauntings, possession, ghasts, boggarts, witches, and gruesome magic. All while remaining appropriate for the intended audience.
 
I loved the ink illustrations by Patrick Arrasmith included throughout the book. Each illustration enhanced the tone and mood of each chapter beginning. I also liked the map and journal entries included at the end of the book. I especially liked how they mirrored information given within the story and felt like they came from the main character.  

I really liked how Thomas' character demonstrates the concept of bravery by facing his fears. Each new frightful encounter further develops his character and I couldn't help rooting for him. I also liked that the story touched on different ideas such as loneliness, tolerance, independence, and compassion through his character.

The story is a quick read with interesting characters and exciting adventures. I did lose a bit of interest towards the end because I didn't care much for the extended storyline with Alice but I'm curious about what role she will play in the future. The story sets the foundation for the series and I definitely plan to continue reading The Last Apprentice series.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

★★★★✩
Victor and Eli were best friends during college. They were rivals in everything and shared a common ambition to put their research into practice. Systematically playing with death they were able to become ExtraOrdinary, gaining amazing abilities once only attributed to superheroes. Ten years have passed since then. Victor has just broken out of prison and is determined to get revenge against Eli for putting him there. Meanwhile Eli has been enacting his zealous mission of ridding the world of other EOs by personally hunting them down.     

Vicious is a compelling tale that explores the darkness of jealousy, revenge, death, and morality. There is no clear hero or villain and both main characters are wonderfully flawed. 

I loved the story's prose and found it thoroughly engaging. It was vividly descriptive with concise word usage often found in short stories which enabled it to invoke the sense of a graphic novel.

The story is set in the near future on a parallel world where super powers are conceivable. It's told through short alternating chapters that weave the past and present together from different perspectives. I appreciated that each chapter was clearly labeled and I liked the graphic design details included in the book's formatting. It made the overall story easier to follow and heightened the suspense in the second part by emphasizing the countdown.

I liked how the characters were portrayed. I enjoyed reading how they navigated through the dark themes within their different story lines. I really liked the concept behind how they became ExtraOrdinary and the different ways their powers manifested.

Vicious is an engaging story with dark undertones, vivid prose and dramatic characters.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Double Blind by Tiffany Pitts

★★★★✩
Delilah Pelham's brother has gone missing in Hong Kong while negotiating a classified business deal. She isn't too concerned because his charming persona and shady schemes often get him into trouble. The only one worried and insistent they find him is Carl, who has a personal stake in the business and has discovered obscure messages that suggest her brother knew he was in danger before disappearing. Together they retrace his steps through Hong Kong and try to solve the clues left for them while dodging the people intent on stopping them. This is the first book in the Thanatos Rising series.

Double Blind is an amusing story that blends action and mystery with a bit of romance and science fiction. The story has an engaging narrative that remains witty and upbeat throughout the course of the book. 

I liked that the story included advanced technology with interesting consequences. The enthusiasm for the science behind the technology made it a fun addition to the story without overwhelming it.

The story has two interconnected storylines that take place in different locations. Seattle and Hong Kong were wonderful backdrops to the story. The detail and focus given to the layout of each location gave a better sense of place and movement through the story. I also liked that each setting was reinforced through the chapter titles.  

The characters were memorable and endearing with clever dialogue. I liked all the small characterization details that made them more dynamic. It was also fun to see the different relationships between the characters play out.

Delilah was an interesting contrast to Carl's character. I really liked how the action scenes incorporated their different capabilities and knowledge. The fight scenes were lively and well written. 

The promise of a cyber-cat was the main reason I chose to read the story. As a result Toesy quickly became my favorite character. I loved the way his mindset and behaviors were portrayed. His side story with Carl's friends was engaging read and added depth to the overall story.  

Double Blind is an amusing, action packed mystery with wonderful twists and revelations. I look forward to reading its forthcoming sequel. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

★★★★✩
Artemis Fowl is a young criminal mastermind determined to revive his family's dwindling fortune. He's finally found a copy of a revered fairy book and has decided to kidnap a fairy in order to extort their society for gold. Through a dangerous game of wits and force, Artemis must go up against the fairy tactical retrieval team and keep his hostage from escaping. This is the first book in the Artemis Fowl series.

Artemis Fowl is a middle grade, young adult story. I tend to avoid books with faeries but this one came highly recommended. The fairies in the story are a technologically advanced society that have been driven underground by humans.

The world building was richly detailed and gave a fun, modern twist on faerie lore. I liked that the story focused more on advanced technology and minimized the need for magic. It was fun to read about the different fantastical creatures and the daily operations of the fairy police force .  

The story tends to focus more on Captain Holly Short's attempts to escape and the lengths her unit goes to in order to rescue her. The story gives a sympathetic look at the fairies' plight to remain hidden and survive along with a prominent message on environmentalism. I thought it was interesting how Artemis Fowl became the primary antagonist as the story progressed. Though it was odd that as the title character he seemed more of a background character.

Overall, the story is a fun adventure with great action scenes and amusing moments that made me laugh. The story reinforces the fact that it's part of a series and hints at future fun adventures to come. I liked that the series has it's own hieroglyphic writing system and included a decipherable short story that ran along the bottom of the pages. It gave a fun interactive quality to the book and made me curious about the other books in the series.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

★★★★★
Sydney escaped from her abusive husband and has taken her young daughter, Bay, to the only place she ever felt safe.  Returning to Bascom was something she promised never to do when she left as a teenager. Her older sister, Claire, runs a catering business keeping up the family tradition of infusing food with flowers that can influence a person's emotions. Bay adjusts easily to the magic surrounding Bascom while Claire and Sydney are hesitant to follow the path fate is pushing them in. This is the first book in the Waverly Family series. 

Garden Spells is sweet and charming story. The story setup is slightly reminiscent of Practical Magic but it's more of a light-hearted rendition. It took me a while to adjust to the writing style but I felt it evened out after the first couple of chapters.

I really liked the magic system in the story. It's expressed through the characters as different types of intuition. It was fun to see how certain families were known for specific abilities. I also liked how the Waverly's family garden was portrayed as a magical setting. The magic system was incorporated nicely and enhanced the story without overpowering it.

The story has a large cast of characters with interwoven storylines. I liked how the story was able to capture the sense of a small town community. The characters' were wonderfully diverse in their personalities and remained likeable. I liked that the major and minor characters were given equally powerful storylines that were resolved at the end. I also liked the different types of relationships the story explored. It gave an insightful look at the varying dynamics among families as well as romantic relationships.

Garden Spells is a heartwarming story and I look forward to reading its sequel.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

After The Music by Christine Feehan

★★★★★
Jessica Fitzpatrick and her mother have taken care of Dillion's twin children ever since he rose to fame as a rock star. Jessica reunites the twins with their father for Christmas trying to escape the mysterious threats stalking them. The private island and its Gothic mansion bring back too many memories of betrayal, the occult, murder, and the deadly fire which left Dillion horribly disfigured. Jessica has always loved Dillion but his demeanor has definitely changed meanwhile dangerous accidents continue to happen.       

After The Music is a Gothic holiday read. This novella is available for individual sale but it was also previously published in A Christine Feehan Holiday Treasury, The Wicked And The Wondrous, and A Very Gothic Christmas.

It took me a while to get into the story because the beginning confused me. I didn't initially understand the relationship dynamics and the timeline in comparison to the characters' ages threw me off a bit. After the first couple of chapters I was able to adjust and become better engaged in the story.

The story has a sizable cast since Dillion's band is also present working on an album. The story incorporates their troubled past and the current state of their strained relationships. It was nice to see how Jessica and the twins positively influenced the other characters and better united them. Forgiveness and second chances are major themes throughout the story while dramatic revelations and confessions threatens the peace established.

Jessica and Dillion's romance was intense and complex because they both survived the darkness and tragedy his wife introduced into their lives. It makes an interesting statement about moving forward. I thought it was sweet how the sense of family gradually developed between them as the story progressed. 

Dangerous accidents combined with the supernatural added a sense of mystery to the story. At times it was difficult to determine what was responsible. It created interesting conflict that gave the story a suspenseful element. The ending settled past and present mysteries while giving the characters a miraculous Christmas and hopeful future.   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

★★★✩✩
Garrison Brown must settle his deceased grandmother's estate. He's determined to honor her final request to find new homes for her six cats but his severe allergies complicate the situation. The new owners must also meet very specific criteria because each cat comes with a secret inheritance.

The Christmas Cat is a holiday read embedded with Christian messages on faith. I loved the way the cats were portrayed in the story. It was heartwarming how each cat was a positive influence on their new owner's life.

I liked how the story's setting and characters were able to give a sense of community. I really liked how interconnected the characters were and how they influenced each other. It was nice to see the main character find a place for himself within the community while reaffirming his direction in life.

Unfortunately, at times the prose felt a bit stilted to me. Character development was okay but emotions seemed overly restrained outside of interactions with the cats. It kind of lessened the impact of key moments and made the romance subplot seem hollow. Overall, I thought it was a decent holiday read and its novella length makes its shortcomings forgivable.

The Christmas Cat is light holiday read with a heartwarming portrayal of cats.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

★★★★★
Percy Jackson has been expelled from another school after a strange string of events. Monsters are stalking him and his only option is to seek safety at Camp Halfblood. There he learns that he's actually a demigod with powerful abilities. Percy receives a quest from an oracle and must complete it quickly to prevent a war starting amongst the gods. This is the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.

The Lightning Thief is a middle grade, young adult book. It's an amusing and engaging story that gives a modern reinterpretation of Greek mythology.

I reread this book following along with the charming and insightful blog series, Michael Reads Percy Jackson, written by Michael G. Munz. It was fun to revisit the story and get a different perspective on the book chapter by chapter.

Reading the story at a slower pace made me appreciate how each chapter is its own self contained adventure. The humor, action, and pacing kept me engaged and made me want to continue reading.

I loved the story's incorporation of Greek mythology. The story gives it modern twist along with a reimagined portrayal of mythical entities. I liked that it also included references to the original lore and explained relevant myths for those unfamiliar with them.

I've come to adore the characters over the course of the series so it was fun to be reintroduced to them. The world building is fantastic and I liked that the characters were able to visit a number of different settings. The magic system is fun and interesting. I liked how it gave the story more depth and enhanced every fantastical adventure.   

The Lightning Thief is a fun and engaging story that introduces a wonderful young adult series.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gasp by V.J. Chambers

★★★★✩
Azazel is pregnant and traces of her magic have returned. Now she has to tell Jason he isn't the father. Imri will do anything in his power to ensure that Azazel's baby isn't born. Even if it means manipulating Jason to help him. This is the ninth and final book in the Jason and Azazel series. It's also the final book in the Jason and Azazel: Ambrosia trilogy.

Gasp is a paranormal story that begins right in the midst of the stunning dark drama. The first half of the story is told through an engaging narrative from alternating viewpoints between Jason and Azazel.

The secrets that Jason and Azazel have been keeping from each other are finally revealed. It was interesting to learn Jason's perspective and reasoning for enacting the dark ritualistic abductions. Azazel's pregnancy results in a whirlwind of drama and intensifies the threat from Imri.

The first half of the story is a dramatic string of suspenseful and violent events. It's a ultimately a tragic read that presents an uncertain future that Jason and Azazel will have to face together.

The second half of the story introduces new narrative viewpoints along with a significant jump in time. It's an eerie blend of events and influences from previous books reenacted through a new generation. I really liked the concept of the cycle beginning again especially since they tried so hard to avoid repeating past mistakes. It was an enjoyable read that gave a cohesive feel to the overall series and offered a satisfying conclusion to the Jason and Azazel series.

Related Posts:
Breathless (Jason and Azazel, #1) 
Trembling (Jason and Azazel, #2)
Tortured   (Jason and Azazel, #3) 
The Stillness In The Air (Jason and Azazel, #4)
Between The Heaves Of Storm (Jason and Azazel, #5) 
That Last Onset (Jason and Azazel, #6)
Shudder (Jason and Azazel, #7)
Falter (Jason and Azazel, #8)