Monthly Archives: April 2012

Review #31 Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Author Sherrilyn Kenyon thanks her own teenage sons for helping her come up with the opening line – I am a socially awkward mandork– for this first book in the Chronicles of Nick series.  After the bleakness of reading Wither, this book drew me into a world of teenage angst, sarcasm and zombies…. what’s not to love?  Nick Gautier is having a harder time than most young men adjusting to the challenges of growing up. He lives in fairly abject poverty, raised by his mother who has to work as a stripper while his violent father rots in prison.  That is before reality begins to unravel around him and fellow classmates begin turning into living zombies.

Infinity is a wonderful introduction for teenage readers into to the Dark Hunter world that Kenyon, a #1 New York Times Best Selling Author, has created.  I recognized several key characters as the first chapters unfolded, but this pivotal story is told in such a strong male voice that I was immediately drawn in to the captivating blend of vulnerability and attitude embodied by the young hero.

There is plenty of humour to keep you  smiling at the oddest moments, plenty of action to satisfy any reader’s longing for adventure and so many incredible characters that you finish this novel craving another fix as soon as possible. I purchased this hardcover novel for half-price, but after reading it, I quickly hunted down the second book in paperback format to devour.  The series is powerful enough to make me break my rule of waiting for the paperback on principle and I may have to buy the 3rd one in hardcover, especially knowing that there will be a fourth book to come!

After reading Sherrilyn Kenyon’s story about her road to publishing, I can understand why her stories and characters are so believable.  Like them, the author has faced incredible odds and challenges without giving up.  Ever.  Some may wince at the paranormal in young adult novels, but I feel it is important to have stories which inspire young readers not to give into Darkness and to keep reaching for the Light.  The way that Kenyon accomplished this in Infinity is unique, refreshing and …infinitely enjoyable!  I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Hardcover format, 464 pages, published in 2010 by St.Martin’s Griffin

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Review #30 Wither by Lauren Destefano

Yet another dystopian novel jumps on the bandwagon, hoping somehow to snare a portion of the reading audience so enchanted by Hunger Games.  Like Matched and a few of the other novels I have been reviewing as part of this challenge, Wither makes a brave attempt to carve its own place among the competition.

The marketing campaign behind this series is brilliant and certainly has its pulse on where the next generation goes to create a buzz.  The website for the trilogy is slick and the trailer on YouTube feels almost like a movie trailer aiming to entice a techno-savvy generation into reading this novel.

The basic premise of the Chemical Garden series is simple yet disturbing.  Thanks to the meddling of science and the attempts to eliminate diseases, a plague has affected all of the younger generations of humanity.  Men now die at the age of 25 and women at the age of 20 from the virus that plagues civilization.  The gap between rich and poor has widened to the point where the wealthy are now able to entice or kidnap multiple brides for their young sons to breed successive generations or find a cure before they themselves (the untouched older generation) perish wither and die.

Wither opens with plenty of action. 16 year old Rhine Ellery is captured by the “Gatherers” and sold along with 2 other girls to become new brides for a wealthy young man named Linden Ashby of Florida while the rest of the captured girls are brutally slaughtered.  After being drugged and transported to closed compound of the Ashby manor, Rhine and her “sister brides”, Jenna and Cecily begin a life of captivity and privilege. Rose, the love of Linden’s life is dying from the virus and they are to be her replacements.

Wither was one of the most disturbing books that I’ve read in a long time.  It reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale or Sheri S. Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country.  When 13 year old Cecily becomes pregnant and carries Linden’s child to term or 18 year old Jenna uses sex  as a weapon, it  felt like promoting teenage exploitation.  The fact that Rhine somehow manages to escape consummating her marriage for the entire novel, despite Linden sleeping next to her many nights in her room, is not only improbable, it may give young women a false sense of their own safety.  When the heroine falls in love with a young servant in the house, she pretends to be more compliant in order to earn the privileges that come along with being a “First Wife”.  The rest of the novel deals with her challenges as she tries to avoid arousing the suspicions of Linden’s demented scientist father, Housemaster Vaughn. What twisted experiments is he conducting in order to find a cure?  Does he mean for Cecily’s son to be Linden’s malleable heir if a cure cannot be found in time?

Two novels remain in this series and I may eventually read both of them to satisfy my curiosity of how the story turns out… but I find the mercenary, dismal, objectifying overtones of this first book will certainly keep me from recommending Wither to friends with daughters and my own youngest daughter.

Hardcover format, 358 pages, published in 2011 by Simon & Schuster

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Wounded Dragons Can Still Read…

Being rear-ended in a friend’s car a few weeks ago meant that I fell behind on posting here, but not my reading.  The reviews will be coming fast and furious as I get around to typing them all up in bursts without spending too much time looking down at the computer screen.  Here’s the list of what I’ve read….

#30 Wither by Lauren Destefano

#31 Infinity(Chronicles of Nick #1)  by Sherrilyn Kenyon

#32 Misfit by Jon Skovron

#33 Blackveil by Kristen Britain

#34 Svaha by Charles De Lint

#35 Invincible(Chronicles of Nick #2)  by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Thank goodness for books when your body has to rest and recuperate!

 

 

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Review #29 Fire by Kristen Cashore

Fire is the prequel novel to Kristen Cashore’s amazing debut novel Graceling.  It takes place slightly earlier in her worlds timeline and covers the background history of Graceling’s powerful villain, Leck.

Fire is both the title of the novel and the main character, a beautiful human/monster hybrid with brilliantly coloured hair, special gifts and the burden of the legacy that her monster father,  Cansrel, left behind.  Cansrel had not only been infamous for his physical beauty, but for his cruelty, his twisted appetites and his ability to control weaker minds including that of the former king.

Fire had been raised at the edge of the Dells, a wild land of where monsters and humans battle with each other for survival, ever menaced by the leaders or tribes from the lands on their borders.  She is the last of her kind and events in the world conspire to send Fire beyond the comfort and security of the territory she has known to the King’s City.  Along the way, she learns about the true scope of her powers, the depth of human relationships and the responsibilities that come with the talents she learns to wield.

I’d read a few polarizing reviews about Fire while writing my own summary of Cashore’s debut novel, Graceling, for the Cannonball Read IV challenge.  Because of them, I put off diving into Fire and my oldest daughter beat me to it.  She was quite impressed with Fire, even though we both agree that Kasta (from Graceling) is a far more intriguing heroine.  The strength in Cashore’s ability to create convincing and memorable characters lies in the fact that they are not carbon copies replicated from other stories. Her wild, wonderful and diverse personalities each have their own strengths, weaknesses and intriguing idiosyncrasies.

When it came time to read Fire for myself, I found some of the issues raised in Cashore’s tale to be highly relevant and timely.  Given the current politically policies in the United States that threaten a woman’s right to decide what happens with her own body, some of the issues that Fire and other female characters deal with are powerful questions for young women of our own era to wrestle with.  With two such captivating YA novels under her belt, I can’t wait to see what a complex tale Cashore weaves in Bitterblue, the chronological sequel to Graceling.

Paperback format, 461 pages, copyright 2009, 2010, 2011 by Firebird Fantasy.

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Review #27 & 28 City of Night and Hunter’s Death

City of Night  and Hunter’s Death by Michelle West

Though written 14 years apart, these novels are so intrinsically interwoven that I had to review them together since the newer novel caused me to race to the basement as soon as City of Night was done to pull the older one from my bookshelf.  Rereading the overlap original tale in Hunter’s Death was all the more satisfying because of all the new details that City of Night provided.

I first stumbled across the amazing tales of Averlaan and Breodanir  when I discovered Michelle West’s The Sacred Hunt duology back in the late 1990s.  I loved the poignant characters of Stephen and his Hunter Lord Elseth.  I was also fascinated by a young female character in Hunter’s Death named Jewel Markess, a seer urchin who protects her den of fellow orphans and ends up playing a key role in how the story unfolds.

City of Night is the second book in The House War saga that details events in Averlaan before and during the plot lines that take place in the Sacred Hunt duology.  It provides a much deeper look into the complex fantasy world that West created over 16 years ago and provides much better insight into how and why her characters reacted as they did in the original story.  So rich and satisfying is this unfolding of plot and multiple narrative that it makes both the challenges, defeats and triumphs faced even more powerful.  You care far more for some of the people she brings to life with her words this time round because you have come to know them so much better… and it hurts to lose them even more keenly as well.

Dark forces are brewing in the City of Averlaan.  Noble houses are being infiltrated and corrupted by unseen forces and those who have begun to suspect what is truly going on cannot reveal it to the powers that be without putting everything at risk.  Magic, mayhem and intrigue bring the unlikeliest of characters together with intricate plot twists and gripping action that keep you turning the pages well after you should have put the light out and gone to bed.

Very few authors can take you on a journey back into the same story so successfully without it feeling as if they are just churning out a byproduct of an earlier triumph.  It is a tribute to Michelle West’s incredibly descriptive style and deft way of creating characters that act believably and heroically in their rich settings that this newer visit to a past creation just leaves the readers asking for more… more…. MORE!

Luckily, there are 3 more novels in the House War saga that I can now add to my “Must Find” list!

City of Night: Hardcover format, 467 pages, published in 2010 by Daw

Hunter’s Death: Paperback format, 670 pages, published in 1996 by Daw

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