February 25, 2015

Review: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: September 1, 2014
Pages: 224

Short Sweet Synopsis: Ceony has worked hard to be first in her class at the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined to fulfill her dream of choosing metal as the medium for her magic; however, her dreams are crushed when the school assigns her to work with paper. Little does she know that there is more to paper magic than she even thought possible. When a magician practicing dark magic enters the picture, Ceony must use all the magic she has learned in order to save the life of her teacher.

"The Paper Magician" was a nice change from the books I have been reading. You may think that the idea of a paper magician is lame, but Charlie N. Holmberg makes it incredible. Like the idea of a magician who can work wonders with paper, there were aspects of "The Paper Magician" that I loved, but there were some issues with the execution of the plot that got in the way of the flow of the story.

I'm going to start with the positives because my experience when reading "The Paper Magician" was a good one. I loved the characters in "The Paper Magician" because they all had strong personalities. Ceony and Emery had great chemistry throughout the book and I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. I truly appreciated the way Holmberg created his magical world where there Magicians bond to a specific man-made medium. Once bonded a magician can only work with that material. Even though paper sounds like a lame material to work with, it turns out that almost anything is possible if the magician knows his craft and understand the material.

My biggest problem with "The Paper Magician" was the pacing. Much of the book moved very quickly, but then the book slowed down towards the end. There was too much descriptions that didn't add to the world building or story. There was also a point where the plot started to crawl along and Ceony was going around in circles. It was getting really frustrating. I think it would have helped the pace if Emery and Ceony had more time working together at the beginning of the story and less with Ceony running in circles (sorry I'm trying not to give away cool details). Luckily the end of the book made it totally worth it!

I really enjoyed "The Paper Magician" because it felt very unique to other fantasy books out there. Yes it had romance and a good vs. evil plot, but these are elements I enjoy when the author does them well. Even though poor pacing is one of my pet peeves, I still really enjoyed "The Paper Magician" and even plan on reading the second book in the series.

February 11, 2015

Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

The Jewel by Amy Ewing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: September 2nd, 2014
Pages: 358

Short Sweet Synopsis: In a world where the royals cannot reproduce, surrogates are trained to create offspring for the higher class citizens that live in The Jewel. Violet is now of age to be sold as a surrogate and quickly discovers that her training has ill prepared her for what her status really means in the society of The Jewel. 

I read The Jewel based on a recommendation by a friend. We both LOVED The Selection series and she thought this was a good read alike. Yes there are girls in pretty dresses and they are somewhat competing for the favor of royals; however, the feel of The Jewel is nothing like The Selection. The Selection had a pretty light tone to it, but The Jewel was heavy.

While I thought The Jewel was great, I spent most of the book insanely stressed out about how Violet would become pregnant. The process of impregnating the girls, like all aspects of their lives, are kept secret. This unknown act kept me at the edge of my seat for most of the book; it felt similar to reading a horror novel and knowing that something terrible would transpire but not knowing exactly what it would be and when it would happen. It has been weeks since I finished The Jewel and it still unsettles me. I know I am making the book sound awful, but I'm of the opinion that if you are going to write a book about women being forced into becoming surrogate mothers for the wealthy it NEEDS to make you stomach churn, else the author is doing a disservice to what could have been a powerful story about women's rights.

The Jewel has more than just a super creepy plot; it has dynamic characters, a steamy romance, page after page of mystery, and an amazing ending. The whole book is pretty mysterious because of Violet's limited knowledge about her life as a surrogate. She has no idea what is expected of her until she is presented with a situation. You think you have figured out a specific character in The Jewel and the next thing you know they act in a way that drops your jaw. Is anyone entirely evil or are they just reacting to their situations? You just do not know!

I have to say that I'm pretty over the dystopian craze. It feels like deja vu every time I pick one up; however, I am very glad I read The Jewel because it was very different from other dystopian teen novels that have been coming out in recent years. I will confess that the beginning of the book will feel very Hunger Game-esque, but that wont last very long. You will swiftly get past that part and find yourself in a twisted world unlike one you could ever imagine. I've been told it is similar to The Handmaid's Tale, but I haven't read it so I can't verify whether or not that is accurate.

January 22, 2015

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (to be more accruate a 3.5)
Pub. Date: September 27 2011
Pages: 456

Short Sweet Synopsis:  Mara Dyer is trying to restart her life in Florida after being the only survivor of an accident that took the lives of her friends. Mara struggles to deal with the loss of her friends and with her inability to remember what happened. Mara wants to remember, but will remembering help her get over her PTSD or will it just make her worse? If her personal struggles aren't enough then wait until Mara meets the student body and teachers of the private school she now attends. Luckily there is a hansom, charming British bloke who will try to charm the literal pants off her. 

Sorry, that synopsis was rather long and was probably more confusing than sweet, but there is just a ton going on in this book! I have mixed feeling for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer to the point where I struggled with giving it a star rating. I spent hours debating on a rating, this usually takes me 5 seconds to decide! If I could give it a 3.5 I would, but I decided to give the book a 4 because I did really enjoy reading it, even if I rolled my eyes sometimes.

I know I really like a book if I stay up way too late reading, do chores around the apartment willingly so that I can listen to the audio book, and/or spend my whole day off reading it. I did all these things while reading/listening to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. If I could have physically stayed awake to read the book in one sitting I would have.

At the same time, I found myself frustrated at the characters of the book. Mara spent ample time making some awful decisions and often found herself being "saved" by our rich, hansom, charming, brilliant leading man, Noah. This may sound familiar if you've read a certain bestseller featuring sparkling vampires, or any popular YA paranormal book that features a bad boy with a heart of gold. Noah is even classified as a heartbreaker and at one point in the book ORDERS for Mara at a restaurant, YUCK! This should make me automatically hate his, but Michelle Hodkin was able to make Noah so unbelievably charming that he won my heart. Seriously, I really tried to dislike him, but he had such a great sense of humor I couldn't do it. Even Mara sometimes made me want to punch her in the face, but she was so spunky and had been through so much trauma that I couldn't help but root for her.

I could spend all day complaining about he Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (like what happened to Mara's only friend, Jamie?!?! He seriously disappeared about 2/3 of the way through the book! I know there was a reason, but I felt cheated by his lack of presence!), but in the end I enjoyed the book so much I am planning on reading the sequel. I enjoyed reading the book, even with it's issues, and want to know what happens! The ending of the book was on a major cliffhanger and I NEED to know more.

To wrap things up, I REALLY enjoyed The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. I enjoyed the overall story, even if there were same major issues with it's development. I am a bit horrified that the cornylicious romance didn't spoil the book for me, but Michelle Hodkin was able to make it work. When all is said and done, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is not a great literary work, but it is definitely a book that had me hooked from start to finish. I thought the audio book was well done, but I wonder if hearing Noah's lines with an accent is what did me in. I am a sucker for a British accent. 

January 19, 2015

Manga or Graphic Novel Mondays: A Bride's Story Volume 5

A Bride's Story Volume 5 by Kaoru Mori
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: September 24th 2013
Pages: 192

Short Sweet Synopsis: The twins are getting married!!! The traditions test the patience of Laila and Leily causing plenty of drama for their mother and their grooms.

A Bride's Story has continued to captivate me since I first started the series. Anyone can appreciate the beauty of the artwork; I just love showing any volume to people who aren't big fans of manga, they are always blown away by the detail Kaoru Mori put into each page. The artwork was enough for me to fall for this series, but I appreciate the detail to the story just as much.

In Volume 5 of A Bride's Story Mori continues with the story of the twins', Laila and Leily; it is now their wedding day! The twins are such great characters because they do such shocking things. They aren't worried about what other people think of them, they are just true to themselves. Sami and Sarm must try to help the girls through the long wedding traditions without getting caught when they break these customs.

One of my favorite aspects of each volume of A Bride's Story is how we see the relationships develop with all of the couples. I love seeing how Laila an Leily interact with Sami and Sarm. Sami and Sarm are pretty reserved so seeing how they handle the rambunctious girls makes me smile.

Another aspect of A Bride's Story is how the reader gets to learn about more of the culture of each village throughout the series. You don't feel overwhelmed with information because of the way Mori adds it in here and there. She also blends the information in smoothly with the storyline, sometimes in surprisingly comical ways, making it feel like part of the story instead of being lectured.

At the end of Volume 5 we do get to see a little more of Amir and Karluk. They are my favorite couple because I am fascinated by how they handle their age difference. I truly appreciate how Mori handles their relationship throughout the series. When I first started the series I worried that it would be creepy, but Mori made them into such a sweet couple you stop worrying about the age difference.

January 14, 2015

Graphic Novel Challenge 2015

I love graphic novels and manga, but I am guilty of not making them a priority on my reading list! Well this year things are going to change! I'm joining the Graphic Novels/Manga Challenge with a goal for reaching the Bronze Age level, that is a commitment to read and review 24 graphic novels! I will be updating this post with the graphic novels and manga I have read and reviewed, so check back periodically. If you are a graphic novel or manga reader then I hope I can highlight some new titles for you. If you are someone who is not a fan of graphic novels then hopefully I can change your mind! ;)