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Pulse by Patrick Carman

8 Mar

pulse

 

The year is 2051 and the world as we know it is gone. In its place is a vast wasteland, abandoned buildings of long ago and few of humanity who remain. Most of the population lives in one of the States, portions of the world held safe against the new terrors of the world. Others choose to try and live a “normal” life on the Outside, beyond the protection of the States.

One of these people if Faith Daniels. She has been moved to a new school along with her friend Liz as there are so few outsiders left, school populations have to keep merging. Not that there is much teaching going on in the schools anymore. Everything from learning to entertainment has been replaced by Tablets, devices capable of changing their shape from pocket sized to larger. Want to study Shakespeare? Use your Tablet. Want to watch television? Those don’t exist anymore, so use your Tablet. Songs and books can be downloaded, too, making everyone’s reliance on technology complete.

It’s good to know that some things haven’t changed, even if the world has moved on. Faith is captivated by bad boy Wade Quinn. Wade and his sister Clara are hoping to compete in the Free Games, what now passes for the Olympics. Wade is far more than an athlete, however, and is hiding something dangerous.

When Faith is hurt by Wade, she comes under the protection of Dylan Gilmore. He knows that Faith is more than just an ordinary teenager living in a dying world. She has the Pulse, the power to move objects with her mind, and the possibility to be a great asset. There is a war coming and Faith has already lost more than she knows. Will Dylan be able to prepare her for what is coming, even as he dreads endangering her and putting her in the line of fire?

If they want to win the coming war, he doesn’t have a choice. Faith will have to trust someone she barely knows so that the world as she knows it ceases to exist all together…

I was stoked when I heard that Patrick Carman was writing a dystopian novel. The once budding genre now feels overburdened and I knew if anyone could put a new spin on what is quickly becoming tired and cliché it would be Patrick Carman. Why is that? Well, having read The Skeleton Creek Series, the Dark Eden Series and the 3:15 app of short stories, there’s a few things I know for sure: Carman is a superb writer. He manages to combine history, myth, legend and lore into truly thrilling reads. I also know that one of Carman’s main strengths is his characters.

One major failing of a lot of Dystopian fiction is that the focus is on the technology, the gadgets, how the world ended and what people are doing in the new world order to survive. However, because of the focus being on the world building and the technology (or in some cases, lack thereof), the characters and their development kind of take a back seat. Not so with Patrick Carman. It’s as if he imagines the characters first and then dreams up where he will put them.

Both the setting and the characters work to great effect in Pulse. Faith is likeable but stubborn and has her own secrets to hide. Liz is sympathetic and reminiscent about the past and a better life. Hawk is delightfully silly and tongue in cheek. Wade is dangerous and you love to hate him while Clara won’t win any Miss Congeniality Awards. Dylan is the white knight perhaps with a secret or two of his own.

By the end of Pulse, these are characters you care about (well, maybe not Wade and Clara) and the twists and turns of the plot keep you emotionally involved with Faith. She is a strong, likable heroine who will need to grow up fast to support the weight on her shoulders.

The writing and the characters impressed me, but what about Carman’s version of a Dystopia? I loved it. It was so understated, so quiet. It didn’t need to come out with guns and laser beams blazing, it simply was. There was one part in the novel where Hawk holds a book for the first time and Liz tells him that a book is always better than a Tablet. It was this heartwarming scene that really highlighted what Patrick Carman’s version of Dystopia was for me: It’s not about what we’ve gained. It’s about what gets lost in the process.

As much as I love my iPad and eReader, books always come first for me. I couldn’t imagine living in a world where books did not exist. Thankfully, with Patrick Carman’s literally pulse pounding ride in Pulse, I don’t have to imagine it. I just have to open Pulse, begin reading and lose myself in this compelling, creepy and dark world not unlike our own.

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A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

9 Oct

 

Helen Cartwright’s world is about to change, but not necessarily for the better.

When her mother comes to her bedroom one evening, Helen is distraught. Downstairs, she can hear voices raised in anger and what sounds like a dangerous fight. Her mother quickly packs a valise for Helen and gives her some chilling advice: “Do what I tell you and stay hidden. Otherwise, they will kill you and all will be for nothing.”

Helen’s mother opens a hidden door in her bedroom wall and shoves her daughter inside, giving her a piece of paper with instructions on how to get out of the house unseen and where she must go. She must find Griffin and Darius and they will take her to Galizur.

With these mysterious words, Helen’s mother shuts the wall and blocks the hidden entrance. It is the last time she sees her parents alive. She hears voices on the other side of the wall but they can’t find her. What they decide to do, however, is set her house on fire.

Following her mother’s instructions in order to flee her burning house, Helen finds herself at Griffin and Darius’ house. Stepping across the threshold, Helen enters into a strange world that she is already entwined in.

Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life as a Keeper, one of the Dictata, an organization that must protect the Earth and keep the balance of good and evil in check. As if that isn’t strange enough, Helen is told that she is from a line of people descended from angels and that she must help protect the world.

Helen will have to rely on everything she has learned, and the help of Griffin who stirs a desire inside of her, if they are all to save the world with their souls and their hearts intact.

After all, why should life be simple, even for an angel?

In A Temptation of Angels, Michelle Zink has written an apocalyptic tale set in a Victorian steampunk world that succeeds on every level. Not only is the story one that keeps you flipping the pages madly to find out what happens next, she has created characters that seem so alive, it’s as if I know them in real life itself.

My meager plot summary doesn’t even come close to describing how epic and amazing this novel is. Anything you think you know about the young adult genre is thrown out the window and the reader is treated to a tale unlike any other I’ve ever read. Full of passion, thrilling adventure and amazing plot twists that will leave you in shock, A Temptation of Angels is her best novel yet.

More than anything though, it’s a very intense study of what is good and what is evil. It’s a story of a young woman who must grow up quickly in order for her to claim her birthright and find her place in a hidden world to which she belongs. It also takes all the young adult novels about angels and adds something fresh, new and different in an already crowded genre.

Not content to follow the norms with young adult novels featuring angels, Zink’s world and character building are top notch as she takes us deeper into a dark world where nothing is what it seems and everything, even life itself, is at stake. I’m used to being impressed with Michelle Zink’s novels, but A Temptation of Angels blew me out of the water. I read it twice in eBook format and then read the hardcover for a third go around.

Perhaps the most amazing element of this novel is the fact that, even after I finished the novel, the characters stayed with me, haunting me in the daytime, their story embedded in my memory. The mark of great fiction is a story that stays with you.

If that is the case, then A Temptation of Angels is certainly a story for the ages. To read A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink is to witness a master at her craft and I for one couldn’t be happier to let Zink enthrall me, enchant me and leave me wanting more.

The Iron Legends by Julie Kagawa

9 Oct

 

I absolutely love The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa. Which is my lack of excitement at the release of The Iron Legends was perplexing to me.

The Iron Legends consists of three novellas and a guide to the Nevernever. Two of them, Winters Passage and Summers Crossing, were released as eBooks and the third, Irons Prophecy, is new to the collection and will be released as a standalone eBook in September.

I thought: So what’s the point? I’ve already read the other two novellas; the guide to the Nevernerver included at the end of The Iron Knight and could wait until Iron’s Prophecy is released as an eBook. However, because I’m a completest with my books and have all the other Iron Fey novels in paperback and eBook, I decided to get The Iron Legends in paperback as well.

Am I ever glad I did.

Here’s the thing: Yes, Winters Passage and Summers Crossing were both released in eBook format, but this is the first time that they have been released in print. Before I delved into Iron’s Prophecy, I read Winters Passage and Summers Crossing again. I enjoyed them even more in print than I did in eBook format. There’s just something about The Iron Fey series that cries out to be read in paperback, to hold such a tangible object in your hands when the world it contains is anything but tangible.

Reading those two novellas again helped me to remember everything I loved about the series as a whole and, since Winters Passage comes between The Iron King and The Iron Daughter and Summers Crossing comes between The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight, I wanted to go back and experience the whole series all over again.

To top it off, Iron’s Prophecy and the new expanded Guide to the Nevernever are worth the price of the book alone. Irons Prophecy takes place after the events of The Iron Knight and is the last story with Meaghan and Ash as the protagonists. It was thrilling to be with them again as their lives take a turn for the worse that threatens their happily ever after.

Here’s a bit about the novellas in brief:

In Winters Passage, Ash is taking Meaghan back to the Winter Court so that she can uphold a bargain she made with the Winter Prince. What she didn’t count on was falling deeper in love with him.

In Summers Crossing, Puck owes Leansidhe a favour and she’s come to collect. Unfortunately, Puck will need Ash’s help in order to complete his task and discover the means to what Ash wants: a soul so that he can remain with Meaghan in the Iron Realm.

In Iron’s Prophecy, Meaghan and Ash are going to their first Elyssium with Meaghan as the Queen of the Iron Fey. Only, things don’t go so well. The Oracle appears and makes a deadly prophecy that might change the fates of all the Fey if it were to come true.

Iron’s Prophecy is the longest of the three novellas and the best by far as it works as a bridge book to the first novel in the new Iron Fey series Call of the Forgotten: The Lost Prince. That series features Meaghan’s brother Ethan and the prophecies of the Oracle might affect him.

As if all that awesomeness isn’t enough, the new expanded Guide to the Nevernever is huge and takes up almost a quarter of the anthology. It is THE reference for all things Iron Fey and any fan of the series. It contains information on all the locales, characters and back stories of the series as well as a glossary. To compare, the Guide to the Nevernever at the back of The Iron Knight was only about five or six pages. This new expanded Guide is around thirty or forty pages, packed full with all kinds of information to make any fan of the Iron Fey series happy for months!

Even cooler, interspersed between the three novellas are Julie Kagawa’s chibi illustrations of Ash, Puck and Grimalkin. And if that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is.

My lack of excitement was most certainly unfounded. The Iron Legends is an essential must have for any fan of the series as its full of the characters we have grown to love and then some. One small word of caution though: if you haven’t read any books in the Iron Fey series, you’re going to be lost. Read the books in order and you’ll be fine.

Ultimately, The Iron Legends feels like a gift from Julie Kagawa to the fans of the series. And I for one couldn’t be happier to have opened it.

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

9 Oct

 

Ethan Chase is sick of the Fey. He knows the first rule of dealing with the Fey: Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them. The only problem is, They can see Ethan…

Years ago, when he was four, he was kidnapped and brought into the Nevernever in order to lure his sister Meaghan, half daughter of Oberon, into the world of the Fey. Now the Iron Queen, Ethan hasn’t seen his sister in years and, at seventeen years old, hates the Fey even more.

The only problem is that, once you can see the Fey, they won’t leave you alone.

Trying to avoid them, he puts on a tough guy persona and keeps everyone away from him. He already lost his sister to the world of the Fey and he doesn’t want to endanger anyone else by bringing them into contact with the Fey who can either be malicious or cruel.

Things don’t always go as planned, however.

When Ethan meets Todd, a half human, half Phouka, at school, he warns Todd to stay away from him. But Todd is in danger, more danger than he knows. A new breed of Fey, ghostly white and almost transparent, kidnap Todd and kill a pixie. The ghost Fey warn Ethan to stay out of matters that don’t concern him. However, Ethan can’t stop thinking about Todd and knows that it’s up to him to rescue the half Phouka.

After a brutal attack from the ghost Fey, Ethan and high school reporter Mackenzie St. James are dragged right into the Nevernever. Ethan knows that he has to warn his sister, Queen of the Iron Realm, and the Summer and Winter courts as well, before more exiles and half breeds go missing. Their world is at stake and it’s up to Ethan and Mac

But this is the world of the Fey and things are never what they seem to be.

I was incredibly saddened when The Iron Knight came out. It was the last book in The Iron Fey series and I really didn’t want to let that world go. The whole Iron Fey series (composing six books in all) is one of my favourite series of all time. So imagine how thrilled I was to hear of a new spin off series titled The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten.

I wasn’t sure how Ethan Chase, all grown up now, would work as a narrator. All the other books had been told from Meghan’s point of view. Would a new series, with a new narrator, work just as well? Thankfully the answer is a genuine and resounding yes!

Ethan is a beautifully flawed character. He’s lonely but frightened of letting anyone else get close to him. He loves his sister but hates the fact that her role as the Iron Queen has taken her away from their family. He hates the Fey and what they have done to his life, but takes on the responsibility of entering their world when he has no other choice. He is also a born fighter and, despite his bad boy persona, has a well balanced heart.

I also loved Mackenzie. She’s the perfect love interest for Ethan, a girl with secrets of her own and a past she tries to hide. However, whereas Ethan’s tough as nail’s personality is all an act, Mackenzie is a girl who can hold her own in any battle and the chemistry between her and Ethan crackles off the page.

What’s great about The Lost Prince: Call of the Forgotten is that it doesn’t feel like an extension of the original series. Yes, we see Puck, Ash, Grimalkin and Meghan within its pages, but Ethan is a man now and must make his own decisions. This is his book through and through. It might be the same world but the danger is real and the stakes are higher than ever before.

Can it be read on its own for those who are unfamiliar with the world of the Iron Fey? Yes it can, as Kagawa does a brilliant job of filling her readers in as much as possible. However, those not familiar with the previous six books will be missing the depth the secondary characters have. But if you wanted to pick up The Lost Prince and jump right in, you’re pretty much good to go.

Kagawa’s world building is amazing and her characters live and breathe on the page. Her trademark humour is here in spades, but this is a much darker novel than the previous series. Ethan has more issues he must deal with if he is to become a true Prince of the Iron Realm.

An incredible, lightning paced, thrilling read, The Lost Prince is everything you could want and then some. It’s Kagawa’s best book to date and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

 

There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff

8 Jul

The premise is a simple one: What if God were a teenage boy?

In the hands of any other author, the book would have been gimmicky, silly and slapstickish. But There Is No Dog is by the amazing, surprising and delightful Meg Rosoff, so we know that we’re in for a treat.

In There Is No Dog, God is indeed a teenage boy. He watches over Earth with the help of Mr. B, his tired and somewhat frustrated by his assistant. Mr. B. Has reason to be frustrated, for there are many things wrong with the way God has been running things.

After winning Earth in a poker game, Mona (a Goddess of some renown) hands the job of God over to her son who is insolent, spoiled and not all that brilliant. He created the earth in six days because he was too tired and lazy to take any longer with it.

Mr. B has been left to clean up the mess, one prayer at a time. But there is only so much he can do. For answering one prayer might affect the schism of things in another way. Cure one child of rabies and perhaps the stock markets crash? Help one girl’s dying mother and maybe the polar ice caps dry up? And the fact that God (whose name is Bob) created mortals in his own image is most troubling to Mr. B. How can a planet filled with insolent, greedy, intolerant boobs like Bob possibly survive?

However survive it must, even if God doesn’t want anything to do with it. He is currently obsessed with a young mortal girl named Lucy, an assistant at the zoo. He loves her. He wants to marry her. He wants to have sex with her; and preferably not in the form of a swan this time. God isn’t too sure what he was thinking when he did that.

When their courtship begins, strange things begin to happen. Driven by the lusts and feelings of a teenage boy, the weather starts to be affected by Bob’s wants and desires. Snow falls one day to be replaced by floods the next only to be replaced by sunshine. And then the rain begins to fall.

Earth is under siege by the weather and by Gods emotions. Mr. B is desperate. As floods begin to sweep across Earth, he begins to wonder, if he doesn’t fix this mess, who will? While God is off following is pecker to prettier pastures, who will look after those that are on Earth?

Told with a deft hand and a keen eye for detail, Meg Rosoff has written her best book yet. It is also her funniest. I never thought a novel about God, religion, the fate of the human race, beliefs, creationism and love could be funny, but There Is No Dog is downright hilarious.

The joy of a Meg Rosoff novel is that you never really know what kind of story you’re going to get. In How I Live Now, three young children must survive an apocalyptic world. In Just In Case, a young boy creates a new image and changes his name from David to Justin but is deterred by Fate. What I Was, we are treated to a love story of sorts that takes place at a boys boarding school where no one and nothing is as it seems. In The Bride’s Farewell, a historical novel, Pell leaves on the day of her wedding to discover herself, only to discover that some things about herself she already knew. In Vamoose, a young girl gives birth to a moose baby and has to come to terms with her non-human child.

Rosoff never writes the same thing twice and is constantly surprising and constantly delightful. The surprises and delight are even more so in There Is No Dog. And though the novels that came before it are all gems of particular hues, There Is No Dog shines brightest for me. It’s funny, ingenious, captivating and wonderful.

What is truly captivating about the novel is how human the immortal characters are. Rosoff shows us through plight, clever word play and everyday situations that even the divine can be human. Is it a commentary on religion and spirituality? Is it a commentary on what humans do to the world, the plight of the environment and the animals that live within the world? Perhaps.

But even more so, it is about the faith that we must have in each other and the belief in miracles that keeps us whole and positively brimming with life.

Now that is something worth reading about. All I can say is: Read this book. It is beautiful, witty, funny, delightful and wonderful in every way. Read this book and believe in the possibility of miracles.

Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink

8 Jul

 

Dear Michelle,

I’m about to start your finish your Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy for the forth time.

By now, I’ve also read the new Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy and reading the original trilogy after the information of the three novellas has given the trilogy a different and incredible vibrant intensity for me.

When Circle of Fire came out in 2011 year, I bought all three ebooks. I wanted to read the first two books in the trilogy (Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate) first, before reading Circle of Fire.

Even though it was sitting there, inside my ebook reader, I waited to read Circle of Fire. I wanted the story fresh in my head. I’m so glad I did! The story, the world, the characters you created came alive in Circle of Fire and burned the page right up.

I really wasn’t sure how you were going to do it, end a trilogy that I have become (like so many others) so emotionally invested in. What would happen to Alice? Dear god, what would happen to Lia? How would so many plot threads resolve themselves? Would the victors be victorious?

You blew all my expectations out of the water. Circle of Fire was more than I could have hoped for in the ending of a trilogy. It was thrilling, captivating, riveting and amazing. I loved every word, even though I knew that the end would soon come.

I’ve tried to think of how to tell you how much I enjoyed your book; so I decided just to tell you. I looked at the signed Circle of Fire bookplate this evening and it reminded me just how wonderful your books are (that and the postcard, thanks so MUCH for that! I collect them!).

I have now ordered my hard cover copy of Circle of Fire (to put beside my hardcover copies of Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate) so that I can put my bookplate in it. I can’t wait for the order to come in so I can put Circle of Fire right next to your new novel, A Temptation of Angels, giving me a complete set of your books (eBook and Print). I can tell I’m a book geek when having the whole set excites me beyond words.

Thank you for giving me such a thrilling ride, such real characters, such an incredible adventure.

I loved every word of it.

Cheers,

Jamieson

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

8 Jul

 

I will admit that I had high hopes for The Iron Knight.

The Iron King, The Iron Daughter and The Iron Queen (as well as Winters Passage and Summers Crossing) all blew me out of the water. But I wondered how well Kagawa would do changing narrators. We knew Meghan so well, we had seen the characters (cool and beautiful Ash, delightful Puck, sly Grim) only through her eyes.

How would Ash’s story, told in his own words, measure up? Would it be as good as the previous books? The answer is no.

It was better. In fact, I would go so far to say that it was the best in the series.

Not only did Ash finally get to tell his own story, his words added depth to all that had come before it. No longer the elusive love interest, Ash became a true hero, a true Iron Knight.

I thought I knew what to expect when I delved into the Iron Knight. Julie Kagawa thankfully blew all those expectations out of the water. Not only did she deliver a compelling plot, amazing characters, a thrilling story; she also gave us a depth to a character that I already thought I knew.

Though there is little romance in The Iron Knight, don’t let that deter you. Ash is on a quest to become mortal so that he can be with the one woman he truly loves. He is willing to give up everything he is to become something he is not so that he can be with her. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

The Iron Knight, frankly, is the best YA fantasy novel I have read in years and that includes the previous books in the series. Somehow, Kagawa keeps getting better and keeps topping herself.

I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

But here’s the truth of it: any book in The Iron Fey Series totally kicks and awesomely rocks. I know, that sounds funny, but it’s true. It was so hard for me to pick the best book in this series. The Iron Queen, Summers Crossing and The Iron Knight were all published this year.

So any book in this series is an amazing read. But The Iron Knight ended up being my favourite this year. Because it was the end.

And it was oh so wonderful.