Fox on Books

Book reviews, opinions, musings and ramblings. General bookish excitement!

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

The Bridge – by Jane Higgins

ImageThis YA novel won the Text Prize in 2010. I read it a couple of months ago but am just getting to the review! Here it is:

In a post-apocalyptic world, you’re born into one side of a war. Cityside, the mysterious ISIS is in charge. Their task is to keep the hostile Southsiders at bay and on their side of the bridges. Citysiders know how important it is to defeat the savages; the war has been raging for years and taken thousands of lives. Nik, Dash and all their friends grew up wanting to help – and if they’re deemed intelligent enough they might be picked to be a part of ISIS, where they can really make a difference. It seems like a given that Nik will be chosen; he’s got the best grades in his class. But when the recruiters come, he’s publicly shunned, and ISIS starts asking Nik hostile questions about his father, someone he’s never known. Dystopia Done Well:

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Shade’s Children – by Garth Nix

ImageYes, another Nix already – I’m continuing my preparations for his impending arrival at our store next month! I’ve never read Shade’s Children before, so thought this would be the perfect opportunity.

One day, a child woke up in his bed to discover that his parents were gone, Not only his parents, though – everyone’s. In fact, every person over the age of fourteen had disappeared. All the children left behind were soon rounded up into the Dorms where they lived until their Sad Birthday, the day when their brains and various other body parts would be ripped out and used to make one of the Overlord’s creatures. Another monster to die as part of the Overlords’ armies as each Overlord strives to win that year’s tournament.

That’s just the way it is now. But a few – so few – children escape the dorms, and if they’re incredibly lucky they survive long enough to be found by Shade, the only person in the City who can offer any protection from the creatures. Shade isn’t human, not quite; he’s what remains of a human in Artificial Intelligence form, with a human personality – and Shade wants freedom from the Overlords just as desperately as the children do. But how many of the children under his protection is Shade willing to lose in pursuit of that freedom? And is he any better than the Overlords if he’s playing with the children’s lives in such a similar way? My, How the Creepy Have Prospered:

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines Book 2) – by Richelle Mead

A few years ago I was reading a fair bit of Paranormal YA fiction, as you do. One of the books I picked up in spite of its somewhat cringeworthy title was Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead. And I absolutely loved it. Since then I’ve read the entire Vampire Academy series and enjoyed them all immensely, so when Mead put out Bloodlines, the first book in a spin-off series using many of the characters I’d come to know in Vamp Academy, I naturally grabbed that too, and wasn’t disappointed. Now comes The Golden Lily, the second book in this new series. I read it over about three days – here’s what I thought of it:

 

Sydney, our protagonist, has always known that vampires are dangerous, unnatural and need to be contained for the good of the entire human race. She and her fellow Alchemists make it their sacred mission to keep vampires secret from humans, to keep people safe. The undead Strigoi would like nothing more than to kill and eat anyone they come into contact with. Even the living, ‘good’ vampires, the Moroi, rely on human blood to survive, and need to be kept within the bounds determined by their agreements with the Alchemists. Woman On A Mission:

172 Hours on the Moon – by Johan Harstad

Fifty years after the first man walked on the moon, we’re going back. What’s more, in honour of the occasion three teenagers will be chosen in a lottery to accompany the astronauts and become the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth people to set foot on the moon’s surface. Norwegian Mia, the Japanese Midori and Antoine, from France are three of millions of teens worldwide to register for the lottery, and chance or fate steps in – they’re going to be a part of man’s return to the moon!

This incredible mission has the world in a frenzy of excitement, patriotism and optimism about man’s future. Everyone is watching to see the teenagers prepare and to see the trip come together. In what feels like no time at all to Mia, Midori and Antoine, they’ve blasted off and are on the moon, to spend 172 hours making history.

Mia isn’t as giddy with excitement about the opportunity as the whole world seems to expect. There are too many questions that haven’t been answered. Why wait so long to go back? Why send teenagers along; just for the press coverage? What is this base that no-one has ever heard of since it was built in the ’70s, DARLAH 2? And, since it’s DARLAH 2, what happened to DARLAH 1, and why won’t anyone talk about it?

I Guess History Can Be Made In Different Ways:

Mistborn: The Final Empire – by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is perhaps most widely known as the author hand picked by Robert Jordan to finish the Wheel of Time epic, after Jordan’s passing in 2007. The Wheel of Time is a beloved series and the task of bringing the story to a satisfactory conclusion is a challenge to say the least; and by all accounts, Sanderson is doing a wonderful job. Moreover, Brandon Sanderson’s own work has come very highly recommended by people who’ve discovered my love of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, namely The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear (seriously, READ THEM). Suffice to say that I had high expectations of Mistborn. This is how they were met:

More than a thousand years ago, the Lord Ruler saved the world from an evil known only as the Deepness. Since that time, he has ruled the Final Empire as Emperor and God. It is His benevolence that allows the millions of skaa to live – in poverty-stricken conditions as slaves to the noble houses. The nobility is even more blessed by the Lord Ruler; as descendants of His old friends, they are given the right to own skaa and live in luxury. Everyone knows that this is the way it has always been in the Final Empire, and the way it always shall be.

Everyone except Kelsier, the Survivor of the Pits of Hathsin. Two years ago, he became the first and only person to ever escape the Pits, and discovered powers that only a handful of people – nobles – have wielded before. It is with this power and the help of a few allies who are still willing to take a stand that Kelsier develops his insane plan: to overthrow the Lord Ruler and allow the oppressed skaa a chance at a life of more than slavery and death. And the Epic Has Only Just Begun:

Promise – by Tony Cavanaugh

This is the first novel by a former crime reporter who clearly knows of what he writes. Here’s my take on the book:

Darian Richards has retired from life as a high profile homicide detective in Melbourne and retreated to Noosa to try to escape the ghosts that accompany that kind of career. But one of Noosa’s inhabitants is abducting, abusing and murdering young girls, and regardless of protocol, Richards can’t help but get involved.

I read this book in about two days and lived it the whole time, which is appropriate because the plot itself is set over only a handful of days. With about twenty pages to go I had to put it down and go to work and was really stressed about it until lunchtime when I dashed upstairs to read the conclusion! Only a Little More:

A Confusion of Princes – by Garth Nix

I adore Garth Nix! His Old Kingdom trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen) were books that helped create my enduring love of fantasy as a genre, and ten years on from the first time I read them, I still think they’re wonderful. I also enjoyed the Keys to the Kingdom series he wrote for younger readers. So I have high expectations for new Garth Nix material – and happily his latest novel doesn’t disappoint! Here’s my thoughts:

Garth Nix has an uncanny ability to create characters I fiercely identify with, mainly because no matter how fantastical or alien the universe they inhabit, these characters are unavoidably, unapologetically human. They have egos, and at times they can be arrogant, reckless, foolish or even cowardly. But beyond any of this, Nix’s creations have a great deal of heart. Prince Khemri, Nix’s latest protagonist, is no exception.

You see, Khemri has been chosen. From a young age he has been raised in luxury, taught to use his physical and psychic enhancements, and regaled with tales of the deeds he will do and the battles he will win as he fulfils his destiny to become the next Emperor. Unfortunately, the other ten million Princes of the Empire have been raised on the same tales. And when Khemri comes of age he quickly discovers that there is more to the stories than anyone has been told. A Universe Full of Troubles:

Of Poseidon – by Anna Banks

This book is one I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of a couple of months back (one of the many perks of working in the best bookshop in the world) and I really enjoyed it. It’s just come into the store and I’m hoping people will like it as much as I did:

Emma’s a regular girl with a regular life, except for that time she nearly drowned and a school of fish saved her. Galen is a Syrena prince, self-appointed ambassador to the few humans who know of the mermaids’ existence. After a meet-cute between the clumsy Emma and Galen’s chest, and a series of incidents that suggest Emma is not as human as she seems, together they uncover Emma’s unlikely connection to Galen’s world.

This engaging YA Fantasy is told from both Galen and Emma’s points of view. Mer-people were a welcome variation on the angels and vampires that have dominated the genre over the past few years, and felt less ‘been there, read that’. Charmingly written, not too predictable, with a strong cast of characters and a solid premise that suggests a good sequel (or two), Of Poseidon was a good read, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

four fox

So, is this what you’re into?

The Hunger Games – by Suzanne Collins

I read the Hunger Games a few years ago and loved them! But with all the (deserved) movie hype I re-visited the series, here’s my view:

In Panem, the Capitol does not look kindly upon even the thought of rebellion. To remind the 12 Districts under its rule of this, each year 24 youths between the ages of 12 and 18 are taken as tributes to compete for their lives in the Hunger Games. The tributes are trained, rated, and paraded in front of the enthusiastic crowds of the Capitol who gather to cheer for their favourite to live and the others to be killed – because only one tribute leaves the arena alive.

This year, Primrose Everdeen is the chosen female tribute for District 12, until her older sister Katniss volunteers to take her place. Katniss and Peeta Mellark, the District’s male tribute, travel to the Capitol to fight for their lives in every sense of the word. Their relationship both in and out of the arena may be their only hope for survival. And above all else, Katniss Everdeen is a survivor.

This thrilling book is fast paced and tautly written, immediately drawing the reader in. Katniss is not your average heroine, but rather a distinct character: prickly and tough with moments of vulnerability made all the more poignant by the effort she puts into hiding them. The obligatory love triangle is present but is secondary to the narrative, which instead focuses on the tributes and the Games. Not your average book by any measure, The Hunger Games surpasses its designation as YA Fantasy and becomes a topical examination of our society’s potential for corruption and redemption, and the ability of a few individuals to change the Game in which they find themselves.

five fox

C’mon, hands up, who else loves the Hunger Games?

Eragon – by Christopher Paolini

I was inspired to (finally) catch up on my required Christopher Paolini reading because he’s coming to visit the store! Such excitement! Here’s my take on Eragon, the first title in the Inheritance Cycle:

Like most people in Alagaesia, Eragon has grown up hearing tales of the dragon riders who watched over the realm before Galbatorix, one of their own, betrayed them and took the crown. Such stories have little real impact on Eragon’s world – until the day he stumbles upon a dragon’s egg and inadvertently becomes one of a new generation of dragon riders, destined to either fall under Galbatorix’s dominion or join the rebel Varden and fight for the realm’s freedom. Either way, Eragon’s life will never be the same.

The story builds quite slowly before rapidly gathering momentum, sweeping you along with Eragon and his dragon Saphira as they try to stay one step ahead of Galbatorix’s forces and figure out what to do next. The characters are well-rounded, their flaws and somewhat prickly personalities only making them more relatable, and Paolini’s society is rich with competing political forces, most of which have merit as well as problems, ultimately making for a very complex and interesting story. The detail and authenticity of this world and these characters sets Eragon apart from other Young Adult Fantasy. Well worth the read!

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Have you read Eragon? What did you think of the book?

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