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Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Poison Study – by Maria V Snyder

This is the old-school cover, the one I have!

I know, more Maria V Snyder already! After reading Touch of Power a couple of weeks ago I was emphatically reminded of how much I love Snyder’s writing. I couldn’t help re-reading Poison Study, to hang out with Yelena, Valek and the wonder twins again. Here’s how I enjoyed revisiting my old friends:

Yelena is about to be executed. But on the morning of her execution she is offered an extraordinary alternative. She can become the Commander’s new food taster, under the tutelage of his right hand man, the most notorious assassin in the land: Valek. The job no doubt means that Yelena will succumb to poison sooner or later – but she won’t die today.

Soon enough, Yelena is embroiled in the heart of life in the Commander’s castle; spies, assassination attempts, learning to fight, making friends and evading her enemies. All Yelena wants is a chance to run away to Sitia, where she’ll have the chance to be free, and where she will need to learn to control her recently discovered magical abilities before the power flames out and kills her. But fate – and Valek – are unwilling to let her escape so easily.

This story is wonderful, with many concurrent plot lines and competing agendas. The world is layered and authentic. And the characters are absolutely marvellous.

Yelena is hugely resilient. She was educated and cared for in her childhood before being subjected to years of torture, both physical and mental, once she reached the age of 16. When we meet her, she’s at her lowest, barely a shell of her former self. Watching her build herself up into a person again is painful and incredibly rewarding.Valek’s raison d’être is his unflinching loyalty to the Commander, and everything else he is is secondary to his concern for the Commander’s wellbeing – a fact that very gradually starts to change once Yelena enters his life.

Janco and Ari, the ‘wonder twins’, are soldiers who take Yelena under their collective wings, and their mentoring and friendship is one of the main reasons Yelena is able to draw herself up again. Every single character in Snyder’s world is three-dimensional, complicated and a healthy mix of sympathetic and unlikeable. And for me, at least, if the characters are great I’ll follow them almost anywhere.

The love story simmers ever so gently beneath the narrative, and is one of the sweetest I’ve read in years of YA, or in general fiction, for that matter. This is not your clichéd hatred-turning-out-to-be-repressed-attraction, nor is it a sudden-change-in-how-he-sees-her. It’s a love born from a place of mutual distrust that gives way as they get to know each other to respect, admiration and understanding. And it’s the kind of thing you have to read to really appreciate.

My experience in past years with Poison Study is a key reason I didn’t enjoy Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass all that much. Yelena is Celaena Sardothien’s predecessor, and outshines Celaena in every way.

If you haven’t read Poison Study, and especially if you haven’t read any Maria V Snyder at all, please read this book and its sequels (it’s the first in a trilogy).

five fox

It retains its place as one of the best young adult fantasy series I’ve ever read.
And if you have readi it, do you think the reviewer doth praise too much? Or do you share my love for Snyder’s amazing trilogy?

Have you read Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass as well? How do you think the two match up?

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The Diviners – by Libba Bray

This is a hefty novel! I love a book that’s long enough to really sink your teeth into, and at nearly 600 pages The Diviners certainly fit that category. I was given an ARC at work for this book, due to be released in Australia on November 1st, and in spite of the size I tore through this story. Here’s why:

New York in the 1920’s is an intoxicating miasma of old and new, tradition and progress, high society and low sobriety. It’s a time of probibition (hah!), ghost stories, flappers, gradual racial integration, and boundless optimism about the future.

Evie O’Neill is being punished – sent away from her home in Ohio to live with her Uncle Will, after causing a stir in her home town with her slightly spooky psychic party tricks. But when Uncle Will lives in the middle of the hip New York City, along with one of Evie’s best friends, Mabel, it’s a punishment she can bear! She’s looking forward to dancing and drinking and crushes and excitement. After all, NYC is a city of endless possibilities.

What Evie didn’t anticipate is that one possibility was being drawn into investigating a series of murders, apparently being committed by some sort of religious wacko, and each more gruesome than the rest. When the murderer turns out to be not quite human, will Evie be brave enough to use her not quite normal abilities to help defeat this being, before it’s too late to save anyone? It’s Not Paranoia If They’re Actually Out There:

Spark – by Brigid Kemmerer

This series began with Storm, published earlier this year. I enjoyed Storm, and was excited to see the sequel follow so quickly. After snapping up the book from work, it was the last of my holiday reads. Here’s what I thought of book 2 of Brigid Kemmerer’s ‘Elementals’ series:

Layne has made flying under the radar an art form. Unwilling to deal with the gossip and bitchiness that comes with being one of the popular kids, she instead stays well away, dressing down, keeping quiet. Gabriel Merrick couldn’t be more different. His hot temper draws him more attention than is sensible, because the more attention Gabe gets, the more likely it is that he’ll give away his family’s secrets.

Like his brothers, Gabriel is an elemental. He has the ability to call and (sometimes, at least) control fire. But this power goes both ways: fire calls to Gabriel, and often – too often – goads him on. The only thing as legendary as Gabriel’s fiery temper is the reputation it’s earned him. This Boy Is On Fire:

Touch of Power – by Maria V Snyder

I’m such a fan of Maria V Snyder. I’ve now read all her novels, and her Poison Study trilogy remains one of my favourite stories to this day. I distinctly remember discovering Poison Study in a $3 bargain bin at a local department store years ago. I promptly fell in love with the story and had to order the two sequels in because no one in Hobart stocked them! Now, happily, she’s carving out quite a reputation for herself, and I couldn’t be happier. This is what I thought about Touch of Power, Snyder’s ninth and latest novel:

Avry of Kazan remembers when life was different. When she wasn’t hunted by those in power, reviled by society, and forced into hiding. Once, Healers like Avry were revered for their power to absorb another’s illness or injury. That was before the plague – the illness that decimated the land, killing two thirds of the population, and that killed Healers even as they tried to help. When Healers were no longer able to offer any aid, the remaining population turned on them. Avry’s been running one step ahead ever since – and now she’s the last Healer alive.

It was only a matter of time before someone caught up with her. Avry’s not sure whether to be thankful or furious that Kerrick and his band of ruffians are the ones to find her. On the plus side, they aren’t actively trying to kill her. Not like the villagers they rescued her from, who had already measured Avry for her coffin. But on the other hand, Kerrick makes it very clear that he only needs her alive to heal his fallen leader from the plague. The fact that doing this will result in Avry’s death is apparently not a concern. Still, a quick death now or a chance to live another day proves to be an easy choice – and no one could have anticipated the twists on Avry and Kerrick’s path. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:

My Life Next Door – by Huntley Fitzpatrick

This YA contemporary romance came highly recommended by blogs I’ve been reading, and the word that kept coming up is ‘charming’. I love the yellow hardcover design of this one, and read it on holidays a couple of weeks ago. This is my take on My Life Next Door:

Samantha Reed is cautious, conscientious and always considerate of others – particularly of her high-strung local politician mother. Sam’s mum expects nothing less, and can’t imagine anyone not wanting to live in her buttoned-up, obsessively vacuumed, structured and scheduled world. Which helps to explain why Sam’s mother loathes the family next door.

The Garrett family are the Reed’s polar opposites. Their eight children enjoy a kind of chaotic freedom that Samantha can only imagine as she watches from her bedroom. Until the day Jase Garrett climbs up to her window and invites her to be a part of his world. (Oh dear, accidental Little Mermaid reference there!) The Garretts are so welcoming that in no time, Sam feels like one of them – but when a terrible accident is caused, she will have to choose where her loyalties truly lie. I Don’t Belong/Like I Did Before:

What’s Left of Me – by Kat Zhang

This intriguing new YA sci-fi/dystopian novel popped onto my radar at work the other day. I read it on holiday and it was thoroughly distracting! Here’s why:

Addie-and-Eva. That’s who they’ve always been. Like everyone else, the two girls were born into one body. And like everyone else, it was expected that by the time they were ten, either Eva or Addie would have disappeared: ‘settled’, leaving the other alone and in complete control. But that didn’t happen. Addie grew stronger and Eva weaker – but Eva wouldn’t completely let go, any more than Addie would completely give her up.

Addie and Eva are a hybrid. A scary word, an even scarier consequence. It’s common, government delivered knowledge that hybrids are unstable. Something about the two souls in their body fighting for dominance must make them violent. That’s why the Americas cut themselves off from the rest of the world – where hybrids are allowed to roam free. That’s why hybrids in the Americas are locked away. Addie and Eva know is that they’re not like that. But there’s no way to explain that they are different; that they’re safe. Addie and Eva must be oh-so-careful: because if anyone ever found out that Eva was still around, they would be taken, and would never see home again. Talk About Multiple Personalities:

The Casual Vacancy – by J K Rowling

There are very few bigger names in our literary world than J K Rowling – and the legacy she’s built and now has so much pressure to live up to is huge. The Casual Vacancy was a closely guarded secret, embargoed, with very little information about the plot available before the release. I, like so many people, have been wildly curious to see what Rowling is like, post-Harry. This was my take on The Casual Vacancy:

Pagford is a small town. The kind of small town that Hobartians* can probably appreciate better than most: everyone knows (or at least knows of) everyone else. Gossip is part of the framework. Things seem a little more personal, and what might be seen as a small issue in a bigger place takes on a much greater importance.

We’re introduced to some of Pagford’s residents, such as Barry Fairbrother, whose big plans for Pagford are cut somewhat short by his abrupt death of an aneurysm. Barry’s death opens a seat on the Pagford Parish Council, and opens the door to the ambitions of a number of locals. There’s Miles, the town’s First Son, looking to follow in his father Howard’s footsteps. Colin, the local school principal, is hoping to continue the work Barry started. And Simon just wants a piece of the action. ...The Plot Thickens: The Plot (Really) Thickens:

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