Monday, October 8, 2012

Season of Love (#5 Kauffman Amish Bakery), by Amy Clipston

I have to say that I have truly enjoyed this Kauffman Amish Bakery series by Clipston.  I am sure I’ve said this before, but she really rivals Beverly Lewis’s Amish fiction.  If you look at the library you will see dozens of writers of Amish fiction, so I have to hand it to Clipston for managing to come up with something unique.  So many times I’ve seen the same basic story over and over again with very little delineation.  In this five book series, I’ve read five very creative and very different story-lines. 

In Season of Love, Clipston is not only capturing the Amish lifestyle, but it’s also another coming of age story in the series.  While some of the other girls in the earlier books struggled with whether or not to be a part of the Amish community, Katie has no issue there.  Her obstacles only begin after her baptism into the Amish faith.  I think you’ll really enjoy this entire series by Clipston.  The only sad part is that the series is coming to an end.  I will definitely be reading more of Clipston in the future, even if it can’t be more of this series.

The Warrior Heir (#1 Heir Chronicles)

I liked this book.  The only reason I gave it 3 instead of 4 stars was because it was good, just not great.  It had all the elements I enjoy in a story, but nothing was truly amazing.  There was a pretty cool premise, one that I hadn’t seen before in the modern supernatural genre that is so popular now.  It utilized a lot of the fairy tale characters you would expect and a healthy dose of valor and honor thrown in for good measure.  Chima’s characters were likable enough and pretty believable.  There was one or two scenes that I thought could have been done a little better, and might have been more realistic if we’d had a bit more insight into the characters involved beforehand.  I do applaud Chima on not being afraid to think outside the box and for throwing a fair amount of surprises and obstacles into the mix. 

I did really like how realistic Jack was, and how he reacted so predictably to his sudden change in circumstances.  I thought that some of the supporting characters could have used a bit more attention and it might have made the story that much better.  I think that is the only reason it took me longer than usual to read The Warrior Heir.  With its short length I usually would have knocked it out in a day or two maximum, but it ended up taking me about half the week to get through it.  It just seemed that there was something else more interesting to do each day, than to finish it. 

I will read the next book, The Wizard Heir, and I’ll let that one cinch it for me.  If it’s better than good I’ll probably continue with the series, and if it’s only marginal, it will probably be the end of the line for Chima and me.  I should also mention though that I got this as an impulse read while browsing at the library without my list, so for that, it wasn’t half bad.  I have certainly picked worse books in similar situations.

Clockwork Angel (#1 Infernal Devices), by Cassandra Clare

I’d decided to begin reading The Infernal Devices series after I finished reading all of the available Mortal Instruments series by Clare.  I have thoroughly enjoyed all five of the Mortal Instruments series and honestly have no idea how I will manage to survive until March of 2014 to read City of Heavenly Fire!  After reading the Clockwork Angel, I can already tell that I’m going to have a hard time waiting on the releases of future books in this series as well.  The Infernal Devices is a prequel to the Mortal Instrument series and it chronicles the earlier years of the Clave when the Accords were still new and Magnus Bane was still in love with Camille Belcourt. Ha!

Clockwork Angel was impressive.  It was nothing like what I expected it to be.  I've already fallen in love with this generation of Shadow Hunters and with the elusive Tessa Gray.  I fell in love with Clare’s signature style when I read City of Bones, but I had a hard time pinpointing what it was about her writing that made it superior to others in the young adult genre.  I think I’m finally able to explain it, after reading 6 of her books.   

Clare manages to weave a thrilling story full of surprising plot twists in language that all readers can enjoy and understand.  Reading Clare is always a pleasure, because she allows the creativity of the plot lead the story, rather than complicated back story or contrived words.  I’m not saying that Clare has a limited vocabulary, quite the contrary; Clare uses the language like it’s meant to be used, choosing the words that best compliment her story-line.  What Clare doesn't do is complicate things.  She keeps things simple and straightforward, allowing the story-line to grow in complexity naturally over the course of the series, instead of trying to explain everything all at once, in one book.  And she uses terms already widely known, rather than making up a bunch of words that the reader has to learn in order to understand the story-line.  And Clare’s stories are always magic.  I can’t wait to see what happens next in Clockwork Prince. 

Crossed (Matched #2), by Ally Condie

I adored Matched, the first book of the series, and when it finally arrived I was stoked.  I started reading it as soon as I could, and I was pretty riveted by the suspense.   I loved how Condie kept me on the edge of my seat and the agony that I experienced in those pages reminded me of the second book of the Earth's Children series, Valley of the Horses.  Just like Valley of the Horses, although you can see it coming from the beginning, it still seems like Jondalar and Ayala are never going to find one another.  Crossed has that same feeling, you can see it coming from a mile away, but it feels like it's never going to happen.  

I was excited that we got to see into Ky's mind a little more in Crossed.  We were fed bits and pieces of his story throughout Crossed, and by the end of the book I felt like I knew him better, although I still wasn't sure if I truly understood him or Cassia.  Condie's characters seem to have this strange lack of commitment to any particular way of thinking.  I feel like I can't quite trust any of them, because I don't really know what is in or out of character for any of the main characters, despite being 2/3 of the way through the trilogy.  We also were introduced to several new characters in Crossed, but I don't feel like I'm really any closer to knowing them either.  We did learn some unexpected and very interesting things about Xander, that I hope are explained in the final book.

Condie did manage to surprise me a few times throughout the story, but I have to admit that I felt letdown once the suspense was over.  It was sort of anti-climactic, after the stellar lead in.  Despite the lack of excitement near the end of the story, I still hold out a lot of hope for the final book in the Matched Trilogy.  I'll definitely be tuning in to read Reached, when it comes out next month.  I'm hoping that Crossed just fell into that difficult "middle child" slot that often plagues trilogies, and that the "baby" will be as amazing as I thought Matched was.  

Follow me on my Facebook page.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fallen (#1 Fallen), by Lauren Kate

Well, I must admit that this book started off a little rocky for me.  If it hadn't been for so many of my friends giving it good ratings I might not have soldiered on.  Just when I was about to give up, around page 100, I read a  review that indicated that I wasn't the only one who was rather confused as to what on earth was going on.  The reviewer warned that the book was a slow starter and that the first 1/3 was pretty confusing, but after that the book got really good.  So I stuck with it, and I'm so glad I did.

Kate's baffling beginnings all began to make sense as I got further into the book.  She began to reveal the complex and intricate back story that was so very necessary to the plot.  In fact, it was quite brilliant how she revealed secrets piecemeal to Luce, the main character.  The reader was only given a few little snippets that Luce wasn't aware of herself.  Most of the details we had to wait for and figure them out as the story progressed.  I thought it was a wonderful way of putting the reader into the shoes of the character so you feel like you're actually experiencing it all with her for the first time as well.

I also enjoyed Kate's writing.  She told the story with just the right combination of dialogue and narration so I never felt bored with it.  This is something that I don't see enough of in young adult writing. It seems there is a definite trend towards over explaining things that really gets on my nerves.  It's ok to paint me a picture of the room, or what a person looks like, but I don't want you to do it for every location and every person.  I realize that the "gossip girl" trend is something that many young adult readers do appreciate; I'm just not one of them.  Too many details or name-drops about a particular dress or designer just irritates me and, in my opinion, takes away from the story.  I am here because I'm in love with the characters, because I want to see them overcome whatever awful obstacle they are forced to deal with, not because I want to know who designed their shoes they are wearing!  It's just not my thing.

All that being said I really enjoyed Fallen, and I can't wait to get my hands on Torment, the next book in the series.  I loved how Kate totally left me hanging after the last chapter and then gave me something else to worry about in the epilogue.  It's fantastic when you literally cannot wait to read the next book in a series, and Kate pulled that off flawlessly.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Grave Peril (#3 The Dresden Files), by Jim Butcher

Ah, Harry Dresden, what's not to love about him?  He's charming, witty, and constantly in over his head.  He reminds me so much of the main character of Weeds, the TV show.  Like Nancy Botwin, he always manages to wriggle his way out of situations that should have left him dead and instead left him only permanently scarred.  He has more bravado than good sense, but somehow, just like Nancy, it works for him.  

Grave Peril continued the saga of Harry's life.  Once again you'll find Harry doing what's right regardless of the consequences and you'll wonder just how he'll manage to escape death this time around.  Each time I think that he's not going to be able to do it this time, I remember that there are about a dozen more books after this one, so I breathe a sigh of relief and hunker down to figure out just how he does it this time.  

The characters are funny; the writing is great, if you haven't tried one of these books yet, you should give it a whirl.  It's a great rainy day read, especially with Halloween coming up just around the corner.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Matched (#1 Matched), Ally Condie

I have to say that I loved this book!  Matched had some semi-familiar themes, but I thought that Condie delivered them flawlessly.  To me it had the same sort of essence as the Giver did, but for an older audience. I've read several negative reviews about Matched, comparing it to other dystopian romances and saying how boring and uninspired it was.  I have to disagree.  Sure if you read a lot of dystopian romances you are going to see some recurrent themes, but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading.  

I thought that Condie was a great writer--her timing was spot-on and her writing style was fluid.  It was definitely a page turner, including love, tension, and just the right amount of fear to keep you interested.  It was also a coming of age tale, as the heroine Cassia, begins to grow and mature as a young woman and begins to realize that the perfect society she was born into may not be as perfect as she'd always thought.  I also loved how she showed the different aspects of the governments control  in such detail.  I found that aspect of the book fascinating.

To the naysayers, I may have to assume that dystopian romances just aren't their thing.  But as for myself, I enjoy dystopian writing immensely, and despite reading many other dystopian novels I still greatly enjoyed this one.  I am still waiting for the next book to be available at the library, but I'm anxiously looking forward to finding out what happens next.