New Spring

I’ve been planning on reading The Wheel of Time for a while now, having previously been daunted by the huge investment of time that would be required. I began with New Spring, the prequel to the series.

It seemed like the beginning was a logical place to start, but I really think I might have gotten more out of this book if I’d read the first couple of books in the series first. That being said, I really did enjoy the book.

I liked learning about the Aes Sedai, and their powers and politics. Moiraine and Siuan dominated this book, and I do hope that much more will be revealed about them in the remainder of the series. Having overheard a prophesy about the Dragon Reborn, one who will be able to defeat the Shadow in the final battle, the two sisters leave the White Tower and go in search of this child. During their journeys, they discover that the Black Ajah, a group of the sisters who are pledged to the dark powers, are not a myth, and that they are working quickly in an attempt to kill any man who might possibly be the Dragon. What they don’t know is that he has just been born.

The book lightly touches on Lan and his history, including the fall of the Malkieri. He doesn’t much trust Aes Sedai, but by the end of the book, begins to trust Moiraine as he becomes her bonded Warder. There are subtle hints about a budding romance between the two, so I look forward to seeing just what Robert Jordan has in store for these two characters in the rest of the series.

Insurgent

I just finished Insurgent, Veronica Roth’s sequel to Divergent. It picks up right where the first book left off, told in Tris’ own voice.

The simulation and battle are over, but the war is just beginning. Dauntless has dispersed, many of them seeking refuge among other factions. Many of them are traitors, and have sided with Erudite. Tris keenly feels the new pain of the loss of both of her parents as well as her own horror at shooting her friend, Will. But the war continues to rage, with unlikely alliances and unclear motivation.

Much of Abnegation has been killed off. Amity and Candor do not want to become involved in the dispute, which mainly leaves Dauntless, Erudite, and the factionless, which are higher in number, and much more organized, than Tris suspected.

Tris is Divergent, which means that she has much keener perception and insight than many. It also means she has values of multiple factions. So while she is brave, like the Dauntless, she can also be selfless like Abnegation, nearly to a fault. While the Erudite are working on new simulation serum, they are able to take control of some of the Dauntless and deliver a message to the Divergent. Tris feels that to protect those she loves, she must turn herself in. When she does, she discovers that there is information that is considered so dangerous, information that could change everything, that the Erudite leader will do anything to protect.

Forming unlikely alliances, and one that could cost Tris the love of Tobias, she plays her role in discovering the truth. At the end of the book, I was very happy to learn that Tobias could trust Tris, and that he was able to be a big enough person not to throw away what they had. It did end on a cliffhanger, though, and I’m very eager to see what comes next in Tris’ story.

Definitely one of the best young adult series I’ve read. And the author is so young! It’s quite impressive. I can’t wait for the next installment.

Fever

Fever, the second novel in Lauren DeStefano’s The Chemical Garden Trilogy, picks up right where Wither left off.

Rhine and Gabriel have managed to escape from the mansion, and from Housemaster Vaughn. When they are free, in the actual world, it becomes clear that Rhine has somewhat romanticized her memories. The world is either dead or dying, much like its young occupants. There is no order. Fate delivers Rhine and Gabriel to a carnival. Really, it’s just a façade of a carnival, a front for prostitution. An older, first-generation woman runs things, and she has a special place for Rhine in her act.

Eventually, Rhine and Gabriel escape, just as Housemaster Vaughn arrives on the scene, taking with them Maddie, a malformed child of one of the girls. Still looking for her twin brother Rowan, they make their way to Manhattan, only to find that home is not as she remembered it and Rowan is nowhere to be found. Out of other options, they seek out a name and address that has been inscribed in an old children’s book that Maddie has saved from her previous life at the carnival. This leads them to an orphanage run by Maddie’s grandmother.

All the while, Rhine becomes sicker and sicker. She feels as if she is succumbing to the terminal virus, but something seems off about it, much as the death of her sister-wife Jenna seemed to be. As at the carnival, Vaughn finds her, stealing her during the middle of the night, threatening to burn the orphanage down and all its occupants with it, if she won’t come with him. Leaving Gabriel and Maddie, she returns to the mansion.

She does get a few answers from Vaughn, but she is shut away in the basement, being used as a lab rat. Only when things get too extreme does her husband, Linden, intervene. He takes her to a hospital, and it is while she is here that she finds a clue as to how to find her brother. But she is sick, and the clock to her 20th birthday and imminent death is continuing to tick.

I did enjoy this book, but I found it lacking a bit in emotional depth. I just didn’t feel like I cared about the characters as much as I wanted to. Maybe this is because the last books I read just went so far above this, that it’s hard for anything to compete. However, I still liked the story, and I will read the third and final book in the series whenever it comes out. I do care about Rhine and Gabriel enough to find out what actually happens to them.

Fifty Shades Trilogy

Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed are the books in the trilogy by E. L. James (Erika Mitchell), that has taken the country, and world, by storm. The story of gorgeous billionaire CEO Christian Grey and a virginal college student, Anastasia Steele began as online fan fiction of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. An e-book developed, and by miraculous word of mouth advertising, the e-books broke into printed format.

These books fall into the category of erotic romance. Themes consist of BDSM and the more kinky side of sexual fantasies. However, even though my knowledge of specific terminology improved, I can’t say that these books were a lot worse, (or better, depending on your point of view), than other romance novels. True, there were many more sex scenes, but other than that, the makings of a wonderful story, including great plot elements and very intricate, deep characters were all present.

Christian Grey is a control freak, and by his own admission, “fifty shades of f***ed-up.” He is a business genius, having become an extremely successful and rich businessman at the young age of 27. He has never been in love with a woman before, but enjoys a different type of diversion when it comes to relationships with women. Then Anastasia Steele walks, or literally falls, into his life. Drawn to her, Christian proposes the only type of relationship he knows, and while Anastasia is interested, and has many questions, these parameters do not define their relationship.

At times sweet, heart-wrenching, angering, and of course, hot, I believe these books have found a special place in almost every woman’s bookshelf and heart. I know that these characters will stay with me for a long time, and it’s going to be tough to find the next book that makes me fall head over heels in love with it.

Her Fearful Symmetry

I’m not much of a fan of horror or scary stories. That being said, I enjoy supernatural and paranormal stories, especially those with deep secrets and mystery. Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger fit the bill, even with a good ghost story thrown in.

Julia and Valentina are identical twins. Well, actually they are mirror twins. Even Valentina’s insides are mirror images, with her heart being on the right side of her body. This causes quite a few medical issues. The girls’ mother, Edie, is also an identical twin. The girls don’t remember ever meeting their Aunt Elspeth, who lives in far away London, and their mother never talks about her.

Elspeth dies of leukemia and leaves her entire estate to Julia and Valentina, with the stipulations that they must live in her flat, overlooking Highgate Cemetery, for at least a year before being allowed to sell it, and that their parents are never to enter the flat or their inheritance is void. Julia is terribly excited, but Valentina has misgivings, much playing the role of “Mouse,” which is Julia’s nickname for her. Based on Edie’s response to this news, as well as other lifelong clues, the girls know that there is some sort of secret and feel compelled to solve the mystery.

In London, they meet their neighbors. It takes a while, but Elspeth’s much younger lover, Robert, finally shows himself. He obviously prefers Valentina, who takes an instant liking to him, which develops into love. Julia befriends Martin, the brilliant and kind man upstairs afflicted with severe OCD. Try as they might, they cannot figure out Edie and Elspeth’s secret. At Elspeth’s request, Robert had removed all her diaries and private papers, but it takes a while to convince himself to read them.

Elspeth always wanted to know the twins, and now they are living in her flat. She is finally able to make her presence known, communicating by tracing letters in the dust that has settled on top of her piano. She is not an overly friendly ghost, nor is she malevolent. She is merely there, and willing to communicate with the twins, and with Robert. But, she is very tight lipped when it comes to the reason she and Edie stayed apart for the past few years of their lives. Although it seems that Elspeth has befriended them, Robert warns Valentina that Elspeth is clever, and not to be trusted.

Valentina desires individuality, a career, a life separate from that of Julia. However, her sister, who is the dominant twin, wants them to always remain together. Feeling trapped and even a bit crazed, Valentina begins to formulate a plan of escape that will end up involving, or affecting, everyone she loves.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It had just the right amount of haunting, sibling rivalry, angst, loyalty and love, mystery, and longing. The reader did have to suspend disbelief a bit, but the writing was so beautiful that was easy to do.

I loved how the title encompassed so many themes of the novel. Valentina was a mirror image, which caused health problems. Edie and Elspeth had a secret symmetry in their own lives. There was also a bit of symmetry in the relationships of some of the characters. And if one pronounces the title in a British accent, “symmetry” sounds much like “cemetery,” which was a central theme and location in the novel as well.

Very well done. I look forward to the author’s future works.

Child of the Mist

So, after finishing The Séance, I needed to find another book to read on the plane. I found Child of the Mist, by Kathleen Morgan, as a free e-book that I downloaded to my Nook. I found it very enjoyable, and a good way to pass the time cramped up on a plane like a sardine.

Set in the 1500s in the Scottish highlands, two rival clans are at war. The feud between the Campbells and the MacGregors has been going on for many years, and no one can even remember exactly how it was started. The might Niall Campbell, next in line for clan chief, gets captured by the MaGregors through the work of a traitor in his clan. The MacGregor’s daughter, Anne, uses her skills in healing to nurse him back to health.

As a way to end the feud, Anne’s father proposes that they unite their two clans through marriage. Niall and Anne handfast, as Niall is still in mourning over his late wife. Anne returns with Niall to his castle, making very few friends and encountering more hostility than she had imagined. Amidst all this, she still manages to see through Niall’s gruff exterior and falls in love with the man inside.

The traitor is still in Niall’s midst and he is suspicious of everyone, including his wife. He must consider the possibility that she is in league with the traitor. Meanwhile, Anne’s reputation as a healer has preceded her, and there are those who would see her burn as a witch. With plots against both Niall and Anne, they each are facing many challenges besides that of a new relationship.

Full of action and budding romance, this book was definitely entertaining. Of course, it was entirely predictable, but still well written and interesting. And unlike other free books I’ve downloaded, this one wasn’t full of errors and strange formatting. Must be the difference between self-publishing (Smashwords, etc) and legitimate publishing…

The Séance

The Séance, by John Harwood, had been recommended to me a few months ago by a friend. I purchased the book, but just hadn’t gotten around to reading it. And as I mentioned in my last review, I’ve been traveling the past week, so after I finished a couple of books on the plane, I knew I would want something good to read on the return trip. Luckily, my friend also has a Nook and The Séance was available for lending! So, after he approved my request, I ended up reading in the evenings, and the book just didn’t last long enough for the return flight!

Set in England in the 1800s, this Victorian thriller had some great spooky elements, including a run-down mansion, an unexpected inheritance, thunder, lightening, and a questioned identity. The story is told through written “testaments” of several characters.

Constance Langton begins attending séances with the hope that maybe her depressed mother will be able to contact Constance’s sister, who died as a baby. However, her plan doesn’t quite work out the way she expects, and she finds herself without a father, (he had previously vacated their home), and without a mother. She goes to live with her mother’s brother, an uncle that she had never known existed.

Quite unexpectedly, Constance is informed that she has inherited Wraxford Hall, a derelict mansion with a sordid history, believed by many to be cursed. John Montague, the lawyer who delivers the news to Constance, advises her to sell the Hall, and “burn it to the ground and plough the earth with salt,” and never to live there. Of course, this only makes Constance more curious, as does the packet of writings also delivered by Mr. Montague, which contains his own testament and that of an Eleanor Unwin.

Eleanor’s testament raises even more questions for Constance. It is not a happy tale. Estranged from her mother and sister, Eleanor finds a chance at happiness with an artist. Before they are to be married, he is studying Wraxford Hall as his next project when he is killed, presumably during the terrible thunder-storm. Dr. Magnus Wraxford tries to befriend Eleanor and proposes to her himself. Knowing he will never take the place of her first love, Eleanor agrees to marry him against her better judgement. After her marriage, she feels trapped for various reasons, and begins to see her husband for who he really is. At the end of reading Eleanor’s testament, Constance has much empathy for this woman and it becomes important to her to discover the truth of what actually happened at Wraxford Hall those many years ago.

So of course, Constance travels to the country, to visit her new estate along with a bunch of men from the Society for Psychical Research. She does manage, despite the best efforts of others, to come out of the visit alive, and with clues to solve the mysteries surrounding Wraxford Hall.

The true terror provided by this story was not necessarily in the events that occurred. Rather, it can be found in the Victorian society’s views of young women, especially those who feel trapped by no money and few prospects for their future. However, the two heroines of this story did survive, not unscathed, and were able to live without fear by the end of the story.

I enjoyed this book very much. It was full of twists and turns and the different view points kept the story interesting. The characters were developed well, as was the sinister Hall. I’m usually not much for ghost stories, but I loved the Victorian setting and the gothic and supernatural elements of the story. I’m definitely interested in reading more of this author’s work.

Previous Older Entries