Monday, May 30, 2016

Reading Challenge: Reviews on The Holders, Uprooted, Angelfall and The DUFF

And now I'm finally back!!

In my defense, in February my guy and I decided to get things going on finally moving into a house. That has a LOT of decisions tied to it but we did move forward and for the last month I've been unpacking boxes and cleaning our old place. It's been a lot of work but looking around at my new comfortable, beautiful home, I'd say it was worth it.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

First up, a review on The Holders by Julianna Scott.

Once upon a time, I heard about a publisher called Strange Chemistry that published a book called Pantomime by Laura Lam. I ended up loving the book and found that the same publisher had released Cassandra Rose Clarke's The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish. Considering that I had enjoyed so many of the books from that publisher, I decided to look up all the books they had in their catalog which included The Holders by Julianna Scott. In the end, it was a good decision, because this series was wonderful.

Fine, the plot erred on this side of predictable but I forgave the book for that because I loved the character of Becca. This was a girl who came off to the reader as realistic, with the right things to keep her focus on her family and figuring out her life and where she belongs. I really enjoyed her devotion to her brother Ryland and her determination to take care of him to the best of her ability.

It turns out that there is a race of people called Holders, and they each have different abilities. Becca's brother is one of them, which means that the pair of them have to go to St. Brigid's, where their father also happens to be, so Ryland can receive training and learn about his heritage. Becca goes with him to make sure he's safe. Things progress from there through the usual situations seen in YA paranormal books but what makes THIS book different is that the characters make sense. The Seers is the next in the series and while I've read most of it, I'm dragging my feet in finishing it because from what I understand, there were supposed to be an additional two books to the series. Unfortunately, Strange Chemistry closed, making this book go out of print, and it doesn't look like Scott will be going forward in releasing the rest of the series. The way my deluded brain sees it, as long as I don't finish the book, it's like there's still hope for the series to continue, and I want to see what happens next for Becca and her friends and family.

Rating: 7.5 Stars

Next, a review on Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

I'm starting this off by saying I've never read anything by Naomi Novik. I know she has this extensive backlog of books that mostly include books from her Temeraire series but I haven't gotten around to reading them. I saw this on a few lists of most anticipated reads and just loved the cover art so I planned on getting a copy from the library. Instead, I found a really great deal at the store for the release and bought my own copy. Once I started reading it, I fell in love with everything from the writing style, to the characters, to the world and its legends and superstitions and magic. The entire novel worked for me and I admit, I carried this around with me for a while, opening it at random to start reading it because I just loved all of it and it didn't matter where I started reading it from, so long as I was reading part of this book.

 The story follows Agnieszka, a young woman from a village near a strange Wood, a place that has a terrible power inside it. To keep their village safe, the people are protected by a powerful wizard known only as the Dragon, and as payment for his protection, he asks for a young woman from the village to serve him for ten years. Agnieszka believes that the Dragon will come for Kasia, her best friend and one of the most beautiful young women in the village. Instead, the Dragon takes Agnieszka.

That's only the first few chapters. The book moves on in detail to show just what purpose the Dragon has for the girls he takes from the village and there are various dangerous quests that deal with what goes into the dangerous Wood and what manages to come back out, all leading to the origin of what created the malevolent forces inside it. I've seen this book categorized into the romance section, and while the fairytale elements lend it a whimsical, magical atmosphere and the characters of Agnieszka and the Dragon lend themselves to a Pride and Prejudice setup, I think one of the best parts of this novel is the strength of the relationship between Agnieszka and Kasia. I'm a sucker for books that have two strong, incredible female characters that are devoted to their friendship, letting nothing come between them.

Agnieszka does what she can and more to make sure her dearest friend is safe and Kasia does the same in return when the opportunity comes. It all helps to cement the fact that there is so much more to this book than what meets the eye. The young women from traditional fairytales has grown into a woman with strong friendships and a good head on her shoulders, inspiring and intelligent at the same time. So while I agree that the romance is a draw for this book, at the same time this is a book about a woman who finds the strength to be her own damned hero and go off and save everyone from a terrible fate, which in the end makes this book one hell of a journey and adventure.

Rating: What the hell, I'm giving this 10 Stars. That's how much I loved it.

Now time for a review on Angelfall by Susan Ee.

I saw this book a few times at the store and finally caved and got a copy. I've read some pretty crap books that feature angels as the antagonists and I had been fairly determined to avoid them from here on out. I'd seen the reviews and hoped that this book would be everything that everyone claimed it would be. Color me surprised when it turned out to be exactly what the book world claimed it would be, a gritty dystopian novel that featured the end of the world after angels decided to demolish it. The story starts six weeks after the initial attack and follows Penryn as she works to keep her sister Paige and her mother safe from the angels that roam the streets. When she stops a group of angels from attacking another, the group takes off with Paige, leaving Penryn to figure out how to get the angel she rescued, Raffe, to help her on her quest to rescue her sister.

On the one hand, I love books that have brilliant friendships between characters. On the other hand, I love books that have wonderful relationships between siblings. Penryn is Paige's protector and that doesn't change just because a few angels have flown off with Paige in their clutches. Penryn is smart, resilient and determined to do whatever it takes to get Paige back. She manages to get Raffe to help her, knowing that he has his own motives in getting to the angel stronghold in San Francisco where they think Paige has been taken, but Penryn will do what she has to do to get her sister back, including working with the enemy. To which I say bravo, because I love it when a character manages to be exactly what the reader was promised. Penryn grows, she learns and she fights. And her story continues in World After and End of Days. I have both waiting for me in my library because after enjoying Angelfall so much, I needed to get the rest of the series as quickly as possible.

Rating: 8 Stars

Finally, a review on The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger.

Fine, I admit that I finally got around to reading this book because I wanted to have read it before watching the movie. Which turned out to be completely different from the book but that's a matter for a different post.

This book is about Bianca Piper, a young woman with an intriguing, cynical, sometimes hilarious narrating voice, who finds out from the resident school jackass, Wesley Rush, that she's the DUFF in her group of friends. Because she's your average self-conscious teenager, and she has a lot that she's hiding and dealing with at home, she really lets Wesley's words get to her, eventually moving on into questionable decisions as she works to deal with high school and who she is.

When I say questionable decisions, I'm not judging Bianca at all for what she does in this book. I just wanted more from her with her thought process. When I say that she's hiding from dealing with her issues, she really does hide, even in her own head. I wanted a little more from the deep recesses of her mind, to really appreciate Bianca as she chooses to pursue a somewhat relationship with Wesley Rush that she keeps a secret from everyone. I wanted to learn more about who she was before Wesley opened his big mouth. I wanted to see more of Bianca with her friends before the book focused on her running from the idea of her being the DUFF. Still, I did really like Bianca and her smartass comments and she does eventually figure out where she fits and who she fits with best. It's not the greatest book in the world but it was fun while it lasted, and Keplinger seems like an author worth paying attention to in the future.

Rating: 7 Stars

Back soon with more reviews!

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