Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Iron Druid Chronicles: #1 Hounded

First time i'm reading something Druidic and Celtic myths related and The Iron Druid Chronicles #1 Hounded proved to be a real treat. Besides with a cover this gorgeous I knew I had to give it a chance (or should i specify in the mainstream dialect with a hot guy on the cover) .

Here is how the summary goes like:

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

To sum it all up all the mythologies that ever existed upon this Earth is real, every myth is real....real God's of every other religion exists. The Tuatha De Danann, werewolves, vampires, witches, ghouls, gods, goddesses, demons, etc., though they are not "out" to the general human population. So far, this doesn't sound like anything special, does it? The key differences between this book and most of the others in this genre is that it is extremely well-written, the characters are fleshed-out and interesting, and most of all, there is a sense of humor and fun in this book.

And in the middle of it is our hero, the chronicles' protagonist the 2100 years old druid, Atticus O'Sullivan. Not that he lets anybody know his actual age. He likes to keep his acquaintances guessing. Also he is the last of his kind. So better to maintain the secrecy i suppose.

His appearance is that of a 21 year old, good-looking Irish guy. He lives in Tempe AZ, and runs a herbal and occult book store. He's got an enemy who is the Celtic god of love (who coincidently doesn't do his job for which he is appointed) who wants a mystical sword that Atticus took from him in a battle centuries ago, and who also wants Atticus dead. Periodically, as the god has located Atticus, he sends minions after him to kill him. In this story, he has located Atticus again, and decides to kill him personally.

As I mentioned above his main adversary is Aenghus Og the Celtic god of love who's hellbent on having the sword, but as the story progress you begin to wonder if he can trust anyone other than Oberon the dog with whom has a mental bond. Og isn't cupid by any means and is downright nasty is his pursuit of Atticus and Fragarach.

And although it mentions that all the Gods and Goddesses of every other religion that exists in this wide world but the primary focus of the story in this book was mainly the Celtic mythological pantheon, I really liked that elements of Native American, Slavic, Nordic and Indian mythologies were also included. I always wonder why more writers don't do that; there is such a wealth of mythological material in other cultures. I was glad to see it mentioned in this book; it made it that much more interesting to me. In his acknowledgments, Mr. Hearne jokes about giving the impression that his "backstory is remarkably thorough and well-researched", but in reality, that's exactly the impression the book gives without being the least bit pedantic.

You can tell the Hearne put a lot of research into his debut novel, however the need to make sure his readers understand Celtic mythology and history slow his pacing down a bit in the beginning of his novel. He info-dumps quite a bit in the beginning and while I appreciate that he didn't walk into writing about this blind, I think there could have been a better way to import the information to the reader than putting it in long drawn out paragraphs. It's mostly only done in the beginning and after you get further into the story you quickly forget about the small text book like portions you suffered through in the beginning to get to the real story. If you're a reader like me who's put off by sections of fiction like that I advise you to keep reading because I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed. 

Hearne keeps his story moving but without rushing you through it. His entire cast of characters are funny and witty. While my favorite character was his dog Oberon that in this story can talk in Atticus's head and therefore served as wonderful comic relief, I loved the way Hearne created the characters in this tale of adventure. You could never tell for sure which side any of his allies were on, his main humanish friends are his werewolf and vampire lawyers that charge him for their time and this wacky Irish widow down the road, that mellows out her Sunday church sermons by drinking so much whiskey before she goes that she doesn't remember what's been said. Each character was well fleshed out with unclear motives that left you guessing and little quirks that enamored you to them. 

Overall it was a very interesting read - something that a mythology junkie can't fail to miss out. Definitely have a god feeling about the next two books of the series

Genre :      Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal

Publisher: Del Ray

Rate:              5/5 (It was amazing, you have to read it)

The Vampire Diaries: Stefan’s Diaries: #3 The Craving

Finally I get the book, the final installment in the TVD tie-in series Stefan’s Diaries #3 The Craving. You definitely can’t pass it up.
Here is how the summary goes like:
Blood brothers …After his brother, Damon Salvatore, betrays him in New Orleans, Stefan starts over in Manhattan. Vowing never to harm another human, he roams the streets, trying to disappear into the city’s chaos. But just when he thinks he’s left his past behind, Stefan discovers that he can never escape his brother. Damon has grand plans for the vampire Salvatore brothers—whether Stefan likes it or not. Together, they take New York by storm. When their exploits end up on the society pages, an old enemy resurfaces—one hell-bent on revenge. Based on the popular CW TV show inspired by the bestselling novels, Stefan’s Diaries reveals the truth about what really happened between Stefan, Damon, and Katherine—and how the Vampire Diaries love triangle began.

Again I remind you all that although the book cover mentions L.J. Smith, Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec but their is no concrete authors mention a.k.a a ‘ghost writer’. Enough about the ghost writer lets see what we can discuss about the book without giving out any spoilers.

After the disastrous events of the #2 Bloodlust where Stefan literally “tears-out” through New Orleans and Damon not wanting to have any part of this new life but ultimately the tables turn and viola we get the Stefan and Damon that we see today on the tv series. Stefan has embraced his new life and with renewed hope starts out in the ‘big apple’, more specifically Manhattan, New York. Trying to control that bloodlust by hunting small animals in the central park where he has made his home.

When he stumbled upon a blood-ridden young girl out in Central Park, where after saving her he brings her to her house for safety. What might have been seen as a good deed by a young man turns into something quite differently. Stefan soon finds himself getting involved in this girl’s family whether he likes it or not, and he did because he yearned for some company and a sense of family.

The longer he seems to be around this new family, Stefan soon discovers that not everything it as it seems, and he comes face to face with Damon, whom has been masquerading himself off as an Italian Count and making mischief around the town. Coincidence? Or is one maybe planning on toying with the other? Stalking the other? They do both end up connected to a high society family - surely that is a coincidence? And as always they end up wondering if they are really each others biggest problems or if they need to play nice with each other — if there are things out there so much bigger and badder they are, so maybe they at least to pretend to be friends again if only long enough to figure out what in the heck is happening around them.

It is clear enough the Damon is all too fond of his younger brother(not!) for making him a vampire. Stefan also knows that he should not have forced his brother to finish his transformation but it also shows that Stefan was the insecure one and was throughly not looking forward to an eternity alone. It is human nature to do things like this we can’t really fault Stefan for that.

Damon and his goals aren’t the only thing they need to worry about, as a new enemy comes to town in search of revenge. This enemy is strong maybe even stronger than the two brothers together. Klaus’s minion. Not the big boss himself. Now this is where the book takes a u-turn from the tv series. In the TV series Damon and Stefan have no knowledge of Klaus or his relationship with Katherine. So why in the book does Klaus send someone after them? It just doesn’t make any sense! If you’re going to have these as companion novels to the TV series then at least get them factually correct!

Another problem the Stefan’s Diaries version which has the brothers born and raised in 1864 Mystic Falls, but then the events that happen both in Mystic Falls and after bear almost no relation to those that occur in the TV series.

I have no problem with books and TV series being different, I love the original Vampire Diaries books and I love the TV series, partly because of the differences. But something like this that just keeps getting things wrong – for example the original meeting between Katherine and Stefan, which was shown so early in the TV series, that the author must have seen it, is just infuriating.

Once you get past that the books are alright. The writing standard has definitely improved and this book is the better of the three. The voice still is very modern, but at least the facts are correct. The plot is much better, the events were much more interesting, and it was a portion of Damon and Stefan’s lives that we’ve known nothing about prior to this.

Genre :      Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal, Tie-in

Publisher: HarperTeen

Rate:              4/5 (really liked it)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

This was a long standing to-read book on my digital shelf….and I’ve finally read it. And at best The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a brilliant piece of literature.
This is how the summary for the book goes like:
He was Quasimodo—the bell ringer of Notre Dame. For most of his life he has been forced to live in lonely isolation in the bell tower of the famous catheral—hidden away like a beast, banished from sight, shunned and despised by all. For though he was gentle and kind, it was Quasimodo’s crime to have been born hideously deformed. But one day his heart would prove to be a thing of rare beauty. She was the dazzling Esmerelda. A dark-eyed gypsy girl who, the victim of a coward’s jealous rage, is unjustly convicted of a crime she did not commit. Her sentence is death by hanging. Only one man had the courage to save her: Quasimodo.

It is a very famous story, and I find that much more people have “heard of it” than have actually read it. Most will just tell you – “isn’t this some kind of beauty and beast story?”. Well, actually it isn’t. This novel certainly isn’t a fairy tale. Rather, it is a touching and sad story (touching in a way that Hugo is a master expressing) about unfulfilled love. There are at least 3 unfulfilled love stories here, each one very different. Besides that, the plot tells of troubled times in Paris (and, I suspect, in whole of Europe) – what is rightfully called “the dark ages” – where each act of free thought was prosecuted by the church with one inevitable penalty – death.

Now, Contrary to popular opinion the novel Le Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo is not primarily about the deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo. Quasimodo’s role is actually surprisingly small in the story, which makes you wonder why the English translater’s chose “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” as the translation for the title. Actually, as the original French title would indicate, it is the cathedral itself that is the focus of the book. This is why in the unabridged editions of this book you will find numerous chapters that seemingly have nothing to do with the plot of the story.

It is a book narrowly focused on the Cathedral of Notre Dame situated on the Ile de la Cite in the center of Paris and, more broadly, on the 15th century city of Paris. This was a Paris where public executions or any form of punishment involving public humiliation were the highest forms of entertainment and drew the kinds of crowds that we would see at a major sports event today. If this book is not read with this in mind, the reader might well be disappointed because he came to it with a different sort of book in mind.
Now to the human aspects of the novel, the plot so to speak: There are no honest-to-god perfect angels in this book. After all, Esmerelda was a part of a band of thieves who came to public gatherings for the express purpose of seeing what they could “gather” for themselves. Quasimodo was not a misshapen humanitarian. He had been known to carry out a dirty deed or two himself. As for the rest of the characters, there’s not a role model in the bunch. To Hugo’s credit, we really care about Quasimodo and Esmerelda, “warts and all.” This is one indication of good writing. Nothing that is not be expected by Hugo.

The dark, brood­ing and pun­ish­ing inter­ac­tions between the com­plex char­ac­ters are a mas­tery of sto­ry­telling. The rela­tion­ships of the char­ac­ters with them­selves are also part of this com­plex plot. Frollo’s struggle with Catholi­cism vs. desire and Esmeralda’s unwill­ing­ness to accept a revolt­ing crea­ture for his good heart are only a two exam­ples of what makes this story bril­liant. The story is pep­pered with a few twists, some humor (as much as will allow in the brood­ing story arc) with sar­casm and mock­ery galore.
The book’s most frus­trat­ing point, and the one which dis­cour­ages many sea­soned read­ers, is thepages upon pages of descrip­tive images, whether the streets of Paris down to the cracks (it seems) in the side­walks or the Notre Dame Cathe­dral, brick-by-brick almost. The pac­ing of the book moves unevenly, most of the novel takes place over a period of six month, how­ever the final chap­ters shoot for­ward a year and a half or two years.

What makes this novel a masterpiece, besides the poetic descriptions, is Hugo’s description of the cathedral of Notra-dame and the city of Paris, and his discussion of how the arrival of printing press signaled an end to the importance as architecture as the expressive art of intellectuals. The views of the author expressed in these pages and pages of delightful reading provide the reader not only with historical and architectural prespective on the buildings in Paris, but also gives us a word image of buildings, roofs, rooms, carvings, modernism, and more.

In his commentaries and comparisons between writing and printing as form of expression in contrast to architecture, Hugo unmasks a wide array of issues that arrival of every new media (TV, Cinema, Internet, Digital Photography) bring. How existing precepts and concepts are revised, how adaptations occur, how each age has its own expression through any of these means- and all Hugo says so passionately about architecture or literature allows us to feel the essence of why we make monuments of stones or words in the first place.

Victor Hugo had great skill in developing characters, and describing their lives over an extended period of time, capturing how situations and people led to certain choices, behavioral changes and thought process of each. His ability of doing this, in a very detached manner, where narrative is like a camera floating into a room, and staying long enough for a distant observer to watch and identify traits of every person present there, makes him a great novelist. The novel, like all classic reads, looks formidable in size, but can be read at a formidable pace, especially after the first half of the novel is over.

Besides an extremely well-written book, the main thing about this book is that it’s heart wrenching and thought provoking. One of the best tragedies ever written, if you like to shed some tears while reading, then this is the right book for you.

Genre :      Classic, Historical

Publisher: Signet Classics

Rate:              4/5 (really liked it)

Water for Elephants

At first I wasn’t really psyched about reading the book but thought that I probably should give it a try since the movie came……it actually proves a little help to read both the book and watch the movie ‘cause it helps to form an opinion while writing the review. And I definitely loved it. Now I’m ready to watch the movie. Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen is definitely a pleasant and an interesting read for the summer.
Here is the summary for the book:
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell. Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive ‘ship of fools’. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn’t have an act - in fact, she couldn’t even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
Water for Elephants is told in the first person but from two different perspectives—Jacob Jankowski at 23 years of age and again, at 93 years old. Gruen seamlessly weaves the chapters between past and present. Jacob at 23 is finishing up his last semester at Cornell Veterinary School when a family tragedy causes him to flee. He finds himself on a train for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth in 1931. Needing a vet, the circus hires young Jacob to tend to their menagerie. Jacob at 93 resides in a nursing home where he laments the curses of old age, the passing of his wife, and the waning affection of his family. The arrival of a visiting circus triggers a flashback to his youthful circus experiences. 
The story is related in the somber tones of the Depression, the hardscrabble and often unscrupulous business of a traveling circus and the heartless despots who make their fortunes on the backs of men who must do anything to survive. Star performer Marlena, an equestrian, is sensitive to the needs of her horses, although her mercurial husband, August, the trainer, is obsessively jealous and given to unspeakable cruelties. Uncle Al, Benzini Brothers circus owner-by-default, is a ruthless businessman who cares little for man or beast, engaged in a quest for fame to rival the great Ringling Brothers.
With his advanced training in veterinary medicine, Jacob does his best to protect the animals from their harsh existence, especially Rosie, an elephant purchased to replace Marlena’s lead horse. Jacob and Rosie share an affinity for one another, the huge creature at times almost human. Because of his growing affection for Marlena, Jacob suffers August’s increasing affronts, caught in a cycle of inevitable violence, certain of a reckoning.

1931 is a hard time for almost all Americans, and the circus workers are as hard hit as any. Most are one step away from being homeless and jobless. Conditions on the circus train are harsh for most. Many workers go weeks without being paid, and they tend to disappear during the night when times are tough (management has them thrown off the train). The menagerie is often times treated better than the workers. But the circus does provide three meals a day and a place to sleep—even it if might mean a horse blanket on a train bed floor. Jacob discovers very quickly that he’s just about the only advocate the animals have and he must battle a ruthless owner (Uncle Al) and a crazy equestrian director (August).

Any circus has more than their fair share of interesting characters, and Gruen’s circus is no exception. In addition to Uncle Al and August, there is Walter (the midget clown), Marlena (an equestrian with whom Jacob falls in love), and Grady and Camel (workers). One of the most sympathetic characters in Water for Elephants is Rosie, the elephant—who shares more “human” characteristics and feelings than some of the circus bosses. The tender-hearted Jacob quickly grows to manhood as he is forced to protect both animals and coworkers from abuse and worse.

In chapters that move flawlessly back and forth in time, from the rowdy circus atmosphere to the antiseptic corridors of the assisted living home, the world is viewed through Jacob’s perspective, as he rages helplessly against the decrepitude of old age and the secrets of the past. In prose both poignant and infinitely tender, Jacob dwells in both worlds, revealing the wounds of the past and the sorrows of the present.

In one touching scene, Jacob awaits a family member to escort him to the circus, yearning for the Big Top with every fiber of his being, craving the familiar sights and smells of that pivotal summer of `31, the roustabouts, the kinkers, the rubes, the animals. The denouement is devastating, as inescapable as the indifferent world that turns a blind eye to the vagrants of the 30’s. Yet Jacob’s spirit retains the essence of his kind nature and a respect for others, a man who will not be broken by circumstances. All is redeemed in a coup d’grace that will leave the reader strangely satisfied and richer for having met this raggedy tribe of miscreants and lost souls.

The most interesting aspect of the book is all the circus lore that Gruen has so carefully researched. She has all the right vocabulary: grifters, roustabouts, workers, cooch tent, rubes, First of May, what the band plays when there’s trouble, Jamaican ginger paralysis, life on a circus train, set-up and take-down, being run out of town by the “revenooers” or the cops, and losing all your hooch. There is one glorious passage about Marlena and Rosie, the bull elephant, that truly evokes the magic a circus can create. It is easy to see Marlena’s and Rosie’s pink sequins under the Big Top and to imagine their perfect choreography as they perform unbelievable stunts. The crowd loves it—and so will the reader. The ending is absolutely ludicrous and really quite lovely.

Genre :      Historical Contemporary Ficition

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Rate:              5/5 (It was amazing, go for it)

Across The Universe: #1 Across The Universe

I’m always partial to books with attractive covers……As such attractive covers help to attract public. Thus I came across this new and wonderfully scientific novel or should I say the debut sci-fi dystopic Across The Universe by Beth RevisAnd it was an awesome change to read such a well written futuristic dystopian novel. Mind you this is only the beginning. Two more books are left in this trilogy.
Here is how the summary goes like:
A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship—tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next. Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Across The Universe is such a fantastic read, and one I became so fascinated with, that I read it in one sitting. Beth Revis has done an excellent job at writing a story that has left me wondering, “What if.” She weaves together an awesome murder-mystery, sci-fi, dystopian thriller with a bit of romance and all confined within the walls of Godspeed. 
Godspeed. Well Godspeed is massive. So massive, it’s a feat of the mind to imagine the whole thing, complete with pastures of grazing cows, a city meant to hold thousands, and any number of nooks and special rooms designed for keeping secrets — for centuries. And yet, even at that phenomenal size, the oppressiveness is tangible.
It starts on with Amy being cryogenically frozen with her parents. Her parents are kind of a big deal and they are to be sent off to a new habitable planet which will take 300 years to get to so they will be frozen in the mean time. Amy is nonessential to the mission but she wants to go with her parents. What she doesn’t expect is to wake up on the ship with fifty years until landing while every one else remains frozen. And the reason she woke up is that some one unplugged her. She barely survived. She was only the first but now others are being unplugged and they are dying. She needs to figure out who the murderer is while also trying to acclimate to life on the Godspeed. 
Life on the ship is not what Amy expects. Everyone is mono-ethnic which makes her stand out and the people on the ship seems to act like a heard of sheep. Following blindly to a cult like society where everything is controlled and regulated. Amy is seen as a freak with her pale skin, green eyes and red hair. Her only friends are Harley who resides in the mental ward and Elder the boy who is the future leader of the ship. 
Knowing nothing of how or why, she can think of only one thing: someone tried to kill her. Her doubts are suddenly confirmed as more frozen people are awakened and, not as lucky as her, found dead in their thawed chambers. Elder is part of the crew that has been running Godspeed since the beginning of its journey. Generations upon generations of his people have worked and lived within the confines of the ships metal walls, each generation lead by one leader, Eldest, and Elder is the next leader in training. Once Amy awakens, Elder is fascinated by her, by her pale skin, red hair and green eyes, but most of all by all her ideas, her knowledge, her way of seeing things coming from a world that he has never known. 
Together with Elder and Harley, they try to unravel the mystery of the people dying, while at the same time Amy tries to: understand a society that makes no sense to her, that feels wrong and controlling and full of lies; find a murderer; and cope with the fact that the next time she will see her parents she’ll be about 70 years old. And Elder starts to realize that everything he knows might be a lie, not knowing what is true, what is fabricated, what is wrong and what is right. 
Both Amy and Elder spend a lot of time being led and manipulated, rather than strongly directing their own paths, but I don’t think this shows weak characterization on their parts. They’re part of a web of lies and secrets so much bigger than themselves, what we’re seeing seems authentic. What makes them strong is their internal resilience. Even though they can’t control their destinies, they can fight. 
“Eldest thinks power is control, that the best way to be a leader is to force everyone into obedience. Holding Amy against me, I realize the simple truth is that power isn’t control at all-power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to other so that they may have the strength to stand on their own. This is what I’ve been looking for since the first day I was told that I was born to lead this ship. Leading Godspeed has nothing to do with being better than everyone else, with commanding and forcing and manipulating. Eldest isn’t a leader. He’s a tyrant. A leader doesn’t make pawns-he makes people.”
The dual narrative was great in this book. I like knowing what the characters are thinking and it was especially nice to read about the same event from two perspectives. I was able to see Godspeed and its inhabitants as an outsider and also as their future leader. This allowed for me to care about the people but also see their dark side. There was a scene that I almost put the book down because I was literally scared and disgusted but it showed how inhuman people can become.

The story kept me interested and eager to discover Godspeed’s secrets. I admit, I wanted Amy to finally notice how awesome Elder is but the story also kept me reading. I love when books shock me, and this one has a few twists that left me reading with my mouth open in shock. 
Across the Universe felt both slow-paced and fast-paced to me. I would come up for air, realize that I was half-way done with the book, but at the same time, wondering why not much had happened. It is because Revis trickles her clues and mysteries slowly through her story, little by little, not holding anything back, but not given away too much too fast until the very end of the book. Also the element of claustrophobia in the ship- from the air to the populace in the ship is palpable. But also from space itself, an infinite, inhospitable vastness all around you. It’s a weight that is always there when you’re reading the book. There is nowhere to run, that is one of the more scarier concepts I’ve read in a long time. I will most definitely keep reading the series, it’s too good and too unique to pass up.
“I never thought about how important the sky was until I didn’t have one. ~ Amy”

Genre :      Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopia, Sci-fi

Publisher: Razorbill

Rate:              5/5 (It was amazing, go for it)

The Vampire Diaries: Stefan’s Diaries: #2 Bloodlust

After a tantalizing read that serves the prelude for the Stefan’s Diaries a.k.a the beginning for the Vampire Diaries through the eyes of Stefan, I now proceed to the next book in the trilogy #2 Bloodlust. And it was I dare say even better than its predecessor. 
Here is how the summary for the book goes like:
A new beginning …When Stefan Salvatore’s first love turned him into a vampire, his world—and his soul—were destroyed. Now he and his brother, Damon, must flee their hometown, where they risk being discovered … and killed. The brothers head to New Orleans, looking for safe haven. But the city is more dangerous than they ever imagined, full of other vampires—and vampire hunters. Will Stefan’s eternal life be forever damned? Based on the popular CW TV show inspired by the bestselling novels, Stefan’s Diaries reveals the truth about what really happened between Stefan, Damon, and Katherine—and how the Vampire Diaries love triangle began. 

After going along the ride with the Salvatore brothers as they fall in love with Stefan and Damon and destroy their perfectly calm and peaceful lives in book 1. Vol. 2: Bloodlust, leaves off just days after Stefan and Damon Salvatore are murdered by their father and awaken newly undead.

The book is bloody. Right away it’s bloody. And while that is the only way I like my vampire stories, this time it was a bit unsettling. Our darling Stefan Salvatore, a century and a half away from becoming the hoodie-clad martyr we’ve grown to know and love, is thirsty. And in this time and place a bunny just will not do. The first of his victims we meet in this telling is a girl he once crushed on. It is easy to picture a sinister leer behind his sweet smile as he callously flirts with her before ripping open her jugular. It was enough to give me chills and cause an audible “yikes!!” to escape my mouth. Watching Stefan take his short walk down the human blood path after the events of Let The Right One In left me ill-equipped to witness the kind of vampire Stefan is capable of being. This Stefan Salvatore is truly terrifying.

Unfortunately Stefan’s old flame is not the last of his unwilling and quickly dismissed victims as he and the still death wish-laden Damon make their way to New Orleans. As an avid watcher of The Vampire Diaries television series, it is disconcerting at best to know that there was a time when Damon not only abstained from drinking, nearing the point of starvation, but asked Stefan not to as well. Not that Stefan listened. (Why does this sound familiar?) And after watching Stefan spend his first hours in New Orleans draining as he pleases, Damon has had enough and leaves Stefan to his own thirst.

And while this is all, as I said, unsettling, it is also very exciting. It is our first peek into this part of the brothers’ lives. Not a bit of it had even been hinted at on the television series, let alone shown in flashbacks. Not yet anyway. My favorite part of the story comes not long after Damon takes off on his own when Stefan comes face to face with the girl who will become his best friend: Lexi. Although we don’t see Lexi as the same way in season 2 Let the right ones in, when Stefan accounts to Elena that Lexi came to Mystic Falls not the other way round.

It was thrilling to read how she helped Stefan get his bloodlust under control, teaching him how to exist in his new life, much in the way Stefan has done with Caroline in season 2 of the series. Seeing this through Stefan’s eyes makes it that much more heart-crushing to know that she is eventually taken from him. She was written well, her tone and movements easy to envision being brought to life by Arielle Kebbel.

Another character written exceptionally well was Damon. I found it to be highly believable that being captured and kept as a caged animal would put him over the edge in his hatred for Stefan. Having to fight for survival at the hands of barbarian humans could make anyone ready to unleash the monster within. His biting sarcasm and devilish smirk came across as if being watched on screen rather than read from the page. And while savage and violent, the cold-blooded way in which he murdered and drank Stefan’s latest love felt very in character for the Damon we first met on television in the Pilot.

It really tugged at me to see him still dreaming of Katherine and feeling lonely without her despite his hatred for what she had done to him and his family. Yet while feeling it was a great deal more shallow than his falling for Katherine, his quick love for Callie was a strong reminder that even though now a cold-blooded killer, he is also still a 17-year old boy. His end statement after losing Callie that he would never again fall for a human girl made me both squeee and groan.

Stefan goes through a lot of character development in this book. He starts off as a monster, but because of what happens during this story, he changes and grows. Stefan is in a new city, and is forced to face a myriad of new challenges. Damon goes through his own tough times, but his character doesn’t grow much. And don’t go thinking that you could go through a whole Vampire Diaries novel without any romance, oh no there is plenty in this book.

Even though L.J. Smith isn’t the true writer of these books, nor is Kevin Williamson or Julie Plec, the ghostwriter for this series is doing a tremendous job. I like to think of Stefan’s Diaries as a separate entity from the show or the original novels by Smith, and I advise anyone interested in this series does so as well, if you are looking to enjoy them fully.

Bloodlust has a very interesting storyline. Within New Orleans, readers get to experience the nightlife of the city, a circus that may just be the end to the Salvatore brothers, and a house filled with vampires. Suffice to say, the story was quite unlike anything I’ve read before.

Genre :      Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal, Tie-in

Publisher: HarperTeen

Rate:              4/5 (really liked it)

The Vampire Diaries: Stefan’s Diaries: #1 Origins

Now we all know how The Vampire Diaries tv-series and the novels are different from one another…..with major proportions so yes this book that i’m about to write about i.e., #1 of the Stefan’s Diaries: Origins is actually a prequel for the show not the books.Stefan’s Diaries trilogy comprises of these following books in its catalogue - #1 Origins#2 Bloodlust & #3 The Craving. Interesting enough the Stefan’s Diaries trilogy does not mention an author on the cover page just “based on the novels by L.J. Smith and the tv series developed by Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec”. Who knows who the writer is but I definitely devoured this book.

So without much further ado this is how the summary goes like:

Set during the Civil War, against a backdrop of grand estates, unimaginable riches, and deadly secrets, three teenagers in Mystic Falls, Virginia enter a torrid love triangle that will span eternity. Brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore are inseparable until they meet Katherine, a stunning, mysterious woman who turns their world upside down. Siblings turned rivals, the Salvatores compete for Katherine’s affection, only to discover that her sumptuous silk dresses and glittering gems hide a terrible secret: Katherine is a vampire. And she is intent on turning them into vampires so they can live together-forever. 

TV show tie-ins can often be hit or miss, especially if they don’t stay true to cannon or the spirit of the characters. However, “Origins” manages to do both. We’ve seen bits and pieces of Stefan’s birth as a vampire throughout various flashbacks on the show, but this new book really fills in the blanks. A lot of familiar characters also appear throughout its pages, including Damon, Katherine, Jonathan Gilbert, Stefan’s father and vampires Pearl and Anna. A bit of the history of Pearl and Anna is also revealed. There are a few inconsistencies between the show and the details in the book, but they’re not really glaring enough to detract from the enjoyment.
Although a large number of errors can be found in the book if one decides to look but overall a great work of literature by the ‘ghost writer’…….we don’t really know the writer for this trilogy so its not exactly against the rules to give an obvious name to the one who penned it. The book gives us the backdrop or more specifically the origins of the series……..of how the Salvatore brothers who were notably inseparable but were driven apart for the love of the mysterious and elegant Katherine Pierce. 
Origins details out Stefan’s history. Prior to becoming a vampire he had been forced into an engagement to a woman named Rosalyn by both of their fathers. He didn’t love her, but wanted to follow his father’s wishes, no matter how much he wanted to rebel like Damon did. The book takes place over several weeks (possibly even a few months), where Katherine arrives in Mystic Falls and starts getting under Stefan’s skin, even with his engagement. When tragedy strikes, Katherine is there to ease Stefan’s pain. Because the story is told from Stefan’s point of view, the story between Katherine and Damon is somewhat limited. We only really know what Stefan knows. 

Going over some of the errors some would think that this series will not appeal to the fans but I believe  that this new series could easily stand on its own (as I believe L.J. Smith’s original series does) and be heartily enjoyed by those not even watching the show.

Despite its errors there were a few question that kept popping up. 

What happened to Emily Bennett? Was she playing both sides throughout the events of 1864 or was Katherine aware of/insistent upon all she did to help the Founders entrap the vamps? Somehow her grimoire ended up in Giuseppe Salvatore’s coffin who, according to the book, was buried a week after the death of his sons and the fire at the church. Did she die shortly thereafter? Did those she help with taking down the town’s vampires kill her and take her book by force? Where were the children Damon swore to protect?
Where on heaven or Earth did “Uncle” Zach Salvatore come from? I had hoped that this book might hint at another relative either in Mystic Falls or residing somewhere else. Though he’s been gone from our TV screens for at least a year, I can’t stop wondering about him (and the other “uncle” they mention being killed in 1953). Perhaps this is something that will be explained later with the construction of the Salvatore Boarding House.

While all this is completely mind-boggling to comprehend , there were enough things done right to make me jump up and down with impatience and excitement, waiting for the next installment. And, as a tried and true member of Team Stefan, I could not help but smile throughout as his voice was so true to character that it felt like Paul Wesley himself was reading the book aloud to me. The love doesn’t end there, of course. In Bad Moon Rising, we heard Stefan tell Caroline a bit about his human self in an effort to explain the way one’s personality becomes more pronounced when he or she is turned. In Stefan’s Diaries, we get to see first hand why in present day he can hardly go more than an hour without a bit of self-flagellation. Evan as a human he was prone to send himself on long and torturous guilt trips over his feelings for Katherine, his perceived duty to his father and, though mutually exclusive, his struggle to remain loyal to both his brother and his town.

Another highlight as I have already mentioned above was finally getting a peek inside Stefan’s head while in the act of what I believe to be one of the most cringe-inducing moments on the show thus far. The book allows the reader to not only watch Stefan walk home to his father in mid-transformation but to walk with him – to feel his desperation as he begs his father for understanding, to feel his hurt and anger as he learns the truth of his own murder. And, finally, to feel his bloodlust as he gives in to drinking his father’s blood right from his own hands. Truly chilling and heartbreaking at the same time.

While I don’t believe it is the best book I have ever read, as a fan of the Vampire Diaries series(i actually find the tv series much more appealing than the original series). I loved reading the details of how Stefan and Daemon became what they are in present day Mystic Falls.

Genre :      Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal, Tie-in

Publisher: HarperTeen

Rate:              4/5 (really liked it)

Pendragon: #4 The Reality Bug

The forth Pendragon installment #4 The Reality Bug proved to be the ultimate sci-fi future or more specifically the ultimate vault of virtual reality where the human mind is so caught up in the imagination that it does not want to process reality.
So here is how the summary goes like:

The territory of Veelox has achieved perfect harmony. Fifteen-year-old Bobby Pendragon arrives on this territory in pursuit of the evil Saint Dane, but all is peaceful on Veelox — because it’s deserted. The inhabitants have discovered a way to enter their own personal dream worlds, where they can be whoever they want, wherever they want. Their bodies lie in stasis while their minds escape to this dream realm. Fresh from his battle with Saint Dane in 1937 Earth, Bobby is confident that they can defeat whatever Saint Dane has planned for this world. But once Bobby enters the virtual world will he be able to resist the lure of the ultimate in escapism?

Like the 3 previous books of the series that happen on a different dimension…..oops sorry territory this one takes place on the territory called Veelox. Veelox is peaceful. There are no wars on Veelox, because it is totally deserted. Almost everyone is living in their own virtual reality, which is a lot like a very long, perfect, dream.

People don’t communicate with real people anymore, they’re too busy living inside their own heads and creating characters to act in their own personal dramas. Nothing is happening. Nothing is moving forward. Nothing is real. Veelox is dead. Prophecy about our own future? Possible if we are not to careless. Description of what happens to a world that is so engrossed in their own fantasies that reality is ignored and the world deteriorates. Definitely a dystopia.

So, Saint Dane has definitely outdone himself on Veelox. Aja Killian, the Traveler from Veelox, believes she has the answer to defeat Saint Dane and resents the appearance of Bobby who we find out in this edition has been designated the “lead Traveler”……..okay so one question that I had raised at the end of my last post for the Pendragon book 3 review”why must Bobby flume to all the territories to maintain the peace?” Aja is very smart, but she is also arrogant and naive. A bad combination when you have to fight the ultimate evil.

Veelox is a world in neglect. The inhabitants spend their lives “jumping” into a fantasy world within their minds using a technology called “Lifelight”. A jumper lies down in a bed of sorts, is connected to Lifelight, is fed via electrodes attached to their skin and enters a perfect world of fantasy where all their dreams can come true. The perfect fantasy is something everyone wants and gets. It is also something Saint Dane has been planning to use to bring down his first territory. When everyone is jumping, there is no one to fight a takeover.

To fend off Saint Dane, Aja realizes that she must make the fantasy world a little less appealing so that people will jump less and return to their deserted homes and back to reality. To do this, she has developed a “reality bug”, a software program that injects just a bit of reality into every jump.

They agree to load the reality bug and, hopefully, save Veelox. Unfortunately for them, Saint Dane is not only evil, but, he is patient(often setting up the path to destruction years and years in advance) and clever. Once the reality bug is introduced into Lifelight something terrible happens. The bug is far more dangerous and lethal than Aja meant for it to be (………..guess who had a hand in helping Aja design it?). Fantasy crosses over into reality. The reality bug feeds on the jumpers fears and grows into a monstrous killer as it is fed by millions of jumpers.

While Bobby, Loor, and Aja struggle to save Veelox, Mark and Courtney on Second Earth find out that they have been pre-ordained (Bobby’s journals are sent to them) to be acolytes (people who help the Travelers by providing clothing, food and other assistance in each territory). And Gunny has followed Saint Dane to Eelong to try and head off his attempts to bring down that territory.

Although I’d say it again this series is not meant for my age group but so far i had only like the #2 & #3 books of the series but yes their is some room for improvement that is definitely needed in the series to make it much more interesting but yes what I like about this book is that Pendragon isn’t the superhero that everyone expects, being able to save each and every territory like other authors would have done. It makes him feel more real as a person to me.

Genre :      Fiction, Young Adult, Coming of Age

Publisher: Simon & Shuester

Rate:              3/5 (liked it)

Delirium: #1 Delirium

So, the new genre of dystopian romance is here to stay. Apparently, paranormal romance formula I-can’t-be-with-you-cause-I-might-kill-you is getting old, so now we will be bombarded with trilogies showcasing new formula I-can’t-be-with-you-cause-this-bad-dystopian-world-is-tearing-us-apartDelirium by Lauren Oliver definitely fits this new genre of Dystopian Romance. 
Here is how the summary goes like:
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

I am loving dystopias, this is the next I’ve read after The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Wither by debutante author Lauren DeStefano (which wasn’t really the greatest dystopian setting if compared to the hunger games besides the concept of the story) and I love how authors take current social and political trends and extrapolate them into future showing to us what can happen if these trends persist. The versions of future envisioned by Margaret Atwood built upon consequences of excessive genetic engineering or Paolo Bacigalupi’s - upon global warming and exhaustion of natural resources - are plausible and horrifying(i have yet to read their works but have already come across a lot about them to state these facts). Lauren Oliver’s dystopia is based on a premise that love is considered to be a serious, life-threatening sickness, and thus outlawed. Outlawing love, apparently, solves all world problems. Apparently Love is supposed to much more dangerous and lethal than disease like cancer.

 The one great quality for this book was the articulated prose construction by the author. She writes like seasoned pro. I read her sentences and thought that here is a woman who was truly born to write. Some of the best portions of the novel were the chapter epigraphs relating propaganda, children’s rhymes, and ‘banned material’ from the actual society within the book. Here’s an example of one I loved, mixing prose and horror into a perfect example of the fears and stigmas of this society: 

Mama, Mama, help me get home I’m out in the woods, I am out on my own. I found me a werewolf, a nasty old mutt It showed me its teeth and went straight for my gut. 
Mama, Mama, help me get home I’m out in the woods, I am out on my own. I was stopped by a vampire, a rotting old wreck It showed me its teeth, and went straight for my neck. 
Mama, Mama, put me to bed I won’t make it home, I’m already half-dead. I met an Invalid, and fell for his art He showed me his smile, and went straight for my heart. 

The nursery rhyme shows what the society fears most of all: love and its power. The problem was that I didn’t feel the fear myself, just the aftershocks of what Lena was going through. Thus, it felt rather so-so to me.
 The entire story follows Lena as she very gradually comes to terms with the realities of her dystopian world. This is to be expected. It is the first book in a dystopian trilogy, so naturally the first book is the “awakening” part of the story. It may just be me, but I often find these books boring. I want to get to the action! I want to see the main character fight against the dystopian society. I don’t want to spend an entire book watching them hesitate back and forth between the-world-is-good/the-world-is-bad when I the reader already know the world is definitely bad (hey, it’s a dystopian!). 

Especially when they do this over the course of 400+ pages. Despite the fact that the writing is beautiful to read, I felt like screaming at Lena to figure it out already. There wasn’t any question that Lena would eventually turn against her society (she has to; there would be nothing to write in the rest of the trilogy if she just went along with things), so it was especially frustrating to spend so much time reading about her indecision. I also had a hard time liking and connecting with Lena as a result of this.

While there were a few truly shocking and notable scenes (particularly the spectacular ending!), by the end of the book, we know very little that we didn’t already know from the jacket description. I just don’t think that should be the case in such a lengthy book. To me, that indicates that the book could have been shortened considerably, and I think I would have enjoyed this book more if that had been the case.
Now, I can buy a world where strong emotions are suppressed. People in such world would be subdued and docile, and thus lack drive for power and violence. But love? Really? The characters in this book cured of love, still get aggravated, annoyed, worried. They just don’t love their spouses and kids. And retain almost all other emotions.

And the “horrible” consequences such premise brings about - neighborhood patrols, segregated (by sex) schools, arranged marriages, the horror! If, according to the author, this society is so constrictive, why is it so easy for teens to avoid curfews, to have parties with alcohol, to meet up in abandoned houses for some schmexy times, to fake being “cured” of love, to breach supposedly guarded borders? What is written to be scary and menacing in the Delirium’s society just isn’t. As a dystopia, this novel fails completely. The only aspect of the setting that is interesting is that how author twists Christian mythos to adapt to the love-is-a-dangerous-sickness premise.
The power of the story itself lies in the love story — of course there is supposed to be one! — and even that felt lukewarm to me. I get teenage love, seeming so invincible and unquenchable at first, but — again — the love story seemed too easy. I like my conflict and angst, but they weren’t really present here! I felt as if I were in a boat rolling gently downstream when I had expected the boat to meet crashing waves and swirling whirlpools. Basically, the love story let me down.
Love, the deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t. 
But that isn’t it, exactly. 
The condemner and the condemned. The executioner; the blade; the last-minute reprieve; the gasping breath and the rolling sky above you and thethank you, thank you, thank you, God.
Love: It will kill you and save you, both. 
Overall, I would recommend this book more to people who like love stories than those who love dystopians. Though I really adore dystopians like The Hunger Games, I could never rank this one among them. I will be reading the sequels to find out what happens in the story, though, so I guess that’s saying something. Delirium just seems destined to be a book that will make readers feel emotions all over the spectrum.

Genre :      Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopia

Publisher HarperTeen

Rate:              3/5 (Liked it)

Pendragon: #3 The Never War

Moving onto the 3rd Installment of the Pendragon series The Never Warwas pleasantly amazing for not only does it feature a planet….sorry territory that we are very much familiar about but a territory that is also in reality is the only livable planet in the solar system (maybe the scientists would one day find more about outer space….).
Here is how the summary goes like:
Fifteen-year-old Bobby Pendragon is a loyal friend, sports star, devoted pet owner – and Traveler. Along with his uncle Press, Bobby has visited the alternate dimension of Denduron and participated in a civil war. He’s also waded through the endangered underwater territory of Cloral. Now Bobby once again finds himself thrust beyond the boundaries of time and space into a place that seems somewhat familiar: First Earth. Bobby and the Traveler from Cloral – Spader – have flumed to New York City, 1937. Against a backdrop of gangsters, swing music, and the distant sound of a brewing war, the two must uncover the evil Saint Dane’s newest plot. But is Bobby ready for the difficult choices ahead?

Before I delve into reviewing this book, i’d make one thing clear - FIRST EARTH is not any other territory as we have seen all this time but is entirely another time altogether….yes First Earth is none other than Earth in the past more preciously the time of World War II….Third Earth is the time in a distant future around the 5010s and is strangely the utopia that anybody could imagine………while Second Earth from where Bobby Pendragon comes from is actually a time in the middle.

So, Bobby after winning against Saint Dane on Cloral in the previous book now heads to First Earth this time with Vo Spader to make sure nothing that the evil shape-shifting demon does that pushes First Earth the wrong way from its ‘turning point’. So, First Earth the year 1937………yes time to take out the world history books. The 1930s and the Hindenburg are familiar to me through several other books I’ve read as well as history I’ve researched. 

For all the familiarity with the time period, though, MacHale tells a fascinating and fast-paced tale. Bobby and his new best friend Spader land in the 1930s while pursuing Saint Dane. They’re immediately met by machine-gun toting thugs that try to kill them. Bobby figures out how to escape and gets Spader out as well. Spader is way out of his depth because he’s never seen anything as “technologically advanced” as the 1930s.

One of the best things about the Pendragon books is that Bobby usually gets to save the day in a down-to-earth manner. He doesn’t have any really special skills or powers that help him. At this point, he’s fifteen years old and can do what most kids that age can. This makes the series more believable in some ways, and I think it draws the Pendragon audience in a little closer.

MacHale’s sense of timing and pacing is excellent has improved much. The story moves quickly, and I got a real sense of urgency throughout the book as Bobby tries to figure out what Saint Dane is really doing. Many of the chapters end up on cliffhangers that will draw you rapidly into the next chapter. The dialogue is fantastic and sounds real in a way somebody’s personal diary sounds like. One of the other facets of the series that I really enjoy is Bobby’s friendship with Mark Dimond and Courtney Chetwynde. The closeness they share, even through Bobby’s journals, feels real.

MacHale also mixes in adult heroes with his young champion. Vincent “Gunny” Van Dyke was an excellent grown Traveler in this novel. He was kind and gentle, and guided Bobby and Spader throughout the adventure.

I did miss the world-building in this novel, but I know MacHale gets back to it in later volumes of the series. But for kids who haven’t researched the 1930s much, this should be a fun book. Also the question as to why is it that Bobby has to go fluming to other territories and save it before Saint Dane does the deed still persists…………………….the one major major plot hole this series suffers from.

Readers won’t mind the lack of character development as they’re drawn into the nonstop action, snappy dialogue, pop-culture references, and lots of historical trivia. It’s advisable to read the books in order because, although each one has a stand-alone plot, frequent references are made to previous events.

Genre :      Fiction, Young Adult, Coming of Age

Publisher: Simon & Shuester

Rate:              4/5 (really liked it)

Le' Grande Codex Template by Ipietoon Cute Blog Design