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I have long been a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, and this latest in the 8-part and counting series did not disappoint.

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This book continues the epic tale of Claire and Jamie Fraser begun in the first book, Outlander, as well as dozens of added characters picked up along the way like Brianna, Roger, Lord John, William, Jenny, Ian, Rachel, Buck, Fergus, and Marsali, to name a few.  Fans of the series will recognize the usual feast of relational tension, medical drama, mystery, action, and intelligent fantasy that has characterized Diana’s books.

Gabaldon gives readers some excellent plot twists in this book, too.  I don’t want to spoil it, so all I’ll say is the main twist is fantastic!  I didn’t see it coming at all and it really satisfied.  

Like all of her books, My Own Heart’s Blood is a meaty, sink-your-teeth-into kind of book that will get under your skin and stay in your head for a long time after.  And, like the other seven, I plan on reading this one over again.

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There will be more books in the Outlander series, but during the long wait for the next instalment, we can always console ourselves with the perfect new TV adaptation of Outlander.  And apologies if my review gets you hooked.  Consider yourself fairly warned.  

My 12-year-old son, a voracious reader, recommended this YA dystopian book to me.  Here’s my opinion.

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Thomas comes to himself in an elevator, his memory wiped, and emerges into a boxed in area called the Glade.  Inside are a bunch of young boys with their own cobbled-together society and their own slang.  Their objective: to survive, and to find a way out of the giant, shifting maze that surrounds their home.  Thomas soon learns that they are hunted by frightening creatures called Grievers, and watched by the maze’s creators, but no one will tell him much else.  But despite the giant holes in his knowledge, Thomas is driven to unravel the mystery and help the Gladers escape the maze.

The Maze Runner is a fun, gripping mystery that keeps the reader guessing right up to the end, and beyond.  The story is filled with great twists and steady pacing, the characters are interesting, and the setting is imaginative.  Fans of the Hunger Games or Divergent will especially like this one.

Like most young adult fantasy novels, this one is going through the Hollywood machine, too, so if you want to read it first before seeing the movie, act fast.  It looks like it will adapt well to the big screen.

I’m looking forward to reading the two sequels to this one, which I’m told give up few answers until much later, and the prequel that explains how the Gladers got in the maze.  I’ll be reviewing those as well, so keep an eye on my blog in the future.

So, a while ago I posted a review on the first book of the Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones.  I didn’t like it that much.  But I gave the rest of the series a try, and here’s my opinion.

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The story began to improve in book two (City of Ashes) and really hit its stride in book three (City of Glass) as it diverted from the encyclopaedia feel of book one and really got into plot development.  Also, I found the story line became a bit less cliche, the plot twists more surprising.  I began to settle into the world of the Shadowhunters, but it was a slow courtship.

I enjoyed the new story arcs involving Simon, Maia, and Isabelle.  I enjoyed the lavish detail of world building, the idea of an invisible fantasy world enmeshed in an epic war.  But though I wanted to root for the main characters, Clary and Jace, I still can’t shake the feeling that I don’t really know them, and when it all comes down to it, don’t really care what happens to them.

Although the interesting story and setting can almost make up for Cassandra Clare’s clunky, trying-too-hard prose, it still sticks out here and there to my writer’s eye.  It makes me wonder how a good editor might have improved these books.

All in all, I’m not sorry I read these books, but alas, I don’t think I’ll be rushing to recommend them, either.

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This one was hot off the press when I snapped it up, eager to read the rest of Tris Prior’s story begun in Veronica Roth’s first two books, Divergent and Insurgent.  Wow!

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Roth finished what she started and finished it well.  Taking up Tris’ tale and adding in a new perspective from Tobias, she continued to supply plenty of perfectly paced action, soul-searching dilemmas, and her hallmark plot twists.  Though like life the story doesn’t always go where the reader would like it to go, the plot line stays unforgivingly true to the characters and their next logical steps.  Kudos to Roth for not shying away from some tough moments.

Once again, I’m impressed by the author’s clean prose, which gets some pretty hefty themes across in simple, beautiful language.  The story has absolutely no wasted moments, and yet it feels complete at the end.  The characters are painted in realistic strokes, never heavy-handed, but utterly real.  Although the setting is alien to us, Roth manages to give the gist without time-wasting explanations.

I will be recommending this book and its two precedents enthusiastically to all, especially young adults.  Fantastic!

So a few years ago I read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  I thought it was pretty good and decided it was about time I picked up the sequel, World Without End.  Here’s what I thought.

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World Without End is a rarity in a sequel, in that it continues the story begun in book one, but it could easily be read as a stand alone novel as well.  Although it alludes to events in the first book, it takes place two hundred years later in the same medieval English town, with a cast of entirely new characters.  Some things that Follett’s readers will find familiar: a host of intriguing characters both good and evil and somewhere in between, each with dreams of vast scope, all in conflict with each other.  Like Pillars, this books ups and downs kept me thinking “how much more can happen to these poor people?”

I enjoyed the story, the characters, the vivid portrayal of life in the middle ages.  The time period is one I like and this book brings it to life in a way many other books fail to do.  I really understood the traditions of the time, both old and new, and the struggles that the characters faced.  On the other hand, I failed to engage fully with the female protagonist, Caris, as I found her rather self-centred and unusually modern for the time period.  While I’m sure there were some women who felt as she did in the middle ages, she is so different from what I expected and so opposed to my own mind that at first I had difficulty connecting with her.  But as the story went on, she improved for me.

This book is good for anyone who likes rich history, complex plots, a bit of mystery, and lots of conflict.  Be aware, however, there is a fair bit of the seedy underbelly of life in there, too.  That being said, I’d recommend World Without End as an entertaining heavy-weight read.

 

 

I’ve been eyeing this book by Cassandra Clare for a long time, even before the movie came out.  I seem to see it everywhere and I was wondering what all the hype was about.

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Unfortunately, though it seemed like it had all the ingredients for a novel I would like, this one fell flat for me.  I don’t often say that about a book, especially a promising urban fantasy like this one.  But Clary Fray just didn’t capture me.  And Jace Weyland even less.  The book read more like an introductory guide than a story, by necessity of its dizzyingly complex fantasy world.  The plot twists were predictable and the prose tried too hard.  I wanted to like it, I really did.  “Jace unhitched himself from the railing” might have charmed me if used once, but the same expression twice or more?  And “he grinned all over his face” is just silly.

I probably will pick up the second book and give it a chance, as I am a little curious about what happens next.  But I’m not dying to know, and that in itself tells me that The Mortal Instruments won’t be going on my top books list.  Apologies to anyone who did like the story.  If you haven’t read it, you may want to skip it and give Divergent a try instead.  Or watch the movie: it was much better than the book, for a change.

 

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Last week I gave a rave review for Divergent by Veronica Roth, and already I’m finished the second book in the series, Insurgent.  Wow!

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What a stellar book!  This is the kind of book I’m jealous of as an author, and the kind I devour as a reader.  Just fantastic!

The story follows Tris Prior in the aftermath of the events of the first book (I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it) and explores more of the world of five factions based on virtues.  This is everything I want in a sequel, unfolding a greater narrative while telling a complete stand-alone story with struggles and themes of its own.  Roth worked storyteller magic with impeccable pacing and earth-shaking twists, loveable but real characters, and a fascinating future world.  Far from losing me, she kept me riveted the whole way through.

I would recommend both books, and the upcoming third, to anyone, young or old.  The series’ themes of belonging, individuality, sacrifice, and the value of life ring true at any age.

 

I’ve already got book 3, Allegiant, reserved.  🙂

On the recommendation of a friend I read Divergent by Veronica Roth – and boy am I glad I did!

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I’ve read a lot of good books lately, but none of them has gripped me as tightly as this one.  I stared wide-eyed at its pages while I made dinner and kept turning pages too long into the night.  🙂  What a fantastic, suspenseful, thought-provoking, well-crafted read!

The story follows 16-year-old Beatrice Prior in a future, seemingly utopian society made up of five factions each based on the emphasis of one particular virtue.  She is poised on the edge of a choice – will she remain in her family’s faction, or choose another.  Her aptitude test is supposed to show her, but the results aren’t as helpful as they should be.  Beatrice is Divergent – and all she knows is that being Divergent is dangerous.

I loved the story, the characters, the twists and turns.  I love that Roth doesn’t shy away from the raw stuff of young life, and she doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.  All in all I would recommend it to anyone.

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I’ve already lined up the second book, Insurgent, to read, and I’m eagerly anticipating the movie coming out in March.

 

Moving right through Stephen R. Lawhead’s Bright Empires series and here’s what I thought of Book 3: The Spirit Well.

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I’ve always loved Stephen R. Lawhead’s books, and the Bright Empires series is another fantastic addition, if a bit of a departure from his usual strictly Celtic historical fare.  Actually these books have more in common with the Song of Albion trilogy rather than with his Pendragon Cycle or King Raven series.  I’ve been really loving the convoluted adventures of Kit Livingstone and Wilhelmina Klug and trying to wrap my brain around it all.

If you’ve read the first two books (and you should!) and you’re confused, that’s okay, because a lot of questions are answered in The Spirit Well.  Of course, plenty of new questions arise, too.  But I find Lawhead satisfies my burning curiosity just enough to keep me going.  He is starting to wax more philosophical now, too, explaining some of the grander themes behind the epic quest for the Skin Map and the unknown treasure it points to.

The Spirit Well is everything I want a supernatural adventure to be: plenty of mysteries, wonders, twists, and interesting characters with whom to share the journey.  Another great read!  I’m looking forward to picking up book 4: The Shadow Lamp.

 

 

Finally, a review on a recently released book! 😉  Philippa Gregory’s newest instalment of her Cousins’ War series, The White Princess just came out at the end of July, and I have snapped it up.  Here’s what I thought:

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Philippa Gregory headed into more familiar territory in this latest book.  It serves as a bridge to fill the gap between the Plantagenets and her beloved Tudor Court novels.  It tells the story of Princess Elizabeth, heir to the line of York, and queen of the new conquering king Henry VII.  She is a fascinating character in history: the only queen to be daughter, sister, niece, wife, and mother of kings.  She was a peace offering to gain the support of Henry Tudor against her usurping uncle, and to bind the houses of Lancaster and York together and end the War of the Roses.

Once again, Gregory breathes life into a well-known historical figure, shedding light on her probable inner thoughts and conflict.  After all, this was the girl who enjoyed such favour in her uncle’s court, now forced to marry her enemy, and to stand by him against conspirators from her own family.  The author does a fantastic job developing this tension, never flinching away from the raw feeling and delicately drawing the reader along with Elizabeth in her transformation from York to Tudor.

I loved the book, as always, and I can’t wait to read more, and I hear there’s another book in the works, based on Elizabeth’s cousin Margaret Pole.