Category Archives: 2011

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

This is less a review and more of a gushing post, over this book as well as the series in general. I discovered Downton Abbey around November 2011, if I’m recalling correctly, and stayed up well into the night watching the first five episodes of season 1 on Netflix. I love everything about this show, especially that opening music. I always get a thrill when the opening first comes on, even though I’ve watched both seasons multiple times now. The World of Downton Abbey was released in December from St Martin’s Press, but I didn’t pick it up until after season 2 had finished airing on Masterpiece Classic.
What’s nice about this book is that it isn’t just about the show of Downton Abbey. It talks about the real world of this time that Downton’s based on, and gives information from actual butlers and maids, as well as information from the higher class. It covers 9 areas of interest: family life, society, change, life in service, style, house & estate, romance, war, and then a behind the scenes look at the cast and crew of Downton Abbey. I’d have to say my least favorite chapter was the war chapter, because war has never been one of my interests. I have a three way tie for my favorite chapter between society, life in service, and house & estate. It’s fascinating to read about the division of classes, the give and take between them. Especially interesting was those who work in service. Nowadays it seems like you’re looked down upon if you have work like a maid or something similar, but then it was considered the best kind of work you could have. And then, as now, you were lucky to have a job at all.
English nobility has always been a fascination of mine, mostly stemming from what we see of them in Jane Austen’s novels. I love seeing how they change over the years, and also seeing how little they really do change. Sometimes it seems as though mostly the only change is in fashion, but that’s not entirely it. Ideas and what’s commonly accepted also shift gradually over the years. In Jane Austen’s time I doubt it would’ve been at all acceptable for a woman like Lady Sybil to marry the chauffeur. While in Lady Sybil’s time it is possible. Still not excepted totally, but with the war bringing change it’s not as outlandish as it once would have been.
Reading The World of Downton Abbey has only rekindled my passion for this series, and has made me want to look for similar things to watch and read while waiting for season 3. Another similar movie would be Glorious 39, set during World War II, about a family much like the Crawley’s. It’s more of a mystery, but was definitely enjoyable. Novels that I’ve been acquiring to read include The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons. Nonfiction books that I’ve gotten to read include To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol MdD. Wallace, and Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon. The former served as inspiration for Downton, and the latter will be highly interesting since it’s the history of the location of Downton Abbey. I can’t wait to dig into all of these.
If you love Downton Abbey as much as me and many many others, I definitely suggest getting The World of Downton Abbey. Chock full of fascinating information about the show itself and the history of the time it’s set in, and the people, you’re sure to enjoy this. A perfect way to pass the time until season 3 comes early next year.

Review: Illusions by Aprilynne Pike

Illusions by Aprilynne Pike
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: May 3, 2011
Source: Purchased
Series: Wings #3

Laurel hasn’t seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.

But just as life is returning to normal, Laurel discovers that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail.

As of right now, Spells is still my favorite book in this series. Illusions maybe second. But overall I was not as impressed with the third book in this series as I was with the second. Spells had this atmosphere because of the time Laurel spends in Avalon. In Illusions, we only get one or two quick trips that don’t last long enough.

I’m not going to say who’s team I’m on, just for those who have not read this series yet. Most of you have, but not all. I quite liked having Laurel know she was attracted to two guys, but set firmly in her decision of one of them. We didn’t have any of that indecision that comes with love triangles in Spells. Illusions made up for that though. So much indecision that it went in a way I was not expecting, but then again half expecting in one aspect. That is the kind of love triangle I’m not fond of. I like the ones where the girl is set, and even though the one guy she doesn’t choose fights for her, she never deviates. I must say I was disappointed in Illusions for going the other way.

And lastly, story-wise there just didn’t really seem to be a whole lot going on. We don’t really get an antagonist until slightly more than halfway through the book, and even so they’re an absent antagonist. They don’t really do anything until the big reveal of things at the very end in the last couple of chapters. And by the way, except for one random troll attack in the middle of the book, the only other action happens at the very end

The thing that saves Illusions for me though is what is revealed in the last quarter of the book. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where that’s taken in Destined. Illusions is a must read if you’ve already started this series, just beware that it might not live up to your expectations.

Review: Vanish by Sophie Jordan

Vanish by Sophie Jordan
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: September 6, 2011
Source: Publisher via NetGalley / Purchased
Series: Firelight #2
Purchase: Book Depository

An impossible romance.
Bitter rivalries.
Deadly choices.

To save the life of the boy she loves, Jacinda did the unthinkable: She betrayed the most closely-guarded secret of her kind. Now she must return to the protection of her pride knowing she might never see Will again—and worse, that because his mind has been shaded, Will’s memories of that fateful night and why she had to flee are gone.

Back home, Jacinda is greeted with hostility and must work to prove her loyalty for both her sake and her family’s. Among the few who will even talk to her are Cassian, the pride’s heir apparent who has always wanted her, and her sister, Tamra, who has been forever changed by a twist of fate. Jacinda knows that she should forget Will and move on—that if he managed to remember and keep his promise to find her, it would only endanger them both. Yet she clings to the hope that someday they will be together again. When the chance arrives to follow her heart, will she risk everything for love?

There are some bombs dropped in Vanish, making this even more thrilling than Firelight. Story-wise this was very good, with Tamra finally manifesting and finding her inner draki. Though I did think it was a little too convenient that she happened to be one of the most rare draki that was especially needed in their pride since Nidia won’t be around forever to fulfill her duty.

Cassian rocked in Vanish as well, which makes me only wish even more that Jacinda would choose him. Will proved to me that I don’t want Jacinda ending up with him based off some of his actions. I applauded her ability to choose one of the boys in Firelight, but in Vanish we’re served that indecision crap I was so happy to not have to deal with. Oh well. I was happy though that the setting for Vanish to place back among the pride. I felt like we didn’t get see enough of the people that Jacinda and Tamra left behind in Firelight. Provided a different atmosphere for the story, which I much preferred. Felt more like a fantasy book than a run of the mill paranormal book set in a cityscape.

While some questions were answered, we have even more that were introduced and not answered. Like what really happened to their father? And seriously, who are the Enkros? What do they want with the draki? Well we’ll definitely find out since Jacinda was stupid enough to pull something selfish and get somebody else caught by the Enkros. Book three, Hidden, is I assume going to be focused on the rescue mission that is hatched at the end of Vanish. I’m definitely looking forward to finally finding out everything.

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Harper
Release date: April 12, 2011
Source: Purchased
Series: Darkness Rising #1
Purchase: Book Depository

Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn’t know much about her background – the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip – but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town – from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend’s hidden talent for “feeling” out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya’s biological parents and it’s easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.

This is one of those books that sits on the shelf forever, and once you finally read it you wonder why you waited so long. I enjoyed The Gathering very much, and I’m kicking myself for waiting since I bought this shortly after it was released.

Before The Gathering I hadn’t read anything by Kelley Armstrong, but I knew it had to be pretty good since she’d written quite a few novels, mostly for adults, but also her YA series. The writing flowed and all the dialogue and interactions felt real. And even humor from the main character, and humor can sometimes be hard to write. But Kelley nails it.

All of the characters felt real, even Serena, though we weren’t with her for very long. I absolutely adored Maya. She’s so strong, knows her own mind and has natural leadership qualities that others just follow instinctively. Probably has to do with the fact that there’s something different about her. What’s revealed wasn’t really a surprise, but I definitely enjoyed it since it was a different take on the paranormal genre than what’s out there currently. Of the two boys, my favorite was actually Daniel. Rafe was an awesome bad boy, but then he wasn’t really. I’m rooting for Daniel.

The only thing that I was annoyed about with this book was the ending. It’s left on a sort of cliffhanger, but there was something else too. You’re reading the last chapter, though you don’t yet realize it’s the last. You turn the page and realize that OH, that was last page. What? Seriously?! The ending was somewhat abrupt, and with the cliffhanger definitely serves the purpose of you wanting the next book. I will definitely read on.

Review: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: December 1, 2011
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Book Depository

What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though – she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there’s a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team… and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.

So night before last I’m climbing into bed. Literally, I have a loft bed and the ladder broke so I’m using a combination of chair to stool to bookcase to bed. I took Catching Jordan with me, because for some reason now I always fall asleep when I read in bed, no matter which book it is. I figure I’ll get a few pages in before I fall asleep. WRONG! And that’s how awesome this book was. It kept me up so long that I only got maybe 2 hours of sleep. I couldn’t even finish it that because I got so tired. Finished it the next day.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of football. So you’re probably thinking to yourself, why did I even buy it? First of all, I’ve heard awesome things about it and that piqued my interest. Second of all, I may slowly be changing my mind about football because of a friend. So even though I had no idea what was going on in the actual game or practice parts of the book, I still enjoyed this.

Jordan is hilarious. I love her. I want to be her. She has all this spunk and courage. Major courage to want to play in such a rough sport that can make or break you. And she really was just one of the guys. All these guys she’d grown up with, and they had absolutely no problems with a girl on the team. This was such a tightly knit team I don’t think anything could’ve broken them. Extreme loyalty barely begins to touch on how close these people are. My favorites were definitely Carter and JJ, even Jake sometimes. My favorite of all though was Henry, one of the most awesome best friends you could possibly have. All of the characters in this book felt real. And I loved her parents. Even her dad, who was initially an a-hole, but came through for his only daughter when it mattered.

Now, I came into this book not expecting a love triangle, but there was one. It was gradual though, not right off the bat. I started off rooting for one guy, but definitely changed my opinion not even halfway through the book. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was how weepy Jordan got sometimes. Such a strong girl reduced to so many tears. Other then that, this has been one of my favorites so far of 2012. I will most definitely be reading anything Miranda Kenneally writes in the future, especially the companion novels that are coming out this year and in 2013.

Review: Dark Eden by Patrick Carman

Dark Eden by Patrick Carman
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: November 1, 2011
Source: Publisher for honest review
Published format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
Fifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares—with the help of the group facilitator, Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night’s experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains. . . . What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden?

Patrick Carman’s Dark Eden is a provocative exploration of fear, betrayal, memory, and— ultimately—immortality.

I’m going to be honest right off the bat and say this book didn’t scare me. I was kind of hoping it would, but it definitely did not. It was a little creepy, but they’re not the same. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t love Dark Eden. It is a bit thought provoking though, when you begin to think about fears, and what you’re truly afraid of. For me, my fear is death, and I don’t know how I could possibly overcome it. It would be nice if there was a cure for phobias.
The MC is Will Besting. I have to say I don’t often read books from the point of view of a male character, mostly because not as many are written as with female MCs. Another reason though is just because I can never really relate to a male character so I don’t get as involved with them as I would otherwise. It was interesting to discover what happens to the other characters through Will, and get his thoughts about what was happening. I didn’t feel like they were all fleshed out well enough though. We only barely scratched the surface of most of these characters, and it felt like they were just props to push the story forward.
The story itself, near the end, was a little confusing for me. What is revealed about Rainsford left me with more questions than Dark Eden answered. Why is the number 7 so important? Why does the process work the way it does, and how did Rainsford discover that process? I have to admit that I’m definitely left curious enough to read the second book coming out next year, Eve of Destruction.

Review: Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Philomel
Release date: July 26, 2011
Source: Purchased
Series: Nightshade #2
(Nightshade review here)
Purchase: Book Depository

When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer, one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack and the man she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.

Writing like Andrea Cremer’s almost makes me forget that I’m reading a YA book, it’s so well written. Not to say that YA writing isn’t on par with adult books, because it is, it’s just Andrea writes very well. Which also makes it so I feel like there’s a movie going on in my mind while I’m reading, which I love because then I feel like I’m there with the characters, instead of just reading about them.

Wolfsbane picks up exactly where Nightshade left off. The pacing is excellent and was kept moving throughout the entire story, with twists and turns that were unexpected. And some bombs were definitely dropped, especially near the end. We learn something about a major character we thought we knew, and I for one was not expecting it. The love triangle isn’t quite as present as it was in Nightshade, since Ren is mostly only talked about but not seen very much. Which really is a shame, because I am firmly Team Ren. I have to say Calla’s indecision about who she really wants didn’t bother me as much as it usually might, and I can only say it’s because I have seen some merit in Shay, though he still bugs me.

We meet a new set of characters in Wolfsbane, the Searchers. I have to say they made me enjoy this book much more than Nightshade, especially Connor with his humor. Adne is also one of my favorites, and is involved in the bomb that is dropped about another character. I’m really excited to see where it is taken in Bloodrose, as well as her mysterious relationship with Connor. I disliked Ethan from the get go, but then did a complete 180, just like he did about the Guardians. Watching them all interact with each other, they felt like real people who’ve been together for a long time.

Over the last few years, after reading many werewolf and vampire books I got pretty tired of them, and stayed away of paranormal books for quite a while. This however is not your average paranormal story, so even if you’re not a huge fan of werewolves, I would still say give this a try. Andrea Cremer’s story packs punches left and right that leave you wanting so much more, and she always delivers. This series is a definite must read series.

Review: The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: October 25, 2011
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Series: The Iron Fey #4
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
My name- my True Name- is Ashallyn’darkmyr Tallyn. I am the last remaining son of Mab, Queen of the Unseelie Court.

And I am dead to her.

My fall began, as many stories do, with a girl…

To cold faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing gentler feelings the Winter Prince might have had. Or so he thought.

Then Meghan Chase- a half-human, half-fey slip of a girl- smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer faery can survive,

With the unwelcome company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through its end- a quest to find a way to honor his vow to stand by Meghan’s side.

To survive the Iron Realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. And along the way, Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice.

It’s not very often when an author will devote an entire book to a character we all love so much but isn’t the main character of the books that came before. So I was definitely looking forward to The Iron Knight, because I’ve been Team Ash from the beginning. And while all of the books are fantasy, this last one felt more in the fantasy genre than the others, which pleased me very much.
First off, it was very nice finally getting to know more about Ariella. I’d always been curious about her, since she was the first to get Ash to feel love. It was kind of nice seeing things they did together. The only thing I didn’t like about The Iron Knight though was that Ariella provided an out for Ash, giving him another option, one that had him wavering a few times from his quest to be reunited with Megan. I really didn’t like to see him wavering, not after vows and promises he’d made without hesitation in The Iron Queen.
Puck grew on me a little in this book, especially seeing the past between him and Ash even better. Grimalkan seemed a little less like himself at times, almost nice when usually he’d be gruff and calling everyone stupid. I have to say the small change was nice. And we meet the Wolf, of Big Bad Wolf fame. I like that he grew enough throughout the story to stop throwing death threats around at everyone, since they get a bit tiring after the first three or four.
Since this is the last in this series, I really enjoyed a certain chapter that showed a possible future during his trials for him and Meghan. Well, most of the chapter. The end was a bit sad but the beginning and middle were fun. I would hope that a variation of that future would come for them, they deserve happiness.
All in all, the first two books in this series didn’t impress me, and I almost gave up on it. I’m glad I stuck through though because these last two books are definitely my favorite. Anyone on Team Ash would love this, and I think even some Team Puck people might, just because Puck is so present and we get more backstory on both characters. Definitely recommended for fantasy fans.

Review: Rhymes with Cupid by Anna Humphrey

Rhymes with Cupid by Anna Humphrey
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: January 1, 2011
Source: Purchased
Series: Stand Alone
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
Chocolate is the only good thing about this nauseating holiday. Ever since my ex cheated on me, I’ve sworn off love. Too bad my new neighbor Patrick didn’t get the memo. I’m not interested. Although, he is pretty cute. And sweet. And funny. Stupid Cupid! Point your arrows at someone else. . . . It’s going to be a complicated Valentine’s Day.

This is a cute and light, fluffy read. Quick too, being only 240 pages. Definitely a go-to book for the summer. I’m not a fully converted contemporary fan, but I had high hopes for this despite the length, and while I enjoyed it all right, those hopes were not quite met.
The writing is well done, as was some of the character development. Patrick felt like a real teenage guy. He had awesome qualities, but he also had flaws which made him even more real. Elyse was the same, but her flaws were a little more pronounced. I get where she’s coming from on being burned by love. That happens to all of us at least once, if not more often than that. But to me as a reader, it was obvious that Patrick was always aiming for her, and not her best friend. So personally, I don’t understand why Elyse was so blind to it. But that is just me.
Overall though I did enjoy it, even though some parts fell kind of flat, while others were definitely humourous. I’d definitely suggest this for fans of contemporary romances in YA without all the paranormal stuff.

Review: The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: January 25, 2011
Source: Purchased
Series: The Iron Fey #3
Purchase: Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads:
My name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who’s sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I’m not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.
I thought about going back and rereading King and Daughter to review on the blog as well, but decided against it. Mostly because I thought The Iron King was just okay, and The Iron Daughter almost made me give up on the series. The second book saw Meghan just whining nonstop about this and that, and actually took me many months to finish because at one point I just stopped. So when The Iron Queen came out, I waited to see what reviews were saying, and a lot of people were saying this one was the best one yet. And I agree.
Meghan felt so different from what I remember of her in The Iron Daughter. She’s grown up so much, accepts responsibility and commitment with grace. Even does a few things I used to not think her capable of. She really surprised me, and that’s one of the things I loved about The Iron Queen. Ash was as awesome as ever, but it did feel a bit weird to see him acting all lovey-dovey after the previous novels. It grew on me though, since I’ve been Team Ash from the very beginning.
I loved the story itself too. The first half dragged just a bit, but once things got rolling with the Iron Kingdom again, it was one thing after the next, constant moving. And I love how it worked out, even with Ash. At the time of writing this, I’ve already started The Iron Knight and I’m loving how the story is unfolding from where Queen left off.
The only problem I had with The Iron Queen is one I’ve had with all the books. And that is Puck saying “princess” every single time he says anything to Meghan. Or “ice-boy” or “prince” whenever he says something to Ash. If it was every once in a while, like 2 or 3 times out of 10 it wouldn’t bug me at all. But it is every single time. I’ve honestly taken to just ignoring the word when I read Puck’s dialogue.
Overall I’m glad I stuck with this series, because even with Puck annoying me most of the time, this book has really jumpstarted The Iron Fey for me. I can’t wait to delve further into Ash’s story in The Iron Knight.