Sunday, 24 March 2013

Review: Rift by Andrea Cremer

Rift (Nightshade Prequel #1) by Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Atom
Released: January 8th 2013
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Ember has always known that she owed her life to a mysterious order of Knights who saved her as a baby. The same order of Knights who called her best friend to service, leaving her behind to play the dutiful daughter.

But shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Alistair returns. Although he seems altered - shadowed and brooding - Ember places her trust in him, knowing that he's her one chance to escape.

Little does she know what danger lies ahead. For this is a tumultuous time, and Ember will soon be caught up in an age-old struggle between darkness and light. Neither she, nor her heart, can possibly survive unscathed.
(from Goodreads)

I have not read the Nightshade series by Andrea Cremer, so I went into Rift with no expectations and no idea of what it would be about. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it! I had a few minor problems, but overall, Rift was a very enjoyable book and I’m glad I read it.

Ember was, for me, a great protagonist.  In order to repay her father’s debt, she was being sent to a group called Conatus, who were an order of knights. Her family was desperate to stop this happening, but Ember actually wanted to go. She felt restricted by the life she led under her father and the few options available to women of her time; she didn’t want to get married and spend the rest of her years being told what to do and how to dress and how many children to bear. She preferred to fight, and wanted to learn swordsmanship and become a member of the Guard in Conatus, like her childhood friend, Alistair.

One of the reasons I was impressed with Ember was because she actually walked the walk as well as talking the talk. A lot of these supposedly fighter type heroines in YA are actually nothing of the sort (I have also talked about this in my review of Wings of the Wicked here). They talk of wanting to fight and get stronger, but then stand around and do nothing when a difficult situation arises. I hate that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a heroine who is not a fighter, and who isn’t strong. She could be just as awesome in other ways - they shouldn't have to be "strong" to be interesting. If I were in some action novel, I’d probably die in the first ten pages because of lack of fighting experience! But the worst thing is having these characters that are portrayed to be all badass and strong when really they’re just useless and arrogant about themselves for no reason. Just have a normal heroine if that’s going to be the case! Ember, luckily, was not this type of character. She actually trained. She used the weapons forged for her. She got injured trying to do her job. She made mistakes, yes, and had to be saved on occasions, but she also did the saving sometimes. She wasn’t perfect and was still in training. But she tried hard, and I liked that about her. She had some flaws – I didn’t think she was the greatest of sisters (she didn’t notice something I found pretty obvious – and noticing is a pretty big part of being a knight!) and she could often be selfish and hypocritical. But, I think a sixteen year old should be allowed to get away with that in small doses, so I’ll let her off. Plus, as I have said many times in my reviews, perfection is boring.

Barrow was a difficult character for me to understand. I liked him, don’t get me wrong. But he was kind of...odd. He was one of the Guard’s strongest members and had no problem hacking off someone’s arm to prove a point, yet he elected to become Ember’s mentor which would use up a lot of his time and energy. He seemed quite ruthless at the start, yet he was clearly capable of feeling and hurting and desiring. He judged Alistair for wanting to be with Ember, but at the end he didn’t act much differently (though he was more tactful – Alistair was just forceful and stupid on that point). I find it difficult to believe that someone like him would not only fall in love with the one he was training, but would then announce that love to her. But then he did say that he thought he was strong but turned out to be as weak as any other man. I’m surprised he didn’t try to hide it from Ember for longer to avoid endangering his position, but I guess I could understand how he was feeling at the time. I think this was one of the reasons the relationship between Ember and Barrow was so engrossing. It happened quite slowly, trusting each other a little bit more each day, feeling more comfortable around each other, starting to enjoy each other’s company... I think I liked their daily banter and the time they spent together just as much as the romancey bits when they finally admitted their feelings. My only concern was age. I don’t think (correct me if I’m wrong) we were told how old Barrow was. And he seemed quite mature and I would guess at least a few years older than Ember. With Ember being only sixteen, I don’t know how I’d feel if it turned out Barrow was in his twenties. Ember was not the most mature of sixteen year olds as she’d lived a sheltered life and was quite naive in some aspects. Not a major issue but just one to think about.

Plot-wise, I found the purpose of Conatus and their whole mission very intriguing, and the way women were forced to hide their presence among the higher ranks was an issue that I think well reflected society back in those days (though women in the Guard seemed to have a lot more freedom). The fact so many people were corrupt as well added to the fact that it was hard to trust anyone and that all people could do was fight their hardest. I was sort of concerned about the love triangle – I have to admit that when I first suspected there would be one, I was kinda dreading it. But it wasn’t that bad. Alistair liked Ember but it was unrequited (though that might change in the next book, who knows) and his character was actually quite important – he was more than just “the other guy”, but was sort of this tragic character that was tempted and willing to do anything to have his love returned. I’m starting to think maybe something might happen between Alistair and Eira, though (Eira being another character the book focussed on), but maybe not considering her age. I could actually see where Eira was coming from at the start, but she went too far and did things the wrong way.

Overall, I really liked Rift and would definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction with paranormal, action and romance.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Jennifer L. Armentrout to be published in the UK by Hodder

Exciting news, UK-ers! Jennifer L. Armentrout, whose work I am a big fan of, is going to be published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton! I'm thrilled because I love her books and can't wait for more people to be able to read them. Plus I haven't read Cursed yet (it sounds awesome) - I was planning to buy the US ebook version, but now I can wait for the UK one!

For more info (that is better phrased and less incoherent than my excited rambling), here is what the press release says:

Hodder & Stoughton Assistant Editor Harriet Bourton has snapped up UK rights to ten titles by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout. There are seven titles in the young adult paranormal Covenant series, a contemporary paranormal standalone, Cursed, plus two mystery thrillers written by the author. The Covenant novels and Cursed will be published first in eBook on 25th April, and the first mystery thriller, Don’t Look Back, will publish in April 2014 in print and digital formats.

The Covenant series is published by Spencer Hill Press in the US and Jennifer is currently their number one bestselling author across the board, writing across multiple genres including paranormal contemporary romance, and makes frequent appearances in the Kindle top 100 chart.

Assistant Editor Harriet Bourton bought UK rights from Kate McLennan at Abner Stein Agency on behalf of Taryn Fagerness for the Covenant series and standalone novel Cursed, and UK rights for Don’t Look Back and one untitled mystery thriller from Molly Kong at Hyperion US.

Bourton said, ‘Jennifer’s writing is so immediately engaging and interesting in whatever form her storytelling takes, be it a mysterious plot about a girl who wakes up on the roadside with no memory of who she is, or paranormal worlds – with brilliantly gutsy, spirited heroines – that are excitingly and convincingly imagined from the first page. I’m so thrilled to be Jennifer’s UK publisher, and she already has a cast of fans here at Hodder. I know there will be many more out there yet!’

What do you guys think? Are you happy about the UK buying rights? Do you think the Lux series will be picked up next? Let me know your thoughts!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Review: Unremembered by Jessica Brody

Unremembered (Unremembered #1) by Jessica Brody
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: 28th February 2013
My Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Sera is the only survivor of an explosion on a plane. She wakes up in hospital to find that she has no memory. The only clue to her identity is a mysterious boy who claims she was part of a top-secret science experiment. The only adult she trusts insists that she shouldn’t believe anything that anybody tells her.

In a tense and pacy novel exploding with intrigue and action, Sera must work out who she is and where she came from. Eventually she will learn that the only thing worse than forgetting her past is remembering it
. (from Goodreads)

Unremembered was an enjoyable read and I’m intrigued enough to probably pick up the next book in the trilogy when it’s out. However, I did have a few problems with it, especially with the romance and the more scientific aspects, so it’s not the kind of series I’ll rush out to buy on the day of release.

The beginning was, for me, the strongest part of the book. Sera had been found among the ruins of a plane crash, and she was believed to be the only survivor. She couldn’t remember anything before the day she was found, couldn’t even remember her own name or age – she was called “Violet” by the medical staff because of violet coloured eyes, and it was the doctors who determined she was around sixteen years old. Sera had no idea who she was. And when she was first found, she was asked what year she thought it was and answered with “1609”. That sparked my curiosity the most, I think. “1609” was a random year to reply was clear after a while that Sera wasn’t actually from that year because of the way she recognised certain things we have only in our current time-period, so I was very interested to know why Sera would reply with such an odd date. As the book went on, more strange things kept happening. Sera’s amnesia seemed to work in an unusual way...she couldn’t remember slang or things like computers and phones, but she showed exceptional ability in maths and languages. These skills, coupled with her strength and “extraordinary beauty” made it pretty easy to guess what was up with her – if you read/watch a lot of sci-fi, you're bound to know – but I did enjoy seeing all her abilities and going with her on her quest to recover her memories, with the help of Cody, her new foster-brother, and Zen, a boy who claimed to know Sera from before the crash. Personally, I felt Sera was interesting because she was contradictory. At some points, she seems very kind and considerate, but at others, I felt she was almost heartless. She chose to do something, purely for selfish reasons so she could feel better about bad things that had happened in the past, with no consideration for the people who loved her and how they would feel about the decision she was making and how they would also have to live with it and how difficult that would be for them. It seemed weird to me that she didn’t realise the consequences of her request, but then maybe I was just reading too much into things.

Cody was your typical sort of awkward thirteen year old boy, and while I didn’t love him, I did think he was a good character to have – he and Sera didn’t really get along too well but I enjoyed reading about them both together, and you could see that deep down, Cody probably did care about her, and Sera definitely grew attached to him. He was quite funny, which was nice because Sera didn’t really have much of a sense of humour, and he actually helped Sera try to recover her memories, albeit reluctantly. We didn’t really get to know much about Cody except that he was good at maths and science (and that two weeks allowance for him was apparently over $138 – how rich was this kid and his family?! Is this normal or am I justified in being surprised?), so I’m wondering if he will have a bigger role in the second book (though after the way he and Sera parted, I sort of doubt this).

Zen was a character I struggled to grow attached to. He was desperately trying to help Sera remember who she was – he knew her real name, knew about the locket that was found with her in the crash and Sera had a strange reaction to him every time he appeared. Sera didn’t know whether to trust him or not, but she was always drawn to him. The romance, to me, was a little disappointing. I felt like the author thought she could get away with not really developing the relationship just by showing that Sera and Zen knew each other before and loved each other then. But to me, knowing that information didn’t prevent the romance from seeming very much like insta-love. It just happened too quickly and I didn’t feel the connection the two supposedly had between them. Furthermore, Zen remained pretty much a complete mystery. I understand this was the first book in a planned trilogy, but we found out nothing about this boy, except that he and Sera used to know each other and that he had a mother. That wasn’t really enough for me, I wanted to know more about him and his personality, not just that he loved Sera. It was like his whole identity was “the person in love with Sera trying to save her” and nothing else.

Plot-wise, I could sort of see where the story was going most of the time, but I enjoyed reading about it nonetheless, and I think the time-travel element made things a lot more interesting. However, the way the time-travelling worked was almost completely unexplained. We were told that instead of focussing on wormholes or travelling faster than the speed of light, like the scientists of today, the people involved decided to turn to genetics. And then, besides stating that humans were able to change when and where they existed, that was pretty much where the explanation stopped. A gene was developed to make time travel possible. A gene? Really? Right. Okay then. I’m sorry, but you cannot just say “we decided to look at genetics” and then not explain ANYTHING after that. That is not an explanation. How the hell did looking at GENETICS enable time-travel? How did this gene work? What did it do exactly to make time travel possible? How was it developed? Why did it work in some people and not others? What exactly happened to the failed subjects? If you’re going to use science to try and explain why something has happened, at least come up with something plausible for how  it works, otherwise it becomes “science”, not science, and no-one is going to respect it or take it seriously. Honestly, I think this was biggest problem I had with this book.

Overally, Unremembered was an entertaining, light sci-fi novel with an emphasis on romance. I would recommend it to sci-fi beginners and those who are into the more “star-crossed lovers” kind of romance (seeing as there was a lot of running away from bad guys). However, if you’re a more experienced sci-fi reader (or a hardcore one), keep in mind that the story here really focuses more on the romance and less on world-building.