Review: Pyxis (Pyxis #1) by KC Neal

Pyxis: The Discovery (Pyxis, #1)

Corinne lives an average teenage life working at her dad’s cafe, hanging out with her best friend, and trying to forget a falling-out with her almost-boyfriend Mason. Things take a strange turn when she uses her late grandmother’s food dyes for a bake sale, and her customers suddenly find her irresistibly alluring. Then she discovers she and Mason are haunted by the same dreams of a dark force that consumes everything in its path.

Pursued by shadowy figures and a crazy woman with secrets from the past, Corinne must find out who her grandmother really was. In her quest to unravel her family’s history, she learns she is destined to protect this world–and the dark world of her dreams. She races to find the answers she seeks before her nightmares break free.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

Short book=Short Review
An enjoyable, fun read. I think that this book was excellent, it just didn’t grab me. I have a problem with the modern mentality of the teenagers and dating and that just put me out a bit. (I’m a prude, yes, I get that a lot. Please don’t hate me!) Still, I recommend this book to fans of urban fantasy. It was a good story and I hope you’ll give it a shot!

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Review: I Am Alive by Cameron Jace

I Am Alive (I Am Alive, #1)

Author Note: I admit that I Am Alive was not properly edited. A better version will be available by the end of August. To know more click here http://bit.ly/OzH3wP

Every girl dies – not every girl really lives.

Sixteen-year-old Decca Tenderstone feels captivated when she meets gorgeous and reckless Leo, who is arrogant, silent, beautiful, and shoots almost every one he meets.

The usual boring girl meets badboy story … hmm … with a twist …

They live in a dystopian future in Los Angeles where every sixteen-year-old is ranked on a scale from one to ten to determine their future. Outranks, who are considered a danger to society, are forced to attend the Monster Show, a brutal sacrificing ritual that is broadcasted worldwide on live TV, where rebellious teens are labelled Bad Kidz or Monsters and get to fight for their lives in deadly games.

To prove that you’re still alive you have to scream I Am Alive every six hours. Lower your voice, and you’re dead.

Deccaa doesn’t need Leo’s company. She has a secret of her own. While they both can’t stand each other, she will find out why she doesn’t fit into any rank.

Nothing will stand in her way as she has to make choices concerning love, life, staying alive, growing up, and finding out who she really is.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

To prove that not all my reviews are sparkly, I am including this one of a book I rated 3-stars. As I say below, I think it has great potential, it just needs a bit more editorial work.

Read from August 25 to 31, 2012
This book could be a great book. Fans of The Hunger Games will definitely be intrigued by this one. I think it was a good story, surprisingly original and very engaging. It just needs editing. A lot of editing. The author has announced that a fully-edited version of this story will be released, but I’m reviewing this book “as-is.” 🙁

The plot:
I don’t think dystopian is “my thing.” I find myself thinking “that might happen, but not like that” far too often to properly enjoy the stories. This goes back to some boring beliefs about human nature and my own interpretation of Machiavelli (nerdy, right?). Nonetheless, it was a fast-paced, intense plot that could truly sparkle with the right editor to polish it. Though I found the ending a little far-fetched, this is dystopian and anything can happen!

The characters:
I found myself deeply caring about the characters. Decca is determined and intelligent. Watching her come to understand the nature of her world was a journey that I had to see completed.

I especially came to like Pepper and her factual, yet multilayered personality. (The romance between her and Woodsy was so sweet!)

Leo provided a not-so-charming love interest for Decca as well as an intriguing and mysterious persona. I was worried about him just as much, if not more than Decca. (There are two more books, I figured Decca would probably be okay.)

All in all, this book was okay. There were a few things that didn’t make sense and there were a few inconsistencies involving the iAms and Decca’s personality, but I think that those rough edges could be easily smoothed out.

If you are a fan of YA dystopian, I heartily advise you to check out the revised version when it becomes available. I will be looking into the author’s other books for sure. =)

The Three Categories of Heroines

The other day I was thinking, and I realized something rather fascinating. Heroines in fantasy books (or I suppose it could apply to any genre) can be grouped into the basic categories of three fairytale princesses.

Snow White baking a Pie

Image from Disney-ClipArt.com

First, we have the Snow White category (think of Disney’s Snow White). Snow White is very sweet, very beautiful, very cheerful, very kind, very thoughtful, very stupid. The things that people love about her, her gentle spirit and perpetually kind manner, are also the things that get her into trouble. She thinks ill off no one and this often allows bad people to do bad things because she’s too trusting. The Snow White genus of heroine is practically extinct now, in favor of the other two categories.

Image from 1901 illustration

There is the Márya Morévna category. Márya Morévna is a figure in Slavic folklore. A warrior queen who defeats an immortal ogre and locks him up in her dungeon. But then one day while she’s out fighting or doing whatever it is warrior queens do on the weekends, her boyfriend goes and lets the ogre out by accident. Márya must then go on a quest to rescue said boyfriend from the ogre. As you have probably guessed, the heroines in this category are what is commonly referred to as “kick-ass.” They are great fighters and they are the sort of young women you don’t provoke if you value your life. The Márya Morévna heroine is at the top of her game and the stories about these heroines usually involve her finally meeting an enemy who is stronger than she is. Kristin Cashore’s Katsa falls into the Márya Morévna category as does Sarah J. Maas’ Celaena Sardothien.

File:Mulan Screenshot.jpg

Image from Wikipedia

The third category is the Mulan heroine. Mulan is a character in Chinese folklore who dresses up as a boy to take her decrepit father’s place in the emperor’s army. This type of heroine is the sort who doesn’t know how to fight or use magic or what have you at the beginning of the story, but learns as she goes. The Mulan heroine is usually motivated by survival or the desire to save a loved one. She essentially wants to be left alone, but does what she needs to do. She relies more on her wits than her skills. Shannon Hale’s Ani is a Mulan heroine. The main character of my books, Janir Caersynn Argetallam, also falls into this category.

Of course, these are sweeping generalizations and some characters, like Suzanne Collins’ Katniss, could belong to more than one category. And then there could also be sub-categories within each category, too. Even the two heroines I used as examples for the Márya Morévna group could be divided into “trying to survive and help people along the way” and “went on quest to save kingdom.”

And there you have my random observation of the day. No surprise, my favorite category is the Mulan heroine, but everyone’s different (thank Heaven or life would be very boring!). So what’s your favorite type of heroine?

Originally appeared as a guest post on Book Bite Reviews

Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Thorn

Princess Alyrra’s strength lies in silence. Scorned by her family, she avoids the court, spending her time with servants. When her marriage is unexpectedly arranged with the prince of a powerful neighboring kingdom, Alyrra feels trapped. As the court celebrates her match, dark rumors spread about the unexplained deaths of the women of her new family. Alyrra begins her journey with mounting trepidation; betrayed while traveling, she seizes an opportunity to start a life away from court.

Walking away from a prince whom she doesn’t know should have been easy. But from the moment she sets eyes on him, Alyrra realizes that her freedom could cost him his life. Without any magical defense of her own, she is plunged into a lethal game of sorcery and deceit. Now Alyrra must decide whom she can trust and what she’s willing to fight for—before her silence proves fatal.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

Read from June 26 to August 24, 2012
It has been a very long time since a book captured me the way this one did. Though it was a bit slow in the beginning, once I got past the first few chapters, I might as well have been shackled to my iPhone. I simply could not tear myself away.

I had my eye on this book for awhile. The idea of a “The Goose Girl” retelling intrigued me. However, I had read another TGG retelling (The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale) and wasn’t sure it would be entirely new. I must now eat my thoughts.

The plot:
I was highly impressed. Remember how I said I was worried about originality? While I could spot elements of the Grimm fairytale, it was a whole new spin. (I know people always say things like that, but I can’t help that it’s true.) The voice and the feel were unusual and I enjoyed the mix of middle-eastern and European customs and styles.

The characters:
Princess Alyrra/Thorn is the most engaging main character I have met in a long time. All she wants is to be left alone and yet, when push comes to shove, she does step up and do the right thing. She is humble and compassionate and brave, though she doesn’t believe it. I greatly enjoyed watching her discover her inner strength to face her enemies and I was rooting for her all the way. One of my favorite things about her character was how, even after Valka had been downright sadistic to Thorn, Thorn still took pity on her and showed mercy. Compassion is a quality that seems to be growing scarce in modern MCs and it was exhilarating to meet one who has it in plenty.

Kestrin was what many would call “swoon worthy.” (While I don’t normally use that term, it seems fitting here.) Young, handsome, gallant, brave…did I mention he’s the prince? While I got a bit mad at him a few times, the greater portion of my reading was spent in agony over what would happen with him and Thorn. Not to give away the ending, but I was quite satisfied with the outcome.

Valka, the maid who betrays Thorn, is an excellent antagonist. Pampered, spoiled, selfish–she’s the kind of character we all love to hate.

Let’s not forget the Lady, the mysterious otherworldly being who starts all the trouble in the first place. As for details about her, you’ll have to read the book.

There were a bevy of other characters (Red Hawk, Falada, Violet, Laurel, Oak, Ash) who were all memorable and lovable in their own way. (I am really hoping to see more of some of them in the companion trilogy the author is working on.)

All in all, this book was awesome. Mind-bogglingly so. In other words, go get it. Right now. That’s an order. =)

YouTube Find: Anna Russell’s summary of Wagner’s Ring Cycle

“Many great experts have dissected Wagner’s Ring Cycle. For the benefit of other great experts…”~Anna Russell

I don’t now if I’ve ever mentioned that I am a fan of opera. No, really, it’s very enjoyable. If you can understand what the heck is going on. There’s repeated times where us mere mortal everyday opera goers find ourselves thinking “wait, who just died?” or “when did they fall in love?” Well, dear Anna Russell understood this problem and so gives us a musical Cliff’s Notes version of Wagner’s 20-hour opera in ten minute intervals. (This opera is, by the way, based off Norse mythology, which is in of itself very cool.)

Review: Song to Wake to (Levels, #1) by JD Field

Song to Wake to (Levels, # 1)

Sixteen-year-old Maddy Bride starts at a new school in the countryside. She knows she’ll have to deal with sports obsessed rich kids, cliques, and pressure. She doesn’t expect myths from the shadowy past to be taking place around her. Not only are the legends unfinished. They’re starting all over again.

Her new classmate, Eddy Moon, is awkward, and shy, and has lived a life of hardship and loneliness. As his strength and sense of purpose become more and more striking, Maddy comes to believe that he may have a place in the stories. At the same time she realises that the place she wants is by his side.

Closeness to Eddy brings Maddy another shocking realisation. Not only is he a mythic hero returned to life in the countryside, but maybe she too has a place in the legends. Torn between normality and her attraction to the magnificent Eddy Moon, Maddy has to decide who she is, who she is going to be, and whether stories must end the same way twice.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

 

Read from August 24 to 25, 2012

 

“Arthur said he’d come back when we needed him. How bad does it have to get?”

Every devotee of Arthurian lore knows about the legend of the Seven Sleepers. Countless writers have ventured to tell their own versions of how Arthur came to rest in a hidden mound where he lies yet. What I have never encountered before, is a story that tells about what happens when The Once And Future King really does wake up. And how amazing it is!

The plot:
This book was disruptive to my sleep patterns on account of the fact I couldn’t pry myself away from it. I stared at my iPhone for hours as if my life depended on it, my eyes racing over the words, aching to know how the story would end.

It follows Maddie, a young girl trying to adjust to having her life completely uprooted and moved from vibrant London to a tiny village in the country. At a posh private school, she meets Eddy Doforni Moon in her history class. Eddy is awkward, mocked, gorgeous, stunning, of unknown origins.

It turns out, Eddy has lived once before and there’s more to Maddie’s amazing talents as a swimmer than just athletic ability. As an illicit attraction between them grows, they learn that another power from Arthur’s day, a power wishing him ill, has also survived. And they must defeat it before it defeats them.

The characters:
Maddie was one of those characters I could get mad at and cheer on at once. While she’s got a bit of a temper and can be a bit over-worried about her social status in the beginning, she does admit when she’s wrong and fights when she has to. I adored her from early on and my heart leapt and plunged as hers did. She was a perfectly crafted heroione!

Eddy. Oh, it’s impossible not to love Eddy! Brave, unassuming, and loyal, he’s the guy every girl’d love to meet. But he wasn’t cookie-cutter perfect, either. No, he has flaws and that makes him all the more adorable because it proves he’s still human. I relished watching how the tale of Arthur’s rise was repeating itself in a 21st-century style, complete with the popular foster-brother and everything.

The next book in this series, Rock Anthem, is way up there on my to-read list. I am very eager to know how Arthur’s second lifetime will work out and I am especially concerned about Guinevere turning up. (No offense, Guin. But you had your shot and you blew it.)

Conclusion? I BLOODY LOVE THIS BOOK!!! If you haven’t read it, you must do so now. =D