Book Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate


Title: Fallen
Author: Lauren Kate
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars

There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret…even if it kills her.

Whether or not Fallen is an excellent YA novel, or the worst piece of fiction ever written, is a debate that is going on all over the bookish world. You have people who praise this novel into the seventh heaven, and you have others who would think even the fifth circle of hell isn’t low enough to rate this one. Some say it is unoriginal and boring and totally like Twilight (which does raise quite some question marks with me) while others say it’s the next best thing after the invention of the universe. My opinion is somewhat in the middle

Opening curtains. We see a glimpse of Lucinda “Luce” Price, heroine of our story. Luce is pretty much like any normal girl – except she isn’t normal. Far from it. Her previous sort-of boyfriend Trevor died under mysterious circumstances, and up until now the authorities still aren’t convinced that she doesn’t have anything to do with it. Keep in mind the fact that Luce has been seeing shadowy-like creatures crawling over the walls her entire life, that’s enough to make anyone wonder about their own sanity. Luce is sent off to Sword & Cross, a reform school; where she – surprise, surprise – meets Daniel Grigori. Daniel is as gorgeous as they get in fantasy novels, and immediately captures Luce’s heart. The only problem is that he’s continuously mean towards her, and doesn’t want to have anything to do with her. Like the teenage girl she really is, Luce isn’t willing to give up on her new crush, and even pries into his private life. But did I mention that there isn’t just Daniel who’s giving Luce the hot and cold treatment? There is another boy interested in our little heroine as well, and he goes by the name of Cam. Twenty thousand times as civil as Daniel, and – gathering from the descriptions in the novel – equally as good looking and charming, he might give ol’ Daniel a run for his money. However, this wouldn’t be a fantasy novel if there wouldn’t be something strange going on, and no one turns out to be who they pretend to be.

You know what? I will admit it. I couldn’t stop reading this book, and I had to finish it in a one day reading session. To be honest, it’s not like I even tried to put it away. It just swept me off my feet, a bit in the same way like The Hunger Games captured me. So many secrets, and the slow pace at which they unfold – which is a good thing, because it adds a continous sense of mystery to the novel – was enough to keep me reading at the wee hours of dawn. Considering how this novel totally captivated me in any possible way; who am I to give it a low rating then? Of course I must admit there were some upsides and downsides to the story and the characters, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed reading Fallen. And that’s what is important.

Trying to compare this novel to Twilight is like trying to compare apples and bananas. Twilight is about vampires – this one is about…well, take one lucky guess and remember the title ‘Fallen’. The storyline in Twilight is unoriginal, uneventful, flat and predictable. I mean, can anyone honestly say that they didn’t figure out practically everything that was going to happen in Twilight from page one? If you think Fallen is anything like that; think again. The storyline, although also involving a pretty normal highschool girl falling in love with a supernatural creature, is unpredictable, fast-paced, moving and interesting. There is tension and suspense everywhere; mysteries get unravelled, secrets get exposed, and all the way through I kept on waiting for the big break-down. The big moment when I realise I finally know everything there is to know, and I can safely put the novel away and never worry about it again. Wrong. Lauren Kate holds up the tension in such a marvellous, delightful way that you never get to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Instead, you’re on the edge of your seat throughout the entire novel, encountering surprise after surprise after surprise.

Not only is the storyline developed in a way Twilight could only dream of, the characters have actual depths and personality. Alright, so our heroine is a little air-headed when it comes to Daniel Grigori. But at least she isn’t being courted by half the male population of Sword & Cross, and at least Daniel has the sense not to watch a girl as she sleeps. Because dear ol’ Edward certainly never read the “how to let a girl know you love her without stalking her” manual. The storyline of Fallen makes a lot more sense too, because in Twilight I was constantly wondering why the hell anyone – let alone a hundred year old, drop-dead-gorgeous vampire – would fall for a blunt, clumsy, pathetic excuse for a human being like Bella. Luce on the other hand actually has a personality of her own. Alright, and maybe she could have been a bit more witty, intelligent and determined; but we’re not all hero-material. I actually like the fact Luce doesn’t have the typical hero-personality-traits. The stereotype feisty, witty and highly intelligent but ravenously beautiful heroine gets boring after a while as well.

Without giving any spoilers away, I must add that Daniel actually does have a good reason to stay away from Luce – not the old school Edward “I am dangerous and you should stay away from me…although in reality I am a vegatarian vampire who doesn’t drink blood and SPARKLES in the sunlight” crap. Plus, the supporting characters had an actual personality as well. None of the generic “everyone loves Bella” attitude we see all too well in Twilight. Some people like Luce, others detest her. C’est la vie, and that’s what actually makes characters interesting. Their behavior around each other, the way they interact. Lauren Kate really got that part spot on in this novel. Somewhere along the way, you don’t even have to read their name to know who’s talking anymore: you get that just from what they’re saying. And that, my dear people, is some decent character building.

I must also add that Lauren Kate’s writing is a couple of levels more advanced than Stephenie Meyer’s. She combines gorgeous and realistic descriptions with a fast-paced and brilliant writing style. What’s not to love?

The only thing that bothered me immensly is the fact that I now have even more questions than I had at the start of the novel. Cliffhanger, much? Yep. But that’s all the more reason for me to buy the next novel in the series, Torment. Can’t wait.

Book Review: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

7656222Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication date: 07/04/2011
Rating: 3 stars
Advanced Review copy provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of her grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.

A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce’s own remarkable singing talent makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However, her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

The first book in a trilogy, Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

I must admit that I already read a lot of positive reviews about this novel before I actually started reading it. Now I’m not usually one to agree with the majority – I like being a rebel – but for this novel, I can’t help but agree. Atleast up till some point. I really liked this novel, and it pulled me in with an uncomperable force. However, there are some minor flaws I would like to discuss too.

Luce – short for Lucette – is living with her uncle ever since her father dissapeared while working on a ship at sea. Neither the ship, nor her father ever returned. Convinced her father is still alive, Luce tries desperately to hang on until his return, but that isn’t exactly easy. Her uncle is a brutal man who spends more time drunk than sober, and cannot live with the fact Luce’s mother fell for his own brother rather than for him. When his behavior escalates one night, Luce finds herself utterly and completely abandoned. Before she realises it, she is changing – changing into a mermaid. She jumps off a cliff, right into the ocean, and starts singing to a ship. Unaware of the fact her voice is the reason the ship is going straight to Davy Jones’ locker, Luce barely makes it out alive. She gets rescued by another mermaid, who happens to be the queen of the tribe that came to Luce’s aid. Now she must start a new alive, with her new mermaid friends. Although she feels at home for the first time in many, many years; her remarkable singing talent and the arrival of other new mermaids, might ruin her chances of ever truely finding a home.

I cannot help but praise the descrpitive, detailed writing style of Sarah Porter. Her descriptions are vivid, and pull you right into the story. It was easy for me as a reader to imagine the underwater surroundings, the mermaids’ cave, and everything else mentioned in the book. I was also very fond of the first two or three chapters – the one Luce spent while still being human. Then, the annoyance began.

First of all, I was annoyed by Luce. She seemed perfectly fine, an understandable and likable character while she was still human; but as soon as she went into mermaid-phase, I couldn’t grasp her anymore. She had these crazy mood shifts I couldn’t relate to, and I started liking her less and less. This became better once Anais came into the picture though, from that point on, I started liking Luce again. Maybe this had to do with Anais’ anything-but-likable personality and the way Luce was portrayed directly opposite of the wicked mermaid; I wouldn’t really know. I like to know what’s going through the protagonist’s mind, and I like to understand why they think a certain way. With Luce, I had trouble understanding her way of thinking. She was weak-willed and silent at first, like I expected from an often abused girl, but I had high hopes she would turn into an independent, strong-willed protagonist with actual leadership-qualities. No such luck.

So, what else annoyed me endlessly? All of the useless events. So why exactly did Luce meet Tessa? Why are we introduced to Gum, when he doesn’t appear in the rest of the story? What about the Larvae, ever thought about doing something about those? At the start I had the feeling that Luce would be the change this mermaid tribe needed so much – that she would somehow be able to make them more humane in their actions, and maybe protecting the larvae would be her first step towards that. However, Luce only tries to save the Larvae once, then decides she did enough for the little baby-mermaids who I couldn’t help but feel sorry for, and focuses more on life within the tribe. I can’t grasp how girls who have been put through so much injustice throughout their human life, could simply disregard other, smaller children with the same kind of injustice. It didn’t make sense to me, and in fact, it enangered me.

While I was constantly cheering for Luce to get up and finally do something, she stayed a passive player throughout the whole story, focused more on her own acception without her new family than on the faith of others. She is so focused on having Catarine as her friends, whereas she does not see other, more plausible and accepting friendsihps, for example with Miriam. Don’t get me wrong, I think Catarine was probably my favorite character throughout the story – I was dying to know more about her past- and I wanted her and Luce to be friends, but it became clear quite soon that all Catarine does is take, without giving anything back. A friendship with this kind of people isn’t healthy, and I was hoping for Luce to realise that along the way. Or atleast to stop relating her own self-worth with Catarine’s acceptance of her. I wanted Luce to grow as a character, but she did little of that kind.

Practically all the mermaids’ personalities annoyed me. Except for Catarine – which may sound strange, and I’ve read reviewers thinking she was the most annoying character of them all – but I could actually relate to her in a way I couldn’t relate to the others. I hated Samantha, and somewhere along the way I wanted her to get killed by a bunch of orcas. At first, I thought I could like Dana and Rachel, but then they ended up being the same shallow, spineless creatures as the rest of them. Anais was probably the worst, but to be honest, that tribe didn’t need a lot to change from a bunch of somewhat tolerable people into the most annoying, terrible and greedy creatures that ever walked this earth.

What also annoyed me beyond belief, was the way the mermaids’ personalities all seemed to blend together. None of them really had an outspoken, different personality. Except maybe Miriam. But she hardly gets enough recognition throughout the novel. I also had high hopes of one of the orphan girls to have leadership potential, especially considering the way Jenna and Dana acted while they were still human. Again, dissapointment. As soon as they turned into mermaids, they lost every single personality trait that made them unique and outstanding.

There were many useless events in Lost Voices. Personally I thought that the arrival of the 14 new orphan girls could have easily been let out too – what did those girls really bring to the story? Just more annoying mermaids, more of the same, flat, dull personalities. Perhaps it would have been better had the author focused on the original tribe, and developed the personalities of those mermaids some more, rather than keep introducing new but pointless and generic characters. These useless events also confused me quite a lot. For instance, when the perspective changed from Luce to the orphan girls, I was terribly confused and had to reread the first pages of the chapter several time to actually understand what was going on. Sometimes it felt like the story had no real way to go, as if it was just a bunch of chapters drawn together without any real purpose.

I know I sound a bit tough for this book, but I do have to admit that despite all of that, I did enjoy reading Lost Voices. The cliffhanger at the end, made me curious and I’m definately going to read the next novel. Considering it’s a debut novel, I think Sarah Porter did a pretty good job, however I’m hoping for more character-development, more different personalities and an actual solid plot in the second novel in the series. Plus, I would love the reappareance of old characters like Gum, Luce’s dad, and maybe Tessa. And no matter how many things I point out that may be wrong with the plot and characters; truth is that I did read this one in two reading sessions, unable to step away from my computer until I finished reading it. So there must be something about Lost Voices that kept me fascinated.

Book Review: The Witches Lottery by Krystal McLaughlin

17427104Title: The Witches Lottery
Author: Krystal McLaughlin
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars

When Sophia and Drew McKibben’s parents are killed in a tragic car accident, they are shipped off to live with an aunt they never even knew existed. Believing that they are moving to a privately owned island just off of the coast of Mystic, CT to live alone with her, they are surprised to find a sort of under-aged bed and breakfast.

Sophia draws the attention of one of the locals, Falen, immediately. He always seems to know exactly what she is thinking, and to her frustration, everything she does seems to amuse him. When a newcomer to the island brings with him a sense of deja vu, she begins to ask herself the ultimate question: Am I going crazy?

Sophia’s world starts to unravel when she notices her own brother acting just as abnormal as the rest of them. When she begins to realize that the life she left behind looks even more bizarre then the one she was forced to leave it for, she’s faced with a decision to make: embrace the new life that has been given to her, or drown in the past. Either choice brings with it more secrets and deceptions to unearth. The problem now is that the two worlds may actually be more intertwined than she thought.

The Witches Lottery starts of with the main character, Sophia, who is having a terrible nightmare about her parent’s accident, and who tells the reader about how people look at her and her brother now their parents are dead. I thought this first chapter was really touching, and it immediately made me feel sympathetic towards Sophia and her brother Drew. Then the two siblings are shipped off to live with their aunt Celeste, who they have never seen before in their life. Like things couldn’t get any worse, Sophia starts having strange visions and headaches. On top of all that, it isn’t their aunt who picks them up from the airport, but a stranger who introduces himself as Falen and claims to live on the island with their aunt. Although he and Sophie don’t get along too well at first (he finds everything she does amusing, which obviously annoys her), there is some obvious attraction between them. But the island aunt Celeste lives on isn’t just any normal island, and it hides an ancient and dangerous secret. It’s up to Sophia to find out what exactly that secret is – before it’s too late.

Being a debut novel, The Witches Lottery really appeared to me as striking, original and well-written. The characters are balanced, with interesting and rich personalities, and the storyline is fast-paced, with a few unexpected twists here and there that kept me on the edge of my seat while reading. This is really a novel that demands to be read during one single reading session – it’s just too exciting to suddenly stop halfway, and even when I tried, it was like it kept calling me to get back to my computer and continue reading. It’s a nice bonus when a novel does that; when it makes you feel for the characters and the storyline so much that you just need to know what happens to them next.

My favorite character by far was Sophia. I couldn’t help but like her: she’s determined, intelligent, independent, strong – but with a touch of insecurity and weakness that makes her all the more human. I would have liked to learn more about the other cast members: Falen, Mitch, Daphne and especially Gianna. My guess is that the other novels in the series will focus on the other characters, however I would have liked to learn a bit more about them already. I couldn’t help but feel like there’s a lot more to Gianna than meets the eye, and considering her late arrival in the novel, it made me very curious to know more about her. The only character I wasn’t completely fond of was Celeste: her personality seemed a bit flat, and I feel as though she should have played a larger role throughout the novel.

Personally, when I read fantasy novels, witches aren’t exactly my favorite subject. I like witches sure enough, but I prefer vampires, demons, angels, etc. However, The Witches Lottery made me decide to give witches-related fiction another chance, which shows how good this novel really is. If you’re looking for a nice, relaxing read, but one that will also keep you glued to your chair eagerly anticipating whatever is going to happen next, then The Witches Lottery is an excellent choice.

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2767052Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Rating: 5 stars

Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives. In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.

Typically me to be ages behind with the best books of 2010, and only discover this gorgeous novel early january. On the bright side however, I now get to read the entire trilogy in one row – that is, when I find the budget to purchase the other novels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Now I know everyone and their pet chihuahuas has already read this novel and voted it the best thing since the invention of the wheel, but I thought I’d give my two cents anyway.

For starters, The Hunger Games really is amazing. It grabs you, puts you in your seat, eyes fixed on the novel, and the world around you starts to dissapear. It’s like some time machine thing. Then when you’re done reading and the world reappears, you somewhat expect that you’re in a TV show with your life at stake and you have to kill everyone else in order to survive. Thank God I didn’t respond to those feelings right away. No, but seriously: The Hunger Games doesn’t let you go, until you’ve finished reading it. And even then, it’s hard to put those thoughts aside about what will happen next, why “insert random person” had to die, etc. It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel as enthralling and surprising at this one.

The story focuses on Katniss, a young but independent girl who tries to take care of her family – her mother and younger sister Prim – by hunting rabbits and other small animals in the forest, accompanied by her best friend Gabe. Now although life in district 12, where Katniss lives, is difficult, and a lot of people die from starvation or working too much; the worst is yet to come. Because every year, two children, one boy and one girl, from each district are chosen to participate in The Hunger Games, a way for the Capitol to show they still hold power over the people they have supressed. Against all odds, Katniss’ younger sister Prim is chosen. However, unable to let her innocent kid sister participate in an event that might very well cause her to die, Katniss offers to participate instead of Prim. The other chosen one is a young boy called Peeta and whom Katniss is somewhat familiar with. Then, The Games have begun and it’s time again for the greatest hypocrysy thinkable, as The Almighty Capitol lets children murder other children.

How disgusting The Capitol may seem, it does make for a brilliant, well-written, fast-paced, exciting and highly original storyline. The characters are equally enthralling as the story, and not only did I start to feel for Katniss and the continuous trials she has to put up with, but for Peeta – who is so much braver than I at first anticipated – as well. Slowly but most definately I was starting to feel utter disgust towards the corrupted beings who choose to let innocent children murder each other for the entertainment of the public – not that most of the public is entertained, mind you. Most people hate The Hunger Games, which isn’t curious considering it might as well be them or one of their beloved who has to fight there one day. As the novel continues, the feeling of rebellion and revolution becomes very heavy, in the little acts commited, the little gestures done, both by the main characters and by the public. It adds a new sense of tension to the novel that I very much appreciated.

Well, what else can I say? The characters are wonderful, with a lot of good qualities, and their fair share of bad ones. Katniss and Peeta are so honest and loveable in every thing they do; I could not help but keep wishing they wouldn’t die. And as I already mentioned, The Hunger Games grabs you and pulls you in, and it doesn’t let you go, not even after you’ve finished the novel. It’s my best reading experience of the year (that includes 2010), and I would advise everyone: go grab a copy, and enjoy this amazing story that will keep you coming back for more.

Book Review: Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer by Maureen McGowan

9407790Title: Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer
Author: Maureen McGowan
Genre: Adventure, Paranormal Romance, Retold Fairytale
Rating: 3,5 stars

In this thrilling story full of adventure and romance, Sleeping Beauty is more than just a lonely princess waiting for her prince–she’s a brave, tenacious girl who never backs down from a challenge. With vampire-slaying talents that she practices in secret, Sleeping Beauty puts her courage to the test in the dark of night, fighting evil as she searches for a way to break the spell that has cut her off from her family. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Sleeping Beauty and decide where she goes next–but no matter the choice, the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you’ve ever read!

Lucette, the Sleeping Beauty of this retold fairytale, was cursed shortly after her birth, by the evil Vampire Queen Natasha. One day, Lucette will prick her finger, and her blood will set a curse upon the entire Kingdom. She will never awake until night falls, wheras the rest of her Kingdom will only awake while she is asleep. A terrible curse that would force her to spend her entire life alone. The King and Queen do everything in their power to prevent this awful event from happening, each of them in their own way – the King by being overprotective and the Queen by wanting her daughter to learn how to defend herself – but it is of no use. As the vampires, under leadership of their evil Queen Natasha, invade The Kingdom, Lucette is the only one left to defend the palace at night – that is, until she gets help from a vampire, Alex, and from a former crush of hers, Tristan. But there’s one way to break the curse. True love. However, Lucette will soon find out that finding true love might not be that easy afterall.

Do you remember those books from like hundred – alright fine, maybe ten – years ago, with several options you could choose from, several paths throughout the novel and alternative endings? I don’t know about you, but I loved those novels, so I was happily surprised when I discovered this novel fits right under that category! There are three or four times throughout the novel where you get to choose the path of the heroine. The only dissapointing part is that, no matter which path you choose, the ending still remains the same. That was a real setback for me, especially since the pairing I had been cheering for wasn’t the one that made it in the end. Bummer.

The main character, Lucette, was well-written with a deep, multi-layered personality and a witty spirit. Some of the supportive characters are a bit flat, like I would have liked to know more about Alex and Tristan, the two possible love interests of the heroine. Personally I thought that the personalities of the King and Queen were much better developed, with interesting and clashing personalities. However, I’m not entirely sure if the somewhat flat personalities of Alex and Tristan were really that bad, since it did match the fairytale-like feel of the novel. In fairytales there isn’t a lot of focus on character development or personality traits, but more on getting the story forward, and I got the same vibe with this novel.

I loved the story though, the twist to the original fairytale of Sleeping Beauty by turning her into a courageous, determined, vampire-slaying heroine and the upcoming war between the Kingdom of Xandra and the vampire kingdom. Also, the personal relationships between Queen Natasha, and the parents of Lucette, were highly interesting. Ofcourse this novel isn’t the most magnificent and enthralling piece of fiction ever written, but it is an amusing, enjoyable read that doesn’t bore you for a moment. I got through the novel in one single two-hour reading session, so that’s saying something.

I had a lot of trouble actually finding an appropriate rating for this book. On the hand, I wanted to give it a 5 – because for the specific genre this novel is aiming, it was perfect. On the other hand, when compared to other novels, well…this novel isn’t going to change your perspective on the world, and it isn’t going to leave you crying your heart out, or anything else that is emotionally shocking. So eventually I settled on a 3,5. But don’t turn it down simply because of the rating I gave it. If you loved those make-your-own choices novels as much as I did, you will like this novel a lot too. And if you’re just a fan of retold fairytales, then Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is exactly what you’ve been looking for.