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Rayne's Book Realm

I'm a fierce book lover, mainly of YA, and here's where I'll share my thoughts and impressions on whatever I pick up next.

Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily - Jodi Lynn Anderson

I spent the majority of my reading experience with this book completely sure that I was going to give it 3 stars because of how frustrating some characters and circumstances were and how infuriating and unfair it all seemed. But when the ending came along, I had to move past my anger and see the book as it was. And it is beautiful and simply brilliant. I loved Tinkerbell's perspective and the heart-breaking reality behind the circumstances, because not everything goes according to plan and not everyone lives up to be the good heroes we want them to be. The book got slow at points and some characters needed a bit more time to fully develop but, overall, this book is simply fantastic.

What I feel for Tiger Lily is erratic, ever-shifting and slightly schizophrenic. I started the book really immersed in the story, liking it very much, even if not exactly loving it. Then, about half-way through, my eyes began to narrow in dislike and my interest started to dwindle. A bit farther, I was begrudgingly appreciating the book, but sure it would never make it to my favorites. And then came the ending and everything utterly changed. It took a few pages short of the ending for me to realize that I absolutely loved everything about this book. It is heart-breaking, beautiful and painfully realistic. Because love doesn't always have a happy ending and heroes are not always pure. Because things don't always go as planned, we all not all entirely good and we all make mistakes, but life has this way of always working out, for better or worse.

This book is told from Tinkerbell's perspective, which I thought it was simply brilliant. Her narrative is simply beautiful, even if it lulls at points and drags at others. Tinkerbell's voice is genuine, honest, sassy, even snarky and jealous at points, and entirely real. I jumped into the book not remembering that it was her voice the one to tell us the story, and while at first it was confusing, it ended up working fantastically. Tiger Lily herself is a bit of a mystery throughout the book, but Tinkerbell's observations brought her sharply to life. Tiger Lily is a complicated character. There's a quiet strength to her, a subtle power around her that makes her interesting, but that she chooses to accept and comply with the terrible things thrown at her is simply confusing, which ends up making her a very unforgettable character. Peter is endearing in his childishness, and even though I didn't see much chemistry between the two, I completely understood their attraction thanks for Tinkerbell's insightful narration. Their relationship was complicated and challenging, but it worked, because it was the union of two lonely people that needed each other desperately.

Not many other characters had as much of a chance to develop in the story and I was sad about that. But the book is full of unforgettable and unique characters that tug at your heart, particularly Tik Tok and Moon Eye. But there's also a lot of complicated bad guys, some not even bad guys in the traditional sense of the word. That's something I deeply loved about this book, the contradicting, ambiguous morality of some of the characters. One might be doing something considered good, but end up doing bad. One might do a bad thing, but coincidentally end up doing something good. It translates to the characters and their natures as well. A strong character doesn't necessarily mean that they will not let anyone walk over them or that they will make their own rules; sometimes strength manifests itself in other ways. A true friend is not perfectly loyal or not envious or always in agreement with you, and someone may truly love you, yet end up hurting you and that doesn't make their love any less real or their friendship any less honest.

This book is not exactly a thrilling ride. Like I said before, it drags a bit and most of the story is passive, the pace rather slow, but that is mostly due to the fact that things in the story unfold naturally by themselves and with a certain degree of realism that adds up to the effect of the raw and heart-breaking ending. The world-building is fantastic and the writing breath-taking. It was quite difficult to tear myself from the book, as slow as I claimed it got at points. The pulsing emotion behind the characters, the narrative, the very core of the book, was riveting and impossible to resist and that's what carries the whole book, because let me tell you, this is hardly a pretty story, but it works. It is bittersweet and terrible and beautiful. This book is simply marvelous, because a book that makes me feel so much and so many polarizing emotions and ends up lodging itself in my head despite having gone through several other books afterward, can be nothing short of amazing.

Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point - Kasie West

I think we can all agree on the fact that there's very little originality to the YA Paranormal Romance genre as of lately. Release after release, it seems we are being fed the same recycled concepts, the same overused plots and protagonists, and, more annoyingly still, the same romance over and over. When I first read of Pivot Point, I knew originality would definitely not be an issue. But could a debut author manage to make such an ambitious and complicated concept work? The answer, I am glad to say, is hell yeah.

This novel takes familiar concepts, like supernatural abilities, societies dedicated to their development and the secrecy of a whole community, and presents them in a new way through the narration of a particular girl with attitude, spunk, intelligence, her own standards and ideals and an amazing concept of self-worth that puts to shame all of today's most revered YA heroines. Seeing this new and strange world through Abbie's eyes was nothing short of exciting, incredibly engaging and endlessly fascinating. Her genuine, honest and realistic voice was very easy to get invested in. Her pain was real, all of her emotions relatable and her actions always admirable. I was rooting for this girl from the get-go and she did not disappoint. Her relationships with the characters around her were so well-constructed and completely realistic. There's a lot of depth to this character and that, in turn, adds a whole lot of profundity to the situation that takes center stage in the plot.

The rest of the characters were rounded and well-developed, but there was a little lack of development when it came to the parents and those who were not immediately related to the love triangle. But the two love interests were nicely fleshed-out. I had a soft-spot for one of them in particular - (the other I severely disliked) - but all this simply points to the wonderful characterization that West gave to her characters. And finally! A love triangle that is not annoying and actually serves a purpose! The romantic involvement between the characters was smartly developed and actually contributed greatly to the plot and the character development. The romance progressed realistically, no insta-love here, which was amazing. My only qualm with the romance is that it dominated the plot almost entirely. The climax was a little to abrupt because the novel greatly focuses on the romance for the better part and the moving plot of the novel doesn't come into play for real until almost the end. Still, Pivot Point has mystery, intrigue, action, humor and clever and nicely executed plot twists from beginning to end. I won't elaborate to avoid spoilers, but getting to experience two realities at the same time was as amazing in execution as it sounds as a concept, at least in this novel, and that ending will undoubtedly leave you breathless.

This novel is engaging, original and very easy to get lost in. Addie is one of the most likable protagonists I've read about in quite a while and the romance in this one was truly heartbreaking. This is one fantastic and well-executed novel, with a smart plot, great characterization, tension, fast-pace and a great construction of a world with a supernatural possibility. I definitely recommend this novel and I simply cannot wait for the sequel.

Review: The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

The Brides of Rollrock Island - Margo Lanagan

This novel is breathtaking. Lanagan's prose is gorgeous and lush and evocative. So articulate and lovely, the novel flows smoothly and seductively because of its writing and its dark atmosphere. This novel is not for everyone. Not only does it move slowly, but some themes might not sit well with some and others might not like how frank and raw the novel is, but I strongly recommend this one for YA readers looking for an intelligent, heart-felt read with real substance and that actually contributes to the genre. A gorgeous setting, breathtaking writing, sensual suggestions and contemplations about humanity and love and loyalty and feminism, this novel is simply fantastic.

I must say, right off the bat, that Lanagan is one of the best writers I've encountered in recent years and that this book is probably one of the best books I've read. Having said that, I am sort of obligated to tell you that this book is definitely not for everyone. Some parts are very, very slow; the prose is complicated to follow sometimes; the characters are not exactly likeable; the plot unfurls at a turtle pace; and there are some themes that people might not like reading about. I can understand why someone people would feel indifferent about this book, but to me, this book was gorgeous.

Like I said, Lanagan is one hell of a writer. Her prose is lush, evocative, articulate and lovely with imagery and the novel flows smoothly from point to point because of her incredibly ability to write. I sometimes spent several minutes looking at one particular sentence because it was just so gorgeous. The mood is set right from the start and Lanagan constructed one of the most powerful atmospheres I've ever read. It is seductive and mystifying with just a peek of darkness showing itself amidst it all. It is very difficult not to feel riveted by the magic of the world she created.

This novel has about 4 or 5 different narratives in it, dividing the book in several parts telling the story of one particular character. I loved the characterization of each character, the profundity of each psychology, but these are not characters you might remember fondly. I think that's the real beauty of this novel: the raw honesty behind each character is without parallel in YA. Lanagan was almost painfully honest in her portrayal of human emotion, of desire and ambition and revenge, and even in the passion of love, which is not always a good thing, not in this novel. There are also many, powerful messages on feminism in this novel that I absolutely adored, but there is a great emphasis on the workings of the human mind and heart. She is absolutely frank in her portrayal of human nature and I can see some readers recoiling away from that, but I thought it was breathtaking and refreshingly honest.

There's magic and mysticism and fantasy all throughout the novel and it is so beautifully integrated with the realism of the times the novel is set in that it is nothing short of stunning. Honestly, the novel moves slow, sometimes very, very slow to the point of being slightly boring, but there's too much beauty in this novel for me to be bothered by it. I truly believe this novel will appeal more to older YA readers who want intelligent and well-constructed reads with less focus on insta-love connections or adolescent drama.

This is a breathtaking novel, nothing short of gorgeous in its execution and construction, a beautifully honest examination of human nature and what we call love. This novel is not for everybody, but if you find you like what I've described above, I am sure you will definitely find a fantastic novel you will remember for a long time to come.

Mini Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Monstrous Beauty - Elizabeth Fama

This book is hauntingly beautiful and, to a point, I loved it, which is why I'm giving it 4 stars. It should be a 5 star rating and I've considered changing it many times because I did love this book and it is way better than some of the other books I've rated with the same amount of stars, but I didn't like the protagonist and I never felt like her interactions with other characters were realistic.

I just finished another mermaid book and it's funny that it took another mermaid disappointment to make me realize just how truly amazing this mermaid novel was. I'm still going to leave the rating at 4 stars, but trust me, this one should be the ruler with which all other YA mermaid novels should be measured.

The plot in this one is intriguing, dark and hauntingly beautiful. Syrenka is an amazing character and I craved for the chapters about her story. In fact, those chapters alone should warrant a five star rating. Sadly, I didn't feel the same way about Hester. In fact, she annoyed me and she was selfish to the bone. Also, the book dragged at her parts and many questions remained unanswered at the end. I didn't buy the relationship between Hester and the "mysterious stranger" and the plot twist isn't much of a surprise. But that aside, this book is truly amazing and if you want a good mermaid novel, you should definitely get this one.

Mini Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

The Girl in the Steel Corset  - Kady Cross

This book had all the tools to be great: good writing, an awesome concept and great packaging, I mean, look at that cover! But despite an awesome first couple of pages, my interest in this book declined faster than the IQ of anyone who loved Twilight, or something even worse like the House of Night series. The start reeled me in with unexpected force but then, somewhere between the totally pointless and forced love triangle, the flat characters with stereotyped personalities, the constant repetition of descriptions (I think I got perfectly clear the first twenty times that Emily's hair is "ropey", that Sam was "huge" and that Finley's hair color is "like honey", among other things, thank you very much) and the technology overload just to get the point across that this is a steampunk novel, the book completely lost me. And I won't even go into how much telling-instead-of-showing the author did or how much it completely annoyed me that our "heroine" only felt attracted to men who could overpower her - that alone knocked off two stars from its rating.
I still don't think this is a terrible book, it just didn't stands out.

Mini Review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Ten - Gretchen McNeil

This book is exactly what my Halloween night tradition with my boyfriend, siblings and friends is all about. Horrible and painfully predictable slasher/mystery/horror movies full of cliches and stereotyped characters, with no structure or brains to the plot. It's stupid and silly; you know it, I know it, we all know it, but there's a part of us that still enjoy them regardless of how predictable and silly they are. That alone is why I gave it 2 stars, because if I were to be completely honest, this book would get a very lonely star. This book entertained me and, quite truthfully, I couldn't stop reading. But it was so bad, just so, so, so very bad.

There's nothing particularly original about this novel. Anyone keeping track of the slasher movies to hit theaters since the early 90's will no doubt be able to identify the murderer as soon as the characters show up and they will have a clear idea of how the story will progress. Mysterious setting? Check. No power or way to communicate with the outside world? Check. Freaky DVD that came out of nowhere? Check. Group of every teenage stereotype you can think of? Check. Protagonist that seems to be the only one equipped with a half-functioning brain, but is shy and pure and such a good friend that she lets others walk all over her, especially her best friend? Check. Super hot guy no one can resist? Check. Freaky, black-haired girl with mysterious ties to everyone in the house? Check and checked. Horrible jokes and time for insensitive comments and hookups in spite of the tower of bodies next to them? Girl ruining her life because one freaking guy did not pay attention to her? Oh, you know the answer to those two.

The writing is uninspiring and fails miserably to set a good and believable suspenseful mood for the story. I was laughing and rolling my eyes about five times per page. The whole setup was too far-fetched right from the start. The story is horribly, almost painfully predictable and I honestly can't say I felt bad for any of the characters getting killed. What's worse, some characters were constructed in a way so that you wouldn't feel so bad about them getting killed, which really hurts the overall point of a novel about a bunch of people getting killed off. If you care about no one in there, if some of them you would actually be glad about being offed, then what's the point in a novel like this? One of the few good things I can say about the book is that, freaking finally, we have a black guy who's the one that's wanted and not the bestie of the main love interest. That was a really refreshing change that I truly appreciated.

I was really looking forward to this novel. I previously read, loved and reviewed here the author's first book Possess, so I know McNeil can write and can manage suspense and creepiness very well, so my expectations for this one were very high. As you can see, though, I was sorely disappointed. But, if I had to say one thing in defense for the book is that I was entertained at least for a few hours.

Mini Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Ink - Amanda Sun

I've been looking forward to this book for over a year. Not looking forward like 'hey, that book sounds nice', add it and then forget about it. No, I mean looking forward in the 'pre-order a copy a year before its publication, stalk the book's pages for updates and reviews and checking for ways to get an arc almost daily' sense. So yeah, I was pretty damn excited for this book, so you can guess what my reaction was like when I got an arc. After reading it though, I am sad to say that this book didn't deserve much of my enthusiasm.

First I want to make it clear that Ink is, by no means, a bad book. It is actually nicely well-written, and absolutely original, imaginative and amazingly beautiful (in terms of the supernatural only). But Ink is pretty much every YA paranormal romance all wrapped up into one and taken to Japan. The storyline, characters, development, the progression of the romance, the tropes and cliches are the same as in every other YA P/N romance out there. If you are a fan of the genre and meek, stalkerish female protagonists, jerks with a soft side romantic interests, cardboard cutout friends, absentee parental figures, token friendzoned hot guys for the love triangle, instant love connections and cartoonish bad guys are your cup of tea, then Ink is definitely for you and you'll probably love it, but, quite truthfully,
I am tired of them.

Review of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer  - Jay Kristoff

I've been following this book since it was announced. Stalking, drooling over it, openly proclaiming my eternal loyalty to it, I'm sure I even promised a first-born in exchange for a copy of this book. So when the publisher offered an ARC, I danced and screamed and sang and, well, let's just say I made a spectacle of myself and gave my family another good reason to think I finally lost it (read: it was right in the middle of a department store). The thing is, this is one of those books that burst into the scene in the middle of a hype storm. Just read the premise. Look at that cover. So far, everything had been done right and it deserves the excitement and anticipation of the crowds. The problem with books that have that type of effect on the crowds way before it is released is that we set our expectations high and then, sadly, many books fail to deliver and we are left feeling sad and disappointment and swearing off ever feeling so excited about a book. Having gone through that situation several times, I tried to contain myself when I first received the book. I failed, but, as it turns out, I didn't need to anyway. This book not only lives up to the hype and reached the high expectations I set out for it, it completely obliterated them. I would even dare to say that this book has everything done right. Yup, I could find no faults in it. Of course, I might be a bit biased since I am a fantasy and Japanese culture nerd, but I have no doubts all kind of audiences will absolutely love this book, which might just be the best debut novel I've ever read.

The first thing you'll probably notice when jumping into this title is that Mr. Kristoff had no problem offering the readers a gorgeous background on Japanese history, culture and mythology. I am awed at the amount of care and consideration and dedication that went into making this book, not a Japanese-inspired fantasy, but an homage to what makes Japanese culture so beautiful and mystifying. Mr. Kristoff built upon a solid foundation of reality, a gorgeous and ingenious fantasy that honors everything that is Japanese culture. Seriously Mr. Kristoff, how did you even come up with this story? It is so brilliant, so engaging and impressive and complicated, I can't help feeling overwhelmed with the richness and intricate complexity of it. The stempunk element was executed marvelously.

The problem with many stempunk novels is that they want to play that angle so much, the story either becomes lost in all the technology and terms, or the whole stempunk aspect losses its impact or meaning because it ends up not really being that much of an important part of the story. But here, it works just right. There is an abundance of technology, but it blends with the setting and the story and the characters to the point that it feels realistic, not to mention that it is essential for the fantastic world-building of the novel. The author made a multidimensional world with his novels, with conflict that go far beyond a simple dystopia with an unjust leader, which, as a matter of fact, is a situation perilous enough to deserve the title of dystopia. Politics, religion and even environmental problems arise throughout the narrative. There's not a part of this world that was left to the imagination or that the author didn't deem unimportant and undeserving of development. The world of Stormdancer is rich and complicated and breathtakingly beautiful.

Stormdancer kicks off strongly, action right from the start, and moves on just as smoothly and thrilling all the way throughout the end with fantastic, sophisticated, elegant and almost lyrical writing. I did find some minor errors in the use of Japanese, but they did in no way take away from the novel or the quality of the story. The story is brilliantly plotted and allows for massive character development, which is always a weak point in YA books. Yukiko is one of the best heroines I've had the pleasure of reading about. She is strong and independent, but real enough to bleed and feel and learn from her mistakes. She is flawless in her imperfection and her unwavering sense of duty, to herself and her beliefs is nothing short of inspiring. The worth of Yukiko as a character goes far beyong the worth of her abilities and their application to the story. All YA heroines should be modeled after her. In fact, every single female character in this novel was strong and admirable, never weak or allowing anything to cloud their judgement or take away from them their dignity or self-respect, especially not a man. Yukiko's relationships with almost every single character in the book is complex and fantastically executed, especially the ones with her father and Buruu.

I freaking loved Buruu. I need a pet griffin now. I'm afraid my cat just won't cut it anymore. (Don't tell him that or he'll kick me out of the bed.) But going back to Buruu, he was amusing and entertaining and adorable in his pride and complicated development into human feelings. There's this particular scene when Yukiko is talking to another person and he, jealous in that haughty, animalistic way of his, tells her to stop talking to the other person and talk to him. They way it happens is so endearing, I went all "Awwwww" and, from then on, he became my favorite character, well, alongside Yukiko.

There is romance in this story, but not like you are perhaps used to when it comes to YA novels. First and foremost, it is not the central focus of the novel, for which I am eternally grateful. Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that it actually adds to the story and is a significant point of character development for Yukiko that left me breathless.

I could go on and on talking about how wonderful this novel is, and trust me, I want to, but what you need to take from this review is that this book is a definite must-have for fantasy fans, for Japanese culture enthusiasts and for, well, any reader actually. This book revived my faith in the YA genre and, hopefully, it will show the world that this genre does have something to offer to literature. Stormdancer is a gorgeous, imaginative and inspiring fantasy that is breathtaking in its execution and that will leave you desperate for a sequel.