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Review: Kristin Cashore – Fire

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WP_20140916_005I had very high hopes for this book after loving Graceling so much, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I read it!

Unfortunately, I felt a little let down by the entire thing. The book in general was very slow to get going, with a prologue that didn’t seem relevant until almost the end of the book. I think I was probably about three quarters through the book before I really felt like the action started, and it then seemed like a rush to fit everything in before the end. I would have liked the book to be another 100 pages longer to get some more details in the part of the book which really needed it!

My other main bug bear with this book was the unusual moral stance that the author took. Most young adult books take a very conservative stance on sex and relationships and tend to preach the ‘no sex before marriage’ ethos, or something similar where all the characters are in love before they even kiss. But Cashore took a more casual stance towards this, with her main character having much looser morals. I don’t think this was necessarily a bad thing, just not what I expected. I understand that Cashore is probably going for a feminine empowerment message with a strong female lead character like in Graceling, but I don’t think this made Fire seem stronger, I think in a way it made her seem weak.

Once I got through the initial long introduction section of the book, I did very much enjoy the storyline, I just wish it had been fleshed out more at the end. I know that there’s a third book in this series, so hopefully Fire may make an appearance there. Who knows? I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy the book, but I’ll definitely add it to my Christmas list.

3/5

100 Book Challenge? – It Definitely Was!

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Well I set my self a lofty total of 100 books in 2012, which turned out to be a little too high. I made it to 67, but I’m still quite happy with that. I started off the year with the best intentions and I managed to keep up until about June. And then Cameron moved back from Huddersfield and I was round at his house or going out more often, and the books kind of stopped flowing (I only read one book in July). I managed to pick it up again a bit later in the year but it wasn’t enough.

I’ve really enjoyed it though, I’ve tried a lot of books this year that I would never have thought to read thanks to recommendations from awesome people, sci-fi and fantasy are two genres that I’ve never really read before but will definitely be trying again.

I saw this ‘Best of Books 2012’ survey on one of the book blogs I read, so I’ve pinched it for my challenge review.

Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)
I think this comes down to two. For pure magicallity and captivation, I’d pick The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It was completely different to anything I’d ever read, but the story of little Faina was both mesmerizing and heartbreaking at the same time. In terms of hard-hitting plots and something that stuck in my head for long after I finished reading, I’d pick When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. The plot wasn’t easy to read, but extremely well written and brilliantly thought provoking.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen would definitely qualify for this. It was the first book I read this year and didn’t really set the tone right for the other 99 books I planned to read. Since I’ve read it I’ve heard a lot about Franzen and how good he is supposed to be, but I found this book way too long and I just couldn’t get any connection to the characters. I’d had high hopes for the book but it left me feeling very disappointed.

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?
This would definitely be Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds. I was leant this book with the assurance that it was really good, but I’d never read any sci-fi before and I had no idea what to expect. But it was amazing, fast paced and full of nail biting moments that kept me gripped until the end. I’ll definitely be reading more Reynolds this year.

Book you recommended to people most in 2012?
This would probably be The Hunger Games (I, II and III). I loved it when I read it and a few people I know have also read it and enjoyed it too, including my dad who usually reads sci-fi and crime books, but loved how easy to read the trilogy was.

Best series you discovered in 2012?
This would probably be The Hunger Games too. I loved it when I read it, and the only other series I have read this year were by Charlaine Harris (Lily Bard and Aurora Teagarden), which were less enthralling that I expected.

Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?
I’ve discovered so many new authors this year that it’s hard to pick just a few, but I would probably say Kristin Cashore, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, S.J. Watson and Hillary Jordan.

Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
There’s two books that I would pick for this. Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds and Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Both new genres, but both completely amazing and left me definitely wanting to read more sci-fi and fantasy.

Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
This was definitely When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. The plot was so shocking and so different from what I’ve read before, but also so heart-wrenching that I just couldn’t put it down once I’d started reading.

Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year
Considering the length of my ‘to-be-read’ list, I don’t think I’ll be re-reading any books next year. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve got so many more books waiting for me!

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?
If we’re talking about favourite appearance of a book, I’d say either The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, with it’s lovely black-edged pages and beautiful artwork, or When She Woke by Hillary Jordan with it’s striking picture of a girl staring at you, combined with the bright red-edged pages.

Most memorable character in 2012?
This would have to be Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, although this is probably combined with the fact that the film has just come out too. But I loved that I got to know the character before I saw the film, whereas I’ve already got a fairly good picture of The Lord of the Rings, so when I read it earlier it won’t be my own creation.

Most beautifully written book read in 2012?
Definitely The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, absolutely enchanting.

Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?
This is a hard one. I’d say it was probably The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. It made me think a lot about the impact you can have on other people with even the smallest actions.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?
Definitely A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I’ve really got no idea why I’ve never read this before but it was great to finally read it.

Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?
This would definitely be from The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom: “Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?
The Longest books was Century Rain by Alistair Reynolds at 640 pages. The shortest was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at 104 pages.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
Not much really springs to mind for this question, but I did have to talk to my friend straight away at the end of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, because it didn’t end how I expected it to!

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
This would definitely be the relationship between Victoria and Grant in The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

Favourite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously
Definitely Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris – one of my favourite authors and the latest book in the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series did not disappoint.

Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?
Two books: Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds and The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

So that’s my 2012 reading challenge over, not quite as successfully as I hoped but I’ve discovered some amazing new authors and tried books that I never would have dreamed of trying. Next year, I’m not going to aim for a specific number, but I do have in mind a lot of books that I want to read. Some longer ones that I couldn’t read this year (like LOTR and Anna Karenina), and some classics that I want to try, like Little Women etc. I’ve got a list of the top 200 books as voted by BBC readers. The list was voted in 2003, but it contains a lot of books that I do want to try, so my aim is to fill up this list a bit. I’ve read 49 from the list so far, so lets see how far I can get!

If you had a reading challenge last year, or you’ve set yourself one this year, let me know in the comments below!

Review: Kristin Cashore – Graceling

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kristin-cashore-gracelingMy best friend Abi bought me this book for my birthday with the promise that I’d love it. She’s really into Fantasy books, and I’m always looking to discover genres that I’ve never tried before, so I was looking forward to this. The quote on the front which said it was an “exquisitely drawn romance that would slake the thirst of Twilight fans” had me a bit worried about the writing, because as much as I liked the Twilight books the first time I read them, Stephanie Meyer isn’t exactly the highlight of young adult fiction.

But I knew I should never have doubted Abi, because this book was great. The main character is a young girl called Katsa, who possess a skill called a grace, hers seems to be a grace for fighting. She discovered this at 8 years old when she accidentally killed a man. Obviously, people treat her a little differently after this happens, none more so than her Uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, one of the 7 regions. Even though he is her Uncle, he’s not a nice man, and decides to use her to punish those of his subjects that have wronged him, one example being a man who chopped down more trees than he should have. Katsa is sent to break his arm or remove one of his fingers as payment, but she can’t do it, she no longer wants to use her grace to do her Uncle’s bidding.

Katsa has decided that she can’t do it anymore and she’s formed a ‘council’ determined to do right. The book opened with Katsa on a council mission to rescue an old man kidnapped by the King of one of the other regions. While she’s rescuing this man (and using her grace to fight off all the soldiers and guards), she meets a young man named Po who she realises also has a powerful grace.

He turns up at Katsa’s castle looking for his grandfather, who just so happens to be the old man that Katsa has rescued. She eventually comes to trust Po and they leave the castle in an attempt to find out why Prince Tealiff was kidnapped. On this journey, they figure out that the truth is more horrible than they thought, and there are many dramatic points in the story when you’re not sure exactly how they are going to escape from the trouble they’ve landed themselves in, especially when they run into King Leck, who they have realised has a grace for making people believe whatever he wants. He has killed his wife in front of his daughter’s eyes and she is running away from him when Katsa is almost pulled under by his grace. Thankfully, Po is immune to Leck’s grace due to his own and he manages to get them both away from danger, but they now have charge of a young Princess and need to get her to safety.

Throughout their journey, they realise that their graces may not have been entirely what they thought, both helping each other to discover their full potential. They also can’t deny the romance between them, especially with Katsa falling into his silver and gold eyes every time he looks at her. But the strength of their relationship helps them on their journey, until Po is gravely hurt and they realise that Katsa will have to go on without him to save Princess Bitterblue and keep her safe from her evil Father.

My favourite part of the book was the ending. A lot of the time with stories like this where the drama builds up and the tension increases, the ending often seems quite rushed. But without giving away too many spoilers, the ending of the book was perfectly written. Katsa wraps up her mission and then returns to try and find Po. And while the ending may be happy, its also bittersweet as we learn about the terrible things that have happened while Katsa has been away.

I loved the romance in the book, but the best part was that it wasn’t overdone. There wasn’t any of the “I can’t live without him“, “I can’t stop thinking about him“, “My life has ended because he’s not here” type of thinking like there is in other books (*ahem* Twilight *ahem*), but Katsa remains independent and strong and free-willed. And she doesn’t fall immediately into his arms when she meets him either. She’s wary of him until she knows who he is,why he’s there, and that she can trust him with his grace for reading her mind. It was nice to have a strong female lead character capable of holding herself up and who was actually (because of her grace) stronger than her leading man. And for Po to be completely okay with the fact that he can be beaten was brilliant, not just a typical ‘macho strong man’, he complemented Katsa perfectly.

I thought this was a brilliant debut novel by Kristin Cashore, and I’m very glad that Abi bought me her next book too –  I can’t wait to read it!

5-5