Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Review: Gameboard of the Gods (Book #1) by Richelle Mead

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

Series: Age of X (Book #1)
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Release Date: 4th June 2013
Read Date: 22nd May 2014
Tagged under: 2014 read, fantasy, mythology, 3
Pages: 448
Buy at: Amazon, The Book Depository

You'll know her by a crown of stars and flowers

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military's most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills. 
When Justine and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

Book Review [Spoiler Free]

Richelle Mead is the #1 New York Times bestseller author of the hugely popular Vampire Academy series as well as its companion series Bloodlines. Her new series - Age of X - is an ambitious adult series set in a futuristic world of the Republic of United North America (RUNA) where religion is under heavy government control, genetics separates people into patricians who clung to their ethnic heritage and are marked by genetic defects and plebeians who are the result of the country's genetic mixing programs, and the hint of supernatural is ever present in a largely atheistic society.

Sounds confusing? Don't be, there's plenty of explanation in this book to guide you.

My first reaction to the Gameboard of the Gods is awe at the sheer amount of world building that Richelle Mead had put into this book. This is most definitely her most ambitious series to date. Everything from the countries - RUNA vs Eastern Alliance (EA) - to the transport to the tech that the people uses are detailed in this book. The comparison between the different societies and how they are run, the advantages of their system plus their flaws, have all been discussed at length. The sheer amount of information that have been introduced allows the reader to fully delve into this world and when the characters use their egos or discuss Cain, the reader is so well integrated into the fictional world that there is rarely any moments of confusion.

The downside of such extensive world building is of course, the actions get bogged down by too much information. The overall plot of this novel, when you boil it down to its essence, is fairly straightforward. Someone, or a group of someones, are out there ritualistically murdering a string of what appears at first to be unrelated individuals. In any other suspense thriller, the mystery element would be at the forefront of the reader's mind whilst reading. However, in this book, it read like an introduction to the world of Age of X and discovering the killer was the secondary plot.

What I also appreciate of Mead's writing is that all her characters are well-developed and flawed. Justin is a substance-abusing womanizing git whose remarks borderlines on being rude at times yet at the end of the day, his protectiveness of his family and those he considers he's indebted to redeems him somewhat. Mae is cold and quick to judge, but she is strong, can hold her own in a fight and is loyal to those under her protection.

Overall: 3/5

Despite what appears to be a low-rating for this book, I do have high hopes for this series and am very excited about the next book, The Immortal Crown, which just came out a few days ago. Now that the world building is fully complete and all the major characters are established, I feel this series will improve by leaps and bounds. Fans of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series may be disappointed as this is nothing like her previous series but I'd still recommend this book for those interested in something a bit more complex.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: Legend (Book #1) by Marie Lu

Legend by Marie Lu

Series: Legend (Book #1)
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release date: 29th November 2011
Read: 31st January 2014
Tagged under: 2014 read, 2014 favourites, dystopian, YA-fiction, 3
Pages: 305

He is a Legend...

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem 
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Book Review [Spoiler Free]

Having freshly finished the Legend series just prior to this review, it's hard not to let my feelings and views of Prodigy and Champion cloud my thoughts of Legend, the first book in this dystopian trilogy written by Marie Lu. Which is why although I have tagged this book (and series) as one of my 2014 favourites, I still left the rating of this book at a 3, the original rating I gave when I first finished this book.

Legend follows the story of June, a fifteen-year-old prodigy of the Republic, as she embarks on a quest to avenge the murder of her older brother, Metias, who was killed during a routine night of patrolling. Her target is the infamous Day, the Republic's most wanted criminal. But as the two of them meet and get to know each other more, June is forced to question her goal and the actions of the country she has sworn to protect.

As far as dystopian novels go, this one is a solid start to the trilogy. It features a strong powerful heroine and an equally capable hero. Both are strong with almost inhuman strengths and powers that gives this book almost a tinge of fantasy. The world they reside in is fully dystopian (none of the half-formed societies that some lesser books try to pass off as dystopian) with plenty of mystery and intrigue as to its past. And despite the almost instant attraction between the pair, the fact that June and Day are pitted against each other right from the start gives their friendship/relationship an off-kilter tone right from the start. 

The story line alternates between June and Day, giving the reader perspectives on both the world of the elite and rich, as well as that of the streets. But soon, as the characters meet, their worlds collide and the story line merges to one. One of the strength of Lu's writing is the fact that even though Metias is relatively a small character, the reader nevertheless relates to June's grief over his passing and can understand the reasons behind her actions. Another small facet that I really enjoyed was both June and Day's ability to notice very small details with regards to their surroundings. Legend is most definitely a strong dystopian novel and stands above the throngs of dystopian works that have flooded the market. 

But what prevented me from giving this book a higher rating is that I felt it just needed a bit more. As often is the case with trilogies, the author holds onto some trump cards for the later books. I felt that Marie Lu didn't reveal too much of the world building, leaving me with the sense that there is a bigger world out there but the story is isolated to just one city. There are also a lot of questions raised but never answered. While it was enjoyable, it didn't do enough to land on my favourites list on its own.

Overall: 3/5

I definitely enjoyed this book and it left me wanting to continue the series. It may be a harsh rating for such a solid read but I just felt Legend just needed to give a bit more than what it had. However, I would still highly recommend this book (and the series) to fans of the dystopian genre. 
Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top Ten Books about Friendship

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

As much as I love romance in the books that I read, sometimes books can still be amazing and memorable without it. This week we have to feature ten book on friendship that we really enjoyed.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I don't think it come as any surprise that the Fellowship comes out on top in this list. The Lord of the Rings is my favourite book of all times and the strength of the friendship among the Fellowship is amazing.

2. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
This doesn't require any explanation. Friendship plays a huge role in all seven books and although there are pairings within the series, romance was never a huge factor in the story.

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Of course, this book contains so much more but the friendships between Liesel and Rudy, and that between Liesel and Max, are so beautifully simple and plays such a stark contrast to what's going on in the bigger picture of the world that I absolutely adored it to pieces.

4. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
One of my favourite novels while growing up, this book almost moved me to tears with how beautiful it is.

5. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Heartbreaking and thought provoking, whether or not you enjoy Jodi Picoult's writing style, this novel raises a lot of ethical questions that I think everyone should have a think about (I may be slightly biased from my medical background).

6. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
An amazing YA novel on so many conflicting aspects of growing up and finding oneself. While there is a romantic element to the story, I still really enjoyed the friendships in this novel too.

7. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Human nature and friendship - I absolutely loved this story whilst growing up.

8. Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
The friendship between Percy, Annabeth and Grover is just so strong throughout the whole series, through thick and thin.

9. Tomorrow, When the War Began series by John Marsden
Friendship plays such a strong role in this series - all varying aspects of it gets showcased. I have always meant to come back to this series and finish it but I just haven't had the time yet.

10. Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith
Dogs. Pigs. Sheep. Humans. This book has them all and how friendship can transcend species.

Which books did you pick this week?
Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? (#3)

It's Monday! is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey

I have been really bad this month. Work and the fact that I'm still on my rural rotation means I haven't had as much time to myself as I normally would. I finally cracked it over the weekend and forced myself to become a hermit and read 2 books (thus, finishing the Legend series), which are the first 2 books I have read this whole month. I really need to pick up my speed!

Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X #1) by Richelle Mead

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military's most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills. 
When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.
It has been awhile since I read Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series (which I have yet to complete) but I'm really intrigued by this book. What makes this even more exciting is that its sequel, The Immortal Crown, is set to be released at the end of this month (May 28th to be exact). I managed to get my hands on a netgalley copy of it so I'll be sure to jump on that book as soon as I'm done with this one!
Sunday, May 18, 2014

Book Review: Split Second (Book #2) by Kasie West

Split Second by Kasie West

Series: Pivot Point (Book #2)
Will need to read the first book prior to reading this one
For the beginning of the series, click here
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: 11th February 2014
Tagged under: 2014 read, 2014 favourites, fantasy, 3.5, YA-fiction, book review
Pages: 343

Life can change in a split second...

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can't believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She's always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too... but not without a price. 
When Addie's dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He's a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that. 
Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie's memories... once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don't want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school - but he seems to be the only one who can help her. 
As Addie and Laila franctically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot... and a future that could change everything.

Book Review [Spoiler Free]

As soon as I finished Pivot Point, I immediately got my hands on Split Second and jumped straight in. The ending of the previous book was good but heart breaking at the same time. Even though the ending was not a cliffhanger, I still needed closure over the repercussions of Addie's decision at the end. So thank goodness, I didn't have to wait a whole year for the second book to come out.

Last warning: please read the first book before continuing on with this review, although it's spoiler free for this book, it will contain details regarding the first book, possibly spoiling Pivot Point for you.

In Split Second, Addie has to live with the repercussions of the choice she made six weeks ago. In need of a change of scenery, she decides to take up her dad's offer of staying with him for the winter break. But living in the Norm world brings its own challenges. Not only does she have to hide her ability, an issue that's growing more difficult as she gets to know a boy named Trevor, Addie is also uncovering things that have the potential to shake her world and what she knows about her family upside down.

Back in the Compound, Laila is racing against time. A note Addie left for herself reveals to Laila that she needs to restore Addie's memories - if only she know how. To do so, she recruits the reluctant help from Connor,the one boy who seems to be able to help her and the one boy who refuses to fall under her charms.

Similar to Pivot Point, Split Second also alternates between two story lines that are initially separate and distinct. Addie struggles with adapting to the Norm world while Laila trying to find a way to develop her ability. But gradually, elements of the two separate story lines begin to merge with one another until they intertwine to become one story line racing towards the climax.

Once again, the highlight of this series is the romantic developments. I got so much feels and emotions whilst reading this book. The chemistry between the characters are so heartfelt and the memories of "what could have been" in book 1 come back to haunt in a very beautiful way.

I initially didn't enjoy Laila's story line as much as Addie's. Laila comes across as a bit brash and determined to get things her way. But as pieces of her background begin to be revealed, Laila became more relatable and her story line just as interesting, particularly as things began to heat up between her and Trevor.

The reason I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first one is because the plot line I felt is not as strong as the first one. The way Pivot Point unfolded, intertwined and reached its climax is so clever. And the ending is good yet so heartbreaking at the same time, leaving just a hint of hope for the future. Split Second's plot isn't as straight forward and clear cut, making it slightly confusing as to which direction this book is going. The ending is a bit rushed and I would have loved to see more of the couples before the book reached the ending.

Overall: 3.5/5

I still enjoyed this book. As it stands, this is a lovely duology. But if there is a follow-up to Split Second, I would definitely pick it up in a heartbeat. 
Friday, May 9, 2014

Feature Follow Friday: Favourite Author

Feature Follow Friday is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee Alison Can Read. It's a way for bloggers and readers alike to make some new friends and gain some new followers as well. The point of this hop is to follow other bloggers. I follow you, you follow me.

Also, this week's featured blogger is Read Write All The Time, so make sure you check it out too.

While I do prefer GFC and/or Bloglovin follows, if you would like to follow me via email/twitter etc, that's great too! Also, please leave a comment so I can follow you back!

Question of the Week

What living author or authors would you like to have dinner with? (Try to think beyond JK Rowling)
I haven't met many authors at all. A) I have simply never had the time to go. And B) I live in Australia where not many international authors come and visit. But it's definitely something I would like to do once I have more time, freedom and resources available to me. The only authors I have ever met are Isabelle Carmody  (author of the Obernewtyn series) and Li Cunxin (author of Mao's Last Dancer), years ago when they visited my high school.

But if I'm lucky enough to be able to have dinner with an author, the first two names that come to mind are Stephen King and Ian McEwan. They seem to have so many pearls to wisdom regarding reading, writing and just life in general.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Top Ten Book Covers I'd Frame as Art

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

They often say don't judge a book by its cover but I think a lot of us book lovers out there have been guilty of that at one time or another. This week we have to feature ten book covers that we've fallen in love with and we'd frame as art. So below are just some of the covers that I absolutely love.

Can book spines be framed as art? Because if so, these are so pretty!


Pretty :)

Monday, May 5, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? & #Ayearathon readathon!

Having only read 6 books last month, I figure I really need to pick up my speed. So in addition to doing this meme, hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey, I will be joining the week-long readathon hosted by #Ayearathon, the theme of which is catching up/finishing series. So for that theme, these are the books I'm planning on tackling this week (we'll see how I go). This also helps with my autumn TBR list so I'm tackling multiple birds with one stone! :)

Finish/Catch Up On A Series

Prodigy & Champion by Marie Lu
I read Legend, book one of the Legend series, ages ago. I loved it and was really keen on continuing on with the series but just never got around to it. So I figured this is the perfect time to finish this series.

Scarlet & Cress by Marissa Meyer
I read Cinder, loved it, but was always slightly disappointed that there was no concrete resolution at the end since this is book one of a series. I haven't yet read Scarlet or Cress so I'll be interested to see how this series unfolds. I'm not sure if, after Cress, I'll be able to wait a full year for Winter to come out though!

With a full time job, I think four books will be plenty to keep me busy this week. However, should circumstances change and I actually manage to get through these four books, I'll post a mid-week update and tell you guys some of the other books that I'll be reading. We'll see how I go. 

Wishing everyone good luck on reading this week! :)
Sunday, May 4, 2014

April Wrap-Up

I feel like this every time I come to the monthly wrap-up but seriously, where has this year gone? It's May already and we're one-third of the way into the year. 

Work-wise, I'm still at my secondment. I did go back down to the city when I had a couple of days off. But the 4 hour drive seriously kills me, especially considering I'm the residential slowpoke that everyone overtakes - it stresses me out! I've moved out of emergency medicine and am currently doing obstetrics and gynaecology. 

April Recap

Like I predicted last month, my reading and posting have seriously slowed down given work and the fact that I'm not at home. This month, I've only read 6 books, which is incredibly slow. :(
This month, I'm seriously hoping to pick up my reading speed. I have so many amazing books that I've brought up to rural with me that have just been sitting there on my bed table. I'm also hoping to get back onto speed with blogging and do more weekly memes, which due to my work schedule, I have been neglecting. :(

Hope everyone have a great reading month!