vineri, 31 iulie 2015

"Balance Broken" ("Starbright", #2) by Hilary Thompson - Review

Title: Balance Broken
Author: Hilary Thompson
Release Date: 10/28/14
Edition: Kindle (provided by YA Bound Book Tours as part of the Starbright series tour)
Book Links: Amazon / BN / iBooks

Summary from Goodreads:
Balance Broken is the second in the Starbright series. In the first book, Justice Buried, Astrea fights to remain independent in a world which demands she submit to an ancient prophecy. In Balance Broken, she learns that independence means little when the world is depending on her.

The world cries for Order, but she’s igniting a revolution.

One hundred years before, the Great Sickness reduced the world to three cities. Now, Asphodel no longer lingers underground, and the Starbright Maiden of Justice has returned.

Everyone has faith in Astrea’s ability to save the world - but only she knows the dark truth about her powers.

Astrea teams with Stian, Lexan, and Zarea to enlist the help of Lord Hadeon of Tartarus. They hope Hadeon will aid in attacking Asphodel’s First Leader Keirna, but the Destroyer usually takes lives, not sides.

As Astrea discovers life outside of Asphodel, she begins to wonder whether the remaining world is too broken to save - especially since the price of freedom just might be her own life.


Review


Balance Broken is the sequel of Justice Buried and follows Astrea and Lexan outside of Asphodel, how they team up with Stian and Zarea and go to Tartarus to ask Lord Hadeon for help in defeating First Leader Keirna. 

To begin with, the thing I absolutely love about this novel is the range of characters and their evolution. New characters show up and most of them are weighty for the plot and spice it up a bit. I must say, I have imagined Hadeon otherwise (old, slimy, unsightly, sitting all day long on his throne) than how he is actually - a handsome, compelling young (well, this is questionable) tyrant. He is very intriguing and Astrea feels the same as I do. I also like the True Prophet and I am curious to know more about him and the Three Sisters of Elysium. 

I enjoy a lot the development of the characters we have already known from the first book. Astrea is the perfect example. I could see her evolution taking shape since Justice Buried - I have mentioned in my review that she starts realising things and questioning her decisions. Well, when I reached the end of Balance Broken, I saw a new, different Astrea: more understanding, more responsible, more aware of many matters of which she was not aware in Justice Buried, more determined, as well as broken, which is no surprise, considering the situations she went through. However, I saw a better version of Astrea and now I am fond on her. Lexan is still my favourite character; he is devoted, keen on learning as much as he can, determined to be by Astrea's side and help her. It annoyed me though that at some points he seemed too weak in comparison with Astrea, not only in terms of courage, but also in terms of the role he has to play in the prophecy. In other words, I believe he deserves more credit and attention because his part is considerable too, and he needs to be a little more bold. As far as Stian and Zarea are concerned, I think they are less mature than Astrea and Lexan. This is funny of course because Stian and Zarea are older than the two Asphodel teens, yet they let stubborness affect their relationship exactly like two kids.  

Furthermore, Balance Broken features, likewise Justice Buried, an interesting mix of genres. The dystopian elements are more highlighted in this novel than in the previous one and they blend perfectly with the high-fantasy, SF and romance ones.

The only problem I had while reading Balance Broken was that some events and facts were too predictable. That is why the tension that should have grown and bursted out at some points was kept back. What I mean by this is, this novel misses the element of surprise, and when there is no element of surprise, the tension doesn't grow, expand, so there is no climax either. There were some situations that could have been really intense, but because I could predict them the tension dissipated. This is how it happened when someone died (yes, someone important dies in this book, but who?). Normally, when a character - good or bad, main or secondary - dies, the reader feels somehow different than before - happy (available for sadists, I suppose), sad, shocked, and it is because death usually provokes strong emotions and because the reader can't (or shouldn't be able to) foresee the death of a character. Nevertheless, when that someone died, I was like ”Oh, well... I was expecting it to come about.” Another example concerning this subject is that I am sure who is the third child involved in the prophecy, and I shouldn't be! It is not just a hunch, we are given so many clues. Honestly, I would be glad to discover I am wrong, but it remains to be seen.

Overall, this book is a great sequel. I have pointed out my problem with it simply because I love the Starbright series and I look forward to reading the next novel and to rating it with more than four stars.

My Rating: 4/5


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miercuri, 29 iulie 2015

"Lexan's Pledge" ("Starbright", #1.5) by Hilary Thompson - Review

Title: Lexan's Pledge
Author: Hilary Thompson
Release Date: 03/09/14
Edition: Kindle (provided by YA Bound Book Tours as part of the Starbright series tour)
Book Links: Amazon / BN / iBooks

Summary from Goodreads:
Author's Note: this is not the full-length sequel to Justice Buried. It is a short novella telling Lexan's side of the story!

There will come three...
A child of peace, born in a place of war.
A child of right, born in a place of many wrongs.
A child of lawfulness, born in a place with no laws.

The secrets of Asphodel continue to spill as Lexan tells his side of the story. Lexan has been pretending for so long that he barely remembers why. All he knows is that it's getting harder to be the image of perfection that everyone expects. With Keirna plotting murder, Saloman having visions, and Trea throwing tantrums, Lexan just might be ready to risk his world for the chance at a better one.



Review

After reading Justice Buried I knew I had to read Lexan's Pledge. Unlike Stian's Mistake (another Starbright novella, centered on Stian), I have had no hard time deciding whether to read it or not. Of course, I really liked Stian's story (and my review stands proof), but I  wasn't that keen on knowing it. However, this was not the case, as I was and still am eager to discover this character - Lexan - in detail.

Lexan's Pledge consists of the same plot as the one in Justice Buried, but narrated by Lexan. This is very important because in the first Starbright novel he is such a mysterious personage and his actions sometimes seem quite bizarre or suspicious. Not to mention that he obviously knows something more than Astrea does, still he says no word. Well, Lexan's Pledge came and saved the day. I found out some weighty things concerning the prophecy and both Astrea and Lexan's role in the big prediction. Plus, now I understand why he acted like he did in Justice Buried and this makes me like him more.

Lexan is different. As I said in my Justice Buried review, he is one of the few male characters I fell in love with not just for the looks, but for his personality and line of thought. He is surprisingly mature, lucid and self-conscious. Also, he is not the typical YA book boy who knows just how to punch, on the contrary, he is studious (although not in an exaggerated way). I find it interesting that Lexan, in contradistinction to Astrea, doesn't make such a big fuss about the prophecy and their dictated destinies, he is rather resigned and determined to do his best. As far as I am concerned, he does his best: he tries hard to get near Astrea and protect her, he tries hard to be a good son and become a good minister. Yet, Lexan is quite fragile - or sensible. His father's death affected him and he wishes for love, support, for someone to be there for him and someone that needs his presence for who he truly is. This is the reason why he doesn't protest partnering with Astrea: it is because he hopes she will start caring for him and they will eventually develop, together, a beautiful, strong relationship, which would fill the gaps in their lives. There are many telling quotes in Lexan's Pledge that show what lies in Lexan's soul, thus I am so glad that the author wrote this book.

Without further ado, I certainly recommend this Starbright novella. Lexan is a rare character in YA literature and at the present time he is my favourite good guy. I look forward to reading more about him in the next books.

My Rating: 5/5


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miercuri, 22 iulie 2015

”Stian's Mistake" ("Starbright", #0.5) by Hilary Thompson - Review

Title: Stian's Mistake
Author: Hilary Thompson
Release Date: 02/17/15
Edition: Kindle (provided by YA Bound Book Tours as part of the Starbright series tour)
Book Links: Amazon

Summary from Goodreads:
Author’s Note: The events of this novella occur before the events of Justice Buried, Starbright Book One. Stian’s Mistake may be read as a prequel or in publication order (after Balance Broken, Starbright Book Two).

The Hero’s Mission: All Stian wants is to be seen for who he is.

Not just an orphaned wanderer or a skilled warrior, but someone worthy of belonging to the Tribe of Hebron. He dreams of fulfilling his father’s broken legacy - leading the Tribe to the Garden.

Zarea understands him, but her future is tied to a secret past that could tear the Tribe apart. Her father Abraham is determined to keep this past buried, so he awards Stian the Hero’s Mission.
If Stian lives long enough to succeed, he will secure the Tribe’s loyalty and gain a chance to marry Zarea one day.

But Stian isn’t the only one to accept this mission - and only one man can become a Hero.


Review


I will point out from the beginning that I am not in "Stian-team", and that is why it took me a while to decide whether to read Stian's Mistake or not. Now that I have, I must say I am really pleased because this Starbright novella is important from many points of view.

To begin with, the book obviously provides a thorough image of Stian, including his past, his relationship with Zarea and the Tribe and how he got himself into the situation we encounter him in the first book of the Starbright series - Justice Buried. Although I am not particularly keen on this character, I am glad I know more about him now. Also, I am glad I found out the history between him and Zarea, who is, by the way, the daughter of the Tribe's ruler. Justice Buried ends before giving much detail related to this sensitive subject. Stian and Zarea are a cute couple, but I found both quite hesitant - Zarea in particular. There are indeed many impediments getting in the way of their happiness and I feel sorry for them. 

Anyway, we are definitely going to hear more from Zarea in the next books because she proves herself as a weighty character in Stian's Mistake and not only because of her connection with Stian or with Abraham (the Leader of the Tribe), but also because of her connection with the prophecy that involves Astrea - the protagonist of Justice Buried and, naturally, of the entire Starbright series - (let's just say Astrea is not as unique as the first book suggests). 

Lastly, this novella is a good read for those who want to discover in detail the post-apocalyptic world. I learned many things concerning the Tribes, the three cities - Asphodel, Tartarus, Elysium - and the so-called Great Sickness (term used by the population of Asphodel and describing the phenomenon that reduced the world to the cities and tribes) or Cleansing (this term is used by Stian and his people). Yet, as with Justice Buried, Stian's Mistake needed, as far as I am concerned, a little more description of the settings. I would have also enjoyed if I had read about the customs and traditions of the Tribe. Therefore I am not fully satisfied with the world-building.

To sum up, I recommend Stian's Mistake, especially to those who want to get to know Stian and Zarea (and her actual role in this big story) better and to those who simply want to have a broadened look of the Starbrightverse.

My Rating: 4/5



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duminică, 19 iulie 2015

"Justice Buried" ("Starbright", #1) by Hilary Thompson - Review

Title: Justice Buried
Author: Hilary Thompson
Release Date: 01/15/14
Edition: Kindle (provided by YA Bound Book Tours as part of the Starbright series tour)
Book Links: Amazon / BN / iBooks

Summary from Goodreads:
The people need Justice, but she's not listening.

One hundred years before, the Great Sickness reduced the world to three cities. Now the community of Asphodel is trapped underground, waiting for the prophesied maiden of Justice to return and save them from their Fates. Sixteen-year-old Astrea is supposed to be this savior - too bad for them she isn't a believer.

Trea fights against her false destiny: she rebels against her family and friends, then refuses her arranged marriage to the charming but deceitful Lexan. Learning her life is in danger, Trea is forced to trust Lexan - until she discovers a power she never knew she had, and one he already knew he did. As betrayal closes every door, Trea decides she must submit to her stars and accept her fate. Then a handsome stranger offers her an unexpected escape and the chance to create her own destiny. 


Review

The first word that crosses my mind when I think about Justice Buried is ”innovation”. That is because the first book in the Starbright series follows the young-adult book pattern, but it also features new, innovative assets.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world which consists of three cities - Asphodel, Tartarus, Elysium - and some Tribes. Asphodel is the underground city, ruled by the First Leader and organised according to the zodiac, which dictates every citizen's future vocation and life partner. Astrea lives in Asphodel, she is an Aries and because she was born on the Spring Equinox, she must become the next First Leader and partner (marry) with Lexan, who was born on the Autumn Equinox. Nevertheless, things get really complicated because of Trea's stubbornness and daring and because of Keirna's (the current First Leader) plans concerning both Astrea's and Lexan's future. Many secrets come to the surface, which makes it even harder for Trea to handle the tasks. She receives a helping hand from Stian (the "handsome stranger") but, of course, problems don't simply vanish.

What is fascinating about this novel, to my mind, is the mix of genres. While reading the first part I was feeling like reading high-fantasy. Naturally, there are plenty elements in Justice Buried that have no place in a high-fantasy book, but maybe it was the very interesting belief in stars of the people in Asphodel that gave me this feeling of travelling not forward but back in time. Later (when some discoveries and huge events take place), I felt I was reading dystopian, and the last part of the book brought me back to the high-fantasy feel. I utterly enjoy this blend of genres, as I enjoy the use of astrology concepts, which fit perfectly with the setting, and help a lot with the world-building. I have always been interested in the zodiac signs and I have never thought that I will get to read a book involving this subject, so it was such a great surprise for me to discover the importance of the zodiac coordinates for the life course in Asphodel. This also made me reflect upon how would it be if we, people who live on Earth in the present time, lived according to this system.

The characters are various and it is hard not to pick out a favourite, or at least a character that slowly manages to win your heart. Astrea is a real Aries - dynamic, impetuous, lively, impatient. Surely, she is not my favourite character. She is too childish sometimes, irresponsible, and she gets nervous extremely quickly (this is somehow understandable; I would be frustrated too if my destiny were commanded and I were left with no power of decision). It annoys me that she pretends she doesn't need help, nor to be saved, yet there are some occasions when she actually needs both, liberally. Moreover, I believe that in the beginning she is way too focused on the fact that she must partner with Lexan but forgets that she will also become the First Leader, quite a responsability if you ask me. Still, I consider I would get along with her - Brenn (training teacher) certainly does, therefore I and Trea could stay in the same room without clenching our horns. Lexan, on the other hand, won irreversibly my sympathy. As a matter of fact, he is one of the few male characters that I fell in love with not just for the looks, but for the personality. At a first glance Lexan may seem just like the typical bad boy. In reality though he is a devoted, responsible Libra. I would say he is even rather sensible. However, I will talk more about him in the Lexan's Pledge review to come. One thing is sure: we two would be good friends. Other characters that caught my attention are: Aitan (Lexan's brother), and I can't wait to read Aitan's Revenge to discover him in detail, Astrea's mother, a very likeable Pisce and even Keirna (I picture her as a highly beautiful woman).

Furthermore, I need to mention that this book has a love triangle, but I assure you it is not a stereotypical one. This love triangle involves Astrea, Lexan and Stian. Although I am mad at Astrea due to the fact that she acts so rude with Lexan (as if it were his fault for her already written destiny), I tend to understand her attraction towards Stian, because he is the only one who doesn't order her to do so and so, he is the only one who advises her to live according to her own rules, not according to the stars and a prophecy. That is one of the reasons why I think Justice Buried involves some psychological aspects that readers should take into account when characterizing a character. Astrea starts, at some point, realising some things and questioning herself; she evolves - when you reach the end of the book you can see an obvious evolution of her attitudine and way of thinking and this affects the love triangle. This leads me to other innovative components: Astrea in person - she appears to be the chosen one, the only savior, but the reality is different (related to this Stian's Mistake and Lexan's Pledge provide some significant information); Lexan - as I have already mentioned, he is not the prototypical bad boy who attracts all the girls just because he's good-looking and the stars wanted him to be so charming, he is much more.

One thing I would have changed is the age. Sixteen (and seventeen) seems to me a very young age for partnering (after a ceremony where girls must choose a partner, they must date for a year and then be together forever after) and choosing a vocation. It is not a hindrance, but I feel eighteen would have made the whole situation more believable. In addition, to my view, the world-building needs improvement - I felt a lack of description when it came to settings.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot and I definitely recommend it. Justice Buried is a delightful mix of fantasy, dystopian and romance which results in an exciting journey.


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miercuri, 8 iulie 2015

Noutăți în bibliotecă #21


Hi, my lovely fellows! Ce mai faceți? Cum vă petreceți vacanța? 
Mi-am dat seama că de când am terminat școala nu am făcut nicio postare în care să scriu despre lucruri aleatorii, despre ce am mai făcut, ce mai citesc, ce cărți am mai cumpărat, ce planuri mi-am mai făcut. Așa că acum profit din plin de postarea de față.
Înainte de orice altceva totuși vreau să trec în revistă noile achiziții:


1. Grammaton. Turnul înțelepților de Johanna Trommer e o carte pentru copii/ adolescenți. Descrierea spune că personajul principal e Tinka, care are 13 ani și care găsește o scrisoare misterioasă într-o carte, scrisoare ce îi spune să ia legătura cu un anticar din Viena. Tinka pleacă acolo cu prietena ei cea mai bună și, făcând cunoștință cu anticarul, intră în contact cu "Grammatonul, o lume fantastică ai cărei locuitori se numesc literani și au corpuri în formă de litere." Hm, mie îmi sună tare drăguț. Cred că e o lectură relaxantă, numai bună pentru vacanță.


2. Regatul Luminilor (Grisha, #3) de Leigh Bardugo e ultimul volum din trilogia Grisha pe care, din păcate, l-am devorat la scurt timp după ce l-am primit. Va veni și recenzia, însă parcă nu știu cum să-mi adun cuvintele. 


3. Aitan's Revenge (Starbright Novella) e o nuvelă care acompaniază seria Starbright scrisă de Hilary Thompson. Cartea am câștigat-o în urma unui concurs organizat de autoare și trebuie citită după al doilea volum din serie. Chiar ieri am terminat de citit primul volum - Justice Buried - pe care l-am primit, alături de celelalte cărți Starbright, în format electronic, pentru turul organizat de YA Bound Book Tours. Dați-mi voie să vă spun încă de acum că seria asta e awesome. Am să intru în detalii în recenziile ce urmează.

Și asta e tot! Okay, ar mai fi și o carte despre istoria românilor (mă pregătesc pentru a 12-a), dar mi-am zis că nu mai are rost să o includ.
Voi ce mai citiți? Știți, am momente când devin tare nostalgică pentru că timpul trece și îmi dau seama cât de puțin citesc. Și când mă gândesc că vine a clasa a 12-a, bacalaureat, admitere, aoleu! De aceea încerc să fac cât mai multe vacanța asta - să citesc, să vizionez seriale și filme, să fac sport, să scriu, să îmi pregătesc unele materiale pentru anul școlar ce urmează. 
Okay, ne mai citim, dear fellows, bucurați-vă de vacanță și de lectură!

duminică, 5 iulie 2015

"Șoareci și oameni” de John Steinbeck - Recenzie

Titlul original: Of Mice and Men
Autor: John Steinbeck
Editura: Polirom
Traducere: Dana Crăciun
Anul apariției: 2013
Număr de pagini: 160
Autorul volumului <<Cartierul Tortilla>> a oferit în <<Șoareci și oameni>> o poveste atât de firească, de emoționantă și de simplă, încât abia după ultima pagină cititorul își dă seama ce reușită literară remarcabilă reprezintă romanul lui John Steinbeck. - Chicago Daily Tribune
Șoareci și oameni e genul de carte scurtă, pe care o parcurgi, lejer, într-o zi, dar pe care, apoi, îți dorești să o fi citit în câteva zile. Îmi este greu să-mi adun cuvintele, iar aceasta pentru că nuvela lui John Steinbeck este pe cât de simplă în ceea ce privește firul narativ, pe atât de bogată în privința învățăturilor care reies din aceasta.

Șoareci și oameni e povestea lui George Milton și Lennie Small, doi bărbați care reușesc să se angajeze la o fermă din Soledad, după ce, ca urmare a unui incident (care îl are ca protagonist pe Lennie), cei doi au fost nevoiți să părăsească vechiul loc de muncă, din Weed. George și Lennie vin în Soledad animați de visul lor de a strânge bani ca să își cumpere ”o căsuță și vreo două pogoane de pământ” și să poată trăi din ”belșugu' pământului”. Acest vis este, din păcate, umbrit de noi întâmplări defavorabile, pricinuite, neintenționat, de Lennie, dar care o implică și pe soția lui Curley (fiul Șefului, proprietarul fermei). Astfel, finalul îi surprinde pe cei doi prieteni într-un moment de răscruce, moment în care George este nevoit, din nou, să decidă pentru amândoi, doar că de data aceasta decizia este de o gravitate capitală.
Cele mai importante lucruri pe care John Steinbeck vrea să le spună despre personajele sale nu sunt niciodată exprimate direct în cuvinte, ci sunt sugerate într-un mod de care cititorul nu este niciodată pe deplin conștient - iar asta înseamnă artă. New York Herald Tribune
Cele două personaje centrale sunt construite antitetic, George fiind cel mic de înălțime și ager la minte iar Lennie, cel înalt, naiv și cu o forță fizică impresionantă, ce contravine capacității sale cognitive. Pe cei doi îi unește dorința de a avea propriul lor loc, cu o grădină și câteva animale, inclusiv niște iepuri pe care să-i poată mângâia Lennie. Poate e greu de crezut, însă această plăcere inocentă a lui Lennie - de a mângâia - este cea care aduce năpasta asupra lui și, implicit, a lui George. Totuși, mai presus de acest ideal, pe George Milton și Lennie Small îi unește o prietenie sinceră, confirmată în numeroase rânduri. Deși George își exprimă direct frustrarea cu privire la întârzierea mintală a lui Lennie și la problemele pe care acesta le cauzează, niciodată nu i-a spus prietenului său să plece, alegând să-și continue drumul alături de el... un drum care, însă, nu duce nicăieri.

Așadar, sper ca ce am scris aici să vă încurajeze să citiți Șoareci și oameni, operă de referință a lui John Steinbeck și o lectură scrisă superb, ce cuprinde în puținele ei pagini aspecte complexe ale vieții (precum prietenia, singurătatea, visul iluzoriu), aspecte prezentate într-un decor tragic - cel al crizei economice mondiale din anii 1929-1933 - și prin intermediul unor personaje reprezentative, expresie a condiției efemere a tot ce există.

Nota mea: 5/5