Review: Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)

Title: Hex Hall

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Publisher: Hyperion

Date Read: January 24, 2013

“On her 12th birthday, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. Three bumpy years later, after a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, she’s exiled to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Then when a mysterious predator begins attacking students, and Sophie’s only friend is the number-one suspect, a horrifying plot begins to surface. Soon, Sophie is preparing for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.”

Characters:

Sophie: I like Sophie. She is a very strong girl with a very strong will, and I really like that about her. Too often you read YA books where the main character has low self-esteem and battles throughout the novel. In Hex Hall, you get quite the opposite, and I really liked that. She is an outsider in this outsider world, and that would be enough to cripple some of the main characters in other books I have read, but Sophie keeps on going when things really are falling apart around her. Her only source of insecurity seems to be her magic. Otherwise, she doesn’t let other people get to her no matter what happens, and that is admirable- especially for a 15 year old. She has one hell of a journey ahead of her in this series!

Jenna: Jenna is Sophie’s roommate at Hex Hall, and she is even more of an outsider than Sophie. She is the only one of her kind at the school, and her classmates are not very nice to her (to say the least). However, she is a sensitive friend that really looks out for Sophie and you have to lover her for thinking of Sophie when her own life seems to such so much. Everyone deserves a friend like Jenna.

Elodie: We hate Elodie. When you read the novel, you will know why. She sucks! Well, I might be being a little too harsh here, but she does not make life very pleasant. She is your typical villain, but with the number of YA novels out there similar to this one, authors have a hard time breaking out of the mold. Every story needs a villain! She is beautiful and powerful, and those things make her high in the rankings, but a mean girl nonetheless.

Archer: Ahhhhh, Archer. He is pretty awesome, but he has some…baggage. I don’t want to give away the story here, so I really can’t go into too much detail. However, Archer is mysterious and fascinating and a little stupid all rolled into one, so you really can’t help but love him.

Conflict: An organization called L’Occhio Di Dio (The Eye of God) is out to rid the world of all Prodigium. They are famous for their heartless murdering of magical people, and it is their mission to keep doing just that.  People are dying at Hex Hall, and there is no proof that it is L’Occhio, and there are other possibilities flying around the school. One particular type of magical species is getting the brunt of the blame, and Elodie and her band of dark witches are really making it difficult for anyone to sleep soundly at night. I guess you will understand what I mean when you read the book. Anyway, it is a roller coaster ride at Hex Hall.

Things I Liked: I loved the magic part. I don’t really care that it is getting overdone, but I really like the idea of witches and whatnot. I loved Harry Potter growing up, and I still have that soft spot for magical stories. I really liked that this story didn’t focus on just witches, or just faeries, etc. I love when the author actually puts the other species in there, I think that it makes the author work harder and be a little more creative. It’s nice. I also loved the characters in this book! I love the mystery that comes with some of the characters. Another thing I liked was that this school didn’t seem any different than a normal high school (aside from the species of the students and the strangeness of the school)- the students fought like they should have and there were enemies like there should have been. No high school is clique-free.

Things I Didn’t Like: I know I said this for The Son of Neptune, but I didn’t really find a whole lot that I didn’t like about this book. I flew through this book in a day. That’s right, one day. I really liked it. The characters seemed well developed, and any holes I might have seen were holes for a reason. What I mean by that is that the holes were either explained, unnecessary, or were there to be explained in the next book. I just finished Demonglass, and of course there are holes in that one, too. The holes make a sequel possible, and we can’t forget that. They are what make us curious enough to read the next book! And believe me, you will really want to read the next book.

Overall: I loved it, I really did! As I said before, the characters are all well developed, the story is interesting and keeps the reader entertained. Hawkins really makes it easy to emotionally invest in the characters- and that is very important. Most authors are successful in making you emotionally invest in the main character, but Hawkins branches out and makes you care about more than just the main character. I highly recommend the next book! It has been a few days since I read this, and I lost the piece of paper that I wrote my notes on, so I apologize for not fleshing this out enough… I will do better next time!

Rating: 5 stars

 

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Review: The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus, #2)

Title: The Son of Neptune

Author: Rick Riordan

Publisher: Disney/Hyperion

Date Read: January 12-16, 2013

Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn’t ring any bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth.

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem- when the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now, because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wishes she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from the heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery- although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely- enough to share the secret close to his heart.

Beginning at the “other” camp for half=bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment in the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophecy of Seven.

Characters: The blurb above really describes the characters quite well. So I guess I will just tell you how I feel about them! I like Hazel a lot, I liked hearing about her past and how she really came into her power. It’s both a blessing and a curse and it is interesting to hear her recount what happened to her. It was also pretty interesting watching her friendship with Frank develop! Frank is very endearing. He has kind of a complicated past, and he doesn’t know a lot about it. I like reading a book and feeling like I am discovering just as much as the main character is, especially when it is about his own history. And that brings us to Percy. Who doesn’t love Percy?! We learned to love him in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians (which I just gave to my mom to read!) and he is the same character he was then. He may be a little older in this book, but the age looks good on him. He has learned a lot more, and I just love that even though he has that pesky amnesia problem, he remembers Annabeth and can’t bear to forget her.

Conflict: Thanatos, the god of death, has been captured by Alcyoneus. Alcyoneus is another son of Gaea, and just as determined to bring her back. Thanatos’ capture means that although the demigods kill tons of monsters, those monsters come back. That makes it harder to defeat Gaea and her many minions.

Things I Liked: I really like that all of the characters in this series face some pretty heavy problems. That doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to say, but I think it’s a compliment. The fact that this story functions when the characters have such intense internal conflicts means that Riordan has fully developed mature YA characters. Sometimes when I read YA novels, I find that some of the main characters are kind of one dimensional, and this book really does not fall into that category. It’s fantastic. And, just like in the first book, I obviously love continuing to learn about Greek and Roman mythology! Most of my knowledge on the subject comes from Mr. Riordan, in fact. I just hope he hasn’t been lying to me!

Things I Didn’t Like: You know, I don’t really know. I think that when I read a book I just get so immersed in the books that I forget that I might be writing a review and should pay some close attention. But hey, I think that’s a compliment.

Overall: I loved it! The characters are all really well developed, and there are a ton of story lines that are expertly weaved together. I love that things are mysterious but have moments of transparency. This story lasts over the whole series, and he is really good at keeping us entertained. It’s a really complicated story, and he does a fantastic job. Well done.

Rating: 5 stars

Review: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)

Title: Shiver

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic

Date Read: January 21-23, 2013

“the cold. Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf- her wolf- watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn’t know why.

the heat. Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace… until now.

the shiver. For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it’s spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human- and Grace must fight to keep him- even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future.”

Characters:

Grace- Grace starts out seeming a little fantastical, but she ends up being a more cut-and-dry kind of person that starts to let her emotions bubble up at the end. She practically raises herself, and has had a few encounters with the wolves in Boundary Wood. She has a particular attachment to one particular wolf, Sam. Her attachment to Sam only intensifies and that is when  you really get to know the real Grace.

Sam- Sam is wonderful. As a slightly nerdy girl in love with books, I can’t help but love him. He is a tortured soul of sorts, and you find yourself really hoping things turn out okay for him. Unfortunately, you can’t always get what you want! Sam’s double life starts to catch up with him, and you are really sitting on the seat of your pants as you wait to see what this kindhearted, romantic, perspicacious person is about to do (or get into) next.

Conflict: The main conflict here is Sam’s double life. His wolf-self threatens to come out at any moment and will tear him away from Grace. Sam can’t bear to lose himself, almost as much as he can’t bear to leave Grace. Other conflicts arise concerning the future of the pack. A new wolf poses a threat to the whole pack by being conspicuous, but another seasoned wolf throws Sam into a tailspin when he seems like he is making some morally gray decisions.

Themes: Temperature. Helllllooooo temperature. Every chapter tells you what temperature it is, and that is important. At first, I was like “what in the world is this?” I could not figure out why the temperature was so important, but like most things, it was explained in due time. Everyone seems to favor one season over another, but that tension is amplifies times a zillion when you realize what the simple changing of seasons means for the main characters. It’s all a bit stressful, you find yourself checking to see what the temperature is, and cursing the changing of the seasons.

Things I Liked: I liked that the author made a point to say that this wolf thing was not magic- it was science. Although there is no explanation of how exactly it is science (something I did’t like), I liked the distinction. I liked how sincere Sam seems to be- ALL THE TIME. I liked specific sections of especially creative wordplay. One of my favorites was :

“As the hours went by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air.” -Sam, Chp 4

Also, I liked the ending. Although some people might think that it was a little too distressing, I liked that it forced you to feel. That sounds so corny, but I was genuinely sad for the characters toward the end. Even the ones I didn’t like so much. I was reading this at work, and I almost cried. But, you should know that I am a big softy when it comes to books. I think it’s because I read such large chunks of them at a time. I’m fully immersed in their world, and I develop more of a connection with the characters. It’s both lovely and awful. When I read Shadow Kissed (part of the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead), I couldn’t even tell Chris about it without starting to cry. Ugh, such a softy.

Things I Didn’t Like: I didn’t like the overly-stoic nature of Grace. Once she finds Sam and really starts to open up, it isn’t such a problem. But in the beginning, she seems like she is just floating through life doing exactly as she’s told. Maybe that is what the author was going for, but I wasn’t the biggest fan. I’m also not sure how I feel about Sam always composing song lyrics in his head. I’m sure that for some people, it’s endearing. However, that wasn’t entirely the case for me. Don’t get me wrong, some of the lyrics are beautiful, but I felt like sometimes they were unnecessary and made it seem like Sam wasn’t really focused on the here-and-now but was pulling a J.D. (from the show Scrubs) and just staring off into space.

Overall: I liked this book quite a bit. When I finished it on Goodreads, I looked at the reviews and the first few were awful. I felt like I was just a sappy person that enjoyed a sappy book that nobody else cared for. BUT, then I actually read the reviews. These reviews seemed to be written by the sarcastic know-it-all types that I really don’t like. People couldn’t actually explain in a clear why they didn’t like the book. Half of them didn’t finish it. And that is one of my biggest pet peeves- DO NOT REVIEW A BOOK IF YOU CAN’T EVEN BE BOTHERED TO FINISH IT. Ugh, it just really gets to me. Some people drew parallels to Twilight, which I guess I can see, but it didn’t bother me. All in all, I liked this book and the poetic nature of it, and I would recommend it. Just not to the jerks that like to talk badly about a book they were too lazy to finish. I thought that it set up good family dynamics, and made you want to read the next one.

Rating: 4 stars. I rated it 5 stars on Goodreads right after I finished it, but upon evaluation, I think it is more of a 4-star. Still good, though!

Other Works by Maggie Stiefvater: The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Boys, The Scorpio Races, Books of Faerie.

 

Review: The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, #1)

Title: The Lost Hero

Author: Rick Riordan

Publisher: Disney/Hyperion Books

Date Read: December 13-17, 2012

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently, he has a girlfriend named Piper, and his best friend is a guy named Leo. They’re all students at the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids,” as Leo puts it. What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly? Jason doesn’t know anything- except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father, a famous actor, has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare about his being in trouble. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out, whether she wants to or not.

Leo has a way with tools. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too- like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them-including Leo- is related to a god. Does this have anything to do with Jason’t amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts?

Join new and old friends from Camp Half-Blood in this thrilling first book in the Heroes of Olympus series.”

Characters:

Piper– Piper McLean is the daughter of a famous actor and an even more famous goddess- and she hates it. She is a modest girl that gets more attention than she thinks she deserves. She has to face a personal conflict throughout the novel, and she struggles internally, unsure whether or not she will make the right choice and how that choice may effect the dynamic between her, Leo, and especially Jason.

Leo– Poor Leo is the third wheel. He is great with tools, but not as great with people. Leo and his friends face a lot of danger, but none of that matters to Leo- he is too afraid of what sort of danger he poses. He has a knack for fire that does not come in handy, and his only friend seems to be a mechanical dragon. As the reader, you really sympathize with Leo. He’s the class clown that doesn’t really get all of the attention he deserves, and this makes it hard for him to open up to his friends.

Jason– While reading this book, you feel really bad for Jason. He wakes up in the middle of a world he doesn’t know or remember, all he knows is that something is not right. His strange tattoos are the least of his concerns as he discovers his powers- in the most dangerous of situations. He has a girlfriend he doesn’t remember, and he feels horrible about it. He doesn’t know whether or not he has a girlfriends waiting for him from wherever he came from. He seems to be stepping on eggshells throughout most of the book, and it really stresses him out.

Conflict: One obvious conflict is that Jason has no idea who he is or where he came from. He only knows his name is Jason because that is what everyone has been calling him. Besides not knowing anything about himself, the conflict for Jason lies in the dynamic of the group around him and how he knows that something just does not feel right.

Piper is forced to choose between her father and her friends, and she is having a really hard time making the decision. Unfortunately for her, she keeps getting awful nightmares that seem more real than dream.

Leo has problems with fire, and a really bad history with it. In the novel, you learn how Leo’s past has changed him forever, and how a certain goddess had a whole lot to do with some of his worst memories.

The main conflict of the book is that the earth goddess and mother of the Titans, Gaea, is trying to make a comeback. With the help of her sons, the giants, she has managed to trap the goddess Hera. She has some pretty crazy plans for the future, and her version of the future is no good for the gods. She wants to eradicate the world as they know it and all of the gods, demigods, and humans that come with it.

Themes: There are several in this novel. I don’t know if I am going to be very good at picking them out for you, but I know they’re there! One that was pretty obvious was the presence of dreams. Dreams are more prophetic than surreal for the demigods. Another one is the tension between the gods of Olympus and their demigod children. If you read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, you are aware that there has always been some tension between them, but this books gets a little more in depth with the problems between individual demigods and their parents. It causes a lot of stress for some of the characters, and helps some of the others come to a sort of peace with what and who they are.

Things I Liked: I liked that the story is told from the viewpoints of all three of the main characters. They each have some pretty heavy problems to deal with, and the story would lack a lot of depth if it was told from only one view. One thing that I really liked from his previous heroes series is all of the interesting little things you learn about Greek mythology. In this series, you get a lot of that and a little more- you also hear about Roman history. Love it!

Things I Didn’t Like: Sometimes, this book got a little slow for me. If you look at the time it took me to read this book, you can’t really tell that I found parts of this slow, but I plowed through. I knew that there was a lot to look forward to, Riordan really sets it up, the slowness came from the intense character development that was required. This book is the first of series, and therefore sets the stage for the rest of the books. That is a tough task, especially when there are a lot of characters. I guess that leads me to something I liked about this book that I didn’t quite realize until I got to the second- this book does a fantastic job at building the foundations for the rest of the story and also being entertaining in its own right.

Overall View: All in all, I liked this book a lot. I love books that aren’t all fantasy, but weave fantasy with reality. I have always loved Greek mythology and I really love that these books make it come to life. There are awesome little personality quirks that the gods have that keep coming out in this series, I love it! This books was a great foundation for the rest of the series (I know, I know, I ‘m a broken record) and after just finishing the third installment, I still hold fast to that opinion. This book is not the highest reading level, but it definitely has the capability to keep readers of all ages captivated and entertained.

Rating: 4 stars

Other Works by Rick Riordan: Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series), Heroes of Olympus (series), The Kane Chroncles (series), The 39 Clues (series) , Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Ultimate Guide, The Demigod Diaries

What Next?

Alright, so I have finished reviewing the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, and now I’m not sure what to do. I have a couple options, but I am hoping for some feedback from you guys. I have read the first three books in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, and I  can definitely review those. I am also about halfway through Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater and I plan on reviewing that, but I don’t know if you guys would prefer I review that before or after the other series. Should I not review all three of the Heroes books one right after another? Or is that okay?

What do you think?

Review: Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan #3)

Title: Goliath

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Illustrator: Keith Thompson

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Date Read: January 5-12, 2013

            “Secrets revealed. Plots unraveled. A roaring conclusion.

Alek and Deryn are aboard the Leviathan when the ship is ordered to pick up an unusual passenger. This brilliant/maniacal inventor claims to have a weapon called Goliath that can end the war. But whose side is he really on?

While on their top secret mission, Alek finally discovers Deryn’s deeply kept secret. Two actually. Not only is Deryn a girl disguised as a guy…she has feelings for Alek.

The crown, true love with a commoner, and the destruction of a great city all hang on Alek’s next- and final- move.”

 

New Characters: Nikola Tesla- Nikola Tesla is a mad scientist. He is described as a very eccentric man and a great inventor, but he is simply a mad scientist—there is no way around it. His invention could be the answer to their prayers, or their worst nightmare—and it all hinges on this seemingly unstable man. He causes Alek and Deryn to question their actions, and puts them (especially Alek) in some pretty difficult situations. Alek is particularly affected by the man, and Tesla makes him question exactly where his loyalty lies and what his future will look like. The relationship between Tesla and Dr. Barlow (the lady boffin) is a little strained, and the tension results in some secrets and a lot of sneaking around.

There are also a lot of minor characters introduced in this book that are related to the media industry in some way. There is mention of several reporters, as well as William Randolph Hearst and the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. However, there are far too many to go into depth with, and they are not terribly important- just interesting!

Conflict: On the macro level, the conflict obviously continues to center around WWI. Nikola Tesla’s invention- Goliath- is the subject of controversy, and has many nations making hasty decisions. After seeing the devastation in Siberia, Alek allies himself with Tesla in an effort to ensure peace. However, Germany and other Clanker and Darwinist nations do not all see eye-to-eye with Mr. Tesla.

On a micro level, the conflict involves Alek and Deryn and their feelings for each other. After Deryn’s secret is finally revealed, she decides to tell Alek of her affections. This puts both Alek and Deryn in a rough spot because Deryn is of common blood, and therefore Alek cannot marry her and take the throne. Deryn and Alek struggle with their feelings throughout the book, and you really feel for them. Deryn learns to keep her feelings inside and to accept that she cannot be a commoner and be with Alek- but she still remains awfully upset about it. I admire Deryn for being able to keep her head up when her world seems to be crashing down around her.

Things I Liked: As I mentioned above, I really liked that Deryn was able to stay strong in the midst of the war and the other issues in the novel. She is a female character to look up to- she has a sense of duty and honor, but still manages to be feminine (at least in her head). Alek is also to be admired in this installment! He is just so noble. He may have been the Prince of Hohenburg all along, but he really exudes nobility in this book. He is willing to make many sacrifices both for his nation and for the people he loves. I feel like Alek and Deryn and even Volger and Dr. Barlow really came full circle in this book. They are all incredibly well developed characters that are easy to connect with and a pleasure to read about. And I LOVED the ebding!

Things I Didn’t Like: To be honest, the things I didn’t like in this book were just things that were unfortunate for the characters. I mean to say that Westerfeld did such a good job that I simply got mad when things didn’t go as planned for the characters! But, these “things” are just the story progressing. You can’t have a novel without a conflict! At least a good one, anyway. This was a terrific finish to the trilogy.

Overall: I really just loved this installment. I think it may have been my favorite. It’s hard to tell though, because I thoroughly enjoyed all of the books! This one left me with a sense of closure, and the ending was great. I just looooovvvveeeddd it! Have I mentioned that I loved it? LOVED IT. You will either have to take my word for it, or read for yourselves! (I hope you choose the latter, although it is flattering if you choose the former.) I really enjoyed the sort of ethical battles faced in this novel, since that is usually what war comes down to- what leaders/nations are willing to do/not to do to win. He did a really good job immersing us into the war without making everything about the battle. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies like Saving Private Ryan that center on the hardships of  battle, but warfare is more than just combat. It was nice to see that Westerfeld focused on the motivations for actions and the intended/unintended consequences. It was sort of like a behind-the-scenes.

The series as a whole was fantastic. The only steampunk literature I have really read is Chris Stocking’s London Darkness: Infernal Inventions (you may recall that he is my husband!). I really liked the atmosphere in that book, and it made me want to read more in the steampunk genre. I picked this book up because Chris had read it and loved it, and I am so glad I did. I liked it so much, I bought him Behemoth for Christmas and then surprised him with Goliath a little while after that- talk about win-win situations! I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I was nervous about reading a novel that had so many pictures in it, but Keith Thompson’s drawings are just awesome and they really help you create the perfect image of the Darwinist/Clanker world in your head. His drawings are so detailed, I often took a couple minutes just to look at them! The series is definitely a must-read for anyone that is curious about steampunk, or loves seeing teenagers do something other than text and make out. Check it out!

Rating:s 5 stars!! I highly recommend the series.

Other Works by Scott Westerfeld: Leviathan and Behemoth, The Uglies series, PeepsMidnight series, Risen Empire series, and So Yesterday.

Keith Thompson does more than just the Leviathan series, too! http://www.keiththompsonart.com

 

Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan #2)

Title: Behemoth

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Illustrator: Keith Thompson

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Date Read: December 29-30, 2012

“A stolen throne. A secret mission. An epic adventure.

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan‘s peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.”

New Characters: 

Eddie Malone- Malone is a reporter for The New York World. He was mentioned in the first book in the series, but he really takes on a more important role in this installment. He is a very inquisitive man that carries around a bullfrog beastie on his shoulder that records conversations. Alek finds himself mixed up with Mr. Malone, a relationship that seems necessary but is not very pleasant.

Zaven. Lilit, and Nana- Zaven is the son of Nana, and his daughter is Lilit. These three are an integral part of Alek’s survival in Istanbul. They are leaders in a movement that opposes the current sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and Alek and Deryn both develop a relationship with the trio. Lilit is very clever, much to Deryn’s chagrin, and also teaches Alek a few things about himself.

Conflict: On a macro level, the conflict is centered around the neutrality of the Ottoman Empire. Both Darwinist and Clanker powers are trying their best to win the Ottomans over to their side. It’s really interesting to look at the Ottoman Empire in relation to the Clankers and Darwinists because they are a mix of both. Although it seems that there is a little more German influence in Istanbul, you really get the sense that there is very rich culture in the city.

On a micro level, the conflict involves Alek’s new secret. Alek struggles with the urge to share this secret with Deryn, but he is very worried about any possible ramifications- this is a pretty intense secret! Deryn still has problems sharing her secret with Alek, and the tension really builds in this book because both characters know the other is hiding something from them. Lilit adds a little spice to the Alek/Deryn pot by focusing her attentions on Deryn- or should I say Dylan.

Things I Liked: I really liked that there seemed to be a few more illustrations sprinkled throughout the book. When the characters are in Istanbul, there are a lot of descriptions of things that I don’t think would be fully understood without Thompson’s awesome illustrations. I’m not saying that Westerfeld didn’t do a good job with his descriptions, it’s just that there was so much going on and so much to take in, so the illustrations help you pick out what is important and really helps you keep a cohesive vision of the story in your head (or at least mine). I also liked that Deryn listens to her emotions a little more in this novel. With so many new things happening in Leviathan, Deryn didn’t have a lot of time to figure out how she feels about things. However, her foray into Istanbul helps her catch up emotional- even if she doesn’t like it.

Things I Didn’t Like: There were no illustrations of behemoth! I know that the beastie itself doesn’t really come into direct contact with the main characters per se, but the book is called Behemoth, and I really wanted to see what all the  hype was about! I guess that’s what you get for relying so heavily on pictures (me, not the author).

And as many times as Deryn calls Alek “daft” in this book, it is totally true. I didn’t really like that Alek seemed to be especially oblivious to the feelings and thoughts of the people around him. In the first book, he seemed really in tune with his emotions and also picked up on the emotions of others. But in Behemoth, Alek spends most of his time in his own head. But with a secret like that, I guess I would, too.

Overall View: Overall, I though that this one was very exciting. The brief split of Alek and Deryn’s story lines really spiced things up. The exotic location really helped, too! I loved the rich culture that was Istanbul and how the city, as well as the Ottoman Empire, became part of the politics of the War. This one tugged at your heart strings a little, and I think it adds to the story as a whole. This book really makes you look forward to Goliath!

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Other Works by Scott Westerfeld: The Uglies series, PeepsMidnight series, Risen Empire series, and So Yesterday.

And remember- it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople!

You can look at more of Keith Thompson’s art at http://www.keiththompsonart.com

So, How’d It Go?

As you guys can tell, I posted my first book review yesterday. I am eager to hear what you guys thought of it! Did you like the format? My husband helped me figure out which bases need to be covered when I do a review, and I think we did a pretty good job. Was there anything else that you guys thought I should add, or did anything seem extraneous to you? If you guys think I should change something, let me know and I will definitely take it under advisement! These reviews are as much for you as they are for me, and I want to fill you guys in on the aspects you think are important. I will also be posting a review for Behemoth (the next book in the Leviathan series) either today or tomorrow. 

In other news, I got some books in the mail today! I’m currently around halfway through Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan, but I’m still deliberating which book to read next. My choices are:

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Need by Carrie Jones

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Glass Houses (The Morganville Vampires #1) by Rachel Caine

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

What are you guys reading? Are there any new authors that have caught your eye?

Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Leviathan

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Illustrator: Keith Thompson

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Date Read: December 28-29, 2012

“Choose Your Weapon: Beastie or Clanker

Alek is a prince without a throne. On the run from his own people, he has only a fighting machine and a small band of men.
Deryn is a girl disguised as a guy in the British Air Service. She must fight for her cause- and protect her secret- at all costs.
Alek and Deryn are thrown together aboard the mighty airship Leviathan. Though fighting side by side, their worlds are far apart. British fabricated beasts versus German steam-powered war machines. They are enemies with everything to lose, yet somehow destined to be together.”

Some helpful terminology:

Boffin: A Boffin is a Darwinist scientist/fabricator

Beastie: Beasties are the fabricated beasts created by the Darwinists. They take the life threads from many different species. The Leviathan is a beastie.

Clanker: A Clanker is someone who does not believe in or follow the legacy put forth by Charles Darwin. They prefer steam-powered machines and mechaniks over beasties.

Characters:  Let me just start by saying that I was very fond of all of the main characters in this book. Alek is a teenage aristocrat with no knowledge of how to get along outside of his palace. He very determined, and his outlook on the world really evolves as the book progresses. Alek is a refreshing character because he is not so pessimistic in his outlook of the world, even though the novel takes place during wartime. However, Alek’s youthful optimism is often tempered by the realism of his fencing instructor Count Volger. Count Volger and Master Klopp are two of the people that accompany Alek on his journey away from Austria. While Volger is a realist with a particular knack for the political game, Master Klopp is a more kind-hearted master of mechanics whose knowledge proves very useful down the road.

Deryn is one of my favorite characters in the book. She is a really strong individual, and I love that she takes her future into her own hands by joining the Air Service despite her… problem. She is smart and isn’t afraid to show it, and she really shines as a midshipman. She is quite connected to the Darwinist beasties, and the clash between Clankers and Darwinists is interesting to watch through her’s and Alek’s eyes.

Around halfway through the book, we encounter a “lady boffin” whose presence really changes the direction of the book and gives the story line a new level of complexity. Dr. Barlow is an important boffin with an important mission that changes Deryn and Alek’s relationship.

Conflict: On a macro level, the main conflict in this book is World War I. Westerfeld’s WWI is much the same as the one we remember, but the Darwinists and Clankers add some political tension and also change the type of warfare. Leviathan focuses on the tension between the Darwinists and Clankers and about how views change aboard the Leviathan when the two powers are forced to work together. On a micro level, the conflict lies with Deryn’s secret. Her secret causes some problems for her through the course of the book, the biggest being the strain on her friendship with Alek.

Things I liked: Mostly, I just really liked the whole book. I liked that Westerfeld kept the events leading up to WWI relatively accurate, and that he managed to create a different environment in which the same situation could occur. He paid great attention to detail, and he did a great job foreshadowing. I liked that Alek and Deryn are both strong individuals, but that their strengths compliment each other. I really appreciate that Deryn is not automatically made to be the sensitive one because she is a girl, but that Alek seems to be the more sensitive type. Deryn is a really great character because her insecurities stem from her secret, not from whether or not she has the ability to make it as a midshipman.

I also really liked the explanations of the Darwin fabrications. The way he describes the Darwinists and Clankers makes it seem that this is just an alternate course that our reality could have taken. If different choices or different discoveries had been made, this world would be entirely plausible. This really helped me get into the story. I am a big fan of fantasy books, but it’s nice when you can draw some parallels to your own world. Westerfeld also has a great imagination when it comes to different types of fabrications and walkers!

Another thing- I loved the illustrations. Keith Thompson’s work is really great and the style really seems to compliment the style of the novel. They were often very helpful in envisioning some of the fabrications and walkers. I was a little nervous at first to see that there were illustrations, but the way they compliment the book really works.

Things I didn’t like: While I did like the different sort of language that Deryn used, I felt like she used the same phrases too often. We don’t hear from many Darwinists that use the same language, and sometimes this caused Deryn’s overusage (especially of “barking” or “barking spiders!”) stick out.

I would also have liked a little more of Deryn’s family background, but I guess you can’t fit everything into a book and keep the integrity of the original story.

Overall: I really liked this book. I haven’t had a lot of experience with steampunk, but this really kept my interest. He creates a plausible world and the characters are really well developed. This was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. If I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about reading. I am also a fan of the way Alek and Deryn’s different stories start off separate and eventually merge- in other words, I really liked Westerfeld’s style.

Rating: 5 stars

Other works by Scott Westerfeld: The Uglies series, Peeps, Midnight series, Risen Empire series, and So Yesterday.

A Review is Coming… I Promise!

I know that you guys have been very patiently waiting for my review of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, and I promise it will only be a day or two. I literally finished the last book a few minutes ago, so I am going to get working on it as soon as possible!

My husband and I have been very busy lately, and that has been hampering my reading time. I had to work all last weekend (including Thursday, Friday, and Monday) and on Tuesday we went down to visit my Mother-in-Law and my husband’s grandma for a few days to finally celebrate Christmas with them. We had a good time there, and it was nice to spend some time with his side of the family– even if I didn’t get much reading done.

We also went up to his Dad’s house today and helped him paint his dining room ceiling. It wasn’t the most exciting job (my shoulders are going to hate me tomorrow), but it was nice to spend some time with him, too. It helps that he is a funny guy!

Tomorrow, I may be less than motivated to write my review because we are having Sunday dinner at my mom’s house. She is making one of my favorite dishes- chicken and rice and gray- and I am so looking forward to it! I guess we are spending quite a bit of time with our families, and you can’t say that’s a bad thing!

One other thing, I found out the other day that I have been making a very embarassing spelling mistake for a while now. I don’t mean to brag, but I have won some spelling bees in my time… too bad they haven’t helped me with names! All this time I have been referring to the author of the Leviathan Series as Scott Westerfield, when in reality his name is Scott Westerfeld!! In case you didn’t notice, I have been adding an “i.” How embarassing!

Anyhow, I promise you will have a review soon and I am SO sorry to have kept you waiting so long!