Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)

Flo and I were really excited to receive signed copies of The Iron Trial at BEA last year.  I knew nothing about this new series except that it was classified as middle grade and it was written by HOLLY BLACK and CASSANDRA CLARE!!  I was sold simply by the names of the two authors.  I've loved all of their books that I've read, so a collaboration between the two had to be good!

The Iron Trial did not disappoint.  The book is about a group of twelve year old children who compete for admission into the Magisterium.  The Magisterium is a school for magic, but most of the parents think their children will be going to a dance school, acting school, etc.  Anything except magic.  The child must have a known aptitude for magic to even receive an invitation to the trials and only the best are granted admission into this prestigious school.  

The majority of the story is about their arrival to the school and their first year of training.  Callum Hunt, Aaron Stewart, and Tamara Rajavi all live in the same pod and are being trained by Master Rufus.  They are the focus of the story, but we do get to meet several of the other students in their Iron Year...AKA first year.

The story definitely has a Harry Potter feel to it with the magic, a special school, the focus on two male and one female character (Harry, Ron, Hermione), but that is where the similarities end.  The characters must use the elements of nature as their source of magic.  They are taught early on that..."Fire wants to burn.  Water wants to flow.  Air wants to rise.  Earth wants to bind.  Chaos wants to devour."  They must learn to master and control these elements as part of their training.  

There were several surprise revelations the last third of the book that I never would have anticipated.  We discover that a few of the characters are not the typical Magisterium students.  Holly and Cassandra didn't leave the readers balancing on the edge of their seats at the end of this book.  There was a sense of closure, but I am still anxious to see what they have in store for Call, Aaron, and Tamara in their second year at the Magisterium.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Slammed (Slammed, #1)

Slammed is the first book by Colleen Hoover that I have read and I absolutely loved it.  It starts out with the tragic loss of Lake's father and her family's move from Texas to Michigan.  Why would anyone want to move to Michigan just before winter?  I live in Ohio and it has been so cold this week the kids have only had school two days.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the snow.  It is actually colder in Dublin, OH than it is at the North Pole.  No joke...I checked!  Lake felt much the same way, but her mother found a better job in Michigan and they needed the money.

Lake's younger brother quickly becomes best friends with the boy across the street, who is the younger brother of Will Cooper.  Lake and Will are a few years apart in age, but there is an immediate attraction between the two.  Will introduces her to Slam Poetry, which I had no idea existed prior to reading this book.  I loved seeing how each of the characters expressed their thoughts, feelings, and emotions through this performing art.  I was so intrigued with the idea of slam poetry that I found a place not far from my home that hosts a slam every Wednesday.  I can't wait to attend, but I have no intention of ever performing.    

Several of the characters in this book have been dealt a difficult hand in life, but they all seem to grow and make the most of their situations.  I'm sure everyone who reads this book will fall in love with Will Cooper, but it has nothing to do with his good looks and charm.  He is an exceptional character and more than earned his place on my fictional boyfriend list.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover this is not a stand alone book.  There are two additional books in this series, which have already been released!!  I've already requested Point of Retreat and look forward to reading it soon!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All Things

This book was selected by my book club, so I decided to give it a try.  I haven't read any of Elizabeth's other books, but I have read several glowing reviews of Eat, Pray, Love.  The Signature of All Things is set in the late 1700's to the late 1800's and tells the story of Henry Whittaker's rise to fortune.  He eventually settles down in Philadelphia with his wife where they are blessed with a daughter named Alma.  The majority of the book is told from Alma's point of view.

Alma had a rather lonely childhood growing up at White Acre, which reminds me of the Vanderbilt family's Biltmore Estate.  White Acre is a large mansion set on hundreds of acres of land.  Alma received an extensive education from her mother as well as a tutor and began to study mosses, which becomes her primary form of entertainment as well as her occupation.  The Whittaker family eventually adopts a young girl Alma's age named Prudence, who's mother worked for the family and died unexpectedly.  The two girls are never close, but they carry on as any other siblings would. They befriend a neighbor girl named Retta, who actually helps to bring the sisters closer together.

As a whole, I'm not quite sure what the point of this book really was.  Alma spends much of her time researching and writing books about mosses.  I thought there would be some interesting developments as Prudence and Retta eventually marry and start families, but it simply increased Alma's isolation, which led to more research and little plot development.  When a visitor named Ambrose Pike arrived at White Acre, I thought we might FINALLY be getting to the heart of the story.  While he does become a large focus of the last half of the book, his arrival really didn't hold my attention any further than reading about mosses for page after page.

While the book is very eloquent and well written with dialogue that depicts the time period, I can't really recommend this book.  It seemed like I would never get to the end, so I eventually switched to the audio version so I could listen while I was training for my next half marathon.  (At least I could kill two birds with one stone.)  I thought the narrator did a remarkable job with the various characters' voices.  Her interpretation of the Reverend Welles was by far my favorite.  He was a missionary Alma met in Tahiti while visiting the island.  The time period when Alma was in Tahiti was my favorite part of the book, but even this seemed to drag on longer than was necessary.

I will probably still give Eat, Pray, Love a try, but I will not be rushing into it after completing The Signature of All Things.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered (Splintered, #1)

I've had this series on my TBR list for quite some time, but I really wasn't sure what it was about until I started reading.  Alyssa is a decedent of Alice from Alice in Wonderland.  Apparently the events from this children's classic actually took place and resulted in a curse on the women in Alyssa's family.  She and her mother can hear the flowers and insects talking.  Her mother couldn't cope and is now in a mental institution.  Alyssa is determined to find the rabbit hole and end the curse that has plagued her family for several generations.

The majority of the story is spent in Wonderland.  I thought Howard did a remarkable job of weaving the elements from the original Alice in Wonderland story into this dark and twisted version.  The descriptions of the unique characters and settings were detailed enough to paint a vivid picture for the reader without detracting from the progression of the story.  

My favorite character was Morpheus.  He is the caterpillar from the original story who can transform into a moth as well as a man.  Alyssa realizes he was not only her childhood friend, but he trained her for years on how to end the curse.  He is a very arrogant character with questionable motives, but in the end I felt like his heart was in the right place.  

Howard adds an additional twist by incorporating Alyssa's longtime friend and love interest, Jeb, into the story.  There is quite a bit of tension between Morpheus and Jeb.  As the story progresses Alyssa becomes increasingly less certain of her true feelings for these two characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and gave it four stars.  I haven't seen the Johnny Depp version of Alice in Wonderland that came out in 2010, but I am extremely interested in seeing it after reading this book.