Saturday, November 10, 2012

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Goodreads Description: "She could save the world—or destroy it. Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux. But she can’t do either alone. With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him? Who can Evie trust? As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…."

My Review: Poison Princess was pretty good! Not the BEST paranormal romance I've ever read, but the depth Kresley Cole added to her non-romance plot really made this book a winner. The book does have a dystopian, post-apocalyptic essence to it, because the apocalypse has happened and Evie is basically trying to survive while trying to figure out what her powers mean and who she truly is---but I'm going to be honest, the apocalyptic world wasn't exactly marvelously built. It didn't really matter though, because the world isn't the focus. This isn't Divergent. The focus is on the relationships and characters and on the Tarot plot.
      To explain: basically, Evie---and a bunch of other kids---are reincarnations of the major trump cards in a Tarot deck, the most important and powerful cards. She can hear the "catchphrases" of each Card (or Arcana, as they're called) in her head---and the voice won't be silenced until she meets the Card in real life. Her grandmother knows information about all this madness, but Evie hasn't seen her grandmother in 8 years and doesn't even know if she survived the apocalypse---but she's going to journey up to North Carolina with Jackson to try anyway, and figure out her fate. 
      They basically have to avoid militia men (who are pretty much evil), slavers, and Bagmen, who are basically zombies. Along the way, they acquire three more "Cards". I really like Finn (he's funny), can't quite figure out Matthew, and sort of hate Selena for the moment.
      Anyway...first of all, Evie and Jackson's relationship was crazy. I call this a paranormal romance because Evie's sort of...well, paranormal. She and Jackson had major tension and banter and it was really cute but sometimes sort of dark. They were nice to each other sometimes, but they were also really mean to each other---and their relationship was still attractive (to them, anyway). Jackson's definitely one of the meanest "bad boys" I've ever read in a YA novel. To be honest, it sometimes put me off, but I tried to gloss over that and move on...
     Because for me, the COOLEST part of this book was the actual Tarot plot! It fit in so well with the Louisiana (and Southern) landscape that Kresley Cole painted, and it was fascinating! No cliche vampires, werewolves, fallen angels, or demon princes here! Evie's powers were fascinating and eerie and almost gothic in a disturbing sort of way. She was the reincarnation of the Empress card, destined to fight out a battle that with other Cards that's already happened repeated times in history. Let's just say the whole thing was really cool and Gothic-y and just...unique. Never read anything like it. 
    The one seriously bad thing about this book? WAY confusing. It took me almost the whole book to finally figure out what was going on, and that was a bummer because it sort of ruined the book for me, in a way. Also, at times, Jackson got a little TOO creepy/misogynistic and that irritated me.
    And the really fast-paced and sort of violent and action-y. The beginning 10 chapters were pretty slow and boring and confusing but wow, the ending made up for that! So yeah, definitely looking forward to the sequel!

Cover: However, I'm not looking forward to the sequel's cover. Sorry, but this is just one of those cliche covers with a girl in a flowing dress and some attractive, brooding dude that doesn't even MAKE SENSE with the plot of the book and is just used to draw preteen girls in. Sorry, but I have no respect for covers like that. Get some originality, please. 

Overall Grade: B+

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Goodreads Description: "The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart."

My Review: Bitterblue. Was. Amazing. At first, I wasn't liking it so much, because it wasn't as action-filled as Graceling or as poetic as Fire, but by the end of the book I loved it. The plot was very different from the first two books---but it also connected in little ways. Katsa, Po, and a lot of the cast from Graceling made lots of appearances in the book, and even Fire showed up at one point, which excited me. 
        The plot of the book was really what drove it. The characters were good characters too, but the plot was amazing. Basically, Bitterblue is now 18 (or 19, I forgot) and she's trying to be a good queen to Monsea after Leck's reign---but it's very difficult, because Monsea, and her castle and advisors, seem to be full of odd mysteries and strange shadowy agendas. The whole book was like a twisted, eerie murder mystery---Bitterblue trying to figure out EXACTLY what went on during Leck's reign and why things were so hidden now and why such strange, weird things were happening in the city and her castle. It was all really odd and eerie and quirky. You could never figure out what was going to happen next---and when you DID find out, in the end, what Leck's reign was all about and what truly happened during the 35 years he ruled...well, my jaw dropped. And I had nightmares. This is the second book in my life to ever give me nightmares, so trust me: it's disturbing. My stomach felt queasy at some times, hearing about Leck's strange thoughts and crimes. (For example: "Little girls are even more perfect when they bleed." I wanted to puke when I read THAT.)
        Aside from the mystery---which was amazing, because it finally tied together all these strange loose ends left over from Graceling and Fire (such as the question we all had at the end of Fire: Would the Dellians ever meet with the seven Gracelingian kingdoms?)---the characters were great. Bitterblue was clever and quick and curious, but also emotional and somewhat haughty and sometimes selfish...which was realistic. She was raised a queen. Saf was amazing. He was harsh and not at all Prince Charming and funny and strange. His relationship with Bitterblue was funny and sweet but kind of depressing and raw. I'm glad Cashore ended their relationship the way she did; it was realistic (and a slap in the face for ever silly book that ALWAYS ends with a fairy tale romance). Sad, but realistic. 
       Suffice to say, Bitterblue stunned me. The world Cashore has built in her Graceling Realm books is so complex and realistic and beautiful. She ties together little things to form a greater, more complex story and that's cool. It reminds me of how J.K. Rowling wove Harry Potter together. I'm not sure if Cashore will write any more books in the series. If she doesn't, that's okay, because these 3 are amazing on their own. But if she writes more, I'll be really happy!

Cover: GORGEOUS. I loved it the minute I saw it. All the colors of blue and purple are amazing, and I love the image of the keys. It's the prettiest Graceling Realm cover! 

Overall Grade: A+