Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman

Series: Eon, #1, #2.

Eon: Dargoneye Reborn: December 26th 2008 by Viking Books for Young Readers 
Eona:The Last Dragoneye:April 19th 2011 by Viking

GoodReads description for book 1 Eon: Dragoneye Reborn: 

Also Known As: Two Pearls of Wisdom, Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye, and Eon (All the same book just published with different publishers)

Swordplay, dragon magic--and a hero with a desperate secret.

Twelve-year-old Eon has been in training for years. His intensive study of Dragon Magic, based on East Asian astrology, involves two kinds of skills: sword-work and magical aptitude. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye--an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.

But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a boy for the chance to become a Dragoneye. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.

When Eon's secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic...and her life.

My spoiler free thoughts:

Overall I think both Eon and Eona are enjoyable reads but I found myself more interested in the second book. But I did have a few problems with both books.

Book one is much slower paced than the second book because there was a lot of world building. This can be positive thing or a negative thing depending on what you prefer. personally I like faster paced books. Eona on the other hand had a much faster pace which I appreciated. There was a lot more action as the characters were moving around and Eona was interacting with a lot more characters.

Both books are full of political intrigue which I found interesting. I love reading about courts and all the rivalries going on within them.

I found the magic system confusing at times. It wasn’t really until the end of book one and second book that I felt I really understood what the dragons where capable of. I have never read a book about dragons that weren’t the stereotypical fire breathing type so it was interesting to learn about theses ones that are so powerful. Essentially they control the weather.

World building is more prevalent in book 1. The beginning of the book really focuses on building up this world that was inspired by eastern cultures but Goodman puts a spin on them and creates her own rich world. The writing is great the descriptions are so vivid and detailed which I liked.

I loved that there was no romance in the first book it’s not often I stumble across a YA book that doesn’t have a love story in it. And I’m so glad there wasn’t because it wouldn’t have fit with the story and would have felt forced. There is a romance in the second book Eona. I understand why it was put in- it created a lot of tension and it really pushed the plot forward; but I was frustrated with the characters because of how they were acting.

I really appreciated the themes introduced in the book. I do think that these novels are for mature young adult fans because of the situations and themes explored with transgender characters, eunuchs, forced intimacy, and physical assault. There are also themes of gender, sexuality, identity, and then deception and trust which are explored more in the second book.

All the characters were so interesting and fleshed out. They all have their own stories to tell and added to the story. I really like how diverse the cast of characters was- there is a transgender character and a few eunuchs.

I liked Eona, but at times I was frustrated with her because she made some decisions I didn’t agree with. I did really like seeing her struggle with this identity crisis, I found it so interesting that she feels like she has to supress her femininity. She’s a bit hypocrite at times. She was withholding information and being dishonest and then when she found out other characters where doing the same she got upset. I found this irritating at times. I think because I was frustrated with her a lot of the time particularly in book two that hindered my enjoyment of the story. I really need to love the main character to love the book.

I really enjoyed reading the side characters particularly Lady Dela (she is probably my favourite character in the series), Rilla and Chart.

my ratings:

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn:  3 stars
Eona: The Last Dragoneye: 3.5 stars

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Gabriel and the Swallows by Esther Dalseno

Series: The Volatile Duology, #1

Publication: 10th March 2016 by OfTomes Publishing

Goodreads description:
A lonely farm boy.
A girl with swallow’s wings.
An ancient city buried in a volcano.
A mystery old as blood and bone.

There is more to Gabriel than the life he’s ashamed of – the son of peasant winemakers, bullied relentlessly on account of his disabled mother. For Gabriel has a secret: the elaborate dream world he descends into at night – a grandiose, vivid existence – is becoming more real than his waking life.

Everything changes for Gabriel when he rescues a wounded creature – a miraculous girl with swallow’s wings – from the voracious pursuit of Alfio Gallo, a dangerous old enemy. Aided by the beautiful and mysterious Orlando Khan, Gabriel is conflicted by unanswered questions: who is the Dark One that dwells in the medieval tunnels beneath their city? Is he just a figment of Gabriel’s powerful imagination? And is the foundling really who she says she is?

Wrestling with manhood whilst beckoned by ancient rites and foreign lands, Gabriel is about to make a deadly decision that changes the course of life as he knows it…as long as he can decide which reality he’s in.

My spoiler free thoughts:
Gabriel and the Swallows is a wonderfully unique story that completely blew me away.

Firstly can we just take a second to appreciate the absolutely stunning cover of this book. It has this magical and mysterious tone to it that matches the story so well.

Gabriel and the Swallows is a short but stunning story. Esther Dalseno's writing is beautiful. I want to read all her books now. She has an incredible talent of weaving words together so that they flow nicely while creating vivid images. Her picturesque style is so unique. The writing keeps the reader reading. I found that the short chapters pushed me to keep reading until the book was all gone.

I will admit it was a bit jarring in the beginning and it took me a few chapters to get into the story because I haven't read anything like it before. I have no idea what genre Gabriel and the Swallows fits into. It's an incredibly unique story. Is it magical realism?fantasy? historical fiction? Paranormal? Romance? YA? NA? I don't know and I love that. It's a story that has a bit of everything.

Gabriel is introduced as a lonely boy who's something of an outcast in this small town. This makes him a very easy character to relate to because everyone has felt lonely at one stage in their life. I loved how the story took place over many years. It was a joy to watch Gabriel grow up. His character development was perfectly paced and well done.

As Gabriel and Volatile grew older i began to like Volatile more. We spend a good bit of time with her and yet there is still so much we don't know. She's a mystery.

I loved the setting of the small town of Orvieto. The descriptions made me feel like I was there. I had clear pictures of what the vineyards looked like.

I didn't know that this was the first book in a duology. Dalseno wrapped everything up so nicely it could easily be read as a stand-alone. I'm still very interested to see what happens in the next book though. I can't wait to see what's in store for Gabriel next.

My rating: 4 stars

*I'd like to thank Oftomes Publishing for sending me an ARC of Gabriel and the Swallows in exchange for an honest review*

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Publication: February 21st 2012 by Simon & Schuster

GoodReads description:
This Printz Honor Book is a “tender, honest exploration of identity” (Publishers Weekly) that distills lyrical truths about family and friendship.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

My thoughts:
Now I understand why this book has received so many awards, and after reading it I can say it deserves each and every one of them. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is such a simple yet beautiful story that's just stunning. It's about family, understanding those around you, understanding yourself, growing up,  friendship, identity and lots more. It's a powerful read I'd recommend for everyone to give it a go.

I loved that it surprised me. The story was nothing like I was expecting. I thought it was going to be this cutesy adorable YA romance but it wasn't. There was nothing really cutesy about it. It had it happy moment and sad moments but essentially the story was about Ari finding himself. Growing up. Learning to be okay. It's a story of self discovery and I loved that!

I think Aristotle and Dante is one of the most thought provoking books I've ever read. The writing can seem so ordinary and then suddenly there's these sentences that you have to stop and read multiple times because it is just so beautiful. It makes you think. I think those are the best kind of books; the ones that made you wonder about things. Benjamin Alire Sáenz scatters these beautiful messages in throughout the story an it's wonderful.

Aristotle and Dante is definitely a character driven story but even though there wasn't much of a plot I still managed to read it in one sitting. Ari, the main character,is such an interesting boy, he has a lot of internal struggle going on and that made me fly through the book, I wanted to see how he was going to grow throughout the story. He's sad and angry and he doesn't know why. He doesn't have friends, he prefers to be alone. He's just as teenager trying to live his life and I really appreciated his character because he felt real. I related to him in some ways, which made reading from his point of view easy. His development was perfectly paced and well done.

The friendship between Ari and Dante was developed well but the relationships I enjoyed most reading about was the relationship between the boys and their parents. What I really appreciated was how big a part both sets of parents played in the story. I loved that both Ari and Dante's parents where so present in this novel. Parents are non-existent in  YA and I think they should be in the stories we read because our parents/guardians play an important role in our lives.

I really enjoyed this book. I will probably revisit it when I'm older to see what I think of it a few years down the line.

My rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Series:The Witchlands, #1

Publication: January 5th 2016 by Tor Teen

GoodReads description:
On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

My spoiler free thoughts:
I really really enjoyed Truthwitch. It was a fantastic start to what I can already tell is going to be an epic series!

Lets start with talking about the character because they were all so complex and interesting and badass and just overall amazing!

Safi, is a truthwitch so she can tell when someone is telling the truth or when they're lying. She's kind of like a human lie detector. I thought her magic was so interesting; I've never read anything like it. She definitely more reckless/impulsive than her threadsister (AKA best friend), Iseult. But I loved her all the same, she is such a fierce vibrant character.

Iseult has an even more interesting power. As a threadwitch her magic allows her to see thread that bind people together. So she can see threads of love, friendship, grief etc. kind of like a mood detector. She's a lot more complex than Safi, and that's what makes her so interesting. She tries to hide her emotions and she thinks before she acts.

Safi is probably my favourite character but Merik might end up stealing that title from her. He's such a complex character and I loved watching his personality unfold as the story went on. His character development was well paced. And lets face it I'm a sucker for a handsome prince in any story.

I loved how there was a major focus on friendship. Romances can be fun and all but it's friendship that I always enjoy reading most. Iseult and Safi's friendship obviously takes centre stage but I really liked seeing Merik and his threadbrother, Kullen's relationship too. Safi and Iseult are a kickass pair who are seriously #FriendshipGoals. Their love for each other was so touching to read. These two girls would do anything for each other, they protect and look out for each other in every way possible. It's the kind of friendship everyone wants/hopes to have in their life. I think theirs will grow to be one of my favourite fictional relationships with more books. We need more friendships as strong as Safi and Iseult's in YA.

There was a hint of romance and I like that it didn't overwhelm the readers, the main focus is always friendship. That being said I liked the little bit of romance we did get. No insta-love here which is great! And no love triangle! I felt like Dennard developed the relationship at the perfect pace, it felt genuine and real (well as real as it can be in a fantasy world).  I'm not telling you who the romance is between- you'll have to read the book to find out!

The plot was strong. It held my attention and had a mix of slow and fast paced moments. I didn't mind the slower parts because I felt like that was the time we really got to know the characters. And obviously I loved the fast paced action sequences scattered throughout the story. These two girls definitely know how to fight and win.

My only problem with the book was world and magic system were confusing for the first 50-100 pages so be patient if your struggling because it does click into place eventually. There is just so many different types of witches it can be confusing. I think it would be handy if there was a list at the back of the book of all the types of witches and their power.

The book ended with a nice setup for book 2. I'm excited to see where this series goes. And I know for a fact I'll be picking up the next book as soon a it's released. I might even reread this one before,I liked it so much!

I can't wait to pick up more by Susan Dennard- I think I'll give her Something Strange and Deadly series a go later this year!

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars