Ruby Red by Kirsten Gier Review: 4 Stars

8835379Title: Ruby Red (Precious Stone/Ruby Red Series)

Author: Kerstin Gier

Publication date: January 6, 2009 (Original), May 10, 2011 (US/English Translation)

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy/Science Fiction

Synopsis: Gwyneth’s cousin is destined to uphold the family legacy of traveling through time and fulfill a prophesy generations in the making, or at least that’s what everyone thought before Gwyneth’s unexpected trip through time.

Every generation one person from Gwyneth’s family is born with the ability to travel through time. Gwyneth finds herself completely unprepared for visiting other eras, and in the middle of family secrets and lies in both the present and the past.

Review: I started this book trying to get out of a reading slump after struggling to finish a high-fantasy book that I would have probably liked a lot more if I had read it while I was in the mood for it. I went into this book not knowing much of what it was about except that it had received generally high ratings and was about time travel.

The book turned out to be fast pace and engaging which was exactly what I was looking for when I started reading. The book is more fantasy than science fiction, but I haven’t read many young adult books that deal with time travel whether they are more science fiction or fantasy. I suspect this is because the main characters in young adult books are supposed to remain teens throughout the narrative, and traveling through time makes it extremely difficult to keep track of character ages. Despite this, I would love to read more young adult books involving time travel. If anyone has any to recommend I would appreciate them leaving a comment below.

This book made me want to write as well as read which is good since I read it in the middle of National Novel Writing Month, but at the same time not good at all because it made me want to write about time travel. The story I was writing has nothing to do with time travel.

My main complaint about this book is the characters. I didn’t hate them by any means, but I wish they had been more complex. The lead character, Gwen, seemed to act thirteen or fourteen instead of like the sixteen-year-old she was supposed to be.

I didn’t care for the romance either, but then I rarely do. Gideon sometimes annoyed me, but at least there wasn’t a love triangle.

Ruby Red is set in London and was originally written in German which made me think about how most of the books I read are set in the US and written by authors from the US. Those books I do read not written by authors from the US are usually those from English speaking countries (i.e. Austrailia, The United Kingdom, and Canada). I suppose this makes sense because so much is lost in translation, and there are so many English speaking countries, but it makes me think about how much language barriers affect what we read, and our perception of it.

A small detail that bothered me while reading was that Gwen only had one school uniform that fit her. The school I’m currently attending does not require uniforms, but I have gone to a few in the past that did. Throughout that time period I had around five different sets of uniforms that fit at any given time, but perhaps it has something to do with where I live.

It rarely drops below 50ºF (10ºC) around here, and almost never below freezing during the day (night is a different story). I went around two years without owning a single pair of jeans, and many people don’t own a jacket, but instead walk around outside wrapped in a blanket on cooler days. I know many people who have never seen snow. Do people in cooler climates require fewer pairs of clothes, or is this a plot hole?

What Readers Should Know: This book is fairly clean. To the point that I don’t think I remember any instances of cursing, or romance beyond a kiss. There was some sword/gun fighting, but it wasn’t graphic.

Rating: This book was enjoyable, and what I was looking for when I chose to read it. For that I give it a four out of five.

4 blue jays

Series Review: The Abhorsen/Old Kingdom Trilogy –Lirael and Abhorsen

Lirael (Abhorsen, #2)Title: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen
*Note: This is a review of the original trilogy not including the recently released prequel Clariel. It focuses on books two and three since they are two parts of a longer story-line. My review of book one is found here, but this review does not contain major spoilers.*

Author: Garth Nix

Genre: High Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis: All Lirael has ever wanted was to have the Sight so that she could be a full member of the Clayr. So long as she lives with the Clayr, a group of individuals tasked with seeing into the future, Lirael will be viewed forever as a child no matter how old she gets.

Picking up fourteen to twenty years after Sabriel left off this novel follows the separate journeys of Lirael and Sam, Sabriel’s son until their lives converge on their quest to protect the Old Kingdom from the Greater Dead.

Review: I liked Sabrel, but had a difficult time getting through it. When I decided to read the sequel I expected to have the same problem, but was  47666pleasantly surprised when I finished book two in only a day and book three in the two days after that.

My favorite aspect of this series is the world building. There are so many details in the way the necromancer’s bells work, to the magic system, and the way the fictional society is structured that make it feel more believable and realistic.

I found our new characters more compelling than the ones in the first book. I had a hard time connecting with Sabriel and Touchstone, but connected with Lirael almost immediately. I feel her sense of being estranged from everyone around her is something to which most people can relate. Sam can be annoying sometimes, but his passages were enjoyable as well, and I didn’t feel tempted to skip them during the time periods when Lirael and Sam are apart. I liked that it was Sam who needed to be rescued all the time instead of Lireal who would stereotypically be the damsel in distress in a fantasy novel where the lead male character holds aristocratic status.

This is the first book I’ve read in a while where there was both a lead male and female character and the two never fall in love. I know several people who have been trying to find a book where this happens, or rather doesn’t happen, and will need to tell them about it.

The linear progression of book two was unusual. Part one of the novel is told entirely from Lireal’s point of view on her fourteenth birthday and shortly thereafter. The rest of the novel is told after her nineteenth birthday. A time gap this large in the middle of a novel is unusual for young adult fiction, and it makes me wonder why it is classified as young adult. The only time I ever come across main characters in young adult books older than eighteen seems to be high fantasy. I’m wondering if the only reason this book is classified as it is has to do with the first book being YA and Sam being between the ages of  sixteen and seventeen throughout the entire portion of the novel he narrates.

Rating: I really enjoyed the second and third books of the Abhorsen series, and recommend them to anyone who read the first one and liked it even a little. For amazing world building and for being so engaging I give both books five stars.  As much as I enjoyed this continuation of the series, I’m not sure if I will continue with the recently released prequel as I have seen mixed reviews. If anyone has read the prequel I would appreciate them leaving their perspective on it in the comments.

five blue jays

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare Review: 4 Stars

20578940Title: The Iron Trial

Authors: Holly Black, Cassandra Clare

Publication date: September 9, 2014

Genre: Middle Grade Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: Most children will do anything to get into magic school. Not twelve-year-old Call, he wants to fail. Call grew up being told mages and magic were evil and the cause of his mother’s death. The last thing Call wants to hear is that he has an affinity for magic. Call does everything in his power to fail the Iron Trial, the test to get into magic trial, and he does. Call has the lowest score in the Trial’s history.

When it is determined Call failed on purpose he is forced to go to magic school anyway. There Call will discover the truth about his past. The real reason his mother was found dead next to a message that read “kill the child” all those years before.

Review: I have been reading many classics lately and am planning to start more soon, but I really needed to read something light and fun before reading another. This book was what I was looking for.

Most middle grade novels I read I find predictable, but not so with this book. I had always thought a somewhat predictable plot was necessary for middle grade novels so I am interested to learn more about how this book was received by its intended audience.

Call is a bit of an antihero. This is something I haven’t seen before in the middle grade novels I’ve read. Call still has many redeeming qualities the reader can sympathize with including his loyalty to his friends, and love of animals, especially one animal in particular. I don’t have entirely positive comments about Call. Sometimes his decisions seemed illogical as though he was acting purely to move the plot further, but for the most part this was something I was able to overlook.

I feel that in most middle grade novels Call’s friend Aaron would be the main character. His personalty and back story as an orphan is more like what I have come to expect from a middle grade protagonist.

I have heard a lot of comparisons between this book and Harry Potter, and throughout the book I was reminded of that series, but I feel J. K. Rowling’s world building was more complex and thought out than the world building in this book. While I do feel that this book was inspired by Harry Potter it was different enough that I don’t feel there are any plagiarism issues.

What readers should know: Most of the violence is confined to the prologue, and even there the story starts after the battle was fought and all the reader sees is what remains afterwards. One secondary character does die, but this death isn’t extremely detailed or emotionally impactful.

Rating: I give this book 4 out of 5 for an interesting plot twist and an entertaining story. I recommend this book for anyone looking for a light, quick read who doesn’t mind the resemblance to Harry Potter.

4 blue jays

The Maze Runner by James Dashner: Three Stars

6186357Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Synopsis: Once a month without fail a new boy arrives in the maze. They remember nothing of their previous lives.

These boys have been trying to solve the maze for two years. No one has succeeded. Boys who don’t return to the glade before dark never survive. Strange monsters are prepared to attack at any moment, but life goes on. The boys have settled into their lives in the maze not realizing that everything is about to change.

When Thomas arrived in the maze nothing seems out of the ordinary. Thomas’s arrival was normal, expected, but the arrival the next morning is not. She’s a girl, and she’s triggered The Ending– whatever that means. In the coming days one thing becomes clear, if the boys of the maze don’t find a way out of the maze all of them will die.

Review: I am conflicted. I like the premise for this book, but I struggled to finish it.

The main world-building problem I had with getting into this book was connecting with Thomas as a character. It is written in third person, which is not a bad thing, there are plenty of books written in third person I love, but sometimes it makes it more difficult to connect to the characters.

I have also been reading way too many dystopian novels lately. It is incredibly hard to impress me with them. Had I read this a few years ago I would have loved this book, but I didn’t read it a few years ago. I read it in 2014, and because of that I can’t give this higher than a three.

The  in this book could have been expanded upon. We got to see the maze, and the slang was a nice touch though overdone at times, but I never got a real sense of the maze. To me it was always just a maze with monsters in it. It wasn’t until I saw the movie that I stated to know what everything looked like, and that expanded upon the description in the book.

I understand that this book is supposed to have elements of mystery, but I wish the reader had learned a little more at the end. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I will say that the reader gets some answers, but it’s clear something else is really going on.

What readers should know: This book is fairly clean. There are some character deaths, mild violence, and fictional curse words, but other than that there aren’t many disclaimers.

Conclusion: Not a bad book, but it’s not for me. Others who aren’t tired with the market’s over-saturation of dystopian novels might like it more. Three out of five.

3 blue jays