Monday, December 27, 2010

Elixir by Hilary Duff

Clea Raymond lives an extraordinary life. The daughter of renowned surgeon and a prominent Washington DC figure, she has been in the spotlight her entire life. Followed by the paparazzi, she resents the attention that is lavished on her for her looks alone because she has so much more to offer.

Clea Raymond has a unique gift. A proficient photographer, in all her pictures, there is little something extra, and it's not just a result of her talented eye. There is always an extra photo that she didn't take. And, as she discovered at a young age, those photos always lead to a place where some tragedy is about to occur that Clea can prevent.

Two years ago, her father disappeared while on a humanitarian mission and is presumed dead, but that doesn't stop Clea and her mother from continuing to do good throughout the world. On one such trip to Columbia, she meets Race, the guide for the trip. She feels a connection to him but cannot explain why. Was it something in their past or possibly in their past lives? Whatever has brought them together is threatening to tear them apart forever. As the mystery of her father's disappearance unravels, Clea discover that she has powers that are bigger than anything she could have anticipated .

"I see you", he answered as if it were obvious. "It's not lke I see a place, or a time, or a name: just you. Youre essence. Your soul..." - Sage

I have to first start out by pointing out that the synopsis of this novel was a bit off in my opinion. I don’t know whether it was due to bad editing or writing for that matter, but the synopsis (which serves as a hook for readers) really felt jumbled up with too much information. I didn’t really figure out what the book was about until I was actually further along in my reading. With that said, one of the things that really attracted me to this book was not the plot synopsis, but rather the beautiful cover. I know it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover, but in my experience, some good covers serve as a prelude to pretty amazing books. This time, unfortunately, I wasn’t so sure that was the case.

It wasn’t so much that Elixir was a bad novel, but rather that it wasn’t as amazing or captivating as other books I’ve read as of late. Sadly enough, it fell into this horrid in between were I really wanted to get into what was happening with the storyline and the characters, but there was always something holding me back. It was as though anytime anything something scary, or exciting happened, I couldn’t find it in myself to get excited or scared.

Elixir by Hilary Duff was a fairly easy read and all in all, it did not take me more than a day or so to finish. I know there are a lot of skeptics out there (my best friend included) who are reluctant to read this book simply because of whom the author is. Yet, I’ve always had a soft spot for Hilary Duff (seeing as though I was a Lizzie McGuire fan) and I quickly decided she could do no worse than some other authors in the young adult circuit. I was surprised, to say the least, at how organized and fairly well-written Elixir was. I know she collaborated with Elise Allen in writing this book, and maybe that’s why the writing was so good, but even so, I was pleasantly shocked with that development.

The idea behind the story was also pretty amazing, but it wasn’t executed to its maximum capacity. To me the authors focused so much on the build up that they fell flat on the resolution. The thought of a mysterious guy popping up in only some photos the protagonist takes was really interesting, but rather than pursuing just that, the element of reincarnation, tragic love, searching for the lost father and the elixir of life were woven into that and there was just a lot going on. For one thing, the explanation behind the picture thing felt a little bit cliché and even the characters seemed to have a hard time believing it. Also, the main character, Clea Raymond, has dreams about her past lives with the mysterious guy, Sage, but rather than asking him about it (as I believe most logical people in an illogical situation would do) she seems to conveniently forget to. The story behind some of her past lives was interesting, but when they’re finally explained, it felt incredibly rushed. And though the author tried to tie in all the themes I mentioned earlier, I could never quite understand how could Clea’s father knew so much about Sage and his tragic circle with Clea’s past lives.

To me, what helped this novel shine through the somewhat hazy storyline were the actual characters, especially the secondary ones. To me Rayna, Clea’s best friend, was a ball of sunshine and fun. Though I expected her to be jealous of Clea’s fame, and maybe even act a little catty, she was the total opposite. She lit up the page with her exaggerated and over the top personality and it was sweet to see how loyal and protecting she was of Clea. Clea’s mom was also refreshing. For one thing, she wasn’t one of those overbearing and totally clueless mom’s most Y.A. authors write about, but rather she was a cool mom. She had her issues concerning Clea’s dad supposed death, but she was supportive of her daughter’s decisions and her love for Clea was evident.

The main characters were also nice. I like that Clea acted so maturely and the fact that she travelled throughout the globe as a photojournalist was pretty cool but she kind lost me when it came to dealing with Sage . She was incredibly quick to judge him (thinking him to be a serial killer) and just as rapid to change her opinion and fall in love with him. How she pined for him after only a couple of kisses border-lined on pathetic, but then again, she was in love with him in her former lives, so I could chalk it up to that, but still...weird. Sage had some swoon worthy moments but he was kept too much of an enigma throughout the book. Even when the “truth” came out, I still would have liked to learn more about Sage, as opposed to he was madly in love with Clea and her former selves. Finally Ben, Clea’s other best friend, was a good addition to the book. He was a funny contradiction (a scholar who believes in incubus and the Elixir of Life) but he was also sweet and charming, and I found myself rooting for him more than a couple of times throughout the novel.

A second novel is all ready in the works and I hope this one will focus more on all the doubts and question concerning: Sage and Clea’s tragic circle, the Elixir of Life, and Clea’s dad’s disappearance, that Elixir left me with.

Consensus: All in all, Hilary Duff’s Elixir was a good Y.A. novel; it wasn’t great but it wasn’t awful either. If you’re looking for a quick read with some good characters and a fairly interesting storyline, then Elixir’s the novel for you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

My name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. I thought my time with teh fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices for those I loved, was behind me. But a storm was approaching, one that would test those choices like never before. And this time, there would be no turning back.

Coming February 1st, 2011!

If I'd known, I might've done things differently. But beyond that moment of regret, I felt calm, certain, filled with a resolve that pushed back all fear or doubt. I was ready there was no other way. -Meghan

Upon getting the ARC for Iron Queen from Netgalley, I took the plunge, stopped reading everything else, and solely focused myself on Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey Series. One week later all I have to say is...what a ride! I always found myself staring at the Iron King novel whenever I visited my local bookstore but never actually going through with the purchase. Now, I don't understand how I never picked up this gem, except for maybe I wouldn't have been able to wait for the next one, so it was better that I postponed reading them until I had all the three books in my hands or Kindle ;) . So, onto the review!

Well after having read the first two books, I honestly thought the series couldn't get any better, but Julie Kagawa has a knack for proving the reader wrong with every turn of the page. The book got better and better until it coudn't take anymore and even then, it was still great. As others have pointed out, this book, more than the other two before it, was epic! It had everything that makes up a good Y.A. book: romance, action, paranormal, strong characters, etc, but it strayed away from crossing the much too familiar grounds of the typical storylines we've been experiencing in most contemporary teen novels.

Meghan Chase thought everything would settle down after she and her Ice Prince, Ash, were exiled from the Faery World, but then what fun would that be. No sooner does she arrives at her parent's home than she is attacked by a group of Iron Fey. From there the novel quickly picks up. Following the storyline from the previous book (The Iron Daughter), there is now a new, false, Iron King who's not only out to defeat the Oldbloods (meaning the Summer and Winter Kingdom) but kill Meghan as well so can access her iron glamour.

The thing that most attracted me from this novel was Meghan's transformation. It's not to say she was a weak main character in the previous books, on the contrary, she was always a rather strong lead but I felt she grew the most here. As I've said before in a previous review, Meghan was the right cross between level-headed strong female lead and a typical teenager with insecurities and fears, but I felt those insecurites were holding her back. Unlike the first book, where Meghan had to save her little brother, Ethan, from the Iron King, here the stakes were higher. Everything Meghan knew or held dear was faced with the possibility of extinction and when duty called, Meghan answered gracefully. Throught the novel, with all the problems she faced, whether it was in her relationship with Ash and Puck, the situation with her father, or the problem at hand with the false Iron King; Meghan Chase held her head high and wasn't afraid to talk back to people (wicked queens included) or do things her way. Besides, it was nice seeing her kick some faery butt, instead of cowering in a corner.

On the romance front, I was glad at how the author handled the Puck-Meghan-Ash situation. For one thing, I'm not a fan of love triangles, and I was glad that Kagawa didn't seem to be much of a fan either. She didn't complicate things and there was a clear distinction of where Meghan's affections laid (Hint: It wasn't Puck!). Which then leads me to Ash. Ash, lovely, lovely Ash, trust me, if you weren't in love with him yet, you're about to fall head over heels. In this book, he is much less guarded and not only do we get to experience more of Ash's personality, but I loved seeing how open he was with his feelings towards Meghan. If you're not convinced, here's a little taste:

"I won't lose another." His forehead bumbed soflty against mine, his brilliant silver gaze searing into me. "I plan to keep you, from everyone, for as long as I'm alive. That includes Puck, the false king and anyone else who would take you away." On corner of his mouth quirked, as I struggled to catch my breath under his powerful scrutiny. "I guess I should've warned you that I have a slight possessive streak."

Not only was Ash great but so were all the other recurring and new characters. It was good to see Puck and Grimalkin back and even a little funny to see them agreeing on so many things. The war element was also a nice touch and Meghan's second foray into the Iron Realm was very a different experience than that of the first novel. I was also glad to see Kagawa continue her world-building even amidst all the events that were going on. Whether it was the Summer or Winter Kingdoms, the Iron Realm or Leanansidhe inbetween, Kagawa made it all come together into a wild, chilling reality where loyalty and favors could only get you so far. Be warned, Kagawa's faeries aren't the loving, good-giving creatures Disney likes to portray but rather blood hungry creatures who are as calculating as they are charming.

Be prepared to bawl, get frustrated, scream, have your heart stop more than a couple of times, fall in love and be swept of your feet, kick some butt and utimately feel relieved/conflicted/speechless when it's all over.

Consensus: If faeries pike your interest but you're unsure what to read, Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series is just the thing for you. Her fey are charming, calculating and blood-thirsty but that only adds to their allure as characters. In The Iron Queen, not only will you enjoy the utterly great plot but you'll laugh with Puck, swoon with Ash and whoop for joy evertime Meghan confronts the fey.


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