Friday, December 27, 2013

Review - The Sweet Scent of Blood by Suzanne McLeod

It's another review I'm copy pasting from my Goodreads. I read the book in September this year, but the Estonian translation. I may use some words or terms that are different from what was in the original story when that happens - since about half of the books I read are translations. Just so you know :)

Here I have both the English and the Estonian cover for you to compare.

Genres: Fantasy / Vampires / Mystery / Romance
Length: 375 pages
My Rating: 2 of 5 stars

'My name is Genny Taylor. I work for It’s a great job, pays the rent, lets me do the thing I’m good at – finding magic and cracking it – and the bonus is it’s run by witches, which stops the vamps from taking a bite out of me.

Not that vampires are the big bad any more, not since they launched a slick PR campaign – ­ oh, and they brought the goblins on board. Now the vamps are sought-after celebrities, and Getting Fanged and taking the Gift are the new height of all things cool.

But only if you’re human.

And I’m not.

I’m Sidhe fae.

And I know firsthand just how deadly a vampire can be.’

When Mr October, a sexy calendar pin-up vamp, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, an old debt is called in and Genny is forced to help prove his innocence, risking her job and the protection it offers – and threatening to expose her own dark secrets. Searching for the killer plunges Genny deep into the hidden heart of vampire society. It’s not long before she realises that she and Mr October are both unwitting pawns in a centuries-old power struggle between London’s non-human communities . . . and it’s not just her own neck that’s at stake, but the lives of all London’s supernaturals.

My review:
This must be one of the most confusing books I've ever read.

I bought it because our local bookstore had it on low price. I was not very sure what it was even about, except for vampires. I was curious to know, though, and after it sitting in my reading list for quite some time, I finally got to see for myself. I don't know what I was expecting, but definitely not this.

I wouldn't say the writing was bad, and maybe this story even had some potential. But after the first chapters... I realized things went just way out of hand. The story jumped from one place to another, the characters discussed things which were brought to readers with no back story whatsoever. Again and again I had to wonder: what does this all have to do with everything else? It was like pieces from different plots coming one after another, and even at the end of the book I failed to understand what was the part between couple first and couple last chapters all about. I take it that the protagonist, Genevieve, had some bloody past, but aside from bits from here and there, the author didn't seem to even try to explain things. Perhaps the explanation was planned for next books in series, but still. Everything just seemed to be so off that I don't even know what to think.

I didn't particularly like any of the characters. Teenagers were all cliché swoony over the vampire race - the latter didn't impress me at all; no given description brought the slightest shadow of the thought 'sexy' to mind. Everyone else was simply difficult to connect to. Honestly, I would describe them all as a "bunch of horny dudes".

This is what probably irked me the most - everyone being so damn horny like this is what the world was created for. The supposed-to-be-plot seemed more like a secondary aspect. Even in the fear of being killed all Genny could think about was the passion she felt toward the psycho-vampire. I kind of believe it was the author's plan to concentrate on the passion and sex part (although no actual sex was included). I may be only seventeen, which perhaps some may think is too young to talk on this subject, but I'm gonna say: in this book, the 'sexy' part was simply plain and boring and, frankly, usually idiotic, depending on the situation. It took me too long to finish the book.

I wouldn't want to say I don't recommend it to anyone - after all, everyone has their own opinion - so I'm gonna leave it at that. If you like books for reasons other than the plot, then The Sweet Scent of Blood might just be for you.

Click here to see this review on Goodreads.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Review - Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

I read it between August and September this year, before I started this blog, and posted the review on Goodreads. Since I'm not a very fast reader, I'm going to occasionally blog about my older reviews to keep it more active here. So here we go...

Genres: YA / Sci-Fi
Length: 304 pages
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year...

My review:
Zenn Scarlett is a book I won from a blog giveaway hosted by Escapism from Reality, and I really want to thank them for it! I absolutely love the cover (and I'm curious, what is that in the bottom left corner exactly?), plus the summary sounded promising, too. Still, I was not so sure what I'd think of it once I have it finished. After reading both positive and negative reviews, I had my doubts.

I shouldn't have worried. Not even once did this book leave me bored and waiting for a more action-packed scene. True, most of it was about Zenn's life and duties at the cloister, but I didn't mind. I loved reading about this scientific world full of aliens and their amazing, scary, cute and even scarier animals. I kind of liked how these Martian colonies were described as poor and old-ish, not how we like to imagine the future of space travelling - high tech and all oh-so-happy. I only wish we could've got some more descriptions of the animals' appearances. Most of the time I wasn't at all sure what they should look like.

Of course, the fact how narrow-minded most people were in this sci-fi world annoyed me quite a bit, but it somehow made the book more realistic. So to be clear, it were the people that annoyed me, not the story. But Zenn and her Rule - now that was something I at first disliked about the book as whole. I just couldn't comprehend how someone can be so blind and think that all the joy of having friends means nothing because of the inevitable pain they are sure to bring. How could a young person like her set herself such strict restrictions? ... And then I suddenly realized something. I came to think that honestly, I'm not much different myself. Always being sensitive and sad because feeling left out, unnoticed and invisible, 'friends' turning away as soon as they find someone more interesting to talk to (this does not concern everyone)... In the end, not so long ago, I discovered a way to deal with it that did not cause me to feel pain. That being: not getting attached. Respecting people, but not letting them too close. Because when they unintentionally (or intentionally) betray my expectations, I don't have to feel hurt or in any way affected, I don't have to hate them for it or create a huge distance between us. And in all honesty, I'm very content with things being as they are. This way I realized that what Zenn did was not at all absurd (although the book didn't leave it seem as if she had everything thought through). But Zenn wasn't actually scared of talking to people, so that makes us different.

I realized quickly who was behind everything that had happened; it was quite obvious. Perhaps it wasn't even meant to be such a big secret. And although it might seem like Zenn was stupid for not figuring it out sooner, I say Zenn wasn't. I just love how well Schoon described people's relationships and understandings. I realized exactly why things turned clear when they did.

It's rare to find books of such genre by a male author, and from my experience, they tend to be so much better than YA books by female authors. There were hints of romance, but no insta-love, dreamy teen blabber and other sappy love stuff. It made the story so much more realistic. So thank you Schoon, for I got to read something different for a change! After the way it started, I don't mind at all if the love part is bigger or smaller as the story continues.

I definitely recommend this to anyone who likes YA and/or sci-fi books, and to everyone who find it to be even the littlest bit compelling. I loved this book and am eagerly looking forward to the sequel, Under Nameless Stars! Btw, the sequel's cover is ah-ma-zing!

Click here to see this review on Goodreads.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Review - The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

It's a book I won from Goodreads First Reads giveaway. The book arrived only a week after the giveaway ended, the fastest time I've ever received my prize. Another week later though, I received a note saying I have a package waiting for me in the post office. This was a surprise, I wasn't currently expecting anything. So I went to get it, eager to see what it is. And it was another copy of the same book. They'd sent me two books! Not that I whined about it, I just hope no one else missed their copy 'cause of that :D I gave the extra copy to my sister. Anyway, the fact that I won it doesn't affect my review in any way.

Genres: Historical Fiction / War
Length: 348 pages
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gifted with a mind that continues to impress the elders in his village, Ichmad Hamid struggles with the knowledge that he can do nothing to save his friends and family. Living on occupied land, his entire village operates in constant fear of losing their homes, jobs, and belongings. But more importantly, they fear losing each other.

On Ichmad’s twelfth birthday, that fear becomes reality. With his father imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions confiscated, and his siblings quickly succumbing to hatred in the face of conflict, Ichmad begins an inspiring journey using his intellect to save his poor and dying family. In doing so he reclaims a love for others that was lost through a childhood rife with violence, and discovers a new hope for the future.

My review: (contains minor spoilers)
I wish I had written this review sooner after finishing the book, but once I postpone something, I postpone it big! My thoughts may not be as fresh anymore, but my amazement at this story continues to stay the same. Hopefully I remember everything I wanted to say when I'd just read it (:

The Almond Tree is set in a time and place which, when combined, I honestly knew almost nothing about. The cruelty shocked me, even if it wasn't really surprising. I've studied European history at school, so I knew some about the Jews, but that's about it. The Almond Tree has opened my eyes to another part of this world and I admit I feel embarrassed for hearing everything about the Arab-Israeli conflict for the first time from this very book.

Ichmad's story was eerily realistic and felt more like a biography (though I've never read one) than fiction. I've never encountered a book which has made me sympathize with its characters as much as this one did. I was standing right there, watching this family suffer, feeling what they felt, hoping with them. I didn't want them to go through more devastation as they already had, but there always seemed to be this hopelessness keeping this family in its clutches. There was so much and too many people they lost. However, Ichmad didn't give up and that's what granted him a better future. Its beautifully flowing writing made the book even more enjoyable, and the pace was just right.

The characters were likeable, mostly because they weren't just words on paper, they were real. We could see their development over the years, especially Ichmad's as he got over his hate. He wasn't only bright when it came to science, his father was a great example for him and I think he saved Ichmad in more ways than one. In fact, I think Ichmad's Baba was my most favourite character in this whole book.

I never stopped loving Abbas too, even with the path he took. I felt extremely sorry when he had the accident as a kid, and when his son died near the ending of the story. Khaled's suicide was deeply saddening purely because of the idea why he did it. I don't hate many things, I definitely don't hate any person, but if there's something I do absolutely loathe, it's wars, and people's disgusting need for power.

There's someone else I can't leave unmentioned, and that's professor Sharon. I deeply disliked him at first, so it's all the more astonishing how much I came to like his character. His and Ichmad's relationship as they worked together was truly heartwarming. I'm the kind of person that keeps emotions in and only rarely releases them, usually all together in a burst when I'm alone. That also means I don't cry easily when reading about a sad incident in a book or seeing something sad in a movie. But somehow, in the end, when Ichmad and Sharon made their speech to the whole world, I had tears in my eyes. It's abuse and the sensitivity of the soul that can affect me the most.

Of course no book is perfect if it's looked at through the eyes of a critic. I simply can't remember any details I didn't quite like, but I know they weren't anything big. Perhaps what bothered me the most was that quotes were like 'this' instead of "this".

I wish this book was translated into my home tongue, Estonian, not because I found it hard to read in English - in fact I'm sure the original edition is the most pure - but because I want other people to read it too. Michelle Cohen Corasanti is an amazing writer, even more so knowing her background. For one, I've always found, and still do, that this land's traditions are a little odd, but it never bothered me because the author made me understand. Let me say this book was worth every second of my time. I never thought I'd love a historical realistic fiction - two genres that barely get my attention - so much. It's definitely a story I would recommend.

Click here to see this review on Goodreads.