Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poison Study, Maria V. Snyder (Study Series #1)

Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder (author website)
Release Date: March 1st 2007 from Luna
Age Group: Older teens, upwards
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 starhalf star

I love this book like you don't even know. heard about Maria V. Snyder? Still not sure? Read this now. If you liked Graceling by Kristin Cashore, you'll love Poison Study.

From Goodreads
Locked in a coffin-like darkness, there is nothing to distract me from my memories of killing Reyad. He deserved to die—but according to the law, so do I. Here in Ixia, the punishment for murder is death. And now I wait for the hangman's noose.

But the same law that condemns me may also save me. Ixia's food taster—chosen to ensure that the Commander's food is not poisoned—has died. And by law, the next prisoner who is scheduled to be executed—me—must be offered the position.

Facing a death sentence, Yelena is pulled from the prison cell in which she's been held for a year, and offered a choice: die now, at the executioner's hand, or live as the Commander's poison taster. Yelena doesn't blink. It's live all the way, thank-you-very-much. And so she begins her new life.

Despite being victimised at every turn, Yelena refuses to be a victim. She is faced with a dark future, an even darker past, and nothing much to live for, other than life itself. But she chooses to live, again and again, despite her circumstance, and make the best of her lot. It's not often I'm left so inspired by a fictional character, but Yelena has a backbone, a sharp mind, and gusto in spades.

The land of Ixia, where Yelena lives truly is fascinating. Despite a dictatorship and strict laws with zero leniency--a land where all citizens are required to wear a uniform to tell of their station, have licenses and permission to marry, and permission to travel--there is truly equal opportunity for all. Positions of power and jobs are given based on an individual's merits. It's a seeming contradiction in terms: individuality is stripped in the forced wearing of an uniform, but an individual's talents are recognised, and rewarded. The government, ruled by the Commander doesn't care if you're a man, woman or child. If you're good at what you do, it's recognised. While on one hand certain circumstances of the nation's rule seem distasteful, and its laws cruel; on the other, they work. People don't go hungry--they're fed by the state. Crime is not tolerated. You can earn any job you want, regardless of your station, if you're the right person for it.

I love this book, but Poison Study isn't everyone's cup of tea. To a certain extent I agree with some criticisms leveled against it (modern turns-of-phrase ocassionaly seem strange, one particularly disturbing scene [though I believe it was essential in establishing background and motive:]), but for me this was a truly gripping read.

If you loved Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Fire, Poison Study might just be for you.

Interesting Facts:

  • While I pronounce Yelena's name as 'Yell-en-a', Snyder, at a recent tour event in Sydney, pronounced it 'Yell-ay-na'. This sounds SO strange to my Aussie ears.
  • 'Valek' is pronounced (by her) as more of a 'Val' (as in 'valley'), where as I always imagined 'Vah-lek'.
  • Snyder (at the same appearance mentioned above), says she originally had the idea of Valek fencing, instead of the large sword he uses!
  • Maria V. Snyder learnt to lock-pick to write the scenes where Yelena learns the same.
  • It took Maria V. Snyder 5 years to complete POISON STUDY (including revisions). Don't ever give up, people! [source]

The Books:

  1. Poison Study
  2. Magic Study
  3. Fire Study

Get It:

Poison Study at Amazon

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just Like Heaven, Julia Quin ****

1 star2 star3 star4 star
Honoria Smythe-Smith is:
A) a really bad violinist
B) still miffed at being nicknamed "Bug" as a child
C) not in love with her older brother's best friend
D) all of the above

Marcus Holroyd is:
A) the Earl of Chatteris
B) regrettably prone to sprained ankles
C) not in love with his best friend's younger sister
D) all of the above

Together they:
A) eat quite a bit of chocolate cake
B) survive a deadly fever and the world's worst musical performance
C) fall quite desperately in love

It's Julia Quinn at her best, so you know the answer is . . .
D) all of the above

Just Like Heaven is a delight. It's actually one of the first romances I've read where there has been actual story and real effort gone into creating a plausible basis for the feelings our protaganists have for one another. Indeed, many romances I've read work as romances, but not so much as a work of fiction I'd typically enjoy outside of genre. I'm often left wanting for more fleshed out characters, motivations for actions, and for our heroine not to act like a normal human being with the ability to reason (not that this does, or ever will, stop me from reading. I love romances, I'm just trying to being critical and intellectual and what-not).

Yes, it's light and fluffy, and a very easy read. But it's a plausible and believable light and fluffy very-easy-read, that still keeps that element of fantasy and whimsy that keeps me reading.

The journery to Honoria and Marcus discovering their feelings for each other is so sweet. There's back story there, but we see the feelings between the two develop from affection and friendship into something much deeper.

I read this book with such a big smile that my face now hurts, and there is one particular scene with a 7 foot rabbit hopping through someone's bedroom in a laudanum induced hallucination (the person, not the bunny, being under the influence) that had me in stitches.

Honoria and Marcus' shared history, friendship, and love of desserts (treacle tart!) make the couple a perfect match, and an absolute joy to follow. Such a sweet, fun romance. The wit and humour make the book such a good read. Read it read it read it!

Books in This Series:

  1. Just Like Heaven
  2. A Night Like This (2012)
  3. As yet unamed book 3
  4. As yet unamed book4

Want It?

Get it from Booktopia
Get it from Amazon

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Shiver (The Wolves Of Mercy Falls #1), Maggie Stiefvater

1 star2 star3 star4 star5 star
Initially, as I know many were, I found myself drawn to Shiver because of that gorgeous beautiful cover. The computer screen doesn't do it justice. Holding this book is like receiving a birthday present: it's a real treat.

But Shiver is much more than a pretty picture.

From Goodreads:

Grace and Sam share a kinship so close they could be lovers or siblings. But they also share a problem. When the temperature slips towards freezing, Sam reverts to his wolf identity and must retreat into the woods to protect his pack. He worries that eventually his human side will fade away and he will be left howling alone at the lonely moon.

Werewolf stories are nothing new, but Shiver is. Told in the dual narratives of our two protagonists, Grace and Sam, Shiver is the story of the star-crossed (though perhaps winter-crossed, is more appropriate) lovers, and their fight to stay together against forces far beyond their control. This, to me, was one of the most interesting aspects of the story. There is really no antagonist to this story--perhaps the lycanthropic condition, combined with seasonal change, is the villain, rather than an individual being.

Shiver's wolves are a refreshing and unique take on a much loved, but much done, genre. I hate to ruin the surprise myself, because it's such a clever and absorbing moment in the story.
The book is told in easily digestible sections, perfect for short sittings (if you can put it down), but the story flows beautifully, and I personally adored Stiefvater's prose (so smooth, 'flowy' and lyrical).

While one could say Shiver shares a lot in common with a great number of other YA PNR around (werewolves, lonely protagonist, absent parents and love story), it had its own special, unique spark that, months after reading it, keeps it fresh in my mind. It should go down a treat with those who like YA paranormal, but the story is told so tenderly and with such beautiful restraint, I believe it could appeal to non-genre readers.

Gripping, hopeful and heartbreaking, I found the story kept me wondering till the very last page.
I flat-out adored Shiver.

Books in This Series:

  1. Shiver
  2. Linger
  3. Forever


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