Tag Archives: 5 stars

‘The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets’ by Eva Rice

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I am so very jealous of everyone who hasn’t read this book – because it means they get to read it. the-lost-art-of-keeping-secretsI’m not a giant fan of romance books – nor of 50’s fan girls, but this book was so excellently written that I forgave that. Long after I finished the book I kept feeing like I wanted to watch another episode. Occasionally I’ll forget whether it was a book or a show I was watching.

The lost art of keeping secrets is full of sage advice and “RIGHT!” moments. The things that tip a four star book to a five. I tried to keep a list of all the excellent moments in this book, but it would have taken me twice as long to read, and then I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my 50-books-this-year-resolution. And my, oh my, what excellent cover art – nothing I despise more than seeing some strangers face on the character I have in my mind. On the other hand, I do like seeing what they are wearing. Decent publishers will recognise decent books and can obviously hire decent photographers/graphic designers etc. There is logic behind judging a book by its cover.

Speaking of appearances, it was the major theme in this book. Unlike secrets, as the title would lead you to believe. It seems that upper class young adults in the 50’s were as obsessed about it as are the selfie-gens that dominate now. I think if the narcissists of the world were readers (which they clearly are not) this book would speak to them, and maybe help them cope with the reality of the world as it is – and as it was.

I worried for half a minute that I should have worn better shoes, then realized everyone else was too concerned with his or her own appearance to bother about mine.

Penelope Wallace, p. 100

AND

Charlotte read my mind. “Beware of good lighting,” she warned, as full of wise advice as I expected her to be. “It’s almost as dangerous as alcohol.”

Penelope Wallace, p. 100.

It’s strange of romantics never seem to romanticise. They never really fit their own genre. Yet all of the characters have serious flaws and annoyances that make you hate them at the same time. Harry and Penelope with their obsessions, Marina and Talitha with their narcissism, Charlotte and Inigo with their naivety. It infuriating and endearing at the same time.

For a whole month we met every night – but I never once saw her during the day. Well, it never seemed strange to me at the time, but it was, of course. You have to see your lover during the day at some point, don’t you? Otherwise the whole thing remains a dream. Perhaps that’s what she wanted.

Harry Delancy, p. 71

Oh Harry. You’re a sausage. Like most romances this book was heavily character – and dialogue driven, which made for a fast read. Also handy considering how little time I seem to have on my hands. I think I will be reading this again, maybe I missed something the first time.

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‘Last Sacrifice’ by Richelle Mead

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

It was the end of an era. With Vampire Academy I did something that I have never been able to accomplish with any other book. I put off reading the last one, just so I always had that excellent little feeling of: it’s not over yet. I get the same feeling if I freeze some spaghetti sauce, or a buy two bottles of wine, or if I’m rich enough to hide $100 in my sock drawer. It’s a comforting, don’t worry, I’ve got your back when you just can’t go on – sort of relief. But just like the last-sacrificeplumbers bill to my $100, Last Sacrifice (how apt) was called upon to get me out of a particularly boring evening.

This was by far the best Vampire Academy book in the series. Rose and Dimitri have fucked right off to – wherever with an alchemist that hates them, Vasilisa is going through gruelling trials of royalty nominations with all the calm and poise of a lady, and meanwhile the vampire community is in political turmoil over various Queen killings, archaic laws, and some Strigoi reversibles.

It upsets me to announce that I saw Tasha’s betrayal coming a while ago. I never really liked her, perhaps because Rose never really liked her. Way to revoke the stigma of evil surrounding your family you bitch. I mean she was evil for a good cause, but she for real killed a person, she was indirectly responsible for another Moroi death, she used that poor boyfriend of her, and set up Rose tumblr_nbvbtnQ1IY1shn6wzo1_500to take the fall so she could have her boyfriend. The strangest thing is, she didn’t seem like a psychopath at all. Poor Christian and Lissa have been through some dramatics. Both of them with their families dead, and the closest relatives they have betraying them for selfish gain. Meanwhile here is Rose with her parents both alive and well, multiple boyfriends alive and well, and eating doughnuts for breakfast and not getting fat.

Though Rose is lacking magic. It occurred to me while reading the first book, that this would truly be a horrendous punishment. To be a similar race to these people, but not able to use magic. They are the muggles and squibs of the vampire world.

The only complaint? The ending sentence was trash! “But I think it’s going to be good.” !!! WHAT!  This is the swill we get left with after 6 books of jazzy scenes and witty quips and you leave us with some soap-opera-esque, everything is gunna be alright! SO DONE!

Let’s explore some of my favourite of those quips to wash the taste of bad last lines out of my mouth.

“What the hell?” I asked. Is this daring escape being sponsored by Honda?”

“So that’s how you’re going to fix the family problem. Little Dragomirs. Good idea.”

The saleswoman’s eyes widened. “No one has ever worn straps to a funeral. It wouldn’t be right.”

“What about shorts?” asked Adrian. “Are they okay if they’re with a tie? Because that’s what I was gonna go with.”

Oooh speaking of Adrian. Poor sonovabitch. Cheating is cheating, true love or not, and while I’m glad they ended up together, I’m glad Adrian didn’t let her get off lightly:

“I loved you!” he yelled. He jumped up out of his chair so quickly I never saw it coming. “I loved you, and you destroyed me. You took my heart and ripped it up. You might as well have staked me!” The change in his features also caught me by surprise. His voice filled the room. So much grief, so much anger. So unlike the usual Adrian. He strode toward me, hand clasped over his chest. “I. Loved. You. And you used me the whole time.”

Luckily, I have the Ruby Circle coming out next year, on my own birthday no less. I will get to see tumblr_nba4z3H6Ni1tntp9qo1_500Adrian happy once more, see Lissa pull off some royal decision making, and revisit some old grievances I’ve had with the royal Moroi and the Alchemists. Let’s just bring the lot of them down in one fell swoop. Saddle up Mead, I have some requests. God now I really want to reread Bloodlines… But I have so many other books to read. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

‘Spirit Bound’ by Richelle Mead

225px-SpiritBound_Novel★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I have been on a week long hiatus from blogging. A side note: how terrible is having a full time job to your writing career/hobby? I started having creative writing withdrawals. My reports for said job started getting a little too creative. In a request for more cake knives for my events, I literally used the phrase “I have been borrowing the kitchen knives for the functions and they look unreasonably lethal for a simple mud cake massacre.” Though I am fairly sure no one actually reads my reports.  Luckily creativity doesn’t disparage the wee hours.

As a result I took a while to do my review for Spirit Bound. I may have even forgotten what happens… Life got in the way of me starting the next book. Mid series. Mid-obsessive-fan-girling-series, I, Amy Wallin, stopped to attend work, build Ikea couches and squat some kettlebells. I sound like a grownup right? Don’t worry, I still don’t reverse park.

 Spirit Bound, just like ‘Silver Shadows’ there was a chapter, or a million….on Rose being imprisoned. Not half as interesting as Sydney’s. I wonder if Mead has just discovered a formula of success which requires the 5th book to have some form of imprisonment and then a dramatic romantic escape. I must say, Mead is a bit of a genius for introducing the shadow kissed connection that allows Lissa to show her point of view. I know she misses it when she has to write Sydney. Vampire Academy has such a smooth presence across the characters.

It occurred to me while reading Spirit Bound that Richelle may have not been making grammatical errors whilst typing dhampir. Has anyone else ever noticed dhampir is always in lower case, unless of course it starts a sentence, while Moroi is always capitalised. Ah. Clever. Mead cunningly using grammar to emphasise the discrimination between the two races. Dhampirs are so naturally second-rate that they don’t even deserve the capitalisation of a proper noun! It is madness.

But focus Amy. Much sporadic. Such crazy. Many madness. Spirit Bound also delivered an excellent psychopath in literature. Dimitri was honestly a bit of a bore when he was human. Or half human. Then he became a Strigoi and got awesome. My favourite line was probably his creepy, cute, funny (was the funny just me?) note:

 “You forgot another lesson: Never turn your back until you know your enemy is dead. Looks like we’ll have to go over the lesson again the next time I see you-which will be soon.

Love, D”

Ha. So cute. ‘Love D’. When did you get so funny Dimitri? So cool? Clearly when immortality removed your stick-it-up-your-ass honour. Honourable people might make excellent friends, but dull, two dimensional travel companions. Anyway. One review (if you could even call it that) out of the way.

Side note: I wrote the note on my hand to remind myself to write this review. Then I took a strategic nap. Then I tried to read a backwards reminder off my face. Succeeded.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

‘Frost Bite’ by Richelle Mead

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Well. That didn’t take long. I’m almost ashamed at how fast I am managing to get through these books. How can I call myself a reader when I just fly through them. I almost feel like I have just downloaded the book into my brain and that’s how it got there. I certainly don’tFrostbite_Novel remember hours passing. I think that’s the moment when you know it’s going to be yet another five star book. I don’t know why I am even bothering with the pretence that the rest of the series will be anything but. From now on, reader, just assume that the rest of the collection will have five stars and I will just write a review (hardly what you would call a review) to back up my adoration.

I was right in my earlier assumption of Mead ability to grow as a writer. Not one book later and she is already getting better with the descriptions and character building. From what I can garner, Rose has taken on the darkness of Lissa due to her Spirit side effect. Mead doesn’t make it blindingly obvious that Rose has started suffering. But as a reader you notice her quips become few and far between for a few days. She always seems a bit angsty and struggles to get any sort of sleep despite the fact that she is a physical wreck the majority of her time. Though she is still angstvery ‘physical presence’ with depression description. It’s a smoke or a liquid, leaking through the bond, surrounding her like a dark cloud, the whole shebang – it doesn’t help that Adrian the aura reading Moroi has entered the scene. Now he really does see everything in cloudy colours.

With his cute little ‘Hey, little Dhampir’, this is where most people first meet Adrian the human (not even slightly human) swagger-bomb. I don’t know how I didn’t pick up on it before. But he is the male version of Rose. No wonder he liked her so much. He loves himself! They are witty and charming and gods of flirtation. Though I know they don’t belong together I am very interested to see how this little fling of theirs goes. I’m glad I have this prior knowledge that it all ends happily for him and Rose in the relationship department otherwise I might be in some serious shambles over Rose picking the wrong guy in this new relationship I sense – about to form.

Also I must make a confession. SPOILER! I am glad Mason died. I knew it was coming. They spoke of it in Bloodlines. I really didn’t want to have to get more attached to him than I already was. I knew that is how it would end and I wanted to be rid of the weight on my shoulders every time he appeared in a scene, with the Grim Reaper hovering by his side. It was just too much pressure! But as the books go on, I realise I will slowly run out of Bloodline-told secrets. Then I will just be reading like a normal person. Well… almost normal.tumblr_inline_n88rfsk5R81sb080b

Okay enough typey typey. Must start the next one before the sun comes up and ruins my reading streak and forces me to go to work. Eugh.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

As per usual, gifs from Tumblr!

‘Vampire Academy’ by Richelle Mead

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

When Dymocks says 5-7 days, they actually mean 7, at the earliest. I lost count of how many days or years I waited for Vampire Academy. Though I can confidently say I feel much older and wiser having gone through such hardship. I read Bloodlines by Richelle Mead first – Vampire_Academywhich is actually the spin off series to Vampire Academy. I didn’t realise at the time, but when I did realise – on the first page of Bloodlines, it was already too late to turn back.

While some of Mead’s writing style is similar it pleases me immensely that she has such a different set of protagonists. Rose Hathaway is spunky and sassy and swears and sluts around. She fears no man. Really. She rarely seems to be afraid in the novel, which is what I think is missing from her character – a little more ability to be human. There were some scenes where she was getting beaten up and the way Mead told it was so passive and la de da that I wondered if perhaps she hadn’t quite grasped the calamity of the situation. Maybe I was reading it too fast.

That’s another thing. I finished this bad boy way too quickly. The story was fast paced the whole way through, which when combined with my overwhelming desire to read all the things made for an eventful evening but didn’t last me more than a night. Not to say the story was bad – it wasn’t – obvi I gave it five stars.  Though in this first novel you can really tell that Mead’s style has matured when she wrote Bloodlines. I think I will see her progress as I get further into the Vampire Academy series.

tumblr_n8xfigdBTw1sjz1mjo3_250The first thing that hit me when I read it was how angry the book fans must have been when they saw the movie. So many things the movie did was so tacky and inserted in for stupidity’s sake. But my goodness they did get one thing right – the bitchiness of St. Vladimir’s. I felt like I was right back at high school. The strangest thing was, with most
high school stories, the protagonist has an adult view tumblr_n8xfigdBTw1sjz1mjo4_250of things. Rose and her companions are actual teenagers. They plot ways to get back at people, they spread rumours and conduct evil social experiments. So many times, authors ignore the faults in their protagonists – teenage faults. I think perhaps that they don’t remember what high school was like, or they want to believe that they weren’t that way. Mead remembers. It pleases me beyond belief that she has the characters acting their age in many scenarios.

“Yeah, but did you know that her parents are practically custodians for the Drozdovs?”

The hand on my leg stopped. I’d exaggerated, but he was a sucker for gossip-and notorious for spreading it.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. Scrubbing floors and stuff like that.”

“Huh.”

I could see the wheels turning in his dark blue eyes and had to hide a smile. The seed was planted.

(p.117, Rose and Jesse)

The darkness that is enveloping Vasilisa (great name) is completely underwhelmed in this book. tumblr_n98n6w4zSj1rkt608o3_250Rose has a habit of describing the dark moods in a way that reminds me of smoke settling through her body. Which is a great image though doesn’t fully grasp the intensity or hopelessness of it all quite the way it does for Adrian (another spirit user) when I read Bloodlines.  I wonder if anyone else had these issues when reading the books. My guess is no, because they read them in the correct order.

Besides the faults that I found in the writing style, as ever, Mead’s imagination more than makes up for it. I know that she will have already improved by the time I settle into Frostbite – it’s laying inches away from me, waiting for the exact second I post this. And I’m a writing fury right now. Must get this out while I remember!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

‘1984’ by George Orwell

I went into 1984 with an incredible bias. I was in a bad mood – against classics and particularly the shove-it-in-your-face moral style of George Orwell. This is only the second Orwell novel I 1984have ever read. I thought maybe Animal Farm was just written for children and that’s why the morals and metaphors were so… In your face.  I read the first few pages of 1984 already pissed off. I could see where he was going. Don’t trust the government. They’re spying on you. Telling you what to think with media manipulation.

Then I accidentally loved it. In another review I said that no one ever fan-girled George Orwell. I was so wrong.

Once you get past the morals, and the sense of impending doom that ol’ mate Orwell is trying to stress, you can enjoy the story behind it. I enjoyed his made up words ‘newspeak’, ‘thoughtcrime’, ‘doublethink’, it’s amazing how so many of these things are still so relatable today. Either Orwell is a psychic or we really haven’t progressed much as a society.

I especially loved the scene where our protagonist, Winston Smith, was talking to his friend who was proud of the fact that he was helping to decrease the English language: “it’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” It’s almost like Orwell foresaw the degrading of language with the introduction of technology.

After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take “good”, for instance. If you have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”? “Ungood” will do just a well–better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood” covers the meaning; or “doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still.

 (p.54, 1984)

I don’t know if it is just me, but he seems to be making fun of Americans in some scenes. American’s give the rest of the world the impression, above anything, of their patriotism and constitutional rights. The masses in 1984– though set in what used to be Great Britain – sounds very American when they repeat the party’s slogans to attain for all manner of faults.

‘All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working-hours or shorter rations.’

(p.75, 1984)

 Giving them a patriotic slogans to spout, hides the flaws in all the logic. Maybe it was just me drawing parallels to the whole American premise of a ‘right to bear arms’ despite that guns are george orwellweapons designed to kill – logic. Patriotism to a fault.

I found all of the party’s tricks and tactics for an agreeable public so interesting. Imagine deleting a word like “freedom” from someone’s vocabulary. How would they know they didn’t have it, if the word had never existed? Dammit I could feel Orwell trying to make me think during the entire novel. I said to him, I said “Orwell. Man. Can’t I just enjoy a frigging book without having to think about the philosophical anomalies behind it?” He politely told me there was no way in hell I could just ‘enjoy’ 1984, that that was now how he ran his ship. I really had no choice. Stop reading my new favourite classic (sorry Slaughterhouse five), or start to fear just how close Big Brother was looking into my internet search history… What a classic. What a phenomenal dystopian. What a doubleplusgood read.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

‘The Fiery Heart’ by Richelle Mead

‘The Fiery Heart’ by Richelle Mead

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Can I just say, I had a bitch of a time trying to hunt this book down. I finished the Indigo Spell at midnight and experienced the most stressful 5 hours of my life not having the next book in the the fiery heartseries (as you can tell by my blog title, I am a slight insomniac). Bookstores just aren’t open in the middle of the night. So at the crack of afternoon when I got up the next day I went on a West End hunt for the Fiery Heart.  Now the only non-second hand bookstore in West End sort of shuns anything non hipster. It may be the only bookstore I’ve ever entered that showcases all the classic and literature at the front and in the windows. In the back corner, crowded and tiny, lies the ‘childrens’ section. They also store the young adult here. I think this is designed to shame as YA readers. I stretched myself into a space a child couldn’t fit through to get to the bottom shelf where a solitary Mead book lay. Of course it was a Vampire Academy book.  So I took my YA ass out of the Indy-only bookstore and made the terrifying journey across the windiest bridge in the world to get to the city where fair Dymocks lay.

tumblr_mjtmt7NM551rjatglo1_500Thankyou Dymocks for not being judgy tosspots and for complimenting my shirt as well as my book choices. Also as fate would have it, they also had Silver Shadows. I totally forgot it was out! What a great day that was for me. Now let me tell you what I thought of the Fiery Heart.

It has been a long time since I’ve held such tumblr_mjtmt7NM551rjatglo2_500a reaction from a book. Those last few chapters took me twice as long to read because I kept having to put it down and collect myself. Collect myself into the foetal position and rock on my living room floor until I felt I could face the difficulties again. If you haven’t read The Fiery Heart, I suggest you stop reading right now before I ruin everything for you.

SPOILER: Zoe is a stupid little brat and I want to punch her in the throat sit her ass down and scream all the profanities in the world at her – known and unknown until she understands what she has done. I could forgive Zoe’s naivety, and her Alchemist obsession, even her desire to get her Dads attention. But turning on your own sister for your success… Oh the betrayal. Oh the stupidity. I don’t care how much this WHORE redeems herself in any future collection – I will not forgive her that.

You may be able to tell I only put this book down five minutes ago. My fingers are just about on angerfire from the speed in which I type out my anger and frustration. I can’t even. Guys. I can’t even. I was making notes on this book throughout the series which I remember thinking, I really want to discuss this, but honestly I’m in such a state that it may take another five minutes for me to calm the fuckery down and list them for you.

I feared that I wouldn’t find a favourite quote in this book to share with you. It was nearly the end when I stumbled on this one. It didn’t make me stop my breath, it made me gasp out loud. I almost shouted to the Boyfriend who was neck deep in important work to come console me. By almost, I mean, I did.

“You have no idea how lucky you are that we’re doing this for you. The darkness has corrupted you so much that I don’t know how long it’ll take to fix. But we will. No matter how long or how difficult, we will undo whatever that Moroi boy has done to you.”

I managed a wavering smile, tasting blood in my mouth.

“You sure about that, Dad? Because he’s done everything to me.”

(p. 397, Jared and Sydney Sage)

Oh god it was such an intense moment. I have been waiting four books long to hear Sydney stand up to her Dad and she pulls this doozy. Hit him where it hurts. Just, so good.

Despite my obvious five star approval I did notice those awkward grammatical flaws that often appear when an author gets this far into the series. Editors are more willing to let things slide once they have a tried and tested author, so they aren’t as meticulous in they’re checking. P. 101 repeated a sentence that had been in the Indigo Spell: “I could probably skip the rest of the semester”, p. 291 confused ‘to’ and ‘too’. It was so ugly and in my face. Much bother. Anyway. Its past time to start the next installation.

 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

images sourced: Tumblr