Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Out of Breath by Blair Richmond

Genre: YA paranormal romance
Pages: 268 (paperback)
To Be Published: October 31st, 2011 by Ashland Creek Press
Recommended for: paranormal romance fans; health buffs
Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My Take:

The book begins with Kat-- a teenage girl who is a life-long runner and vegan and has been on the run from her home in Texas after her parents' death-- 's arrival in the small Oregon town of Lithia, a 'quaint' little town and a birthplace she barely remembers.  The action gets off to a slow start as Kat, homeless and alone, chances to find a temporary job in a runner's shop and a place to stay.  She meets Roman, an enigmatic actor, at the local theatre where he portrays Hamlet, and Alex, a charismatic shop boy and self-proclaimed tree-hugger.  As a complex love triangle forms around the three, Kat begins to wonder if Lithia is more than it seems.  When Alex reveals the truth to Kat at last, she can scarcely believe it (though most readers will have realized what's going on from the initial chapters).  The town of Lithia is home to vampires both peaceful and carnivorous, and Kat's new friends are among them.  The only question is, which of her vampiric suitors has her best interests at heart... and which of them may or may not be responsible for the terrible attacks which occur in the local woods?

I have overall mixed feelings about Out of Breath.  On one hand, it is essentially well-written-- Kat has a distinct narrative voice, even if she is not the most unique or likeable protagonist.  (She's got a heck of a great name, though ;)  ) Paranormal romance is not generally my cup of tea, so I try to be very objective when reviewing the genre.  I saw many similarities to Twilight, in that the protagonist is torn between two guys-- one handsome, mysterious, and questionable, and the other a likeable local who becomes as much a friend to her as a boyfriend.  Lithia was also a very similar setting to Forks.  So, you know, small-town vamps.  There is definitely an environmental element to Out of Breath, and Kat's being a vegan comes to be far more important than I anticipated.  Roman was a character I had a hard time liking, despite the strength of Kat's attraction to him, though his friend Victor definitely had potential.  (I tend to like the maniacs who live in castles best when it comes to vampires, as some of you probably know.)  Alex, I did like-- he's a genuinely nice guy who obviously has a lot in common with Kat, so why she debated between him and Roman, who knows.

I liked the mystery aspect to the "bear attacks" in the woods and those little nerve-wrecking moments when Kat is running through the woods and thinks she hears something...  Overall, this was a very quick read and a fairly enjoyable one.  The pro-environmental themes are strong, but not so strong that they drown out the rest of the story.  There's a stunning little revelation about Kat's past in the end which promises a sequel.  Out of Breath isn't a book I felt passionate about personally, but it's definitely one I would recommend to paranormal fans.

Writing: 3/5
Premise: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Story: 3/5
Overall Rating:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

Genre: epic fantasy
Published: 1996 by Spectra
Pages: 835 (Mass Market paperback)
Recommended for: most all readers, particularly those who aren't intimidated by the prospects of wading through this tome

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective wall. To the south, the King's powers are failing, and his enemies are emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the King's new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but also the kingdom itself. A heroic fantasy of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and evildoers who come together in a time of grim omens.

My Take:

I love epic fantasy.  The elves and dwarves, long-lost dragons and mages, evil overlords and swords with positively ridiculous names-- I confess to adoring 'em all.  What I can't stomach is poorly-executed epic fantasy... so thank the gods of the Seven Kingdoms that A Game of Thrones is one of the best fantasy epics I've ever read!  The usual fantasy cliches and archetypes are all present, but George RR Martin works wonders with material which, at first glance, seems like a scenario we've all read about before. 

I began this first book in the Song of Ice and Fire saga because the HBO series kept calling to me tantalizingly, with its ridiciously cool tagline "Winter is coming..." and released screenshots of lords and ladies garbed in medieval-esque attire.  I don't like to watch a movie before reading the book (so I can kept ticked off at everything the directors/ cast got wrong, of course), so I picked up a copy of A Game of Thrones at Walmart of all places.  Unfortunately, the series is no longer available on Demand to HBO subscribers, so I barely got to watch two episodes of the show-- but what I saw was fantastic, captivating, and impressively close to the book.  But this is a book blog, so onto the book...

A Game of Thrones has a large cast of characters, all members of various royal houses whom at the novel's beginning appear to be engaged in an uneasy peace.  But all too quickly subtle court politics and hidden treachery erupt into full-blown war-- both on and off the battlefield.  Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark of Winterfell is billed as the protagonist, but the book actually has many-- a dozen strands of third-person narrative intertwine throughout the novel.  Everyone seems to have their favorites, but I have to say I was flipping forward to see when Daenary-- the exiled Targaryen princess--'s next chapter was.  Though the world of the Seven Kingdoms is as sexist and womanizing as most epic fantasy settings are, I was pleased to find that we have quite a few strong, dynamic female characters here.  Arya, Lord Stark's young daughter, and his wife Catelyn are both clearly intelligent and bold women who defy the stereotypes of their time.  Of course, on the other hand we have Arya's sister Sansa (played by a very pretty and talented girl in the series, but am I the only one who wanted to slap her??) and the treacherous Queen Cersei.  The dwarf Tyrion Lannister has to be one of my favorite characters as well-- he's charmingly clever and rude, with the impertience of a man three times his size.  As for the specifics of the plot, I'm going to remain silent-- it has too many twists and turns for me to even attempt to provide a spoiler-free summary.

Being a history nerd, I noticed quite a few similarities between this "game of thrones" and the War of the Roses.  Like the House of Lancaster's historical ensigna being a red rose, and Lannister House's in the book being a scarlet lion.  Also, the Targaryen king before King Robert went mad before being murdered, like King Henry VI.  Another thing... the vanished race of people who live(d) in the northern woods are called "The Others".  I wonder if JJ Abrams and the LOST writers have read these books?

All in all, I encourage anyone who's been considering whether or not to read this book to go for it-- you won't regret reading any of the 800+ pages and, like me, you'll clamor for the sequel, A Clash of Kings.

Premise: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Story: 5/5
Overall Rating:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'm Still Alive...

Right?  *checks pulse*  Oh yeah, false alarm-- I'm definitely still alive, no worries.  So where have I been these past two months?  Actually, I've been doing a lot of reading...
And this would be fantastic, of course.  If the stacks of books I've been pouring over didn't have titles like Ultimate SAT Study Guide and Test Preparation, Introduction to Human GeographyWriting Your Perfect College Essay, and let's not forget Spark Notes.  Yep, school is officially in session and it's the dreaded senior year.  Thankfully, I've also had the chance to crack the spines of a few non-school related page-turners which I can't wait to review once I finally snag the time.  The Graveyard Book, The Good Fairies of New York, Haunting Violet, Game of Thrones, and even my old favorite Interview with The Vampire have been gracing my desk alongside the boring stuff, keeping me semi-sane. And let's not forget a couple of Halloween-related posts which I'm just dying to write...

All of you who haven't given up on this blog and have even popped in for a few visits (I was truly touched and astounded by how many people have despite my total lack of activity)-- I'd like to thank you a billion times over!  You guys are awesome; you're why I love blogging so much.  More than anything else, I miss reading and commenting on your reviews and posts about what's going on in the blogging world.  With any luck I'll be able to do a bit of that very soon, once college applications are in, and I hope to see all of you around.
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