Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Fiery Heart - Richelle Mead

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines, #4)
The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4) - Richelle Mead
Grade: YA
Rating: 3/5 stars

In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her. . . .

But the struggle isn't over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there's still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure—and re-education—looms larger than ever.

Pulses will race throughout this thrilling fourth instalment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where no secret is safe. (Description from Goodreads)

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It took me a while to write this review, or to even get the motivation to start, mostly because I didn’t know how to put into words what I felt about this book. I love the Vampire Academy world, I really do. Vampire Academy is one of my favourite YA series’ and I just adore it. Unfortunately, that hasn’t really stretched over to the Bloodlines series. It’s a bit of a hit and miss track with me, and The Fiery Heart landed in the miss column. I’ve come to expect so much from this series. I may be a little swayed by Rose’s action pack adventures in the Vampire Academy series, but Sydney just doesn’t inspire the same spark within me. I love that she’s stepping out and leaving behind her Alchemist ways – becoming more familiar with the vampire world (in more ways than just accepting them *wink**wink*) But there’s just something missing from Bloodlines that makes me not as excited for Sydney’s adventures. I feel like we’re taking one step forward and twelve steps back.

There were some big changes in The Fiery Heart - not just in the storyline, but in the way the novel was told. Sydney is no longer our sole narrator, with Adrian stepping up to take over half the narration. I’ll admit this was part of the reason it took me so long to read the latest Bloodlines book. It wasn’t so much that I disliked Adrian’s potential voice – and was only partly because I felt a little shocked that the POV was suddenly changing – it was mostly because split POV screams of danger; that something so terrible is going to happen, you need a back-up narrator to keep you in the loop for what’s been left behind. And it’s true, there’s some major stuff happening at the end, but I feel like we had so much prior warning leading up to it, that it didn’t hit me as hard as I expected.

I was disappointed with this book. It seemed like the major plot-lines – Sydney’s growth with magic, Jill’s potential danger, the search for a Spirit-Cure – all took a step backwards to Adrian and Sydney’s romance. If they weren’t blowing off the rest of their responsibilities to make-out, they were sending endless “I love you” text messages that were just waiting to be discovered by the growing group of dhampirs, moroi and alchemists hanging out in Palm Springs. I’m a person who likes romance in stories, but I feel like this time, it was a little over the top. I’m happy to see Sydney grow, I’m REALLY happy to see Adrian find someone who wants to support him and love him; but what I really wanted was the intense, action and mystery story I’ve come to love from Richelle Mead. There was so much that could have been explored, but we seemed to only get a few surface glimpses at progress to Strigoi-remedies and I think only one mention of Jill’s actual danger issues. It wasn’t what I was expecting.

I found myself grabbing onto little things and probably blowing them up into bigger issues. But one of my main issues was the rapid increase of people in Palm Springs. What started off as a secret mission to keep Jill away from her own kind and protect her from any strange and unknown people who might give her away, has turned into a massive group that now needs a minivan to take them places - and to top it off, they're all mostly inexperienced teens. There are no adults at all looking out for the group. This doesn’t scream hidden and secretive to me. I feel like Jill’s apparent danger has been all but forgotten, and in its place, romance, magic and an endless supply of new tattoos have taken centre stage.

Strangely, for myself, my favourite part of this book was the small bits to do with Spirit. I’ve actually never been much of a fan of Spirit. It seems to pop up as the saviour of all things at just the right moment, and so I resent it a bit. But I really enjoyed being in Adrian’s head and seeing Spirit from his POV. I loved seeing him step up and try helping with the Strigoi-Spirit cure and I really wanted to see more of that. I think that’s what was missing most for me – some driving plot, other than the endless scenes of Sydney and Adrian’s relationship, to really kick-start the blood pumping excitement. I feel like the Bloodlines hasn’t really found its feet. Maybe it’s a magic and witchcraft series, maybe the alchemists are the main focus, maybe Spirit is making a come-back, or maybe it was always a romance series and the rest are subplots...I just can’t work it out.

I want to love this series, so I’m going to keep trying with it – and not just because I refuse to give up on it because it’s Richelle Mead – but because I think there’s something hiding beneath the surface, ready to WOW me. I really hope there’s more action in the next book. I feel like it has potential. We’re given a pretty harsh and crazy ending in The Fiery Heart so I’m definitely getting my hopes up. I don’t need or want Sydney to be another Rose, because there’ll only be one Rose in the VA world; but I do want her to be a fighter and I think she can get there. I just don’t think we’ve seen it yet, and I need to see it. We’ve seen cool, calculating Sydney; we’ve seen intelligent Sydney; we’ve seen romantic/lusty Sydney. Let’s bring on badass Sydney, please.

3/5 stars

(Also posted on Goodreads)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Shadow Kiss: The Graphic Novel - Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss: The Graphic Novel
Richelle Mead, Emma Vieceli & Leigh Dragoon
Grade: YA
Rating: 4/5 stars

What if following her heart means Rose could lose her best friend forever?

Rose Hathaway knows it is forbidden to love another guardian. Her best friend, Lissa – the last Dragomir princess – must always come first. Unfortunately, when it comes to gorgeous Dimitri Belikov, some rules are meant to be broken...

But since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn't been feeling right. Something dark has begun to grow in her mind, and ghostly shadows warn of a terrible evil drawing nearer to the Academy's iron gates. And now that Lissa and Rose's sworn enemy, Victor Dashkov, is on trial for his freedom, tensions in the Moroi world are higher than ever.

Lying to Lissa about Dimitri is one thing, but suddenly there's way more than friendship at stake. The immortal undead are on the prowl, and they want vengeance for the lives that Rose has stolen. In a heart-stopping battle to rival her worst nightmares, Rose will have to choose between life, love, and the two people who matter most... but will her choice mean that only one can survive? (Description from Goodreads)

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I can't talk about this graphic novel without first talking about the moment I got it. A surprise package in the mail, ripping open the cardboard casing and running around the house screaming with excitement. I can't say it was for the graphic novel itself - not being a bit reader of GNs - but if any book could push me into them, it'd be Shadow Kiss. The best Vampire Academy book ever! I think that might be the real reason Penguin Teen Australia sent me a copy - they know how much I love this series, and it was the book that really started the Australian VA obsession! (Shadow Kiss book club of '09)

What I love most about this novel is that it's short and sharp, and allows the reader to experience the great story with visual aids. Sure, it's a condensed version of the story. You don't have every line written by Richelle, especially because the story is adapted by the amazing Leigh Dragoon, but you do get the over all feel of the story and having Emma Vieceli's skilful drawings brought the story to life in a whole new way for me. I've flicked through the first Vampire Academy graphic novel, but I don't own the previous two - so getting to read the entire GN from start to finish was a whole new experience for me. I'll admit I flicked to my favourite scenes first, because it's hard not to want to see how they've been represented in this edition, but I really enjoyed going back and just reading straight through.

I had a few issues wrapping my head around the set-up for the graphic novel. Not being used to the way the boxes and bubbles flow onto each other, I had a few moments where I was reading them out of order and missing speech boxes that were tucked around the corner. But I got the hang of it, and it all flowed really well. I did miss Richelle's original text. As such a big fan of the series, I sort of wanted every word and scene to be included. So much of the series is said and done internally, with Rose's thinking taking over; so I missed that part of it. But the beauty of a graphic novel is its ability to condense a story to its main parts.

I think this was a fabulous next step for the series. I know graphic novels have started to pick up in the YA scene, for the big stories, but I love that it gives reluctant readers, graphic novel fans and just fans of the series another chance to explore one of my favourite YA series.

Very impressed. And I'll definitely have to get my hands on the first two in the graphic novel series.

4/5 stars

(Also posted on Goodreads)