Just Another Bookworm

Liar: A Memoir

Liar: A Memoir - Rob Roberge I had to fight to finish this book. Definitely not one I would recommend. The author skips all around his life so much, I couldn't keep straight where he lived and who he was with when. It is really a pointless memoir recounting random events of substance abuse and psychotic problems that are not at all surprising with all the ridiculously idiotic things the author has done. Don't waste your time, readers.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin Best literary fiction I have ever read! Strong protagonist and multiple layers of back stories and characters.

Letters from a Bipolar Mother (Chronicles of A Fractured Life)

Letters from a Bipolar Mother (Chronicles of A Fractured Life) - Alyssa Reyans Amazingly accurate account of life with bipolar disorder. I could identify and sympathize with the author every second and her quest to recreate a life with her children is heartbreaking. The book itself could use a thorough editing job though.

The Fault in Our Stars (Movie Tie-in)

The Fault in Our Stars (Movie Tie-in) - John Green I really do have some things to say about this book. A more proper review will follow once I have the time to write it.

Dark Dreams: Sexual Violence, Homicide And The Criminal Mind

Dark Dreams: Sexual Violence, Homicide And The Criminal Mind - Roy Hazelwood, Stephen G. Michaud Dark Dreams offers an in-depth and often troubling look into the minds of some of the most dangerous sexual predators and serial killers of our time. Criminal profiler Roy Hazelwood has dedicated his career to perfect criminal profiling in an effort to create the most accurate picture of potential offenders. Profiling has been used to both discover the warning signs of violent behavior before they become a real threat and to point investigators towards likely suspects in murder cases. Leaving out none of the gruesome details, the authors paint a truly vivid image of these crimes, the extents the killers go to in the throes of passion - whether sexual or rage, or even just for the rush of adrenaline.


Readers of forensics or psychology and fans of true crime novels should definitely put Dark Dreams on their reading list. I found every chapter captivating, many times anxious myself to discover the killer's identity, in awe of the crimes they've committed. The information provided about the human brain and psyche shows the experience and dedication Hazelwood puts into his work as a criminal profiler, as the descriptions he provides in many of his cases turn out to be very true-to-life once the offender is finally identified. The author's credentials in this field of study are quite numerous, with many advances in profiling to his name, along with a natural propensity to understand and isolate factors that may trigger these violent criminals to act out.


I highly recommed this book and give it a full five stars. The authors provide a healthy balance of what makes a work of non-fiction successful: information, entertainment, and readability.

The Sins of the Father

The Sins of the Father - Jeffrey Archer Abruptly beginning exactly where its prequel, "Only Time Will Tell", left off. In the heat of World War II, Harry Clifton goes to extreme measures to maintain the rouse of his true identity, while Emma Barrington, unable to accept Harry died in the wreck of the Kansas Star and takes an extended leave to the United States to uncover the truth about her beloved, determined not to return to England without him.


A secondary character in the series' first installment, we get a much deeper, intimate knowledge of Giles Barrington, Harry's long-time friend and Emma's brother, as his importance in the events of the series grows. Believing his friend has not survived the sinking ship, Giles sets out to fulfill Harry's dream of joining the Royal Army and fighting the Germans. Giles faces many of his own trials and tribulations as he rises quickly through the ranks, becoming more uncomfortable as he is given command of soldiers he once considered peers and equals.


The reader also meets a slew of new, colorful characters also, some minor and others causing major plot twists, such as ruthless, renowned New York lawyer Sefton Jelks.


The ever-present question of Harry's paternity is once again the key problem at hand, the one detail keeping the star-crossed lovers, Harry and Emma, from their dream of spending their lives together as husband and wife.


Obsessed with proving he did not father Harry, Hugo Barrington, destitute and running his family's company into the ground, draining the coffers just to survive. He hires a private investigator to keep tabs on Maisie Clifton's every move, bent on keeping the secret of Harry's survival a secret to ensure Giles will inherit the Barrington shipping company, if anything remains of the company as Hugo drains it dry of all funds.


Just as beautifully written and shockingly suspenseful, this dramatic sequel matches the high expectations I had set after "Only Time Will Tell", and as in its predecesor, this novel begins by answering a few questions posed at the abrupt ending of the first novel, ending in the same manner- making one want to immediately go out for a copy of the third installment of The Clifton Chronicles. Well beyond worth the read, The Clifton Chronicles are fascinating novels set during a fascinating time in history. I give it five out of five stars and commend the author on his consistency and writing abilities.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman The Day of Judgement is upon planet Earth. Everything foretold in the Bible, from frogs falling from the sky to the ride of the Four Horsemen, is going according to plan. At ten years old, the Antichrist, affectionately named Warlock, has spent his short time on Earth being pushed and pulled by the influences of divine entities from either side of the moral spectrum, grooming him for his ultimate destiny to ring in Armageddon. Except there's one small problem. Warlock, lazy and spoiled rotten, is showing no particular interest in either faction and time is running out. Unknown to all involved, the infant Antichrist had been accidently switched at birth at the incapable hands of a rather chatty, devil-worshipping nun. The mistake is completely unknown to anyone until a hellhound, specially released to search out and serve only his true Antichrist master, and the plan for the end of the world begins to unravel. Dog, as the hellhound becomes known by his young master Adam, experiences life as a true pet and enjoys the attention from his diplomatic, if a little eccentric, Antichrist and his small following of three fiercely loyal friends.

Meanwhile, centuries-long rivals and occasional "friends", the angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley, sent to Earth on the day of its creation to spread their respective values and behaviors and sway the impressionable humans to their side. However, after thousands of years on Earth, both have become accustomed to, and very fond of, the freedom and pleasures of our world and aren't ready to give up their current lifestyles. When each is ordered back "home" to prepare for the ultimate battle, they make the drastic decision to go rogue and stop the Apocalypse from destroying their comfortable living.

One hilarious side story in the novel is that of the "witch" Anathema Device and her companion Newt. Guided by a book of obscure prophecies made in 1655 by a witch named Agnes Nutter, this strange duo also sets out to stop Judgement Day from occurring. Originally skeptical about Nutters' ability to actually tell the future, Newt blows it off as the bizarre hobby of a potentially unstable old woman. As their adventure takes off and their relationship begins to grow, so does Newt's faith in the extraordinarily accurate book.

To further complicate matters, self-proclaimed witch hunter extrordinaire Shadwell, a life-long bachelor and a war veteran, hears wind of Anathema's reputation as a witch and sets off on a good, old-fashioned witch hunt. Also among the cast of highly unusual and entertaining characters are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (whose "horses" are actually motorcycles), and a crochety old man constantly on the lookout for material for his next "Letter to the Editor" rant.

A natural-born leader who continuously mesmerizes his modest preteen following, Adam knows something is pulling his focus to the nearby army base, leading his friends straight into the thick of the battle between Heaven and Hell. In a race to stop (or ensure the success of) the Apocalypse, mortals (along with an angel and a demon) take on the divine and discover that there's always an alternative to destroying the human race, and sometimes an old witch knows best.

Hilarious from start to finish and brimming with imagination that can only come from these acclaimed fantasy writers, Good Omens is an exciting read and a hilarious reread that all readers are bound to enjoy. With no particular religious undertones, this novel burrows straight to the funny bone and holds on tight. A definite must-read for any fan of fantasy literature and anyone looking for a good laugh with a plot.

The Dragon Book: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy

The Dragon Book: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy - Tanith Lee, Garth Nix, Jonathan Stroud, Diana Gabaldon, Gregory Maguire, Diana Wynne Jones, Peter S. Beagle, Bruce Coville, Jane Yolen, Tad Williams, Tamora Pierce, Gardner R. Dozois, Harry Turtledove, Jack Dann, Kage Baker, Sean Williams, Liz Williams, Andy Duncan, Mary R A wonderful compendium of 19 short stories, written by some of the biggest names in fantasy writing, including Peter S. Beagle, Tad Williams, Gregory Maguire, and Tanith Lee, some of my personal favorites- and all centering around dragons of all types. From lands of fantasy to present day, from evil dragons slain by the classic hero archetype to the noble, magical beings of lore, there are stories to satisfy all lovers of the draconic and fans of the fantasy genre.

Not all of the stories were worth the time spent reading them, in my opinion, but the extreme diversity of these tales ensure there are at least a handful of stories that every reader will enjoy. The diversity also allows the reader to experience these classic beasts in some settings and situations in which they otherwise may not have been included in, creating a fascinating plethora of new experiences for readers.

Story List & Ratings:
"Dragon's Deep" - Jonathan Holland (4 of 5)
"Vici" - Naomi Novik (2 of 5)
"Bob Choi's Last Job" - Jonathan Stroud (3 of 5)
"Are You Afflicted With Dragons?" - Kage Baker (5 of 5)
"The Tsar's Dragons" - Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple (4 of 5)
"The Dragon of Direfell" - Liz Williams (3 of 5)
"Oakland Dragon Blues" - Peter S. Beagle (5 of 5)
"Humane Killer" - Diana Gabaldon & Samuel Sykes (3 of 5)
"Stop!" - "Ungentle Fire" - Sean Williams (2 of 5)
"A Stark and Wormy Knight" - Tad Williams (4 of 5)
"None So Blind" - Harry Turtledove (5 of 5)
"JoBoy" - Diana Wynne Jones (3 of 5)
"Puz_le" - Gregory Maguire (4 of 5)
"After the Third Kiss" - Bruce Coville (5 of 5)
"The War That Winter Is" - Tanith Lee (3 of 5)
"The Dragon's Tale" - Tamora Pierce (5 of 5)
"Dragon Storm" - Mary Rosenblum (3 of 5)
"The Dragaman's Bride" by Andy Duncan (5 of 5)

The Secret History

The Secret History - Donna Tartt Richard Papen gets more than he expected when he first arrives at tranquil (not to mention, elite) Hampden College and becomes one of only six Classics & Greek students, taught by the charismatic Julian Morrow. The accidental death of a local farmer forces the students to keep a constant eye on each other, afraid someone may buckle under the weight of this secret and go to the police to avoid their own jail time.

When Bunny (formally, Edmund), the most carefree of the group begins to crack under the pressure, Henry, the most meticulous and studious of the group suggests the only way to keep their secret is to keep Bunny quiet- permanently.

Now responsible for two deaths, the friends' relationships, along with each individual, begin to change as paranoia and distrust set in alongside the guilt of Bunny's death.

I found this novel to have a sizable amount of unnecessary "fluff," as well as being rather slow-moving between the monumental events, which take place quickly themselves, with much less detail and elaborations one would expect from the major scenes of the entire story line.

The excessive use of alliteration often seemed too much, unnecessary, to me. The references come mainly from ancient Greek philosophers, fitting for the students' area of expertise, but little-known to the common reader. The class discussions the author includes are long and in-depth, requiring a reread or two to understand their significance to the plot, and sometimes having no connection to the current situation the group faces, but to one so much farther ahead that I had forgotten completely about these references until I went back through to collect review material.

Tartt does present one of the most unique sets of characters I have seen. 'A strange group of outcasts at a prestigious New England college,' who have dedicated their college careers, and subsequently their lives, to pouring over long-forgotten texts written in Greek by long-forgotten authors, with a sprinkling of Latin and French. These become aids to transmit messages to each other in the presence of others. Written in second person, we can only learn of Richard's experiences, keeping the sense of intrigue and paranoia among the rest of the group.

My real frustration came at the very end of the novel. It is my belief that the resolution introduces more questions that it answers, denying the reader closure and making the book feel somehow unfinished.

Richard's words perfectly describes the novel while summing up his roller coaster first year at Hampden College- this is a novel "...of sin unpunished, of innocence destroyed..." Full of surprises and rife with brain-bending twists, The Secret History is a worthwhile read for thriller fans.

The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story - Michael Ende, Ralph Manheim Ask any American child of the 80's who Atreyu is and they'll most likely be able to recall the hero in the movie adaptation of this highly imaginative fantasy novel that originated in Germany, caught fire and became a best-seller in 27 countries. The movie delighted children and adults alike across the U.S. as the tale of a lonely, bullied young boy named Bastian who discovers a mysterious book and delves into the tome, discovering its unusual qualities as he becomes entangled in the adventures of the character Atreyu, on his mission to save the Empress of Fantasia (Fantastica, in the novel). For those who have seen the movie, you've only experienced the first half of the novel (and a very condensed version of it, I might add). No cinematics could ever do justice to the extensive imagination Ende has put into this book, the many layers of plot, the fantastic, original creatures that inhabit Fantastica, and the full story that leads Bastian Balthazar Bux to take refuge in this world within a book. This piece of literature can only truly be appreciated when viewed through one's own imagination.

Ende blows all other fantasy writers out of the water with his creativity in both the characters he's created and the adventures he sends them on. The Neverending Story is nearly three stories in one. It begins in our world, following the fat, friendless Bastian, who feels unloved even by his own emotionally distant father. After stealing The Neverending Story from a book shop, he stows away in his school's attic and buries himself in the pages of this strangely magnetic book. Then we switch between the story of Bastian reading in the attic and Atreyu, a young boy in the book on a quest to find the cure for Fantastica's dying Empress. Little does Bastian know that once he began reading, he became part of this other realm, immortalized in the true "Neverending Story." Lastly, we follow Bastian into Fantastica, where he has become exalted as the Savior of Fantastica through his renaming of their Empress. Wielding AURYN, a medallion gifted to him by the Empress herself, which grants all of its bearer's deepest wishes, Bastian becomes drunk with power, wishing himself strong, handsome, and courageous, all the qualities he lacks in his real life, risking his relationships with Atreyu and the luckdragon Falkor, the only two real friends he has ever had. Far from the only risk he takes, Bastian must figure out what he truly wants more than anything, before he ruins the world he only recently saved and becomes unable to return home.

One of this novel's amazing features in the extensive amount of imagination and creativity with which the author fills every single page. Ende creates dozens on his own creatures, such as a "man-sized rooster in jackboots" and the Acharis, known as the saddest creatures in all of Fantastica, they resemble fat worms and cry a river of silver. Favorites from the movie are also given their due in the novel, like Pyornkrachzark, the rock chewer, and the night-hob Vooshvazool and his bat mount.

The format in which Ende presents his novel allows two of the separate story lines to coexist and flow seamlessly into each other. The author even goes as far as to print in two colors- red text for events taking place in the real world, and green text for the happenings of Fantastica, further separating the imagination from reality.

This multi-layer adventure carries the primary theme that friendship, and loving & being loved in return, are more important than the vain characteristics we humans are so often blinded by- power, looks, popularity. Indescribably imaginative, in my opinion, The Neverending Story was clearly well-planned and could only have come from the mind of a Grand Master of the fantasy genre.

Houses of Horror

Houses of Horror - Hans Holzer I must say it saddens me to be disappointed by a book I was so eager to read. Houses of Horror is a compilation of some of the house hauntings studied by author and parapsychologist Hans Holzer. Each chapter spotlights a particular case, or multiple cases occurring in the same area, in Mr. Holzer's career of studying and releasing spirits trapped between worlds and unable to rest peacefully. This type of work appeals to me, as I've had a long-time interest in the occult.

After several chapters, my disappointment began to settle in as each chapter vaguely resembles every other. The author does not live up to the "horror" promised in the title and simply explains the same, repetitive spiritual behavior in each house, which rarely strays from phantom footsteps, "uneasy" feelings of an unseen presence, random figures in the dark that disappear when the lights go on, and other various noises. Nothing about Holzer's accounts inspired any feelings one expects when reading ghost stories. Rather, the stories should be more accurately marketed as various cases of a professional parapsychologist, and nothing more. An aggravating reoccurance is the lack of closure in many of the cases, while others are hardly more than snippets of cases that seem just thrown in at will, giving very little detail, background, or substance at at all. A paragraph or two of "fluff" from an unrelated case appear in many of the earlier chapters, becoming rarer as the book progresses.

The unnecessary "fluff" and lack of assumed horror can be easily overlooked as the author offers interesting insight into a lesser-known, sometimes taboo, profession and a greatly mysterious subject matter, however the excessive occurance of typographical errors shows a complete lack of proper editing. As the third edition (the first published in 1970),one would expect such obvious mistakes be corrected at some point. Nevertheless, my personal experience reading this book was marred by lack of proper spacing between words and numerous punctuation errors.

Finally, the repetitive nature in which the chapters are written dispelled some of the original curiosity I had for what each individual story would contain. Holzer gives the background of the case, summarizes his visit to the house (usually involving a trance medium), and after a short communication with the spirit, convincing them their work on earth is done so they can cross over. Many simply end with the author's hope that his visit ceased the disturbances, not offering any proper conclusion or follow-up. I found myself wondering if my copy was missing pages that satisfactorily closed a few of the chapters, but alas, mine is fully intact.

I really enjoyed the ride along in such a fascinating field, learning many new factoids and methods concerning the procedure for dispelling ghosts from a home, as well as insight into the various manifestations of ESP, and do so recommend to anyone particularly interested in such topics. But if a good scare is what you're looking for, Houses of Horror will not satisfy.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton Never a disappointment to science fiction fans, I have found that Crichton's novels are always the quality readers want to read and writers want to achieve. His 'Jurassic Park' trilogy not only thrilled millions of readers worldwide, they successfully terrified movie-goers.

John Hammond, an elderly billionaire with a passion for dinosaurs, has purchased his own island off the coast of Coast Rica, hired the top scientists in engineering, genetics, mathematics, and various other fields, and had dinosaurs grown from bits of preserved DNA, all for the sake of the greatest zoological attraction for children in the world. When problems begin occurring on the super-secret island attraction-in-progress known as "Jurassic Park", it's a true battle of man versus nature as the occupants of this secluded island come face-to-face with their own prehistoric creations- monsters that were never meant to coexist with humankind. Paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant is summoned from his most recent dig to tour the island, along with his assistant Dr. Ellie Sattler, in the hopes of recruiting Grant to back the island's creation and join Hammond's team. Hammond even shows his confidence in his prehistoric replica that he also includes his own two young grandchildren in the first-ever guided tour of the park. It takes very little time for the flaws of this plan to become evident, leaving everyone at the mercy of animals they know very little about. Fighting for control, as well as survival, the island's occupants experience the horror of creature who it seems are probably extinct for a reason.

Much more than merely a thrilling work of fiction, this novel carries a greater message to the reader, a warning of the dangers of advancing technology for the sake of glory and riches, without consideration for whether their advancements should take place just because they can, and without fully understanding the technology they're dealing with. Jurassic Park addresses specifically the on-going debate surrounding the ethical use of DNA engineering, and serves as a global warning of its potentially disastrous effects. This is mostly done through the rantings of one Dr. Ian Malcolm, a mathematician enlisted to help make Jurassic Park functional, though he doesn't share the views of John Hammond. Through Malcolm, Crichton delivers several deep, philosophical tirades about man trying to control nature without realizing that nature cannot be controlled, and even long after man has destroyed themselves, and maybe even all current life on the planet, the ancient earth will survive, and eventually life will spring up again, adapted to whatever changes have occurred to the planet. It will be like man never existed. This lesson is delivered so passionately by the character that no reader can ignore or deny the truth in his words.

A fascinating read with a strong message, Jurassic Park is the perfect read for all sci-fi fans. The wide variety of characters' backgrounds and personalities, the heart-pounding scenes, and exquisitely descriptive language bring the existence of Jurassic Park to life for the reader in a way I have never before experienced in this genre.

Eldest

Eldest  - Christopher Paolini Young Paolini's second installment of the Inheritance Cycle exceeds expectations, following the success of Eragon. One of the most widely read young adult fantasy series, the Inheritance Cycle follows farm-boy-turned-Dragon-Rider, Eragon and his dragon Saphira to all ends of their world of Alagaesia to avenge the death of Eragon's uncle, Garrow, to destroy the evil King Galbatorix, and to restore peace and prosperity to all races in the land.Along the way, many allies, as well as enemies, are made, weaving a memorable storyline with a complex web of memorable characters.
Eldest begins and ends in the wake of battle, with Eragon and Saphira's grand adventures and personal growth filling the pages in between. We also follow the struggles of Eragon's hometown of Carvahall through the eyes of his cousin Roran, another strong personality fighting for the greater good, among his own personal reasons.
I did find this book to be slow-moving and often difficult to keep my attention on, as many long journeys and battles take place, as is almost mandatory for the fantasy genre. Yet I also found myself unable to put it down for long, desperate to discover the many plot twists and secrets along the way.
My personal opinion is that one cannot be a fan of the fantasy genre, adults and young adults alike, and pass up the chance to briefly live in the world of Alagaesia through the four Eragon novels. While some parts are slow-moving and tedious, I encourage every reader to continue on, as every scene is significant in some way, to the series as a while. If nothing else, the characters and races represented show great thought and imagination and make the series definitely deserving og the hype that followed its publication. Readers, and all fans of the fantasy genre, do yourselves a favor and pick up the Inheritance Cycle- you won't be disappointed.

The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown In this sequel to the literary and cinematic phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, symbologist Robert Langdon is once again thrown into the world of the Freemasons. Finally, this one takes place on his own U.S. soil. Summoned to the country's capital, Langdon becomes entangled in the lore and well-hidden secrets of the ultra-secret society when a mysterious object is discovered in the Capitol Building and his long-time friend and known-Mason Peter Solomon is kidnapped by a madman who has successfully infiltrated the Masons, reaching the coveted 33rd degree with the intention of personally gaining, as well as divulging their greatest secrets and using them to take down the society.
Accompanied by Peter's sister Katherine, Langdon follows the trail of clues left by ancient Masons to find his friend in time to save his life. Plunged deep within hidden passages and tunnels weaving through Washington, D.C., following Langdon is once again as much a learning experience for the reader as a cunningly well-written thriller, filled with as much fact as fiction.
My only complaint with this series is the lack of subject variation. All three novels revolve around the Freemasons and Illuminati, societies Langdon is not even a member of. I would love to see this world-famous symbologist delve into the secrets of another culture or society. While all three novels are gripping and fascinating, a little variation in subject matter would be a welcome change in my eyes, and show Brown's talent as a writer and researcher to introduce readers to another side of Robert Langdon- a side that is fluent in other areas of symbology.
Well worth the read to history buffs, as well as fans of thrillers. The famous Langdon novels are not to be missed!

Ascend

Ascend  - Amanda Hocking I picked up this book with great expectations. Hocking's Trylle series has become one of my favorite Young Adult series and couldn't wait to see what surprises the author had in store for the conclusion of this fantasy series and the plethora of unique characters created to exist in it.

Wendy is forced to grow up fast when she is faced with the impending death of her mother Elora, Queen of the Trylle, becoming Queen herself and running a kingdom she has only barely gotten to know, turning eighteen, and her arranged marriage to her friend Tove, a powerful Markis with a very influential family. Of course, there's still the issue of Wendy's love for the tracker Finn, a pairing that would require both to be banished from Forening, and Finn's insistance that duty come before love. While it pains Wendy to see Finn working around the palace, knowing he's made his choice and can't be her's, she focuses her energy on preparing the kingdom for war with their rival Changeling clan, the Vittra.

Ascend opens on the eve of Wendy's eighteenth birthday. Like any other eighteen-year old, she spends the evening laughing and havinga care-free time with her friends. She knows this will be the last time she'll be allowed to have this time with them all, regardless of their place (or lack thereof) in Trylle society. Matt, the brother she grew up with, is just an average human, the equivalence of pond scum in this high-nosed society. Willa is Wendy's closest friend and the most powerful Marksinna. An outgoing girly-girl, she is a perfect compliment to Wendy's often un-ladylike behaviors and helps her look and act the part of the respectable Queen she must be, and even grows herself, into the government-involved Marksinna. Though Willa is on thin ice herself, secretly in a relationship with Matt- a crime punishable by banishing. Rhys and Rhiannon are manks- they are the human babies taken from the host families and raised in Trylle society, usually treated no better than servants. Duncan, Wendy's new tracker since Finn became reassigned, proves to be an invaluable asset to Wendy throughout the book, as he is a dedicated friend, fiercely loyal and desperate to prove himself as a tracker (even if he's not cut out for combat...).

Other returning characters are Elora, Wendy's mother and Queen of the Trylle; Aurora, Tove's mother and an icy, bitter woman; the perverted Chancellor, whose thoughts of Wendy make Tove very angry; Garrett, Finn's father and Elora's long-time lover, and Oren, Wendy's father and King of the Vittra, among many others.

In the second book, we met Loki, a Vittra Markis who sneaks into the palace courtyard and begs Wendy to run away with him. In Ascend, we find Loki battered and bruised at the door to the palace, and Wendy takes charge, depending on her closest friends to keep the secret of his presence while he heals and she can determine the reason for coming to Forening, of all places. Loki's charming, witty, sarcastic personality draw Wendy right in- instead of just harboring an enemy, she falls in love with him also.

Three days after her eighteenth birthday, Wendy and Tove are married, followed by a reception in which Wendy is to dance with everyone who asks. Tove has exceptionally strong powers and is a powerful backer to all of Wendy's ideas, but the marriage creates a certain awkwardness between the couple. When Elora dies, finally drained of energy from years of using her powers, Wendy has three days before she must be crowned Queen, ending the truce with the Vittra, leaving the kingdom open for an attack they can't possibly win. The Trylle look on in horror as the Vittra decimate other Changling cities, just waiting for the chance to take over Forening. Seeing no better way to save her people, Wendy convinces Loki to take her to Oren, her father and King of the Vittra. Wendy knows Oren wants her for his own, as her powers are the strongest seen in a very long time, or he will ensure she can side with no one. Swearing love and loyalty to her, Loki takes her to the very man who nearly killed him for not bringing Wendy to him in the second book. Doing things her own way, as she often prefers, Wendy works out a deal with the King: no more attacks on any Changlings until she is crowned Queen, and in return, she will unite Forening with the Vittra and rule under him. Oren greedily takes the deal, unaware that this Princess will not let her kingdom go that easily.

While preparing to attack the Vittra unaware to gain the upper hand, Tove reveals to Wendy that he's gay, and they both admit they are not in love with each other. Tove's argument on the matter is especially moving: Trylle have very short lives due to their powers draining their life energy away, and with as strong at Tove's powers are, he pointed out that he would not have a long life and he'd like the chance to fall in love. They agree to an annullment as soon as the war with the Vittra ends, the first real decision made based on one's own happiness versus the good of the kingdom, though Tove would remain at her side, helping her make the changes she, and most of her generation, want to see in a kingdom that never shys from the old customs.

I was really unsatisfied at how much plot and content Hocking crammed into this third book. I strongly believe more should have been included in some scenes, such as the final war scene, the wedding reception, and her meeting with Oren. I also felt the last several chapters, the epitome of the entire book, were rushed and lacking in detail and minor content. The epilogue, the update on everyone a year later, was the greatest disappointment for me. It would have felt more natural to see the events that transpired over that year's time in a fourth book, where the characters and relationships would get the recognition they should have instead of a short summary of everyone's lives. It just felt too unnatural to me for Wendy Everly to be a mother, and it broke my heart to see Finn with a family of his own, just a page-turn away from the post-battle wrap-up. While I respect the author's decisions concerning the characters' relationships, I will always be a Wendy-Finn shipper (for you hardcore book bloggers who know what that means), even more so after he has become forbidden to her. But even Finn gets to find love in the end, and Wendy and Loki get to rule as King and Queen and unite the kingdoms under a positive rule aimed at changing their world to accomodate and enliven their dying culture to fit better with thoughts and ideals of the human world around them.

I can say, without a doubt, that I am sad this series is over. My only regret is that the epilogue ruins any hopes I previously had that Hocking would decide to write another. It's like a giant stamp over the last page that reads: AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini What can I say about this fantastic beginning to one of the most popular YA fantasy series of our time that hasn't already been said numerous times? Paolini was a best-selling author by the time he was nineteen, with plenty more in store for Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, on their quest to overthrow the evil king of Alagaesia and revive the nearly-forgotten group of the Dragon Riders, who once patrolled and kept the country safe before the betrayal and rise to power of Galbatorix. What was originally planned to be a trilogy of novels has gone above and beyond to include four novels and a motion picture adaptation.

Paolini uses some well-known creatures of fantasy, such as elves, dragons and dwarves. The young author used mostly his imagination to create his own dark minions for King Galbatorix. His expendable foot soldiers are the brutish Urgals, his trackers of Eragon and Saphira, are the dangerous, dark-cloaked Ra'zac, and his elite general, of a recognizable race, is the Shade Durza.

When a young farm boy named Eragon finds a mysterious blue stone in the woods, he keeps it in hopes of selling it to help support his uncle, cousin Roran, and himself. Warned by townsfolk against keeping it, Eragon eventually discovers this "stone" is not at all what it appears to be when young Saphira, one of the last dragons in Alagaesia, hatches from it, feeling Eragon worthy to be her Rider and marking his palm with the sign of a Rider.

When his home is attacked and his uncle killed by Ra'zac searching for Saphira's egg, Eragon and Saphira depend on the local storyteller, Brom, to lead them on a mission for revenge, safety, and preparation for both to face the most powerful tyrant Alagaesia has ever suffered. Spurred by his expulsion from the Dragon Riders upon the death of his own dragon, Galbatorix raised an army, destroying all signs of the Dragon Riders besides his own fire-breathing replacement familiar.

Brom trains Eragon in sword-fighting, dragon-riding, and magic while on the run, hunted by Durza and his Urgal minions. Under Galbatorix's command, the Shade has been sent to bring the pair to him, to force them to join him, before they can side with the Varden, an underground group determined to end the King's reign. With knowledge of dragons, magic, and combat far beyond that of a village storyteller, Eragon knows he is hiding something, a secret that becomes clear to the reader long before the characters catch on- Brom was once a Rider himself. He eventually divulges that he was sent to wait for Saphira's egg to hatch, to protect and train her chosen Rider. Along their journey to track the Ra'zac and locate the hidden Varden, their group runs into various characters- some there to help, others to do them harm; some stay for only a few chapters, while others stay for much longer. After a skirmish, Brom is mortally wounded, his death means Eragon and Saphira no longer know how to reach the Varden. They later meet a young man named Murtagh, who shows them the way to the Varden's hideout amongst the dwarves, risking his own imprisonment upon arrival for being the son of the Riders' ultimate traitor, Morzan.

This novel is as much a coming-of-age story as much as it is a fight between good and evil, as young Eragon is thrown unexpectedly into manhood, and could not be a more complete introduction to the world of the Inheritance Cycle. With so many intricate events and details, no review could ever completely do justice to this well-written, engrossing novel, straight from the mind of a fellow young adult, the primary market for this series, but like "Twilight," "The Hunger Games," and "Harry Potter," the Inheritance Cycle also attracts adults, for once you pick up "eragon," no matter your age, just reading the first book is not enough. An easy five stars and a definite re-read (especially as this is my second time reading the novel). Keep an eye out for my later reviews of the remaining Inheritance Cycle novels: "Eldest," "Brisingr," and "Inheritance."

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