Sunday, April 8, 2012

Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner

Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner
Random House, 446 pages
ARC courtesy of Random Buzzers

"Himiko the beloved daughter of a chieftain in third century Japan has always been special. The day she was born there was a devastating earthquake, and the tribe's shamaness had an amazing vision revealing the young girl's future - one day this privileged child will be the spiritual and tribal leader over all of the tribes. Book One revolves around the events of Himiko's early teen years - her shaman lessons, friendships, contact with other tribes, and journey to save her family after a series of tragic events. Once again, Esther Friesner masterfully weaves together history, myth, and mysticism in a tale of a princess whose path is far from traditional."

I have read all of Esther Friesner's Princesses of Myth stories, whether they were about Helen of Troy or Nefertiti, and have enjoyed all of them. I definitely have enjoyed Nefertiti's story the best because Friesner exposed us to Egypt, a world that clearly isn't eurocentric, and I found this very refreshing. Typically I do not go for the books that have an Asian setting or something of the like, but ever since reading Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman, I have been captivated by the setting, and Spirit's Princess may now have surpassed Nefertiti's story's excellence in my opinion.

The beginning of the book is definitely pretty slow. I would say that the first 100 or so pages dragged a bit, but they are absolutely essential in telling Himiko's story. Without that background of when Himiko was younger, we would not be able to truly understand where she came from. So, don't give up in the beginning. Keep pushing through.

I think why I like Himiko's story better than Helen's or Nefertiti's is that there is a clear purpose of what Himiko wants to do. She is a very strong-willed child, and eventually woman, that knows what she wants and is determined to go out and get it. In Friesner's previous books, it kind of seemed that both Helen and Nefertiti didn't have a clear purpose to their life and that some of the issues they had to face in their stories seemed a bit trivial at times. Helen's story definitely felt like that to me, while Nefertiti actually had some severe problems she had to overcome. With Himiko, I could simply feel how dire her situation was, and everything just seemed more important. Every action she made appeared to have a resounding effect on her tribe, and this made me care for the story and the characters so much more.

The characters are absolutely wonderful. I loved Himiko's spirit and spunk when she was young, and it was very enjoyable to watch it evolve as she got older. The spunk wasn't gone, it was just transformed into a purpose and a drive for life that was great to see. Himiko's brothers were all charming and made me chuckle at times. They definitely lighten the mood of the story a bit. Lady Yama... I absolutely LOVED her as a character! One second you can be laughing from something she said, and the next you can be amazed by the wisdom that spouted from lips that so easily joked. She was simply a delight.

If you are looking to pick up a book that has adventure, a strong female character, and a heartfelt storyline, definitely pick up Spirit's Princess!

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.

Monday, April 2, 2012

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

You Against Me by Jenny Downham
David Fickling Books, 411 pages
Courtesy of Random Buzzers

"If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another."

When this book was in the Random Buzzer website store, all of my friends and myself jumped at the chance of owning this book, and all requested a copy. Once the books finally arrived in those beautiful orange packages, we were all so excited (Not to mention that it was a hardcover beauty!). Then senior year kicked in!

We were all so busy with AP and colleges classes, work, extra-curricular activities, college applications, and so on and so on. So, the copies of You Against Me went unread in our to-read piles. But about two weeks ago, it just so happened that I needed something to read and I also finally had the time. So, I went through my stack of unread books and You Against Me popped out at me. I thought to myself here is this book that I had so much interest in reading but for some reason hadn't yet. And so, I opened the neglected novel and finished it in a whopping five days (Ask anyone and they will say that is really quick for me!).

I absolutely loved this book!! Jenny Downham is a British novelist, which is very clear throughout the duration of this book. It was sort of confusing at first because they are constantly talking about how they eat crisps (which is a British slang word for potato chips), but I didn't know that until I looked it up. But in a way, once you get to know what the slang words mean in the context of the story, it really adds to Downham's overall style.

When I first read the synopsis for this story, I wasn't expecting there to such an emotional romantic thread between the two lead characters, Mikey and Ellie. But once I started getting into the book, I was so excited to realize that the love between the two characters was so authentic, realistic, and beautiful that at times I found myself on the verge of tears. I fell in love with these two. The situation that they have to go through in the book is also very relatable to people who have family issues that can effect everyone.

I would definitely recommend this book to people who like contemporary fiction or who just simply want to read something that is realistically beautiful. I was so happily surprised by this book and I hope that others will enjoy it, too.

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.