Book Review: Throne of Glass

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Yes, I’m just now reading this book. 😛 I was very late to the Sarah J. Maas train, only discovering her books after the publication of A Court of Mist and Fury. I was intrigued by reviews I saw of THAT book, and on the strength of those alone I read A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first in that series (which I wasn’t entirely on board with but then there was a horribly cliffhanger ending sooooo) quickly followed by ACOMAF, and I’ve been obsessed with the series ever since. Naturally I wanted to read her original series as well, but to be honest I’ve been a little scared. What if I don’t like it as much? What if I just think it’s crap compared to ACOTAR? Such high expectations. Honestly though, I was kind of braced to not like it, as everyone kept saying (as with ACOTAR) not to judge the entire series off the first book. So, SJM, I love you, but something about your first book game isn’t quite meshing with me…or maybe I just take a long time to fully commit to characters. Hrm. Anywho.

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This is my Treat choice for the Halloween Read-A-Thon!

I have done my best to avoid spoilers and there are definitely no plot spoilers! However if you don’t want to know ANYTHING about the characters you might not want to read.

Throne of Glass launches us into what promises to be an epic fantasy adventure. I love the way we’re immediately thrown in with Celaena in a dangerous, scary situation because I, naturally, want to know HOW THE FUCK she ended up there. Also how she can seem to be so young and yet so skilled, so brutal…and yet so obsessed with frilly dresses.

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Both of these are totally Celaena. I’m still not sure how she does it or why, especially as she even notes that all the layers of skirts hamper her fighting skills. Only somehow she doesn’t seem to get caught in particularly bad situations while all dolled up. Hmm.

The forest was different here. The leaves dangled like jewels – tiny droplets of ruby, pearl, topaz, amethyst, emerald, and garnet; and a carpet of such riches coated the forest floor around them. Despite the ravages of conquest, this part of Oakwald Forest remained untouched. It still echoed with the remnants of the power that had once given these trees such unnatural beauty.

Maas has created a beautiful world that is by turns thrilling, intriguing, and terrifying. I would like to visit, but retain the option to return to my own world with the push of a button. 😛 Because Cain and those demon things were scary AF, and the king gives me nasty chills. I want to know all about it though, and I feel like there is SO MUCH that still needs explaining. Where did the current King of Adarlan come from? What happened to Celaena’s family and why? Why is Dorian so very unlike his father? Who is Chaol, really? How did the magic of Adarlan just…die? Where did the Faery people go?

The plot really moves along at a good clip. I loved the constant suspense of waiting for each new test of the Champions, and seeing who would be eliminated or die trying. I also really enjoyed the continuous building of tension in the court, as Celaena tries over and over to piece things together as she gains new information.  It all flows smoothly leading up to the final duel…except that Kaltain’s part seemed rather forced and contrived, to me…of course there is someone like her in EVERY court (usually several), but it was just very convenient and felt a bit out of place.  Maybe part of that was due to the influences on her, I’m not sure.

There are a couple of tropes here, and I spotted them almost as soon as the book started. I took notes as I rolled my eyes around page 47. Verbatim: “Celaena is naturally the most gorgeous woman at court, both the captain and prince will fall in love with her, and the prince is possibly/probably not the prince at all.” I was slightly annoyed.

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Not this AGAIN.

HOWEVER. The love triangle was handled much better than a lot that I’ve seen, and the special snowflake turned out to be a special snowflake through much hard work, not just being born to it. Why does she have to be so gorgeous that practically every man falls at her feet? With the exception of the other Champions, thank the gods that be. But the constant references to her beauty in the first part of the book were really annoying. Blah. The love triangle was slow in the build-up, and if I hadn’t already seen so many memes and fangirl sites over ToG I might not have been so sure about it early on (thanks, interwebz), but I still feel like it was pretty obvious.

As I’ve said many times, characters are what really make a book for me. This one is STUFFED FULL of wonderful amazing people that I want to go live with. They are flawed – each and every one of them. They do annoying things that make me want to choke them. (Chaol, anyone?) They also have pasts that I am DYING to find out about because they are such strong people but they have scars and tender spots that show through now and again and yet NO. Apparently I must wait for the next book (which, not to worry, has already been requested from the library).

“Second place is a nice title for the first loser.”

Ah, Celaena, our heroine. Despite her annoyingly perfect body and face (even with her time in the mines and the abuse to the rest of her body, her face was somehow left alone), she’s definitely someone I’d want in my corner. She’s got a backbone of steel, a quick mind, and…well, she’s The Assassin. She’s been hurt, and horribly. But she hasn’t entirely hardened herself again the entire world yet. She is, however, a badass with a flair for the dramatic, and she likes attention.

“My name is Celaena Sardothien. But it makes no difference if my name’s Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I’d still beat you, no matter what you call me.”

Also, she loves books and good food. Seriously, the descriptions of the library in Rifthold made me feel lightheaded and all delicious food she was forever gobbling down kept me feeling hungry. Thankyounotreally.

 “I can survive well enough on my own— if given the proper reading material.”

Girl after my own heart, I’m telling you. Such a fighting and adventurous spirit – and yet she loves books.

She had often wished for adventure, for old spells and wicked kings. But she hadn’t realized it would be like this – a fight for her freedom. And she’d always imagined that there’d be someone to help her – a loyal friend or a one-armed soldier or something. She hadn’t imagined she would be so…alone.

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No, they’re not brothers, but they might as well be.

Dorian and Chaol – best friends consisting of the crown princeling and captain of the guard – are…well, they’re just sweethearts and good guys. Dorian more openly so. Chaol is, to be honest, something of an ass, but underneath it is a soft heart that shows through from time to time and I just want him to be able to open up and trust SOMEBODY. Geez Louise, but the man seems to wear his tough guy armor 24/7 . Dorian, on the other hand, needs to grow a pair (he’s working on it, I know I know but come ON). I am solidly team Chaol, at the moment. Also, not going to spoil for anyone that hasn’t read it but…Celaena NAILED IT towards the end of the book, when dealing with these two. HATS OFF. YOU GO GIRLFRIEND. Now that, took guts.

Oh, but back to other characters. There is of course Princess Nehemiah, who is very intriguing indeed and has me dying of curiosity about her country and magic and all the sparkly creepy things she seems to know about. I’m sure we will see more of her. There’s also Nox, who I’m NOT sure we will see more of but I hope we do. The most intriguing side character by FAR though, is Elena…who I can’t really discuss without giving stuffs away. Mph.

“You could be great. You could rattle the stars. You could do anything if only you dared.”

SO MUCH POTENTIAL IN THIS BOOK. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Now that the competition is over but ALL the dastardly schemes are just getting started.

That said, I’m giving 3.5/5 stars. It definitely got better as the story progressed, but I did a lot of eye-rolling during the set-up, and still feel like the love triangle itself was/is unnecessary, even if the characters are definitely not. Also I’m still not sure on the prince thing, nothing else ever happens to make us think that Dorian isn’t the prince, but for some reason it’s still in the back of my mind.

 

 

Book Review: Front Lines

It’s a lovely fall morning here…rainy, foggy, gray, and slightly cold. I’m sitting on my glassed in porch on the 11th floor with the windows open, a cup of coffee, and blanket, laptop, and kitty all in my lap. I spent a fun evening out last night with my DH and some friends, and while of course it was fun I’m pretty sure my social interaction quota has been filled for about the next 6 months. Haha.

Best way to spend a morning.

Anyway, on to the review. Also a quick reminder: 4 days left to enter my giveaway for The Woman in Cabin 10!

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Front Lines is an alternate history of WWII. The big switch-up Grant has made is adding females to the draft and using them in ALL roles across the United States military (other countries have not made such an enlightened choice). Other than that change, the book is pretty much true to history – including attitudes towards women, people of color, and people of Asian features. It is at times harsh and heartbreaking, but the main characters of Rio, Frangie, and Rainy are sympathetic and compelling as they grow and adapt to the war and their changing roles in the world. They are not only dealing with the hard reality of being females in a still very patriarchal world, but with their own coming of age, of loss and love on a personal level, and all while being swept along in the grand scheme of the war.

The rituals are different now. It has always been that the men went off and the women wept and waved. There is no blueprint for what is happening now. There is no easy reference point. People don’t know quite how to behave, and it’s worse for the men in the station who are staying behind and feel conspicuous and ashamed.

God knows the MODERN United States army is having a hard enough time getting a grip on itself with females in the ranks, but add to that the expectations of the generation that would become the idealogical 50s housewife – the book ends in about 1943, so with a couple more years left in the war, I’m very interested to see how this shapes Grant’s version of the United States in the sequel coming next year, Silver Stars.

We spend the most time with Rio, a gutsy farm girl who finds herself in the awkward and unwanted position of being good at her army job while in her heart, just wanting to be a normal girl. Her growth is the most marked of the three main characters and I love her so much.

She [Rio] has just upended her entire life based on a diner conversation with her best friend and an awkward exchange with a boy she barely knows.

The other two girls – because really, they are all still girls when the books starts – are lovable as well, but I felt the most connection with Rio. There is also an unnamed first-person narrator that shows up in the beginning, middle, and end, and has some succinct insights on the war and the women in it.

Will you understand if I tell you that there are times when it is better to feel the pain yourself than to see it and hear it in another?

Michael Grant has, I think, either been in military service or he has done his research very, very well. His descriptions of Basic Training are spot on. His knowledge of the WWII era is commendable (I went and looked a few things up to see just how accurate he was, if it all, since sometimes historical fiction writers are VERY free with the facts) and he has altered as little as possible in his writing. He’s baldly honest with the racism and sexism of the time, enough to make me squirm in my  chair. His descriptions of events are extremely accurate as we follow our heroines through their army journey from civilian to soldier.

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The one thing that bothered me was the substitute of fug or fugging for fuck or fucking…it would be one thing if the entire book was censored that way, but the words dick (the male appendage, not the name) and goddamn are used without euphemisms sooooo…that was kind of annoying and pointless. And GOD KNOWS it’s every soldier’s right to swear. And grumble.

I loved how honest the portrayal of human nature was, and how emotions come so close to the surface during times of stress. Rio especially is torn between what she knows is waiting for her at home and what is happening in the right here right now.

Strand is there, close to her heart.
Jack is there, close.

As a medic myself, I loved Frangie and her fighting spirit, even in the face of soldiers being SO VERY HORRIBLE to her because of her race and her gender. She just never quits. But she never stops feeling, either, she just learns to put it aside at the time. I can’t wait to see her further development.

Rainy, our little intelligence soldier, felt the least realistic to me. Some of her dialogue exchanges are stilted and left me with raised eyebrows. I mean, I know it was WWII and there were a lot of green soldiers thrown into positions that ordinarily they wouldn’t have been…her storyline just seemed far-fetched at times. Almost like, well, we need this group to be here and we need them to meet up with her so let’s throw in this over-the-top mission that makes no sense to anybody. But maybe I’m just overly skeptical.

Don’t go into this expecting a happily-ever-after, or an exceptionally fast paced story. The first half of the book is fairly slow as we are introduced to all the characters and how they came to be in the army. As for the ever-afters, one – the war isn’t over, so we’re going to have to wait and see how things turn out. For another – it’s war, and people die, even the characters we’ve become attached to. Overall, 4/5 stars.

At night we cry sometimes, and if you think that just applies to the females then you have never been in combat, because everyone cries sooner or later. Everyone cries.

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Book Review: The Dream Thieves

Usually, the desire to fangirl over a book turns me into a heart-fluttering, obsessive mess. However, the fangirl aroused by THIS book, was inspired by much deeper feelings. Feelings that just left me staring off into space and generally just trying to process. This book, you guys. This. Book. (WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST BOOK)

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“I’ve been all over the world. More than one country for every year that I’m alive…I’m not saying that to show off. I’m just saying it because I’m trying to understand how I could have been so many places and yet this is the only place that feels like home. This is the only place I belong. And because I’m trying to understand how, if I belong here, it…”
” — hurts so much,” Blue finished.

And that is how I feel about my lovely home in Virginia (I swear Maggie Stiefvater patterned Henrietta after my adopted hometown). Because even though I don’t live there now, and won’t for who knows how long (if ever)…I’m pretty sure it will always, always feel like home. It hurts, because it doesn’t make the most sense for me to live there, because there are part of it that make me angry and sad, and yet…this. So much this. That someone understands all the deep, intense emotions I have about home is so rare, and then to find it in a book…I’m pretty sure that The Raven Cycle is going to be one of my all time favorites.

 

It was a massive old forest, oaks and sycamores pushing up through the cold mountains soil. Leaves skittered in the breeze. Ronan could feel the size of the mountain under his feet. The oldness of it. Far below there was a heartbeat that wrapped around the world, slower and stronger and more inexorable than Ronan’s own.

For beautiful, heartfelt, feel-it-in-your-blood prose like this.

Anywho. Gansey, who actually plays less a part in this one, nevertheless starts off with a bang as he spouts off one of the most hilariously quotable lines in the book (I’m practically stalking for an opening in a conversation so I can use it):

“So what you’re saying is you can’t explain it.”
“I did explain it.”
“No, you used nouns and verbs together in a pleasing but illogical format.”

Bahahahahahaha. Ahem.

The Dream Thieves continues the story of the Raven Boys and Blue Sargent as they search for the Glendower, the long lost king of Wales. This second of four books focuses more on Ronan Lynch than the first, and he is arguably the MC/POV but all the others still figure well into the story. For myself, I kept wishing we would see more of Maura and the Gray Man, but then the book would probably have been too long…ah well, maybe in the next one.

Ronan is still a complete and total dick. No worries, guys, your daredevil bad boy isn’t going anywhere. He just proves to a be a badass with a soft spot for home, and family, and the balls to go with his sharp tongue. He’s the emo, complicated boy type at its finest. With a couple of twists. Like the whole dreaming deal he has going on. I’m trying reeeeeeeally hard not to give actual spoilers but…yeah. Oh, and Ronan also has an extremely quotable line (I’ve already used this one, and I want the fucking t-shirt, damn it):

“I am being perfectly fucking civil.”

His depth of love and commitment to his family is his most redeeming quality. Ronan is so far from perfect…but the Raven Boys and Blue need him. They need him as the avenging angel that will sacrifice himself to do whatever is needed to protect them. Ronan has pretty much given up his right (and let’s be honest…he gets off on the thrill so it hasn’t been THAT hard for him) to an easy conscience. He still doesn’t do anything SO bad…but he will protect his own, no matter what it costs him. We still get to see a softer, more vulnerable side sometimes – with his brother Matthew, and with Chainsaw. Who knew a raven could be cute?

There’s a lot of development of the other characters as well, almost to the detriment of the overall plot. I suppose that’s a point against, but I didn’t actually mind it, I was so interested in seeing more of Ronan’s family, and Blue’s 300 Fox Way family.

For Blue, there was family – which had never been about blood relation at 300 Fox Way – and then there was everyone else.

I adore Blue…she’s some awesome combination of spunky and unsure and sweet…someone I’d want for a friend. Her killer kiss curse isn’t quite so much in the forefront in this book, which I liked. This one just overall felt less like high school. They were focused on more important things in general, even though there’s still a bit of tension of love/like between them. There’s one part in particular where Blue and Noah – Noah, of all people! – almost broke my face in half, I was grinning so hard at their awkward adorableness – totally non-romantic, but adorable. I loved that we saw more of Maura, and that she was more than just Blue’s mom. That’s something so often left out of YA novels, it was very refreshing. Especially as an older reader, I felt like I could relate to her.

The appetizers were delicious, not because of the kitchen, but because all food eaten in anticipation of a kiss is delicious.

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The waiting, yo, the waiting.

Last but not at all least, there is Adam. To me Adam has always been a sympathetic character and one I could identify with, for several reasons. I guess in the first book he sometimes seemed a bit whiny, but really…his backbone, ability to pick himself up again and again, and his work ethic won me over. His pride, which so often gets in the way of others helping him, is so much a part of him that no one really wants him to get rid of it. In this book he’s struggling with the parts of him he’s inherited from his father, struggling with being able to express himself without being cut down (either literally or figuratively) for it – and guess what? He’s a teenage boy. With issues. It’s hard. He makes mistakes. But he’s just…he’s such a sweetheart. And the fact that, of all the Raven Boys, he feels the most alone…it just breaks my little heart. I wanted to make him hot chocolate and tuck him in bed, to make him feel safe and cared for.

If he had no one to wrap their arms around him when he was sad, could he be forgiven for letting his anger lead him?

I really hope that Adam finds some real happiness in the next two books. If he doesn’t, I swear…I’ll be reduced to writing fanfic to give him some.

I gave this book 5/5 stars, which surprised me, especially since the first one was only 3.5/5! I just loved it so freaking much, for so many reasons. I really fell in love with all the characters in this one, much more than in the first. I’m still very intrigued in the Glendower part of the story (especially with the complete realization of Ronan’s ability to dream things into being), but right now I would follow these characters anywhere.

Book Review: The Cruelty

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This book has already had a lot of buzz, mainly because of the author’s condescending and inflammatory comments about YA in general. I have a LOT of thoughts on his comments and general attitude, but I tried – I really, really tried – to not let my view of the author color the book. I agreed to the review before knowing anything about all the drama, so I felt like that was only fair. Usually when I try a new author, debut or not, I don’t research a lot about the author. I like to let the book speak for itself. In the end, I feel like The Cruelty (Scott Bergstrom’s debut, releasing in February 2017) mostly did that. I ended up giving it 3/5 stars, in spite of feeling like the author himself probably deserves 2/5. Or maybe 1/5. Because really, sir, you are not special, your book is not going to revolutionize YA, and it’s definitely not going to dazzle long-time readers of the genre. Also, sidenote: even though you’ve already made enough money to be able to quit your advertising executive career, you might want to work more on networking with your fellow writers instead of alienating and insulting them. But enough about Scott Bergstrom. After all, a lot of creative people lack social skills and if their work is dazzling enough we excuse them for it, right? Anyway, that was how and why I approached reading this book. Sadly, overall I felt like Mr. Bergstrom is not genius enough to be excused for his behavior.

So, the positive: the pacing is really spot on. I whizzed through this in a single afternoon/evening. There’s none of the stream-of-consciousness dwelling that bogs down some YA books. Even though there were aspects of the writing and characters that bothered me, I was interested enough in the plot line to ignore everything else I had planned for the day and read it all in one go. Also, the ending left me with enough questions (while not being a true cliffhanger) that, had the sequel been available, I would have picked it up right away. That in itself added the extra half star to me. The suspense and anticipation is definitely the most well-written thing about this book.

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The story takes place in several different countries. In my experience, you can almost always tell when an author is writing about a locale they’ve never personally seen or lived. It just rings false or like they’re ticking off a list, and having lived abroad myself I notice it more than I ever did before. Now, I haven’t been to all of the countries Gwen visits and don’t claim to be any kind of expert, but the descriptions feel very real. I think that Bergstrom has probably visited these countries or he researched very, very well.

Now for the negatives. I’m going to try not to rant on and on about these…but who am I kidding, I’m probably going to rant.

The book starts off REALLY rocky. I almost DNFed it at page 15. We start off with the special snowflake trope (OMG, she speaks French! even thinks in French and accidentally blurts it in class! oops!), followed by much angst. Sigh, page turn, and then –

I pull a book out of my backpack and lean against the door as the train shoots through the tunnel under the river toward Queens. It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they’re all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to march off to war when all she really wants to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love. 

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Let’s start off by throwing rocks at dystopian YA!! Yay!! Because we’re not writing almost the EXACT SAME type of book and calling it special, are we, Precious? *insert much eyerolling* I’m not even that much a fan of the dystopian type books! What I’m NOT a fan of, is generalization – and buddy, you just hit every student in the room with your spitwad. And this wasn’t even the point of the almost DNF.

Guys out on the sidewalk in front of the shops whistle and catcall after me. They love this – the school uniform, the flash of seventeen-year-old legs. 

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What the…? I mean…who even talks or thinks that way? It seems totally out of place in the current context and setting, and is just such a jolt of stupid and bad writing that I came *this close* to throwing the book across the room and doing something else with my afternoon. However, I continued. Mostly because I wanted to see if it could really be THAT bad. There were a few similar instances, like this one:

He uses as his tools reason and facts, a whole orchestra of them. But in the end, they bounce off the armor of my stubbornness.

Not quite on the same level as the seventeen-year-old legs quote, but close. Most of the female-specific points or themes in this book sound utterly redonkulous. Like a seventeen-year-old boy was trying to imagine how girls think. Big fat fail. The body image comments really grated on me…like somehow, when the book begins, we’re supposed to see Gwendolyn as overweight…I think? Only she’s an overweight gymnast, which totally makes sense. Also she doesn’t like being looked at but dyes her hair bright red…and then in the grand scheme of changing herself so she can go hunt for her father she has to dye her hair a more unnoticeable shade and become this lean, muscled, martial artist type. Well, I have news for you…that shit doesn’t happen overnight, and not even in the several weeks Gwendolyn has to work on it. If she’s indeed overweight/out of shape as it seems we’re supposed to believe. I don’t know. I’m confused as to what the perception there was supposed to be.

Then, the love interest is lame. A plot device. Gwendolyn needs an ally back home, one with smarts, money, and connections…and suddenly she’s all weak-kneed for this boy she’s barely even looked at before. There was no buildup, just suddenly she runs into him and starts shaking. Sorry, but I have no feels for this at all.

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Yeah, no.

Actually, I pretty much have no feels at all for the entire story, which is really sad. I mostly feel annoyance. I wanted more from the characters. Characters are easily the biggest and most important part of a book, to me. Gwendolyn, her father, even the people that help her, just aren’t generally likable and while yes, Gwendolyn definitely changes through the book, I found the changes a bit far-fetched. She morphs rather quickly from a slightly bitter, spoiled high school girl to a lean, mean, killing machine. Really? But, ok. I’m willing to suspend disbelief a bit – after all, that’s what we do for any book, right? But it’s the author’s job to sell us on it. Sadly, the writing style is such that I couldn’t STAY suspended in my disbelief. I was repeatedly jarred out of it. But I still wanted to know what happened. How’s that for a quandary?

“Justice isn’t some abstract thing, Gwendolyn. What your did tonight, that’s what it looks like. Ugly and mean.”

Best line in the entire book, I swear. And it does get ugly, the longer it goes on. It’s like a train wreck you can’t stop watching, as Gwendolyn delves deeper and deeper into the criminal underworld in her search for her father. She develops an amazing poker face and some steel nerves, even in the face of a rising body count and discovering a sex trafficking ring – somehow she manages to stay cool. But at what cost? That’s the real question, and in the end, the question of what was saved and what was lost is still somewhat up in the air.

Many thanks to Feiwel & Friends for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: The Reader

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Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

Find it on GoodReads | Pre-order your copy!

The Reader is Traci Chee’s debut novel, being released in just a few days on September 13, 2016! This is one of those books that grabs you and just doesn’t let go. I finished it four days ago and I still find myself thinking about the characters and wondering about them. It ended not so much on a cliffhanger exactly, as just leaving us with SO MANY QUESTIONS. Not only of the “what happens next” variety, but of the “why did they do that” and “how did THAT happen” sort.

The story is set in a world where reading is prohibited and books are unknown.

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Well, that was certainly MY reaction to that idea, but these people quite literally don’t know what they’re missing. It’s just the way their world is, and no one remembers (or perhaps never knew) anything different.

Two curves for her parents, a curve for Nin. The straight line for herself. The circle for what she had to do. 

There are several story threads throughout. Usually I find this annoying but somehow these all blended just enough to make sense and keep me from getting confused (which is quite an accomplishment). I liked how some of them eventually came together – now, the ones that didn’t…I still have ALL THE QUESTIONS about and the suspense is killing me.

The world is beautiful yet stark, amazing and yet creepy AF. It’s detailed, with several different territories/countries and vying lords. If this were an RPG game, I would go explore every. single. one. They all have slightly different cultures with common threads. Chee’s writing brings them all to life in vivid color.

In Kelanna, when you die, they don’t say prayers for you, for they have no heaven and no gods to pray to. There is no reincarnation; you will not return. Without a body, ou are nothing anymore, except for a story.

There are also pirates and ships and sailors and the navy. And in this world, women are treated as complete equals – no one ever doubts if they have a place in the crew, or the military, or anything. It’s awesome. There’s also this amazing song that I would LOVE to hear set to real world music. I was going to add it as a quote but decided you should really discover it for yourself in the actual book. 😀

 

I became attached to Archer before I was completely invested in Sefia. Archer, Archer. The silent, sweet, killer-boy. He’s a walking contradiction. I was scared of what he would do and wanted to protect him at the same time. Funny enough, that was sort of Sefia’s reaction too…and what ultimately convinced me Sefia was a character worth rooting for.

“I would never leave you behind.”

See, in the beginning Sefia seems just a teensy bit too cold, too good at shutting herself down, a little unsympathetic. But her growing relationship with Archer shows that she does indeed still have a heart and not just one hell-bent on revenge. The two of them grow and learn together. I really liked how at one point, their roles switch – instead of Sefia  taking care of and protecting Archer, when she has a difficult moment he (rather awkwardly, but it was still there) takes care of her. It was just so sweet. Don’t think that the romance is the focus of the story though – it’s more like a sidebar that just adds a touch of rosy-glow to the otherwise rather sad overtones.

Instead he pulled her into him…he was going to do it for her, no matter what it turned him into. 

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Excuse me while I indulge in the sappiest gif I can find. Moving on…

I reeeeeeeeally want to know more about the magic of this world. It’s definitely there, but it’s not fully explained. Usually this would make me rate a book considerably lower, BUT. In this one the lack of explanation was alright. It wasn’t completely key to the story though it definitely affected in in big ways – twice. One of these was at the end, so it was totally part of the near-cliffhanger ending and therefore to me doesn’t count. I’m enjoying how we are discovering the magic and the book right along with Sefia.

5/5 stars. While I’m dying to read the next one (Traci confirmed on Twitter that there IS a second one in process as we speak!), I was overall very contented and while the ending wasn’t exactly happy it was…appropriate, in character, and satisfying. I flailed, and cried a little, and Tweeted about 5 times in an hour about it. Also preordered the signed copy from Kepler’s Books. Ahem.

Looking Forwards and Back #2 – August/September

Yes, yes, I know. The first week of September is nearly gone. I had a rough end to August/start to September, so this is super late. But as always, better late than never.

Here’s what actually ended up happening for August:

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Only 8 this month (just one book over HALF of what I read in July…yikes). And below are all the covers! I love looking at them all together. Especially since between the library books and ebooks I don’t get to see them all together in person. Haha. Yes, I am shallow. 😛 Just like before, each cover is linked to my review on GoodReads, and the titles are linked to Book Depository.

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The Vanishing Throne
The Hatching
Alice
Love & Gelato
Labyrinth Lost
Sabriel
The Secret Place
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This is my list for this month…no less grandiose, for all my failure at getting anywhere CLOSE to finishing my list last month. Haha.

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Believe it or not, I’ve actually already made progress! I’ve finished or started these:

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Most excited about (yes, Dream Thieves is a repeat, somehow I didn’t get to it last month!):

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I guess we’ll see how I do! I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else is reading this month. I know there is a TON of shiny new releases coming out in September, none of which are in my hot little hands as of yet. 😦 So I will just have to live vicariously, I guess!

Book Review: Love & Gelato

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Find it on GoodReads! 
Get your own copy!

I went into this book wanting a fluffy, feel-good, summertime read. I was not disappointed! It was as feel-good as a big pile of puppies.

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picture courtesy eBay

I wanted to hug it at the end. I really wish I had read books like this when I was the same age as the characters (in this case, 16). Because while it has a few flaws, Love & Gelato is a beautiful story of love had, love lost, love remembered, and love hoped for. Even though I like to pretend I’m too tough for such sentimentality, I still have a real soft spot in my heart for a good happy ending. What really makes me happy though, is a happy ending that isn’t just happily ever after. There’s pain and sadness, enough drama to suit most high-school students but not enough to entirely put the adults off, but above all there is HOPE. Rainbow in the clouds kind of hope.

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photo courtesy Wikipedia

Anyway. The story starts out on a rather sad note, as 16-year-old Lina’s mom passes from cancer, leaving behind quite the bombshell – surprise! Lina’s never-before-heard-from father, who lives in Italy, wants her to come live with him, and it was her mother’s dying wish (basically) that she go spend the summer with him.

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^Basically Lina’s reaction. With a lot more tears, because obviously her mom just died.

So off she hops to Italy, with much encouragement from her grandmother. She arrives, nearly has a meltdown over the fact that her father is the caretaker of a war memorial (i.e., he lives in a cemetery) – which I was first really annoyed about. I’ve never understood people’s aversion to cemeteries, even when I was younger. I was always more fascinated than scared…not sure what that makes me, haha. But, given that Lina’s mom has just died, I guess she can be forgiven her little freak out.

She almost immediately meets a cute neighbor boy, Ren, who is “as Italian as a plate of meatballs,” yet not quite, and there’s a slight, almost-insta-crush. I say almost, because there are a lot of mixed signals, and a couple of chapters later there is insta-LOVE that made me throw up in my mouth a little. There are several moments that made me laugh out loud – and I think most readers will join me no matter where they fall on the age scale! The people in the little community she finds are memorable, lovable, and sometimes just hysterical.

While all that is going down, she’s also finding out more about her mom – mostly through a journal her mom mysteriously mailed to Italy ahead of her, but also through the memories of the people there who remember her from her youth – her dad, and exploring Italy. Italy. How many 16-year-olds get to go to Italy?? I was really glad that Lina didn’t just wallow in her sadness or her boy-crush and actually went out and explored. You can really tell the author has been to Florence herself – I felt like I was walking the streets right beside Lina.

We also see Florence 16 years prior, through the eyes of Lina’s mom via her journal. They both fall in love with gelato. I have yet to get to experience real Italian gelato for myself, but even the exported stuff makes me weak-kneed.

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TAKE MY MONEY.

I can’t say a whole lot here without giving spoilers, but suffice to say some things just don’t add up, a lot of things don’t have the happy ending we might expect and there are a couple of big surprises. Love hurts. People make the wrong choices. But sometimes, we all get a second chance.

Turns out there’s a reason they call it falling in love, because when it happens – really happens – that’s exactly how it feels…you just let go and hope that someone’s going to be there to catch you. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with some pretty hefty bruises.

I really loved that Lina has to make choices and that they are realistic. Things are not entirely rosy-glassed here. But some things are! Haha. Because you get roses along with the thorns, eventually. I love the ending. It’s not a promise of happily-ever-after, but a happily-right-now. I wish I had realized at 16 that sometimes, happily-right-now with a hope of happily-later-on is sometimes perfection in and of itself.

4/5 stars. Because of the insta-crush/love, and the sheer convenience of the entire thing being a little far-fetched but mostly overlook-able. Also the “puppy-dog sleeping-boy” smell comment at one point. Sorry, but NO MEMBER OF THE MALE SPECTRUM smells nice first thing in the morning, unless he tricked you and brushed his teeth first. Haha!!

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Book Review: Labyrinth Lost

Releasing September 6, 2016
Pre-order your copy!

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I wasn’t at all sure what to expect – it seemed like it was trying really hard to do a lot of things. Cultural diversity, magic, a new underworld, bisexuality…it’s a lot to blend into one story. Zoraida Cordova actually manages to do it quite well!

Alex is a bruja who doesn’t want the exceptional power she’s been granted. In the beginning she struck me as a whiny, ungrateful little brat. I can understand her resentment and not being entirely free to choose her own path, but her attempt at rejecting her power puts her entire family in danger – albeit unintentionally.

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However, she immediately sets off to rescue them and is willing to do whatever it takes, no matter the cost. So, props to her for that. She loves her family with an intensity beyond anything else, even if they don’t always see eye to eye or get along. She’s incredibly stubborn, to the point of insisting that complete strangers help her on her quest.

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It got bogged down a little over 1/3 of the way through. When the setting shifted to Los Lagos (the underworld, essentially), it floundered somewhat. Especially with the arrival of certain characters – like, really? (highlight to view spoiler)Rishi? Where did that come from? How did she get her fake wings? How did she know to bring them, if she brought them with her? I feel like Madre didn’t give them to her. I’m still vaguely suspicious of the way her arrival was “explained.” I honestly thought she was one of the bird-women for awhile. Guess the fake wings should have ruled that out but it was just so abrupt and essentially unexplained. Rishi’s quick, unquestioning acceptance of Alex’s magic and all it entails really bothered me too. No muggle (sorry) is going to just unblinkingly accept an entirely new world and the ability to conjure fire, no matter how much in love with the bruja you are. (end spoiler) However, after several chapters where I struggled, it picked back up and carried on and was much clearer. I think maybe a little more description would have benefited the story

“It’s love, Alex. Love is you jumping through a portal despite your own safety. Love is mom singing in the car and Rose making tea when we’re sick and even us fighting because we’re blood, and no matter what you do, I’ll neverforget that you are my sister.”

Family comes first – that’s the mantra I kept seeing over and over again. I’m a little envious of Alex’s relationship with her sisters, to be honest. I’m not very familiar with Hispanic culture and was really intrigued by how it’s portrayed here. Of course I can’t vouch for accuracy, but given the author’s background I would think it would be pretty spot-on. Alex’s family is not distinctly one country or another. She is a vibrant mix of many countries and people and Cordova really wove that into her and her magic. Oh! The magic. Magic in this world has a price that must always be paid, by someone, somewhere. It isn’t free or easy. It marks you. Alex and her family do not have a rosy-glass view of magic – as perhaps illustrated by the Deathly celebration for marking when a bruja or burro comes into their powers.

Also I love that bisexuality is given a normal viewpoint. Which is a really rough way of saying…well, it wasn’t anything special. And I don’t mean that in a bad way! I just mean that it was treated as completely normal, nothing to be shocked or surprised by. Normal. Healthy. Accepted. Supported. Books with characters like this are sorely needed in literature, when so much of the world is so full of hate for anything different from them.

Oh, and Rishi? Rishi is awesome. She has the most amazing lines and is totally someone I would want to hang out with. She has an energetic, zany kind of vibe.

“Why’s it always the heart or the eye of something? You notice that? There are so many body parts that don’t get enough love, like earlobes and belly buttons.”

3.5/5 stars. Overall I really enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing what happens in the next one! The ending was a definite cliffhanger, though not with as much shock value as I feel like was intended. Still, I was definitely a little put out that there wasn’t a next chapter! Haha.

Many thanks to Netgalley for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Review: The Vanishing Throne

The long-awaited (er…better not say that too loud, lest George R.R. Martin’s fans take offense) sequel to Elizabeth May’s The Falconer arrived a couple of weeks ago and I’m excited to post this review! I re-read and reviewed The Falconer last week in preparation, as I have a horrible memory and all I could remember of the first book was poisonous thistles, Derrick, and an awful cliffhanger. Haha.

WARNING: Spoilers for the FIRST book!

The girl whose gift is chaos. Death is her burden. Wherever she goes, it follows. They say she can either save the world or end it.

“I will worship thee.”

Aileana fell through the portal she was supposed to be closing, and everything went to hell in a handbasket from there. And not in the fluffy kittens type of way.

She’s kept captive in a room full of mirrors, where the dark faery lordling Lonnrach drains her blood for his own means as he tries to locate the scattered humans of the world, their civilization already decimated by the faery that broke out of the 2,000 year old prison. It’s creepy. The mirrors, and the confusion as she begins to be unable to tell her own memories from those pulled forth by Lonnrach, are creepy. However she’s soon (relative term here) rescued by none other than her faery crush, Kiaran. But wait. It’s not Kiaran…buuuuut it’s sort of Kiaran.

It’s Kiaran’s bad-ass sister, Aithinne, who has bigger balls than any faery male in any realm, hands down. She’s also now my favorite character, both for her heroics and her humanity – yes, I know, how ironic. She has no filter and it’s hysterical. She also is endearingly clueless about 19th century Scotland.

“A dictionary. Is that a type of dessert?”

She spent 2,000 years in an underground prison being tortured by Lonnrach and his cronies, and she simply has no fucks left to give.

As far as I’m concerned, Aileana can just go sit down and leave Aithinne to handle everything. Like, move over. Aileana is just a wanna-be bad ass when she stands next to Aithinne (and she still feels the need to remind us of that, though not nearly so often as in the first book). Ok, so Aileana does have a place and is still good for something but I feel like Aithinne is the real heroine here, for reasons that I can’t fully explain because I’m trying to avoid spoilers. But she says things like,

“I admit to being somewhat unclear on the function of human tears. So we’re sad about this? Should I menace someone?”

I want her to be my new BFF. Anyway, while Aileana isn’t as annoying in this book as the first, I still took an instant like to Aithinne that I didn’t to Aileana…which I guess is ok. The heroine is allowed to grow and change and if she didn’t I would be suspicious and critical. Aileana has left a lot of her bloodthirsty swagger and bravado behind (thank god), and due to the revelations in the story as it goes along, she’s forced to look at some really ugly things and decide if she can live with them and the people involved – mainly her growing relationship with Kiaran – or not.

I was very intrigued by the world building presented in this book. We get SO much more backstory and so many things that just made me screw up my face and question things in the first book, are explained. At times the “dream” sequences feel like an info dump…but it’s a very interesting info dump. I’m not up on my faery lore, so I’m unclear on how much is pulled from Scottish tradition and how much comes from Elizabeth May’s imagination. It really explains a lot about not only the world, but Kiaran in particular.

Speaking of Kiaran, let’s talk about him. Aileana is head over heels for him but confused and scared of him at the same time. My mental image is of this guy:

Technically sexy, I guess, but really more creepy looking. Sorry, random actor I found on Google Images (I also got the feeling I should know who this is, but I don’t. Moving on.)

Sidenote: My perception of the whole Aileana/Kiaran relationship was rather skewed in the first book by what I thought was the fact that faeries in this world cannot feel, that they have no emotion. I’m still not sure if May did this intentionally or if I just assumed too much. BUT. Apparently that is NOT the case. If I had realized or considered that as a possibility, I think I would have felt a lot more liking for the fae in general. As it was I was just convinced Kiaran was a sham and Derrick was a freak.

To continue…a lot of Kiaran’s past is explained in this book. He becomes somewhat more bearable as a result. He also continues on the path of the slight, suspicious crack in his unfeeling faery heart, and there are some really sweet, cute moments between him and Aileana and also with his sister. Is it possible our ancient, bitter Kiaran is actually growing past the emotional maturity of a 10 year old? Well, possibly, but old habits die hard and he’s not used to growing pains.

Kiaran smiles, that beautiful false smile that makes my heart ache. His face is a mask, flawless and immaculate, no hint of passion or emotion. Even statues have more life. 

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Kiaran objects to having the feels. Flawed hero, sexy dark knight, wah-wah. I still think Aileana should have stuck with Gavin. Also maybe some certain undesirable events wouldn’t have happened in that case, but since they did here are some of the “awwwww” level quotes.

“You think I can’t bear to look at them [Aileana’s scars], that I believe these mean you’re weak.” Karan’s fingers are at my pulse now, thumb sliding down to my collarbone. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth….I want it to be me, not you.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me?”

“Because I’m still learning,” he says quietly.

“Learning what?”

“How to feel.”

D’awww. Then leave it to Derrick, who is, thankfully, back in true pixie form and lightening the mood at every turn.

Derrick is quiet for the longest time, wings fanning softly. His golden glow is slowly returning. “I see the way he looks at you.”

I swallow, afraid of his answer. “And how is that?”

“Like he wishes he was mortal.”

So, yeah. Their relationship progresses, in a pretty reasonable fashion. Honestly though, I still don’t really feel it. I wanted to. But I don’t. I think a lot of other people will. But I just don’t.

The Seers are idiots. I don’t blame Kiaran and Derrick for just wanting to kill them all. Even Gavin has taken a stupid pill. Le sigh.

Along with all of this, the fae are still trying to take over the world and kill all the humans and at first we’re not sure why other than that they are bloodthirsty bastards…and then there’s this great big revelation that changes everything and – but that would be spoiling.

Then…that ending…WTF?? I mean…..seriously, WTF?!!?

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This was me. For real.

Overall I gave this one 3.5/5 stars, just like the original. But for different reasons. I looooooove Aithinne and for her sake alone I almost said 4 stars. The other issues I have though, in the end said no. The other big issues I had were…well. So the torture bits in the first few chapters? They’re…very tame. I understand a lot of it was a mental mind fuck, but…there’s all these intense feelings on the part of the characters and I felt like the action we were shown didn’t warrant it. Apparently I’m a coldhearted SOB. The world-building feels rushed. Like, we’re told what happened to the human realm in the time Aileana is gone, but we’re never quite shown. Not enough to warrant the way the other humans treat her when she comes back. And again, I was left feeling like this was a middle-grade masquerading as a YA book. It’s so very clean for such a bloody subject matter. Haha, I guess I’m a bloodthirsty, coldhearted, horny bitch? Because while sexual matters are alluded to, there’s only kissing and a vague reference to the removal of clothing. Which apparently isn’t enough for my depraved mind?

I still really enjoyed it and would recommend it, especially to those who are a little uncomfortable with sex or language in their books. I just wished it was a little less one-special-snowflake-to-save-the-world-ish.

Book Review - The Vanishing Throne

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Review: July 2016 OwlCrate

I’m never sure when to post these, as I hate being spoiler-ific, but at the same time…it needs to be put up in time for people to decide if they want to sign up for the next box! In my opinion, anyway. Whenever I’m looking at subscription boxes I want to see the month prior. Anywho – here we go!

July’s OwlCrate theme was Good vs. Evil, and they sent out two versions of the box! Same book, different goodies. I received the Evil box!

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Opening it up…

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This month’s book was This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab. I’m excited because I have wanted to read something by her ever since The Near Witch came out but sadly have never gotten around to it! Now I have no excuse, because her latest is in my hot little hands. It’s getting rave reviews, too. Really need to bump it closer to the top of my TBR list.

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Also included were the amazing little coloring book there on the right, full of black and whites of a mix of popular and up-and-coming YA title covers. Awesome idea. Loved it.

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Then there was a TOTALLY AMAZING bookmark from Jane’s Tiny Things (I have a magnetic bookmark obsession right now and might have already ordered more from her shop…).

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Next there was an awesome wooden necklace from Vector Engraving – mine was the Death Star, but the Good box had a Millennium Falcon. 😀 Hehe. Also, a FULL SIZE Harry Potter FUNKO POP!! I love Funkos. I would like to collect them but don’t have a really good place for them right now and am not a huge fan of them on my bookshelves, despite the adorable setups of them that I see on OTHER people’s book shelves. So I have refrained…mostly. I think I have 5 now. And of course since this is my 2nd Harry Potter Funko I reeeeeeally need the others in that lineup. Sigh. There’s also a “Am I Not Merciful” sticker that I think references Iluminae, but since I haven’t read it the significance is somewhat lost on me. *embarrassed face*

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August’s theme is Fast Times at YA High! “This box will contain a hilarious love story, as well as items inspired by our favorite high school sweethearts, and our favorite school of all time…HOGWARTS!” As of right now there are still spots available. For various reasons I’ve elected to skip this box, but I’m eagerly waiting to see what September’s theme will be and will be back then with a review. 🙂

I review this box based on my own paying subscription.

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