Genre: Young Adult

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Apr 22

You’re Welcome Universe Review

Book Reviews 3 ★★★★★

You’re Welcome Universe ReviewYou're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
Published by Knopf on March 7th 2017
Genres: Modern, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars

A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.
When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.
Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.
Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.
Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

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This book made me happy. Happy in the contented, yeeeeees this was good kind of way. I don’t read that many contemporaries (usually find them trite and boring), so I don’t think I’m easy to please – but this book. I pretty much clutched it to myself and gave it a hug when I finished. Also can I please have this quote on t-shirt:

“I’m not easy. Never have been.”

Julia is a tough cookie. A tough cookie with an artist’s heart and soul. I love her so much, even though I’m not sure she would like me, hehe. She has been hurt so many times in life that she just builds up walls against everyone, which is something I can definitely relate to – though not for the same reasons. I love her independence and how she embraces her Deafness, refusing to allow it to be a liability or anything negative in her life. Not to say she doesn’t struggle and hurt – she does. But she overcomes and she doesn’t wallow in her sadness.

I bury my face in the cushion of my beautiful armchair, my command center, and scream. Over and over, my throat vibrating and crackling with fire. Nobody comes to see what’s wrong. Nobody can hear me.

This was my first experience in the Deaf world. I have some older family members who are deaf, but they are far removed so I really don’t have any contact with anyone Deaf. While this is not an OwnVoices novel, the author appears to have THOROUGHLY done her research, as many people who either are deaf or have close deaf family members have reviewed this book and given it mad props for an accurate portrayal of the Deaf community. SO HAPPY about that! I was very intrigued by the fact that there are “Deaf” people and “deaf” people…I had no idea.

Julia does a lot of growing in this book. And in case anyone doesn’t remember from being a pre-teen or teenager…growing pains are real. Both the physical and mental kind. In this case Julia learns a lot about friendships, and letting people go. It HURTS, people…but she grows through it and it’s a beautiful thing.

Diversity is HUGE in this book, and (to me, a very NOT marginalized person) it seems to be presented as such a normal thing, no one bats an eye (except one teacher at some point in the narrative, but that’s only realistic I suppose).

  • Julia is Indian American, and while it only occurs once in the book itself, she is often the target of racial slurs – many of which don’t even apply to her, but are due to people making ASSUMPTIONS based on her skin color. #RAGE
  • Julia has two moms. I’m embarrassed to admit this is the first book I’ve met with that kind of representation, but I really enjoyed seeing/reading it. It’s so completely normal, and they both play such huge roles in Julia’s life. The narrative spent just enough time explaining the relationship between the 3 of them to help the reader avoid having a constant “but how…?” in the back of the mind while reading.
  • Julia is Deaf, and her moms are both Deaf as well. See above comments.
  • Julia is a graffiti artist – this may not technically qualify under the diversity label, but come on – graffiti artists are DEFINITELY in the minority. I loved that pictures of her art were included in the book – I have troubling picturing things without pictures and finding out that the illustrations were included was one of the main reasons I bought a hard copy instead of an ebook!

I might be burning bridges, but they’re my bridges to burn.

Burn, baby, burn.

I loved pretty much everything about this book. Please go read. I’m super excited to have found another debut author that I absolutely love!

 

five-stars

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Mar 20

Crown of Midnight Review

Book Reviews 4 ★★★★

Crown of Midnight ReviewCrown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas
on August 27th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 418
Goodreads four-stars

"A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.
It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.
Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.
Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie... and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Everyone has read this book already. Everyone, except me. Therefore, I’m departing from my usual format for my Crown of Midnight review. This is a play-by-play of my reactions as I read the book – yes, I kept very detailed notes, down to the page number! I probably could have finished it a lot faster without…but I just couldn’t stop. I also took a lot MORE of these notes in the last half of the book than the first, hehe. It probably goes without saying, but, um…

SPOILER ALERT!!! For ToG, Books 1 & 2

Okay, now I don’t feel guilty. Here we go!

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Beginning: Well, hopefully a few people will have become actual adults this time…(you can see my rather unimpressed review of Throne of Glass here)

6 – Ewwwww…glad to see Celaena hasn’t lost her love of the dramatic, I guess?

15 – “Plans” seem a little overrated.

25 – Why is Chaol still so worried about the king? The king is evil. Chaol is not. I don’t understand this loyalty.

29 – I don’t like this Roland person.

31 – WHY SO MANY CLOTHES AND SHOES?!? I don’t understand.

36 –

Unlike Celaena’s [bookshelf], which housed every title she got her hands on, whether she liked the book or not.

THERE’S my girl.

43 – I want a necklace that glows when danger is near, damn it.

74 – And now I miss MY best friend, damn it. Nehemia is the best.

89 – Chaol, you overprotective ASS…you better watch yourself.

91 – Ugh. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of courtiers/courtesans, male or female (not in this context, anyway). I get that sometimes it’s a lifestyle choice, but in this case it’s pure slavery and…UGH.

92 – I’m a little disturbed that so far the only same sex relationships in this series are portrayed as a taboo thing, something to hide and keep behind closed doors. I get that maybe that’s how Adarlan’s society IS, buuuuut…it seems like it never occurs to anyone, even our heroine, to look at it differently.

111 – Aaaaahhh secret passageways and tunnels!! Or rather, more of them.

138 – Phew. There for a minute I thought we were headed for a love SQUARE. At least now we’re back to love triangle that IS NOT a triangle, according to Dorian. Just keep believing that there, little buddy.

192 – Ok. I love Chaol, as much as he’s flawed and torn by his idea of loyalty. And I feel like my heart is going to be broken by it somewhere along the line…

223 – Now there’s the assassin I’ve been waiting to see!

229 – WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING OMG NO NO NO NO.

230 – THIS IS ALL WRONG. SO WRONG. WHAT EVEN.

241 –

Death was her curse and her gift, and death had been her good friend these long, long years.

246 – I’m so sad I don’t even know if I can keep reading this.

(puts book down for about a day)

267 –

Then Celaena and the King of Adarlan smiled at each other, and it was the most terrifying thing Dorian had ever seen.

Yikes.

291 – I love how everyone gets upset and distraught and…runs to the library for their happy place.

294 – Are you kidding me, Chaol?? You’re STILL having twinges of conscience about this bloody tyrant of a king? Or is it Dorian you’re actually worried about? Because that’s slightly more acceptable even if it doesn’t make you any less stupid.

296 – Ooooh is the battle hungry rebel guard a woman?

297 – LOL JK

300 –

“Then you will always have a place here.”

Oh, god, Dorian. Come on now.

309 – Well, that doesn’t reek of LotR AT ALL.

313 – OH MY GOD CHAOL. Just because she’ll never trust you again doesn’t make her a threat to one of her best friends.

328 – Hold on – does it occur to anyone that she’s going to have to walk/climb/run back up ALL THOSE STAIRS? That’s a lot of freakin’ stairs…

339 – Haha. Ok well, glad someone addressed that problem.

357 –

The world didn’t need an assassin with a coward’s heart. It needed someone like Nehemia.

366 – Archer =

373 – Yes, yes beg ALL the gods that will listen.

374 – NOT FLEETFOOT!!! :'(

378 – Okay, any man that will risk his life to save her dog…

379 – Well I knew SOMETHING was coming I just didn’t expect THAT SOMETHING.

Am I the only one that was just…not expecting that AT ALL??

389 – That’s right, call her a good woman. Probably not the best thing you could have said right there.

393 – WAIT WHAT?!?!? SHE KNEW ALL ALONG?????? WTF?!?

398 – “Her” kind, clever prince? WHA?

405 –

“Knowing the truth, whatever it may be, will not change what you must do tomorrow – where you must go.”

Why have I not seen THIS quote on a t-shirt?

408 –

Never forgive, never forget.

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Yeah, ok. So. That was one big puddle of feelings and some confusion. I have many mixed…thoughts. I felt this one was much better written than the first (thank you, SJM, for sparing us the many repeated descriptions of just.how.beautiful. Celaena is), and it was overall much more interesting. We learned a  lot more about the world, about Celaena’s background (OBviously), as well as Chaol’s, and some new, very interesting characters were introduced (Baba Yellowlegs?? I was so disappointed that she had such a brief part).

I’m so bummed that Nehemia died. And in such a truly SENSELESS way. Actually, bummed doesn’t even begin to describe it. The book itself even states that it was a catalyst, an instigator, that she sacrificed herself in order to goad Celaena into action…WTF?!? That is so wrong and sad on so many levels. I’m extremely disappointed in that aspect. I’ve seen a few different bloggers talk about how in some very popular books, POC are used as plot devices…and I’m guessing that this is one of the chief offenders. No matter how much of an amazing character Nehemia was, the fact is that her death was used as a tool is just beyond sad.

The ending was awesome, though. I love that Celaena is strong enough to say goodbye, even when she knows it is probably goodbye forever, or at least goodbye to the happiness she had. I still love Chaol even if he’s a complete dunderhead, and I have hopes that he will come around. He doesn’t seem to be an ENTIRELY lost cause. And Dorian…I can’t even begin to figure out what’s going on with Dorian. He’s such an utterly nice person, and it kind of makes him boring but I want him to be happy. Oh, and whatever happened to Roland?? Like he was there, and vaguely creepy and unsettling and then he was just…nothing. So confused.

This is such a popular series I’m sure most people who read my blog have read it, so (WITHOUT spoiling the next books, please!), tell me what you think! I’d love to talk about it some more.

four-stars

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Feb 23

Review of Iron Cast

Book Reviews 10 ★★★★

Review of Iron CastIron Cast by Destiny Soria
on October 11, 2016
Genres: Alternate History, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Goodreads four-stars

In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.
When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.

I was so excited to see this book in my tiny local library! They seem to be putting more of an effort into diversifying their YA section and it makes me really happy. This is my pick for February for the Diverse Reads 2017 challenge. So here I present my review of Iron Cast, Destiny Soria’s debut novel from 2016.

Feels:

“America is the land of liberty, Danny dearest,” Corinne said. “She won’t stand for Prohibition, mark my words.”

 

This book feels like a gangster movie with a few twists. Also not everyone dies, like in most gangster movies I’ve seen. 😛 I felt like I was sucker-punched in the gut a few times. Also I love how the author has chosen a relatively unexplored (in YA, at least) period of time (the weeks right before Prohibition took effect in 1919) for her setting. It was an awesome experience!

Ahem. Where was I?

Characters:

“No one likes a know-it-all, Ada.”
“Yes, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Ada and Corinne are amazing. Their chemistry just leaps off the page and it’s beautiful. It made me miss my best friend so much. The back-and-forth banter had me laughing out loud, but their fierce loyalty to each other was what really made this story. The romantic interests – sure, they’re there, but they are a background to the girls’ friendship.

Plot:

Destiny Soria has taken the year 1919 and turned it on its head with one change of facts: there is a small percentage of the population that are born as hemopaths, who have the ability to manipulate other people and sometimes time itself through some form of art. When I first started reading I thought that the hemopath ability was inspired by sickle cell anemia due to the influence put on the hemopaths’ aversion to iron (an iron deficiency being one of the side effects or symptoms of sickle cell anemia), but after I finished I wasn’t sure. It’s an interesting thought, though. If it WAS so inspired, the author definitely gave it a new look by making it a strength and also making it just as widespread in people of every race.

At this time in history, hemopaths are feared and even hunted in Boston. Once considered artists, they are now looked at as freaks that are sub-human. Ada and Corinne find the noose of the law closing on them as they struggle to survive in their underground nightclub home, seemingly able to trust almost no one. Hemopaths start disappearing – people they know. Unsure where to turn, they spend a lot of time wandering from place to place. At times this was kind of a drag…it created atmosphere but left me wondering what was the point of a particular scene or chapter. However, the characters and a lot of the places they visited were interesting enough to keep me reading. I really wanted to find out WHO was behind all the horrible things that kept happening!

Worldbuilding/Description:

Reading this was like walking down a dark, foggy street. Or sitting in the darkened, smoky club surrounded by toughs and exquisitely dressed women. OR being kidnapped and dragged to a sterotypical “insane” asylum! There is a definite 1920s vibe to it that I loved. It’s so different and feels so glamorous compared to most places and even books (maybe I haven’t read the right ones?) today.

Final Rating:

4/5 stars. As I mentioned, the plot did drag a bit sometimes. Also I wish that Charlie and even Gabriel had been a little more fleshed out, but maybe that would have taken away from the strong thread of female friendship that holds the story together. I also really enjoyed the diversity aspect, as Ada’s family was not white but neither were her parents from the same country, and there is a LGBT couple as well. I loved that Destiny Soria didn’t gloss over how any of these characters would have been treated at this point in history but manages to (to me, at least) portray them without the slightest hint of bias. I’m not marginalized myself, so I can’t authoritatively speak to how accurate the characters are, but they felt very real and relate-able.

review of iron cast

Actually 384 pages, the auto-generated data was wrong.

four-stars

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Jan 31

Review of Fear the Drowning Deep

Book Reviews 0

Review of Fear the Drowning DeepFear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Published by Sky Pony Press on October 11th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads

Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.
Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.
Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.

I was first attracted to this book by this piece of art by Evie Seo:

review of fear the drowning deep

And then I was completely drawn in by the description – which I read as historical magical realism. Then I started reading, and about 80 pages in I decided that was TOTALLY wrong. Then I finished it, and decided it actually was the closest to an accurate description of genre I was going to get!

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“Nothing from the ocean is meant to survive on land forever.”

Feels:

Satisfaction. I adored the resolution of this book. It’s not a perfect happily-ever-after (HEA) and that makes ME so very, very happy. I’m a disgruntled, hard-hearted porcupine when it comes to love, and while I like endings with hope, only rarely do I completely get behind a tidy little HEA. FtDD has a very hopeful ending, but one that could go several different ways. I loved that.

Characters:

It took me awhile to warm up to Bridey, I’ll be honest. She is so defined by her fear of the sea that at first that is the only quality I saw in her. As the story goes on though, I came to genuinely like her. Lugh and Cat, her best friends, I wish we had seen a little more of. I felt sorry for them as she kind of abandoned them to go work with Morag and then in her absorption with Fynn.

Fynn is something of a mystery for most of the book. A lot of reviews I saw complained about the insta-love between him and Bridey, but to me it was believable BECAUSE from the very beginning, it’s obvious Fynn is not just a normal human boy. Because of that, I feel like the insta-love is understandable and realistic – even though I usually DESPISE it.

Morag was my favorite character. An odd choice, I guess – but I loved her. I love that she was old and crotchety and hurt – both physically and emotionally, yet she was such a wise woman and genuinely cared about people. She was like a gingerbread cookie…crunchy on the outside but soft and delicious on the inside (that IS how you make your gingerbread cookies, right?).

Plot:

FtDD starts off kind of slow, not going to lie. It’s beautiful and haunting, but slow. The pace picks up about a third of the way through, and I was completely drawn into the Isle of Man world Sarah Marsh has created. I already wanted to visit but now I want to go even more!

Because how could you not?

At first I thought I had misjudged the cover blurb and this was a historical fiction YA with some mythology thrown in…but no. It soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems on the idyllic Isle, regardless of what the villagers want to believe. And of course no one wants to listen to the tales of old women or the vision of the young. No one wants to believe that maybe the faery stories are more than stories.

Worldbuilding/Description:

Beautiful. Idyllic. Almost mystical and definitely slightly creepy. I loved it. It felt so real…next time I’m at the ocean I’m going to be on the lookout for creepy ghosts playing violins. I still want to visit the Isle of Man though.

Rating:

4/5 stars. There were some things I felt were too easily explained away, like some things about Fynn. Some things I felt happened too easily…like once Bridey got over her fear, suddenly she was a grand rescuer…but they were small things, and adrenaline and love do give people almost superhuman strength sometimes.

I’ve started using a new app for timing my reading, called BookOut! I’m having all kinds of fun with it so far. It generates these really cool little infographics for each book you finish. What do you guys think?

 

review of fear the drowning deep

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Jan 17

Review of The Star-Touched Queen

Book Reviews 4

Review of The Star-Touched QueenThe Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 342
Goodreads

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

This has been on my TBR since before it was released last year! I’m so excited to have finally read it. So without further ado, I present my review of The Star-Touched Queen!

“I am  a frightened girl, a roaring river and night incarnate….And I will not be tethered. My life belongs to me.”

Feels:

Reading The Star-Touched Queen was like falling headfirst into a swirling vortex of color, light, and strange beasts. It was beautiful, fascinating, terrifying, and slightly confusing at times.

Characters:

Maya is one of the many sons and daughters of the Raja of Bharata. Ostracized for her “cursed” horoscope her entire life, Maya has developed more independent thinking than most of her sisters. I immediately admired her resiliency in adapting to her less-than-ideal circumstances. I loved her protectiveness towards her younger sister Gauri. Very endearing. I didn’t quite understand some aspects of Maya’s character though…some of which I think may be due to cultural differences. For instance, near the beginning of the book, she makes a certain choice (no spoilers), that for the life of me I cannot understand and to me seems very out of character for what we know of her, up to that point, and even to her as we see later in the book. I just don’t understand it at all.

Maya does a lot of growing in this story. She changes. She comes to realize who and what she is, is not determined by her horoscope.

Once, I would have hurled curses at the stars. But the longer I looked, the less I hated them. The stars, filled with cold light and secrets…I, not the starlight, shaped my decisions.

Amar is the hero of the story…or is he? What is he? He’s so mysterious, so confusing…and holy shit, the man has some of the most amazing one-liners I’ve ever read. Like melt-my-heart kind of one-liners. Stop and think and WOW kind of one-liners. At the same time…he seemed to be a lot of smooth talk and not a whole lot of action. At least that was my impression. As more of his character and his life is revealed…well, you’ll have to judge him for yourself. His quotes are amazing though.

“I make this bond to you in blood, not flowers.”

“There is no romance in real grief, only longing and fury.”

To be honest, while I liked both Maya and Amar, I wasn’t OMG invested in either one of them. I think this was at partially because I was so overwhelmed by the world and everything that was happening (more on that later). I’m really eager to see how the next book plays out, thought I’m afraid that since it’s focusing on Gauri, we won’t really get to know Maya and Amar much better.

Plot:

Bharata is at war. The Raja will stop at nothing, nothing, to win and secure peace. However, all that quickly takes a backseat to the journey that Maya takes with Amar, to the kingdom of Akaran. Everything slows way down once they arrive there, and several chapters are spent wandering around the palace and discovering ALL SORTS OF THINGS. It was beautiful, but it was slow. While I was intrigued, I kept wondering when something was going to happen.

Once things started moving again (oh look…there’s ONE THING Maya is not supposed to do…and what do we all do when told about ONE THING?), they really start moving. I was NOT prepared for all the world-time-space jumping and more than once literally felt like I was falling into that vortex. It was amazing, but it seemed a bit disjointed at times.

About halfway through the book, I realized that there were really TWO major plot lines. My little light-bulb came on, and that was very helpful…but I really feel like it could have somehow been done better to avoid all the “WTF is going on” moments I had. I really doubt I’m the only one having these thoughts, but if I am…you know. I might just be weird.

I really like that there is no prince-saving-the-princess going on here. Yes, there is a love story. It’s beautiful, and powerful. However. Maya and Amar both remain fully their own people and in the end, Maya is the one who really does the saving.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

This, my friends, is where The Star-Touched Queen shines. The world building here is nothing short of phenomenal. The fuzziness of the plot was forgivable so long as I could live in this bright, beautiful, and unfathomably deep world. It glows. It glitters. Rosin Chokshi employs all five of the reader’s senses when building her world. I could smell the spices, see the split skies, hear the jingle of bells. It’s by turns beautiful and frightening.

The world and characters are largely drawn from traditional Indian (Hindu?) mythology and culture. Now, I am almost entirely unfamiliar with both, so maybe I was a little more in awe and sometimes a little more confused than a reader with more background. I had next to none, but the awesome thing is: it didn’t matter. Chokshi has missed nothing…I could see every step Maya took in the palace halls, I could feel her falling through space, I could see both the beauty and the horror of her journey. As someone with no frame of reference for this world, I can’t say enough good things about this aspect of the book. I was fascinated. When I was confused, it wasn’t for lack of being able to picture what was going on but being at a loss as to WHY or HOW something was happening.

I had never read a fantasy book where reincarnation was treated as…well, as anything! It added an amazing new element and all kinds of new possibilities. I found it a little hard to wrap my head around, but I hope to see it again in the second book.

Rating/Thoughts:

4/5 stars. Half a star off for the meandering and delay of the plot after the story moves to Akaran, half a star for the confusion and lack of explaining on how the space/time thing worked. Maybe I’m just a confused muppet but I really could have used a little more explanation…shocking, coming from someone who usually complains about too much telling versus showing.

I’d love to hear what other readers thought of this book! Was I the only one confused?


Challenges:

This book counts towards my 75 Books in 2017 Challenge, the Beat the Backlist Challenge, and the Diverse Reads 2017 Challenge!

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Jan 13

Review of Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Book Reviews 4

Review of Fairest by Marissa MeyerFairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5) by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends on January 27th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 220
Goodreads

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,Who is the fairest of them all?
Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.
Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

I was so excited to have this book (along with the rest of the Lunar Chronicles #1-4!) under the tree for me this year! When I first heard of Fairest I wasn’t convinced I would want to read any story from Levana’s point of view (already having read the 4 main books), but I enjoyed the world so much I decided that yes, indeed, I would probably just have to read them all. So, I present you with my review of Fairest! (A few days late, because my DH was hit with an EXTREMELY violent bug of some kind and I was busy taking care of him!)


“Love is a conquest. Love is a war.”

Feels:

I went into this absolutely positive I would never feel anything remotely akin to sympathy for Levana. She’s such an unholy terror in the other books! And seemingly without reason. I felt like she just liked being evil and inflicting pain on others (which I guess is partially true but there’s so much more to it than that). However, about halfway through I changed my mind. Of course I already knew roughly how it would end, but it was just so tragic. I was so overwhelmingly sad. Levana as a young woman had so much potential, if she had just had someone to help her channel her emotions and teach her how to overcome.

Characters:

She tried to brush away the sting of rejection, the knowledge that she was still not good enough…she pressed the feelings down, down, letting them turn hard and cold inside, while her face was smiling and pleasant.

Obviously, this is Levana’s story. However, we see characters familiar to us sprinkled throughout (especially if you’ve already read Winter, like I had), which was fun. Some of the characters that have already passed on in the other books are here and alive, too. We get to see some of the events that are only speculated on by Cinder and her friends. There are a couple of other characters that are new to this story, that really wrung my little heart out as well.

When we first meet Levana here she’s a relatively normal 15 year old girl! She’s been abused at the hands of her egotistical, cruel older sister, neglected by cold, distracted parents, and pushed and pulled into the image of a perfect princess (since, as the second born daughter, she’s only fit to be married off). Levana is gifted – or cursed – with a quick mind, intelligent and resourceful – the mind of a queen. She’s also terribly scarred, as much mentally and emotionally as physically. This combination has resulted in her being an entirely self-centered, self-absorbed person who quite literally never thinks of other people or their feelings except as they pertain to HER feelings or desires.

I think that in the end, selfishness was Levana’s true issue. She is one of the most selfish characters I’ve met in a long time. She becomes egotistical, but she didn’t start out that way. She reacts to pain by assuming that the world owes her something (not a hard conclusion to come to, when you’re a spoiled princess anyway). She comes to believe that she is entitled to whatever she wants, no matter what it takes to get it. No matter how much she might hurt other people, even the one person she actually cares about. She has no concept of true love for anyone. She hurts, but beyond that she knows almost no emotion.

Plot:

This is a novella, so the plot is pretty straightforward. I.e., how Levana became queen and all the people she hurt in the process.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

If you’re familiar with any of the other Lunar Chronicles books, you’re already familiar with Luna and her people. If you’re not, I strongly recommend starting with Cinder! This story is basically the backstory that we never see fully in the main 4 books. You could start with Fairest, as chronologically it is actually first, but I don’t think it’s very interesting without that prior knowledge. The setting is there, but it’s not explained as well.

Rating:

3.5 stars. I’m struggling to give this one 4 because it really feels like a flashback that should have been somewhere in Cinder, also aside from Levana’s becoming a psycho it’s all focused on luuuuuuuv. And I just…I’m so tired of twu wuv being THE motivator of teen girls. I mean I know we were all there once. But come on! I’m stepping off my soapbox now…

Challenges:

This is 2/75 for my 75 in 2017 GoodReads Challenge, and 1/40 of my Beat the Backlist Challenge!

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Dec 27

Book Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Book Reviews 7 ★★★★

Book Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer DonnellyDeep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
Series: Waterfire Saga #1
Published by Scholastic Inc. on May 6th 2014
Genres: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 340
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads four-stars

Serafina, daughter of Isabella, Queen of Miromara, has been raised with the expectation - and burden - that she will someday become ruler of the oldest civilization of the merfolk. On the eve of the Dokimí ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Sera is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil. But her nightmare is forgotten the next day as she diligently practices her songspell; eagerly anticipates a reunion with her best friend, Neela; and anxiously worries about Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali, and whether his feelings toward her and their future betrothal have changed. Most of all, she worries about not living up to her mother's hopes.
The Dokimí proceeds, a dazzling display of majesty and might, until a shocking turn of events interrupts it: an assassin's arrow wounds Isabella. The realm falls into chaos, and Serafina's darkest premonitions are confirmed. Now she and Neela must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the mer nations. Their search will lead them to other mermaid heriones scattered across the six seas. Together they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.

The Waterfire Saga was brought to my attention by Sara over at Freadom Library! I was intrigued by the mermaid aspect, and they sounded like fun, quick reads with enough substance to keep me from rolling my eyes the entire time. She did say that it was more on the towards-middle-grade side of YA, and after finishing this first book I whole-heartedly agree. I’m not sure why these are even in the YA category other than the age of the characters. Anyway, without further ado, I present my review of Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly!

“You fear you will fail at the very thing you were born for. And your fear torments you…instead of shunning your fear, you must let it speak and listen carefully to what it’s trying to tell you. It will give you good counsel.”

Feels:

Well, to start off with I got a serious case of deja vu.

Thankfully it moves past that pretty quickly. There are some similarities throughout but I think that’s to be expected given the mermaid subject and the intended audience. I loved the emphasis on friendship and sisterhood that is this story. There is no prince on a white horse and these princesses have to save themselves.  In the end that was what really increased the rating for me.

Characters:

The main character is Serafina, the princess of one of several underwater merl realms. While I feel for her as she goes through the massive trauma that is the first several chapters…I never quite connected with her. Her best friend is Neela, the princess of another realm – and I adore Neela. She’s so funny, and warm, and her obsession with sweets is SO relatable. I mean who doesn’t try to distract people from hard things by giving them delicious food?

The other princesses that they collect in their quest aren’t drawn out as fully, but they’re interesting and I want to know more! Ling, Becca, Ava, even cranky Astrid – they all obviously have stories of their own and they are all so beautifully different in backgrounds, their skills, even their appearances. I really like the fact that the sisterhood between them all is the main emphasis of the story. While, yes, there is a prince, and at first it seems like a romance is going to be a main part of the book – it’s not. Several times I thanked all the stars that Sera was not one of those heroines who got completely distracted by her crush from the rest of the world.

Plot:

The plot was all very dramatic…there’s a prophesy, there’s a dream, there’s magic…nothing all that new in the fantasy world. Again, at first I was about to throw the book across the room because it seemed all Little Mermaid-ish…but then people started dying and there was blood and spells and I was ok. Because every mermaid needs a little trauma to grow her up, am I right?

Please excuse my desire for bad things to happen to characters. It’s called PERSONAL GROWTH, ok?

The romance completely takes a backseat after the first few chapters. I have a couple of theories on what happens to Prince Mahdi. I’m really looking forward to seeing if I’m correct in the next book(s)!

Worldbuilding/Description:

Donnelly does an excellent job of creating an underwater world that we can almost see and touch. It sounds lovely and enchanting! Once all the explosions and stuff have died down, naturally. She has invented words and at least part of a language for these books, I believe. There are at least words in another language that I don’t recognize and that is only identified as an “age-old tongue.” So that’s AWESOME.

I didn’t enjoy the constant puns. I’m not entertained by puns in general, so maybe they’re really not that bad. But between the puns and just some awkward turns of phrase, I did a fair bit of eye-rolling.

  • Money = currensea.
  • “Getting our wrasses kicked!”
  • “We don’t swim on ceremony.”

Just stop. No one is going to forget that mermaids live underwater. Seriously. Also, there are several instances where we are told what the characters are feeling. Such as “Serafina was so excited, she was talking a million words a minute,” and “Serafina, frustrated by Astrid’s unwillingness to talk…” I find that style of writing extremely irritating, but it wasn’t so pervasive that I couldn’t skim over it.

Rating:

Overall, 4 stars. Until the last chapter I was pretty sure it was going to be a 3.5 star book, but then that cliffhanger…I’m sold. I’m excited to see what happens in the next book!

four-stars

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Dec 14

Book Review: Red Queen

Book Reviews, Books/Writing 9 ★★½

I finally, finally got around to this book. With above a 4-star average on GoodReads and nearly 205,000 ratings, I thought for sure I couldn’t lose! Well. Erm. Behold my rather sad panda negative review of Red Queen. I honestly have NO CLUE how this book is so popular and I’m really kind of angry about that. I feel robbed.

Best Quote:

This world is Silver, but it is also gray. There is no black-and-white.

Feels:

I really expected to like this book more than I did. I saw SO MANY glowing reviews (which I avoided reading in their entirety because reasons), I loved the idea of silver blood vs. red blood + some unexplained combination of the two. And then…and then…and then this was me:

Actually, before the last couple of chapters I was more like:

Characters:

Main characters are Mare Barrow (a.k.a., Mareena Titanos), Kilorn (her best friend since childhood), Prince Cal,  and Prince Maven. Also a cast of side characters who honestly sound much more interesting. Julian, anyone? Colonel Ellyn Macanthos? Farley?? Anyway.

Our heroine, Mare, was a very hard person for me to connect with and mostly I just wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled. She reminds us at least a few times that she is trying to “save” people, yet she seems to be incredibly good at getting them in more trouble than they were in to start with (Kilorn might be the exception there). She’s completely out of control of her emotions. I know, she’s a teenage girl under an extreme amount of stress – I got it, really. But geez Louise, a girl with as much street smart as she supposedly has should know better than to trust to appearances as much as she does. She’s so extremely childish it’s disheartening. Like when her best friend/crush Kilorn joins up with the rebels against her wishes, because she’s trying to keep him safe.

“Mare,” he calls after me. “At least say good-bye.”
But I’m already walking, Maven by my side…I won’t look back, not now when he’s betrayed all I’ve ever done for him.

Yeesh. Control issues much?

Kilorn, I put in with the main characters because even though the role he plays in the actual story is small, his part in the back story is huge and I suspect (hope?) he will be more in the forefront of the next books. I like his stubbornness, though I’m a little less enthusiastic about his collapse in the face of conscripting. Like everyone in this book is a fucking drama king/queen. Give me a break.

The princes. Well. They are about as different as night and day, and yet they are both so perfectly predictable. Yawn. Had them pegged as good guy/bad guy from the second scene they appear in together. Which isn’t necessarily bad…except neither of them do anything unexpected, ever. They are literally just good guy/bad guy. I see the character development there, and I have some question if Prince Bad Guy could maybe, just maybe possibly, be redeemed down the road (maybe after his brainwave controlling mother is out of the picture). I liked Prince Good Guy. I think what he went through in the last couple of chapters will (or should) have a MAJOR effect on him and his actions in the future, which could also be interesting.

Plot:

“You want me to pin my entire operation, the entire revolution, on some teenaged love story? I can’t believe this.”

Oh, Farley, I couldn’t have said it better. Because yes. Best line of the book. That’s exactly what this is – and not only that, but trope  after trope after trope. Love triangle? Check – only because more is obviously better let’s make it a fucking LOVE SQUARE. Special snowflake? Check – and she is oh-so-special let us count the ways she is the ONLY ONE who can fix this.

“For hundreds of years the Silvers have walked the earth as living gods and the Reds have been slaves at their feet, until you.”

Insta-love? Check – because as soon as certain characters set foot on the page, I went “Oh, yep, there’s one…two…three…wtf?!?”

giphy2

I love this one. It’s so perfect.

The plot – obviously the oppressed Reds versus the godlike Silvers – has a decent start. But so many of the parts surrounding Mare are just extremely farfetched and had me squinting at the pages and saying “Really?” out loud. Like the fact that, the very first day Mare starts her job, she’s sent to the biggest Silver event in decades. Where she conveniently produces powers she never had even an inkling that she had. Suspicious much, I am. The queen, who has the power to read people’s thoughts and memories – why does she never catch on to the secret attacks? It just doesn’t make sense.

Also, there is way, way way way way WAY too much romance in this book. Has Mare never even seen a man before? Seriously? I nearly rage quit when I realized that yes, indeed, the Love Square was a thing.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

The setting here is X-men meets Lord of the Rings, which was actually pretty cool. Just…I need a map! Haha. Also more names. The descriptions are good, but I need names and big pictures to orient myself, even in a book, and that felt lacking. The world, to me at least, seemed like a combined setting of fantasy and dystopian, what with all the fancy clothes and crazy magical power yet also video cameras and other technology.

Final Rating and Thoughts:

2.5 stars. I tried, folks, I really did. But all the tropes, the sheer predictability, and my extreme dislike for Mare have me giving this one a no-go. I was considering a 3 star rating, but for me the shift to the better side of the middle of the road is whether or not I will read the sequel, and for this one I have to say no. I’m somewhat curious about a few things, but not enough to put up with Mare’s stupid self-centeredness for an longer.

two-half-stars

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Dec 09

Book Review: The Sword of Summer

Book Reviews, Books/Writing 0 ★★★★

I’m so excited to finally be writing a  review, almost a month after my most recent one. Talk about a slump! So without further ado, my review of The Sword of Summer!

“People have destructive impulses. Some of us want to see the world in ruins just for the fun of it…even if we’re ruined along with it.”

Feels

I’ve only read one of Rick Riordan’s other series, the original Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I actually read them back in 2014, at an extremely low point while I was away from home doing some rather strenuous training. Reading has always been my escape and those books – even though from a genre very different from what I was mostly reading at the time – were the absolute perfect thing for me. I think a re-read is in order soon.

Anyway, THIS book, brought back all the “falling into another world” feeling of those. Perfect slump-defeating read! I don’t remember laughing this hard during my Percy Jackson reads. From chapter titles like “I Do Mighty Combat with Eggs” and “Though Shalt Not Poop on the Head of Art,” to some of the most zany characters of Riordan’s creation I’ve met yet, it was a great mood lifter. It’s the dialogue in this story that really zings. It’s absolutely amazing and genius, even the minor characters. Like this little gem between Magnus and Valhalla Hotel’s manager.

“Then why don’t you just say A.D.?”
“Because Anno Domini, in the Year of Our Lord, is fine for Christians, but Thor gets a little upset. He still holds a grudge that Jesus never showed up for that duel he challenged to.”
“Say what now?”

I love Riordan’s blasphemy. LOVE IT. I love that he just takes shots at every religion and mythology out there, nothing is sacred – and yet he stops short of disrespecting the people who hold actual beliefs.

Characters

Magnus Chase is hilariously snarky, with the balls to talk back to both bad guys and gods – who are sometimes one and the same. His initial circumstances are horrifying, yet he never completely lets it snuff his desire for life. I loved Samirah al-Abbas (Sam), the Valkyrie – she has attitude for miles, spunk, and drive. And a sharp wit, which results in more hilarity.

“You named your tree.”
“Most important things have names.” She frowned at me. “Who are you again?”

Blitz and Hearth, Magnus’ best friends on the streets, are such unique characters in their own right too. While they were frequent comic relief they also put SO MUCH heart into the story. There’s quite a slew of other minor characters, and I hope some of them show up in future books! I do have to say…the story doesn’t end happily for all of them. I was inordinately pleased with that (yes, I’m a horrible person), because I strongly believe even middle-grade YA books need to be somewhat realistic. Which yes, I also realize somewhat ironic to say about a fantasy book, but…it’s a GOOD ending.

Plot

Magnus is a clueless teenager in the beginning, propelled into events way above his pay grade by a series of crazy happenings including the death of his mother. After two years of hiding he is found and given a strange destiny that he can’t understand. Everything happens EXTREMELY fast in the beginning and in the whirlwind Magnus is suddenly thrown into the crazy world of the gods of Asgard. He isn’t the person he always thought he was, and he might just be the only person capable of coordinating all the necessary elements. Basically the world is about to end when the Fenris Wolf’s rope breaks. It starts off sounding fairly simple but gets convoluted rather quickly.

Magnus, Sam, Blitz, and Hearth go odd on several side quests that, while entertaining, seem to detract from the progress of the general story. I personally still enjoyed them, but I think the general age group that this book is aimed at might lose interest or get a little lost. Still, there were more awesome quotes, especially from the dwarves (because dwarves are always awesome).

“It is woven with the most powerful paradoxes in the Nine Worlds – Wi-Fi with no lag, a politician’s sincerity, a printer that prints, healthy deep-fried food, and an interesting grammar lecture!”

Worldbuilding/Setting

The world building is good, but it’s not the best part of this book. Like I said already, where Riordan really shines is in the snappy dialogue. The description and setting is exactly what this book needs but it’s not the standout here.

Final Rating

Overall I’m giving 4/5 stars. While I loved it, it definitely dragged a bit in all the world-hopping that they ended up doing and I think that it could possibly turn off a lot of its prospective audience. Not so much adults, but kids. When I was of that age I was already a voracious reader so it might not have bothered me but I think I might not have picked it up in the first place. Still, definitely worth reading and if you have an indefatigable young reader tell them to give it a try!

 

 

four-stars

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Nov 02

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Book Reviews, Books/Writing 6 ★★★★★

Book Review: Anna Dressed in BloodAnna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1) by Kendare Blake
Published by Tor Teen on October 17th 2011
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult, Modern
Pages: 320
Goodreads five-stars

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
Yet she spares Cas's life.

YES. THIS. This is the book I’ve been waiting for the entire month of October. Don’t get me wrong, I read a couple of other winners, like Stalking Jack the Ripper and The Architect of Song, but this is THE PERFECT Halloween book. I knew there was something behind it being on at least half of the TBR lists for the Halloween Read-A-Thon. It actually wasn’t on my TBR, but after the DNF on my “horror or thriller” category, I decided to give it a whirl.

urban-legends

There will always be more dead, and the dead will always kill.

I actually wasn’t expecting much out of a YA horror book. My skeptical brain said, “How bad can it be?”  Two nights afterwards, I was still jumping an embarrassing foot back from anything unexpected when the house is dark. The cat. A sock in the floor. The door. A fart.

Cas, our ghost-slayer, is a cynical piece of work who seems to rather enjoy his job. He was definitely HUGELY influenced by the death of his father in the line of this duty. The origins of said duty are never fully explained…but I guess that would have taken a lot longer than the span of this format. Still, I would have enjoyed finding out! Anyway. He’s not your typical 17 year old, but he doesn’t rub it in the face of his classmates…at least not most of them. He’s rather cold and uncaring in the beginning, but throughout the story he really grows and develops into a much more feeling person by the end. No thanks to coming up against more powerful ghosts, which he is grudgingly forced to admit, he can’t take down alone. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with any of the side characters, but I really liked that he had to reach out of his comfort zone and take the risk of trusting other people.

Anna – yes, the one dressed in blood – I love her. I feel horribly sorry for her. I practically shook in my chair when reading the flashback scenes. Like holy shit. No one deserves what she went through. I liked that she took personal responsibility for everything she did after she became a ghost, even if it wasn’t truly all her fault. She was influenced…but it was still her hands that did it. I could see the attraction between Cas and Anna, but I wasn’t entirely convinced. I mean…she’s a GHOST. Even if she really appears corporeal at times. Come on, Cas. And I didn’t want her suddenly returned to life to make a happy ending because…yeah no.

The plot moves along quickly. I was a little shocked when I realized that Anna was NOT the ghost that killed Cas’ father (not a spoiler, as if you read the blurb carefully, it DOES say that…I just somehow did the old 2+2=5). Kendare Blake does an AMAZING job of dropping ALL the hints that you just KNOW are leading up to something HUGE…and then smacking you in the face with the truth you didn’t see coming. I sat with my jaw hanging open even as I mentally ran back through all the foreshadowing. Yep. There it was. I just…didn’t realize…yep. Total awesomesauce.

“Don’t be afraid of the dark, Cas. But don’t let them tell you that everything that’s there in the dark is also there in the light. It isn’t.”

The descriptions were amazing. Gory at times, but um, if you weren’t expecting that by the title…well, maybe you should look at the cover again. Just saying. I had chillbumps. I curled into a little ball and pulled my hoodie as far over my head as possible while still being able to see the book.

I swear I could hear the blood dripping from Anna’s dress. I felt the wind, the chill in the air…oh, right. I was also reading this as the weather was getting decidedly colder. BUT THIS IS WHY IT WAS SO AWESOME!! I was looking for a book that could make me feel like I did as a little kid, like Halloween wasn’t just costumes, but maybe something darker…maybe the veil really does grow thin on October 31st. Well. Mission completely fucking accomplished. My almost-30-year-old self no longer wants to go to bed alone.

5/5 stars. I immediately ordered the second one and HIGHLY recommend this one if you like creepy and young adult books.

 

five-stars

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