Posted in book review

Red Queen: Reviewed

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (book one in the Red Queen quartet)

Genres/Descriptors: YA; fantasy; SFF>dystopian

Pages: 383

Check it out on Goodreads


What’s it about?

People are divided into two classes based on the color of their blood. The Reds are normal people, just like us, but the Silvers have silver blood and abilities, kind of like X-Men. Silvers rule over Reds, and they’re not exactly kind overlords.

Mare Barrow is a seemingly normal, seventeen-year-old Red girl, but when she lands a job at the palace, she–and the royal family–find out that isn’t the case.

Somehow, Mare possesses an ability.

To control the situation, the Silver royals come up with a plan to hide Mare’s true nature by giving her a new identity as a Silver orphan, taken in and raised by Reds, and set her up to be a princess, engaged to one of the princes.

Mare has to be very careful, because the world is watching. One wrong move and she’ll be killed to protect the secret. Despite that, she helps the Scarlet Guard, a resistance group determined to bring down the reign of Silvers and free the Reds.

Navigating this world of ballgowns, jealousy, and suspicion isn’t going to be easy, especially when anyone can betray anyone, at any time.


Review

Possibly unpopular opinion alert, but… I really like this book. I’ve read it twice, and I rated it the same both times. Is it my all-time favorite? No. But I really enjoyed it. (If you want a quick overview of my thoughts, instead of the long version, scroll to the bottom.)

Mare is great in this book. She was a badass, and risked so much to protect people she cared about, and Reds in general, and I admire her for that. I also just really liked her as a character. Despite everything, she believed in a better future, saw the good in people, and cared deeply for others. She had flaws, sure, and there were a few times I wanted to scream “Trust no-one!” at her, because that seemed like the best course of action. I wasn’t entirely right or wrong for feeling that way.

I think my favorite character was actually Julian, a Silver. He was kind and scholarly, and I enjoyed him, as well as his relationship with Mare as he tried to help her understand herself and her ability. She really should have taken to heart some advice he gave her, though.

The princes…oh boy, do I have feelings about Cal and Maven. I kind of felt sorry for both of them, for different reasons. Maven really wormed his way into my heart, but I still liked Cal better. Okay, I can’t talk about my feelings about them without spoilers, so I’m just moving on, ugh.

I feel like the world building is where this novel struggled a little. While I didn’t have any trouble visualizing most of what was presented, it was weird trying to put all the pieces together. This is a fantasy dystopian, and I settled on trying not to think of it like our typical YA dystopians (set in our world, in the future) and more like an alternate world or whatever. There were some technological things we have (guns, cameras, etc.), but also things we don’t have…I think. And there were swords. Why? I don’t know, but I’m kind of into it.

Silver abilities, holy crap. That was one of my favorite things about this book and this universe. I was an X-Men kid, and I grew up watching the cartoon and kind of reading some of the comics, as well as a couple of books I had. I loved X-Men, and I still do. The abilities of the Silvers in this book are similar to that, without seeming like a total rip-off.

There were Silvers who could control metal, fire, water, plants, those with super-human strength, or rock-hard skin. Silvers who could move faster than the eye can track, who can bend light to become invisible, those who could control minds, etc. There were a lot of abilities, and they were all super cool in my opinion.

And then there’s Mare. I’m not going to say what her ability is, but it was freaking awesome, and I was so excited about it after it was revealed during Queenstrial. There’s a scene at the end that had me practically screaming with excitement about it.

The plot itself was probably the most trope-y, but I didn’t mind it. I could definitely see why people were comparing it to some other dystopians, but I’ve realized that I haven’t actually read that many. Maybe that’s why it didn’t bother me. I guess, if you’ve read a dozen YA dystopians, this one might not stand out much.

The thing that did stand out to me was how Mare was what I expected, mostly, from a dystopian heroine. She was pretty selfless and all that, like Katniss and Tris. Oh, and the sort of love triangle. But this one…wow. This was a love triangle that surprised me, and I’m still not okay, even though I’ve read this book twice. I’m still shocked by that thing that happened.

*deep breath to reign things in because this is getting long*

Okay, let me try to summarize my thoughts:

  • Mare was a great character, and I was rooting for her from the beginning.
  • I love the Silver abilities, and Mare’s. I want to know more about how Reds and Silvers…happened. (That’s at least hinted at in a later book, but I’ve only read halfway through King’s Cage so far.)
  • I liked that there wasn’t any info-dumping, at least as far as I remember. Even by the end, there’s still so much we don’t know, and I like that. I think this was a pretty solid (although not totally perfect) start to a series.
  • This book was really fast-paced and a fun read, but you probably won’t like it as much if you’ve read a ton of YA dystopians. However, having a more fantasy dystopian than sci-fi dystopian was an interesting change, at least in my opinion.
  • The world building could have been a bit better, but I was fine with it.
  • The plot was semi-predictable, but there were still twists I didn’t see coming.
  • I don’t know what to say about the writing. It was really good, in my opinion, but not in a way that really stands out. I actually kind of like that. I get tired of really poetic and lyrical writing sometimes, and it’s nice to read something that flows well, but isn’t really flowery.
  • After finishing my re-read, I immediately grabbed Glass Sword because I had to know what happened next.
  • It’s not absolutely mind-blowing, but I really enjoyed it.

Both times I read it, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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Posted in book review

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Reviewed

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Title: Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Author: Laini Taylor

Genre/Other Descriptors: fantasy>paranormal>angels; YA; romance

Publishing info: September 27th, 2011; Little Brown Books for Young Readers; e-book & audiobook

Narrator: Khristine Hvam

Pages: 422

Check it out on goodreads


What’s it about?

Our main character, Karou, is a young art student living and studying in Prague. She speaks many languages (not all human in origin), collects teeth for the mysterious Brimstone, and her blue hair grows out of her head that color.

One day, across the world, black hand prints appear scorched into doorways, left there by angelic beings. Karou doesn’t really know who she is, or where she comes from, but after a run in with Akiva–one of the winged, other-worldly beings responsible for the charred hand prints–she’s put on a path that might lead her to the answers she craves. But, you know what they say: be careful what you wish for.


Review:

This was a re-read for me. I first read it six years ago, but I never read the third and final book. One of my goals this year is to finish at least one series I’ve started, and I’ve been itching to re-read these first two books for ages, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone.

Honestly, I was scared to re-read this. What if it wasn’t as good the second time around? What if it hadn’t aged well? What if I’ve somehow fallen out of love with Laini Taylor’s writing? Thankfully, my fears were squashed. I devoured this book in a day, thanks in large part to the excellent narration of Khristine Hvam. I did also read along with my Kindle edition, but I read this while I was kind of ill, so I’m not sure I could have finished it so quickly without the audiobook.

Laini Taylor is an artist. Her writing is beautiful, rich, and flows gracefully, even during brutal scenes. The world she created in this book comes alive in a way not many books do for me. I’m not just visiting and catching glimpses of things, I was there, completely, as I read this book. She writes in such a way that I find myself shocked when I look up from reading and find myself in my living room, and not wandering the streets of Prague, or Elsewhere. It’s truly magical.

It’s hard to talk about the plot of this one without giving away spoilers. We start off with kind of normal life, and then things really get started about a quarter to a third of the way into the story. Some people might find the set up for this one slow, because of all the groundwork that’s being laid, but once you get past that, I think it really picks up. I personally didn’t find it slow paced at all, because I was so immersed in the world (I’ve never been to Prague, but the way Laini Taylor wrote about it made me believe that you could wander down a street and find magic), but I have seen complaints about that in the past. What I loved, both times I read this, was the way that things were revealed slowly. It was like layers being revealed, finally explaining everything that we were wondering about until that point.

I have a hard time believing these characters are actually fictional, and aren’t out there somewhere, living their lives. When this book came out, I avoided it for a couple of years because I’m just not into Christian mythology. “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” That tagline did not sell me this book at all. I’m just not into angels and devils and stuff like that. But the way Laini Taylor wove the mythology into this story, and the explanation for the angels and the chimera, was perfection. I absolutely loved it.

Karou is one of my all-time favorite characters. She’s artistic and intelligent, she’s inquisitive, she’s got a fiery personality and can be a bit impulsive (but she also keeps it together under pressure), she can be a little petty, she’s just great. She isn’t a perfect character, and I love that she has very human flaws (or whatever you want to call them).

Like the last time I read this, I also absolutely loved Zuzana, Karou’s best friend. Their friendship is still one of my favorites from a book. It’s so realistic! They’re very close, they banter about things, they support one another, and when an issue comes up, they deal with it together. None of that turning on each other BS. They’re a team, and I love them. I also really liked Zuzana’s boyfriend, Mik, but he was a very minor character so we don’t get to know him very well.

While this is generally spoken about as a romance, and it is, one of my favorite things is that we don’t get to that part for a long time. The first relationships we encounter in this story are Karou’s relationships with Zuzana, and with her chimera family. We get to know all of them long before there’s any real romance stuff happening, and those are treated as just as important as the romance (or possibly even more important).

Speaking of the romance… The first time I read this, I was so ready to hate Akiva (the angel character), but I just couldn’t do it. We don’t get to know him super well in this one, but I enjoyed his character. He was complex, and honestly a nice change from the typical “bad-boy” kind of love interest I was used to finding in books when I read it the first time. He has a dark past, in a way, but the development of his character that we see in this book was so well done. Even when I was disappointed in him, I still wanted to hug him.

A lot of people hate this book for the insta-love, but it’s really not insta-love. I won’t go into more details, just in case there’s someone reading this who hasn’t read it already, but just trust me. It’s not insta-love. There’s a Before and an After, as far as Akiva and Karou’s relationship is concerned, and even during the Before, I didn’t feel like it was the typical insta-love situation.

So, I loved this book just as much the second time around. I’m so nervous about the next two books, though, because I barely remember the second one (I just remember being worried about how the series was going to end haha).

Once again, I gave it 5 out of 5 stars (maybe more like 4.75, but I’m rounding up instead of down to 4.5).

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Posted in book tags/memes

T5W: SFF Authors On My “Auto-Buy” List

T5W is a weekly meme created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey, now hosted by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. You can check out the goodreads group to learn more.

April 11: Auto-Buy Scifi and Fantasy Authors – Booktube SFF Awards Babble Crossover Topic! 
— This month’s crossover topic is your auto-buy authors that write SFF.

Ok, I’m stretching this a bit because A) I literally only have like…2? 3? authors on my “auto-buy” list in general, and B) I can’t always afford to buy books (I end up having to wait months or even years sometimes for books a lot of the time) so… We’re cheating a little.

This is my “perfect world” list, in which I have enough money at any time to be able to buy a new book, instead of having to wait for over time and stuff like that. So, these are the authors I’d probably pre-order in that scenario, and would most likely buy anything they published.

In no particular order, except the first two are already authors I just auto-buy ASAP.


V.E./Victoria Schwab– Do I need to explain? (I’m still missing 1…or 2? of her books, but I’m collecting them all, even though I’ve only read the Shades of Magic series so far.)

Leigh Bardugo– I think I still need to pick up the original Grisha short stories, maybe, but otherwise I think I own all of her books now, and I’ll probably continue to buy them.

Jim Butcher– Husband and I both love The Dresden Files, and now we’re on the hunt for his other books. So far we only have a partial collection of TDF, and The Aeronaut’s Windlass, but we’re working on it.

Gail Carriger– Ok, I’ve only read I think the first 2 or 3 of her Parasol Protectorate books, but I loved them. And the covers are ❤ so honestly I would probably buy her books just for those if the price was right. (I actually not have the entire Parasol Protectorate series for my Kindle *inhuman screeching* I’m very excited to get back into the universe.

Moïra Fowley-Doyle– I’m pretty sure she counts for this. I haven’t read Spellbook of the Lost and Found yet, but The Accident Season is a favorite of mine and she landed on my wishful auto-buy list (aka authors I will definitely buy the second I have the money). Husband, wonderful man that he is, actually picked up Spellbook for me last year shortly after it came out, but reading slumps and ARCs got in the way of me actually reading it (soooooon, though).

Laini Taylor– I’ve actually only read two of her books so far (the first two in the DOSAB trilogy), but I have the entire DOSAB trilogy and Strange the Dreamer and I honestly don’t even know what Strange is about because I just heard she was writing a new book and then bought it ASAP after it came out. (I still don’t know anything about the plot.)


I got a bit lazy this week, so no images and links. Insomnia is kind of trying to ruin my life. Fun times 😐

Honestly, this topic was so stressful for me because there are a lot of authors I still haven’t read enough from to know if they could be auto-buy-authors, and then there are the now deceased authors (looking at you in particular, Douglas Adams) whose books I already own all/most/many of (I have to get the Dirk Gently books, dang it, and The Meaning of Liff). Then of course there’s J.R.R. Tolkien. I really want nice editions of LOTR and The Hobbit, and I also want Beowulf, and…Well, everything, really. It just didn’t feel right to include them, because there’s nothing new coming out. (Well, no new creations, I guess I should say.)

Wow I’m getting rambly, so time to wrap this up… If you’re actually reading this, thank you ❤ And I’m sorry 😛


**Edit: I’m not sure if I should laugh or beat my head against a wall omg haha. I just realized I can’t count, apparently. (Actually, I had a plan, but I was so tired when I wrote this that it fell apart.) What I think I intended to do was have Victoria and Leigh as tied for the number one spot, the unquestionable two I will buy books from without even knowing anything about the book. Then the other 4. But oh well, let’s just have 6 instead of 5 this week 😛 **


Do you have any auto-buy SFF authors?

Posted in book tags/memes

T5W: Urban Fantasy Faves

T5W is a weekly meme created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey, now hosted by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. You can check out the goodreads group to learn more.

 

February 28th: Favorite Urban Fantasy Books *Book Babble Crossover Topic*
— Urban Fantasy tends to feature a heavy romance element, so I figured it fit in this month.

 

>_< It’s been a bad month and I’ve been wrapped up in a lot of personal issues that sucked the life out of me basically. When things get really tough, apparently my blogging is the first thing I drop to ease the weight of stuff I have to deal with, and I feel horrible about that. But, it looks like some of the disasters and such are mostly behind us, finally, so hopefully March will be a better blogging (and reading, ugh) month.

Anyway, on to this week’s topic!love Urban Fantasy, usually, but for some reason I struggled a lot with this topic. Maybe it’s because I love it, but a lot of UF books don’t necessarily make my “OMG this is one of my favorite things EVER!” list or something. But, here are 5 UF books I really enjoy…and probably recommend/talk about too much.

(Book covers link to goodreads.)

 


The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher–
Ok, this one actually is probably on my list of all-time-faves. I love these books and I’m so glad husband got me to read the first one a few years ago.

 


The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris– These are probably the closest thing I have to a “guilty pleasure” read. I know they’re no great feats of literature, but they’re fun and I really like them, despite their (many) flaws.

 

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead–finally read this series last year or the year before, and I’m so glad! They really are much better than I first expected and some of my favorite YA vamp books.

 

 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black– This, though…This is probably my actual favorite YA vampire book. I loved it so much after buying the e-book on sale that I immediately ordered the hardcover and would have re-read it right away if I hadn’t gotten caught up in some new releases and ARCs.

 

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater– Do I need to say anything about these? I’m pretty sure most people in the bookish world are at least aware of them, even if they haven’t actually read them. I hesitated until the last book was out to finally read them, because I didn’t believe the hype. This was one case where I think it was justified, though.

 


What are some of your favorite UF books?

Posted in book tags/memes

First Lines Fridays: January 12th

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

The Rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first

Finally… reveal the book!

 


‘Death,’ the proprietor said clearly, showing the stone. It was a bright red ruby, multifaceted, set in a plain gold ring. It was a full carat–large for this quality. 


 

Interested? Keep scrolling to find out which book this is from.

new arrows

 

On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony


What it’s about:

 

When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.

Goodreads  | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

 

 


I’m still not sure what I think about this one, but I have to say I’m kinda curious. I haven’t read it yet, but I think I might give it a shot after I finish some other series I own.

I have a bunch of mass markets from the ’80s (and probably at least a few from the ’70s and ’90s) and I love having them just to look at, even if I never actually get around to reading them. There’s something cheesy and funny and…something else I can’t quite name, about the covers for fantasy and sci-fi books from that time period. But especially the ’80s. I mean, just google “1980s {fantasy or sci-fi} books” and look at the covers. It’s ridiculous and wonderful 😛


Have you read it?

What do you think of older sci-fi and fantasy book covers?