Posted in book review

Glass Sword: Reviewed

Glass Sword (Red Queen, #2)

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard (book two in the Red Queen quartet)

Genres/Descriptors: YA; fantasy; SFF>dystopian

Pages: 444

Check it out on Goodreads


What’s it about?

Since this is the second in a series, I won’t spend much time on the descriptive bits.

This one picks up right where Red Queen ended, with Mare and Cal having just narrowly escaped Maven and the other Silvers (thanks to the intervention of the Scarlet Guard).

Mare is on a mission, out to find other sympathizers (Reds and Silvers), as well as other Reds with abilities (New Bloods), like herself. It’s not going to be easy, especially with Maven hunting them and continuing to spread the lies about them.


Review:

This book was so polarizing, from what I remember (and what I’ve seen from friend’s reviews). People were either really into it, or seriously let down by it. I fell more into the former camp, thankfully. Something about this series just works for me, I guess. (Maybe it’s because I haven’t read as many of the books this series is compared to as other people.) This might get slightly spoilery, but I’m trying to keep them out.

Mare was kind of a mess in this book, and I liked that. She was under so much pressure, shouldering as much responsibility as she possibly could (especially for tracking down and saving other New Bloods), and I found it believable. She had gone through some shit, and she was not the young Red girl she had been at the beginning of Red Queen. There was a darkness in her, and a fierce determination that might have clouded her judgment at times. I enjoyed that her choices weren’t really clearly right/wrong, and there were consequences. She also might have finally started to understand that maybe she shouldn’t trust so easily.

I can’t seem to articulate some of the things I want to say about her, her actions, and how she was viewed by others. There was that whole martyr thing (which seems to be A Thing with YA dystopian heroines), which was annoying at times, but I also didn’t think she was a monster. I can’t remember for sure now if other characters compared her to a monster, of if she saw herself that way, or what. She knew that the path she was on was not going to be easy, blood would certainly be spilled on both sides, and horrible decisions and sacrifices would have to be made. But she tried, damn it. She tried to save who she could (Reds and Silvers), and she wasn’t as unbothered by the deaths as some of the other characters seemed to think she was.

Cal…Oh man, poor Cal. I just want to hug him. He was betrayed by his brother, forced to kill his father by his stepmother, sentenced to die for that, and then he was basically kidnapped by the Scarlet Guard to be used in whatever way they could find to use him. He could have destroyed them, when they were on the train, but he didn’t. Hell, he even ends up helping them as much as he can. Cal is just not bloodthirsty, and he wants to find a way to resolve everything without death (especially Silver deaths, but he wasn’t exactly thrilled about Reds dying, either). It’s admirable, but honestly kind of unrealistic. Cal: Looks like he could kill you, but is actually a cinnamon roll. (Okay, not exactly, because he is lethal. But he doesn’t want it to come to that, poor dude.)

Maven is vile, and there is no death horrible enough for him. Some of the things he does in this book shocked even me, and I’m not easily shocked. There is nothing redeeming about him, and I want him to suffer every moment of a long, imprisoned life. Then there’s Elara. It’s hard to know how much of what Maven is doing is actually his doing, or something his mother came up with. That doesn’t exactly work in Maven’s favor, because (even if everything is her idea) he still allows it to happen. He’s also super freaking creepy, but I won’t go into that because spoilers, I think.

Romance was not much of a thing in this one, and I appreciated that. While I actually did like the love triangle (square?) in the first book, I was glad to see that romance wasn’t so important in the second book that it overshadowed the seriousness of everything else that was going on. The world was falling apart, they were in the middle of a rebellion, and brooding about their love life was not exactly at the forefront of Mare’s and Cal’s minds. Feelings were not entirely ignored, but not a ton of time was spent brooding.

We got to see a lot more of the world in this one, as well as finding out more about the Scarlet Guard, and I loved that. This one was also action-packed, and the pace was never very slow. There was always something to worry about, and I think I actually held my breath a few times while reading particularly intense scenes.

The New Bloods are awesome. We meet several in this book, and I loved the abilities we learned about. I feel like Victoria Aveyward had to be influenced by X-Men (I made that comparison in my review of Red Queen, and I’m not the only one), and I’m not complaining about it. While the abilities of the Silvers are seriously cool, I’m way more excited by the New Bloods, I think.

The last few chapters of this one…ouch. Things happened, some of it good overall, but it was not painless.


I ended up rating this one the same as Red Queen, with 4 out of 5 stars.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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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

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Posted in book review

Dreams of Gods and Monsters: Reviewed

Sorry about the shifting formatting of reviews :/ I’m still trying to work out what works for me.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor (book three in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy)

Genres/Descriptors: fantasy>paranormal>angels; paranormal romance; YA

Pages: 613

Check it out on Goodreads


I’m not adding a description, since this is the final book in a series (my reviews for book one and book two), so we’re jumping straight into the…

Review:

I’ve stalled as long as I can in reviewing this book, for a few reasons. Mostly because I was so irritated and disappointed by it. If someone had told me, before I read this, that I was going to read a book by Laini Taylor that just didn’t do it for me, I would have laughed about it and thought it was a joke.

The characters were absolutely the best part of this one, and saved the rating from being shamefully low (my shame, because I did not expect to not love this book). Buuut…there were issues with the characters, too.

Eliza is dumped in at the beginning of this book, and I didn’t dislike her character. (My issue isn’t with not liking the characters, it’s the way they were all just poured into the story. More on that later, though.) I just feel like we didn’t get enough time to really grow to care about her. By the end, I liked her, but only barely. I was mostly indifferent, not wishing for her to be killed off, but not cheering for her much, either.

Then there were the Stelians, finally making an appearance on the page. But, once again, we didn’t really get much from our time spent with them. It was basically enough to establish that they’re powerful, with a tiny glimpse into what life is like for them, and that was pretty much it. I. Want. More. I want more information, more character development.

Our surviving cast from the previous two books return, and I loved them. Mostly. I found it really strange that I just stopped caring about Karou and Akiva (as a couple) about halfway through. I expected them to end up together, but I just didn’t care anymore. That said, I did still like them on their own, and I was rooting for them. Just not as a couple :/

Mik and Zuze make a return, and I absolutely freaking love them. They actually might be my favorite characters from this series, even above Karou. Karou might be one of my all-time favorite protagonists, but Mik and Zuze are just wonderful. They’re so cute, and brave. They’re kind of like the heart of things, helping to keep spirits and hope up for the others. Not to mention their loyalty, oh my gosh. I thought they were impressive in the second book, but in this one? Seriously determined, and it leads to a pretty freaking awesome scene that continues to bring a smile to my face every time I think about it.

Ziri, oh man. What do I even say about him? My heart breaks for him, and he is my precious cinnamon roll book child. Then there’s Liraz. I liked her a lot in the first two books. In this one, I liked her, but there were some things, changes in her, that felt a little rushed and artificial. It’s not that I think she was incapable of them, just that they came about so quickly, which made it hard to believe.

Even minor characters we get to know are amazing in these books, and you really grow to either like/love them, or hate them. Well, that was my experience, at least.

The writing was still superb, because Laini Taylor can write. My issues really come in with the plot. This should have been a quartet instead of a trilogy. There was too much dropped in, especially closer to the end, that just wasn’t expanded enough. I don’t care about seeing how everything ends, because I’m fine with the book ending with the future being uncertain for the characters. My complaint is that there was just too much happening, too much being added, and not enough explanation of it all. I really wish the stuff with the Stelians had been added in at least the second book, to introduce that whole situation. (I also think Eliza being introduced at the end of the second book might have been good, because we really needed more of her.)

There was also a really irritating hint that two of the female characters were going to get together, but it was mentioned so briefly and vaguely that I didn’t even catch it until I was checking out some spoilery discussions about the book after I finished it (to see if I was the only person who wasn’t really happy with everything).

There’s another pairing that annoys me, but talking about it would involve either blatantly stating spoilers, or dancing around them in such a vague way that’s just too complicated. I’ll just say I’m not really happy about it. I thought I shipped it, before it actually happened. I don’t hate it, I’m just tired of characters being paired up in finale books.

This book had some ridiculously awesome things in it, but there wasn’t enough detail. There was a huge bombshell dropped, and then…that’s it, the story is over. It made the story feel rushed and even a little incomplete. It wasn’t a very satisfying experience for me, and I hate that. There was so much that could have been expanded, with the mythology and the universe and the characters, so this didn’t really feel like a conclusion to me. If I didn’t know the series was over, I would be wondering when the next book was going to be released.

I have a lot of feelings about this book, and I think the not-so-good ones outnumber the good.

Thing were ended so neatly it was kind of hard to believe. I mean, I did hope for some of it, but it all felt a little too tidy, especially after the huge thing that was revealed, and the consequences of some actions that might have made that huge thing a bigger problem than it already was. Basically, it wasn’t tragic enough 😛 I didn’t want all the characters to die, or be miserable at the end, but everything felt too perfect, despite the looming challenge of the huge thing I keep mentioning.

I could ramble and rant about this book for ages, but this has already gotten pretty long, so I’ll wrap it up.

I was so disappointed by this book, and I almost wish I’d never read it. It’s turned me off Laini Taylor’s books (I was planning to read Strange the Dreamer this month or next) for a while, until I can get over this one 😦


I gave it a grudging 3.5 out of 5 stars, mostly for the characters and writing. The rest was just mediocre for me.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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 review

The Wicked Deep– Review


Genres/Descriptors:
 YA; Fantasy/Paranormal

Why I read it: I had this on my list for months, anxiously awaiting release day.

Who I’d recommend it to: Ok, this book was promoted as a meeting of Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, and the Salem Witch Trials. If that sounds appealing to you, I say check it out.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (maybe 3.5 stars?)

 

Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books a Million | Amazon | IndieBound


Goodreads Description:

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.


Review:

First, I just have to say how weird my acquisition of this book was. It was one of my most anticipated 2018 releases, but I’d forgotten when it was coming out. I was at a bookstore, saw it, squealed with delight, and bought it. It was only later (like, days later) that I realized I’d bought it within like 48 hours of its release. I almost never buy brand new release books. It’s like it was fate.

Anyway…

I read this in a day, and this has not been the best reading year for me (so. many. slumps.), so that’s saying something. I really enjoyed it, and thought it was a fun book, but there were a few things I didn’t love (which I’ll get to).

What I did like was the general concept. After reading it, I totally get the Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic comparison. It’s not a copy of either of those, but there are familiar elements (the three sisters, the small town thing, etc.) that reminded me of both.

The story just kind of floated along. The only way I can describe how I felt while reading it is “enchanted.” This book definitely had me under its spell, and I completely lost track of time while reading it. It’s a bit dark, spooky, and haunting without crossing over into horror, with a touch of mystery. Honestly, it read a lot like a fairytale.

It alternated between the present and the past in a way that didn’t bother me (I hate random time jumps, but this one wasn’t like that at all) and let the story unfold gradually, giving you little pieces of past and present until the end when the whole picture was revealed.

I kind of suspected a few of the twists really early in the book that turned out to be right, but I was still a little surprised by how everything eventually played out. All in all, I was pretty satisfied with the mystery aspect of the story.  

The setting for this (Sparrow) was one of my favorite parts of this book. Shea Ernshaw did such a good job creating an atmospheric place that seemed to exist just a little outside the rest of the world. 

This is kind of a spoiler, but not really, so I’m just going to say it: insta-love. I generally hate it, and I didn’t love it in this book, but I was able to just kind of roll with it. By the end of the book, I had really mixed feelings about it, but I won’t go into that because that would definitely be spoilery.

One of my biggest complaints is probably the characters. I like really getting to know the characters in a book, and I didn’t really get that with this book. Some were better developed than others, but I wanted to know more about pretty much everyone.

I can’t talk about the thing that I disliked the most about this book without giving away a lot of stuff, but (while I’d guessed it early on) some things towards the end were not my favorite.

Still, I really enjoyed this book, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by Ernshaw in the future, because I loved her writing.


Have you read it? What did you think?