Book Review: Empire Of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Book: Empire Of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Published September 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing|693 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Throne Of Glass #5

Genre: YA Fantasy

KINGDOMS WILL COLLIDE.

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what—and who—to sacrifice if she’s to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

I really like this series!  But as much as I’ve liked the previous books, this one is the one I’m least sure about.  I don’t know if maybe I burned myself out on the series, given the fact that I’ve read the entire series recently. Well, I re-read the first 3, and read the 4th one for the first time.

I wasn’t surprised by everything that happened with Rowan and Aelin- I had the feeling it was coming in Queen Of Shadows.  I’m sure there are a lot of people who aren’t happy with that ship, and I’m sure that some people are not going to be happy with some of the more…adult content in the book.  I don’t mind it, and it does make sense- as Aelin grows and matures, so will the story and the romance.  I still don’t love Rowan as much as a lot of other fans do, but he’s not going anywhere, so I don’t mind him being around at all.

I really liked everything with Manon, and I’m kind of hoping that she ends up with Dorian.  And I kind of like Lysandra and Aedion together.  At least as far as romance goes, but overall, I really like Manon, who is easily becoming one of my favorite characters.  I always looked forward to Manon’s chapters, and interestingly enough, her chapters, along with Elide’s, were more interesting to read than Aelin’s chapters.

The world in this series is a lot bigger- with new places and characters, and it’s a very different series than when it started.  This series is no longer for you if you can’t handle a book where Chaol doesn’t make an appearance. This series is no longer for you if you’re hoping it will come full circle and be like the earlier books in the series. And Aelin is a far different character in Empire Of Storms than she was in Throne Of Glass, so keep that in mind as well.

Like I said earlier, the series is maturing.  I feel like Maas has really found her footing, especially with this book.

I think why I’m more unsure of this book than the previous 4 is my random confusion when I was reading the book. All of the favors Aelin called in?  I felt like I should know who they were and their connection to her, and yet, I didn’t. I felt like I was missing something, which makes no sense, because I just finished reading the series up to this point, and yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was supposed to know who some of the new characters are.  I don’t think they were even mentioned.  There’s no possible way that I have forgotten everything already.

On second thought, there are prequel novellas, so maybe my confusion is because I haven’t read them?  Do some of the new characters make appearances in those novellas?  Because if they do…it’s just frustrating that I have to read some novellas in order to understand what’s going on in the series.  It wasn’t an issue until this book, because I felt like Maas introduced her past in a way that made sense and wasn’t confusing.

As confused as I was sometimes, I still want to see how things are going to work out.

4 stars.  I really liked Manon and Elide’s chapters, and I can’t wait to see more of them in the next book. I did find some of Aelin’s storyline a little confusing- it’s mostly the favors she called in when she was trying to find allies. Still, I think the series has grown and changed, and I like the direction it’s going in.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Two

I thought I’d share some of the books I read earlier in the year and never got around to reviewing.  I talked about some of the books I read earlier in the year in this post, and figured I do another post since I had some more books to talk about.  All of the books were from the library.

Book One: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

What I Thought:

  • So, The Invisible Library is about Irene, a spy for a very mysterious Library, and her quest to retrieve a dangerous book from an alternate London
  • It’s a really good read-alike if you like the Eyre Affair…but instead of going into books, you’re going into parallel dimensions and alternate worlds to take their books for the sake of preservation and research
  • The library has a life of its own, and the librarians seem like an interesting bunch
  • I really want to know more about the librarians.  We get a little bit of the hierarchy and structure of the library, but not a lot, and I’m hoping we get more
  • The way I feel about the librarians is the same way I feel about the Library.  We get a general idea of the library and how it works but I want more
  • It is the first book in a series, so it is setting up for future books.  Hopefully we’ll see more
  • There are a lot of possibilities, though.  I mean, they go into parallel dimensions to retrieve books, and there are a lot of possibilities for future books.  It would be interesting to see how things could possibly spiral out
  • My Rating: 3 stars.  It’s a fun book to read, and great if you like books about books and libraries, but I wanted more about the Library and the librarians who work there.

Book #2: Carve The Mark by Veronica Roth

What I Thought:

  • Carve The Mark is about Cyra, who is pretty much able to torture people, and Akos, who has some power I cannot remember
  • I was really excited about this book, because I loved the Divergent series (even Allegiant, which I know people either love or hate), but I did’t like it as much as a thought
  • Well…what I remember, which isn’t much
  • Honestly, even though it’s set in space, it felt like it could have been set anywhere.  I kind of forgot it was space in space most of the time
  • It was really slow and confusing and I wasn’t a big fan of the dual narration
  • I don’t remember a lot about the book, and I honestly can’t remember what I liked or didn’t like.  I know I read it, but that’s pretty much it
  • I think it could be an interesting read-alike for fans of Graceling and An Ember In The Ashes
  • I vaguely remember that it’s slightly interesting blend of sci-fi and fantasy- there are element of both, and it didn’t feel like it was one or the other
  • My Rating?  2 stars.  I don’t remember enough to dislike it, but I don’t remember enough to like it

Book Three: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

What I Thought:

  • I really wish I re-read the first two books in the series first, because I had a hard time remembering what was going
  • I’m starting to like this series less and less, and I honestly thought this book was the last one
  • I was very surprised on learning this is, in fact, not the last book in the series.  I was disappointed with how it ended at first, because nothing felt resolved, but when I saw there were more books, the ending made a lot more sense
  • I was more bored reading this book than I was with the other books
  • Nothing stood out to me as interesting or memorable, and I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened
  • I do like the overall premise of the series, and I am determined to finish it out…but part of me wonders if it’s being stretched out too much
  • Maybe I need to re-read the series before I make up my mind.  And maybe if I do re-read it, I’ll do an updated review
  • Rating: 2 stars.  It wasn’t very memorable, and I remember being bored when I was reading it.

Book #4: In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

What I Thought:

  • This book is bananas!
  • Seriously, what is going on with Clare and Nora?  Clare has some issues, as does Nora
  • I mean, Nora’s okay, but she was really hung up on a short-lived relationship that happened when she was 16.  I thought it was weird that she was so hung up on something that happened 10 years earlier
  • And Clare…I get that she was worried what people thought about her (don’t we all worry about that, to some degree?) but she took it to an extreme
  • To me, they acted a lot younger than they were.  Not that they have to act a certain way, just because they’re in their mid-twenties, but Clare in particular seemed very determined to get what she wanted
  • It was not as creepy as I thought it would be.  They’re in a cabin in the woods, and it’s pretty isolated from what I could tell.  But it was not at all creepy
  • I did want to keep reading, though, and to see who was killed and why.
  • Rating: I have to go with 2 stars on this one.  I just wanted something more creepy.

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Book: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Published September 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire|324 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

I really loved the magic, traditions and culture in Labyrinth Lost.  When I first heard about it, I knew I wanted to rea it, because it seemed really different.

Los Lagos was a really vivid setting- it had this Wonderland feel to it, and I think, if it were to be adapted into a movie or t.v. show, that Los Lagos would be really pretty to look at.  I thought things were pretty interesting leading up to Los Lagos, and as pretty and vivid at it seems, it was also the point where I started to lose a little bit of interest.

I think it’s mostly because the stakes never felt really high.  I know Alex is trying to get her family back, but there was never the sense of urgency that she would never get them back if she didn’t comply with the Devourer’s wishes.  It was pretty predictable that she’d be reunited with them, and I kind of felt like the book never really made me feel like it was a distinct possibility.

There were also a lot of the tropes you’d see in a book like this.  The girl who’s the most powerful in a while, but doesn’t want it and would do anything to get rid of it.  There’s the best friend who has no idea her best friend is a bruja but goes after her anyway, and the bad boy with a troubled past who, in the end, does the right thing by trying to help our heroine.  It wasn’t annoying enough to make me dislike it, but just annoying enough for me to bring it up. So keep that in min if you’re thinking about reading it.

The magic and folklore were really different, and I liked the idea of a Deathday celebration.  There was something very old and traditional about the magic, like it was passed down from generation to generation.  I also really liked the contrast between Brooklyn and Los Lagos and Brooklyn and the magic we see in the book.

I did think Alex was a little bit on the bratty side- her family really cared about her, as did a lot of other people, and it seemed like she threw it right in their faces at her Deathday celebration.  I am curious about why her mom didn’t really put her through their magical training a little more.  I wonder if maybe that’s part of Alex’s problem.  Maybe not, but I do wonder if it would have made a difference.

And the cover!  It’s really unique and I’d definitely pick it up based off of the cover alone.

4 stars.  I can’t wait to read the next book, because I am curious to see where things go.  Especially with how the book ended.  It is really unique, and worth checking out!

Book Review: Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book: Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Published September 2015 by Bloomsbury Publishing|547 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: Throne Of Glass #4

Genre: YA Fantasy

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

I really like this series, and this book…I don’t know what I was expecting, but I can’t wait to see what happens next. Especially with how the book ended.

In the last book, I wasn’t sure about Manon, and the whole arc with the covens- it seemed out of place before. And I wondered if maybe it was setting something up in future books.  I turned out to be right about that, but I really didn’t expect it to go the way that it did.  I want to see more of Manon and her Thirteen.

We see more development with Rowan and Aelin, and it seems like the good ship Chaol and Celaena are on their way to being completely dead.  It depends on what happens in Empire Of Storms, of course, but I don’t see Chaol and Celaena getting back together.  As much as I love both Chaol and Celaena, I don’t think I really like them together. Pretty much because I think he has a hard time accepting her for who she is.  And after the whole thing with Nehemia…there really isn’t any hope for them.  Not anymore.  But at the same time, Chaol does stand up to her, which I think she needs.

She is a very different Celaena in this book than in the previous ones.  She is more Aelin, Queen Of Terrasen than Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s Assassin.  It’s a big change, and I have the feeling that there are very divided feelings on both the change in Celaena and with the romance.

I did hate what Maas did to Chaol, but he was right (a lot) and I wish the changes for him and Celaena were a little bit smoother.  And Dorian!  I felt for him, I really did.  I hated every single time he was in pain.

Manon and Lysandra were amazing, and Nesryn had a lot of potential but I kind of felt like Nesryn was just there.

Queen Of Shadows is definitely a big turning point.  We’re turning away from trying to free magic and take down the king of Adarlan, and turning towards a war with Perrington.  I’m curious to see where things go.

4 stars.  I thought Nesryn had a lot of potential, and I hated what Maas did to Chaol, but I can’t wait to see where things go.

Book Review: Heartless, Conviction, and Court Of Fives

heartless-cover-marissa-meyerBook #1: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Published November 2016 by Feiwel & Friends|464 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Re-telling

What It’s About: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

What I Thought: I really liked Heartless!  The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series, and when I found out Meyer was coming out with another book, I knew I had to read it!  At first, I wasn’t sure about it, and initially, it was just okay.  But the more I read, the more I fell in love with the book, and the more I liked Catherine.

She’s an interesting character, and at first, she really is the sweetest person who loves baking.  It was hard to see her becoming the Queen Of Hearts that we all know in Alice In Wonderland, but the change she made into the character we all know was really believable.  It was a pretty fast change, but it worked for her character, and it was easy the events that led to her change were so easy to believe and made perfect sense for her.

By the time I was finished, I was ready for more set in this world, and that was when I realized that it was a stand-alone.  Which is fine, since it is Meyer’s take on Alice In Wonderland and the Queen Of Hearts.  But I am curious to see what Alice In Wonderland would be like if it were done by Meyer, because she did something pretty cool with Cinder.

My Rating: 4 stars.  It took me a little bit to get into Heartless, but by the end, I really wanted more set in this world!

conviction-coverBook #2: Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Published May 2015 by Disney Hyperion|352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

What I Thought: I really wanted to like Conviction, and it seemed like it would be a great book, but it ended up being really frustrating to read. There were so many different angles, and I felt like none of them really got the attention they deserved. There’s Braden, and the complicated family stuff- his mom left him, and the same happened with his half-brother’s mom. There’s a dad, who seems abusive, and pushed baseball on his kids because his dream of being a professional baseball died when he got injured. And all of the stuff with a brother, who’s gay, and was kicked out and basically almost killed by their dad. On top of that, Braden’s dad is accused of killing a cop, and people may or may not have lied about what happened that night.

I felt like a lot of things weren’t clear, like with what happened on the night that the cop died, and things were hinted at, but for the most part, nothing was clearly mentioned or explained. That was when it matched up with what was previously mentioned in the book, and there was definitely at least one time, where things didn’t match up at all.

Not only that, but you have different time lines- there’s Braden’s memories of his dad, there what happened the night the cop died, and what was going on in the present, and it made things less coherent and really jumbled. It didn’t feel very focused, and I felt like I was reading all of these different pieces that didn’t really come together. The flashbacks were also poorly done in my opinion, and randomly thrown in with no transitions before and after.

My Rating: 2 stars. I didn’t dislike it enough to give it 1 star, but it was really confusing and all over the place. I can see why people like it, but it wasn’t for me.

court-of-fives-coverBook #3: Court Of Fives by Kate Elliott

Published August 2015 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|448 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Court Of Fives #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: On the Fives court, everyone is equal.

And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

What I Thought: I picked up Court Of Fives based solely on the recommendation of Gail Carriger, and it was a fun, interesting read. I do feel like there are a lot of similar books out there, plot-wise but I really liked this one because it felt different enough to hold my attention. I really liked the competition, and how things aren’t what they seem.

It’s interesting that the history they know seems to be slightly different than what actually happened (which isn’t surprising at all), and I was really intrigued by the original story, and the parallels to Jessamy’s family, particularly with her parents. I did like that her dad stuck by her mom, even though it would have advanced his career a lot more. He still seemed really ambitious, and it didn’t seem to matter in the end, since they lost their main protector. But it did seem to matter to him, at least for a little while.

I kind of wish the competition was explained a little more, because even now, I’m not quite sure how to explain it, or even what it is. Something about it reminded me of the actual Hunger Games, but far less deadly. And something that relies a lot more on actual practice and logic and strategy. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and how things work out for Jessamy and her family.

My Rating: 4 stars. This was intriguing and interesting and a really good read.

 

Book Review Round-Up: Crooked Kingdom, My Lady Jane And Tumbling

Since I’ve finished a few books recently, I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve been reading!

crooked-kingdom-coverBook #1: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Published September 2016 by Henry Holt & Co|448 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Six Of Crows #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

What I Thought: After reading Six Of Crows, I knew I would be anxiously waiting for the sequel!  It didn’t disappoint, and even though I didn’t love it, I still really liked it!

It’s such a roller-coaster and I was glad that I was along for the ride.  There’s a lot of craziness, but in a good way, because I wanted to see what happened next.  There’s a lot of action and adventure…which I expected, considering it’s fantasy and a heist novel.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I swear, her writing is getting better and better.  And the world is completely amazing.

I loved the banter and it made me laugh, and yet, my heart broke a couple of times.  So many feels!

I will admit that I was surprised by how complete the story felt.  I honestly went into this book assuming that it was the 2nd book in a trilogy, and was surprised to find that there is no book 3 planned.  I really wanted (and was expecting) more to this story.  At the same time, though, she wrapped up the story really well.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked the story, and I’m a little disappointed there are only 2 books, because I really wanted more books!

my-lady-jane-coverBook #2: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

Published June 2016 by HarperTeen|512 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Alternate History

What It’s About: The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

What I Thought: I had really high hopes for My Lady Jane.  I love the time period, and I love Hand and Meadows. I have yet to read anything by Ashton.  But I was really disappointed in the book, and I hate that I didn’t like it, because I really wanted to.

It felt like it dragged on, and the pacing seemed insanely slow.  It felt like it took forever for me to finish the book, and there were a lot of times where I didn’t want to pick it up.  It seems like they were going for a Princess Bride sort of feel with the book, but it felt more like an alternate history than fantasy.  I wasn’t particularly amused by anything that happened, even though I feel like they were trying to be funny.

For me, I don’t know that using history as a springboard necessarily worked for the story they were trying to tell. It’s an interesting idea, and I can see why people like the book so much.  It makes me wish that this book were for me.  I am curious to see how this book would work if it were entirely made up of original characters.

My Rating: 1 star.  I wanted to like it but it didn’t work for me.

tumbling-coverBook #3: Tumbling by Caela Carter

Published June 2016 by Viking Books For Young Readers|432 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Work harder than anyone.
Be the most talented.
Sacrifice everything.
And if you’re lucky, maybe you will go to the Olympics.

Grace lives and breathes gymnastics—but no matter how hard she pushes herself, she can never be perfect enough.

Leigh, Grace’s best friend, has it all: a gymnastics career, a normal high-school life… and a secret that could ruin everything.

Camille wants to please her mom, wants to please her boyfriend, and most of all, wants to walk away.

Wilhelmina was denied her Olympic dream four years ago, and she won’t let anything stop her again. No matter what.

Monica is terrified. Nobody believes in her—and why should they?

By the end of the two days of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, some of these girls will be stars. Some will be going home with nothing. And all will have their lives changed forever.

What I Thought: Gymnastics is my favorite thing to watch when the Summer Olympics on, so when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it.

I really liked that this book takes place over the span of 2 days, and you follow several gymnasts in their quest to go to the Olympics.  I really liked seeing their stories, but some stood out more than others.

I really felt for Wilhelmina, who missed going to the Olympic trials 4 years prior because she wasn’t old enough. You can see how much she wants, and for a while, you’re not sure if she’s going to make it onto the team because of politics.  Which is completely horrible, but not that surprising.

Monica’s story also stood out to me- it seems like she has a coach who isn’t at all interested in coaching her because he pays a lot of attention to his daughter.  I really hated that he didn’t seem to be a good coach to her, and with all of the time and money that’s going into her training, it seems like a waste of time.  She could be great if she had a better coach.

I felt like Grace and Leigh were the typical mean girls, and I didn’t care for Grace’s story.  She felt very flat, and not as rounded or developed as the other characters.  I also felt like the fact that Grace doesn’t eat a lot was super-stereotypical.  I felt that to a certain degree with Leigh and her secret, although I felt like that was understandable, given Leigh is lesbian, and she’s worried about people finding out.  We do see some of her thoughts, but I wish it had been explored more.  Given how the book focuses on 5 different people, each character could be developed more if the book had focused on less of them, but all things considered, they were more developed and had more depth than you’d think.

Oh, Camile!  I almost forgot about her.  I did like her story and how she wanted to make her mom happy, but at the same time, I’d place her in between Grace and Leigh as one of my least favorite stories.

The one thing that kept me from loving this book was how drama there was behind the scenes.  I have no idea how accurate this was, but it seemed like there was some research put in, if the lengthy glossary at the end of the book is any indication.  I get that these girls are under a lot of pressure and one little mistake can cost them the dream they’ve been working so hard for, especially given female gymnasts seem to peak at around 16 or 17. And I get that it’s a way for the reader to be invested in these girls, but something about rang a little bit true, but not completely true.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, but with 5 different narrators, you didn’t get to spend a lot of time with each of them.

Book Review Round-Up: World War Z, A Torch Against The Night, And Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

I have a lot of books I want to talk about, so I thought I’d do some shorter reviews of a few of them!

world-war-zBook #1: World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War by Max Brooks, Narrated by Full Cast

Published May 2013 by Random House Audio|Length: 12 hours, 8 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio cd’s from the library

Series: None

What It’s About: World War Z: The Complete Edition (Movie Tie-in Edition): An Oral History of the Zombie War is a new version of Max Brooks’ episodic zombie novel. The abridged versions of the original stories are now joined with new, unabridged recordings of the episodes that were not included in the original (abridged) version of the audiobook. These additional episodes feature a star-studded cast of narrators to coincide with the upcoming release of the film.

New narrators include Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese, Spiderman star Alfred Molina, The Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont, rapper Common, Firefly star Nathan Fillion,Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg, and members of the casts of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes and more! Max Brooks will be reprising his role as The Interviewer.

The original abridged edition, released in 2006, won an Audie Award for Best Multi-Voiced Performance. Original cast members include Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Carl & Rob Reiner, and John Turturro.

In this new classic of apocalyptic fiction that feels all too real, the Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. The documentary-style oral history records the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time.

Featuring five more hours of previously unrecorded content, this full-cast recording is read by F. Murray Abraham, Alan Alda, René Auberjonois, Becky Ann Baker, Dennis Boutsikaris, Bruce Boxleitner, Max Brooks, Nicki Clyne, Common, Denise Crosby, Frank Darabont, Dean Edwards, Mark Hamill, Nathan Fillion, Maz Jobrani, Frank Kamai, Michelle Kholos, John McElroy, Ade M’Cormack, Alfred Molina, Parminder Nagra, Ajay Naidu, Masi Oka, Steve Park, Kal Penn, Simon Pegg, Jürgen Prochnow, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Henry Rollins, Jeri Ryan, Jay O. Sanders, Martin Scorsese, Paul Sorvino, David Ogden Stiers, Brian Tee, John Turturro, Eamonn Walker, Ric Young, and Waleed Zuaiter.

What I Thought: I randomly picked up World War Z at the library one day- I remember watching the movie, and I think that’s why I picked it up.

I think it worked really well as an audio book, considering how the book is told.  I like that it’s an oral history of the Zombie War, and I think that lends itself well as an audio book.  It was something that I only listened to sporadically in the car, and there were so many different stories that none of them really stood out.  I don’t know that I would have finished it had I read it, but at the same time, maybe I would have had better luck in remembering more of the stories.  It does seem like almost all of the actual fighting took place in the U.S., while all of the chapters that took place in other parts of the world were about trying to figure out what was going on, and how we ended up with a Zombie outbreak.

I was hesitant about the full cast, but it worked really well for the book because it was easier to distinguish between the different stories that were being told in the book.  It is quite the cast, and unfortunately, while I recognized some of the names, it was hard matching up the voice with the character, especially when I don’t know what their voices sound like.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I did like hearing all of the stories and global the book was, but the stories started to blend together after awhile.

a-torch-against-the-night-coverBook #2: A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir

Published August 2016 by Razorbill|464 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: An Ember In The Ashes #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: Elias and Laia are running for their lives.

After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf – the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison – to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene – Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own – one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape… and kill them both.

What I Thought: I was really looking forward to this book after reading An Ember In The Ashes last year, and it didn’t disappoint!  I really wish I had read the first book again, just because I could not remember anything from the first book, and I had a little bit of a hard time getting back into this world.

Like An Ember In The Ashes, I didn’t particularly care for Laia’s story, and for me, Elias was much more interesting, especially with how his story went.  His narration went in a direction I wasn’t expecting- though the same thing happened with Laia, but not to the same degree as Elias.  I also liked the addition of Helene, and her narration gave perspective on the what things were like for the Empire.  I liked seeing both sides, and the obstacles that Laia and Elias had to face.  I also liked seeing how hard it was for Helene, and the horrible position she was put in.  She went through quite a change by the end of the book, and I’m curious to see if she’ll ever go back to the character we see at the beginning of the book.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and I’m glad that there are more books in the series.  I wish I remembered more from the first book, and while Laia’s story was a little more interesting, I thought Elias and Helene were much more interesting.

miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-coverBook #3: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Published June 2013 by Quirk Books|382 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from a co-worker

Series: Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered inMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

What I Thought: I really liked it- a lot more than I thought I would.  Seeing the trailer for the movie made me want to read the book, so I was really glad when a co-worker let me borrow her copy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with it, and I really liked how creepy and mysterious everything was.  I also LOVED the photographs throughout the book, and they somehow made the book more interesting.  Especially since so many of the photographs went so well with the book and the characters and what was going on.

I think maybe part of me was expecting the story to be more about Jacob’s grandfather, and I was actually a little surprised by how it was more Jacob’s story.  It’s not that we don’t learn about his grandfather, because we do, at least a little.  I wish we got a little more about the children, and why they can do what they do, but perhaps that will be explored in the rest of the series.  Speaking of the rest of the series- even though I really like this book, I’m not sure if I want to keep going with the series.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I think I expected more with Jacob’s grandfather, and I wanted to know more about why there are people who are so peculiar, but I also loved how creepy the book was.  And the photographs- they were really cool and interesting and added something special to the book.

Book Review Round-Up: Burn Out, The Shadow Queen And This Savage Song

I’ve read quite a few books recently, so I thought I’d do some shorter reviews about some of them!

Burn Out CoverBook #1: Burn Out by Kristi Helvig

Published April 2015 by EgmontUSA|288 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Burn Out #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: New in paperback! A science fiction tale of survival full of action, adventure, and intrigue. Perfect for fans of Beth Revis’s Across the Universe and Lenore Appelhans’s The Memory of After.

Some people want to save the world. Seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to stay alive long enough to escape it. Now that the sun’s become a “red giant,” burning out far faster than scientists could ever have predicted, Earth is barely habitable and almost everyone is gone.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora’s only comforts are her dreams of a planet with a plentiful water supply and the bio-energetic weapons her father lost his life for. The ones that only she can fire.

When family friend Markus arrives with mercenaries to take her weapons by force, Tora must decide if trading the guns for safe passage to a new livable planet is worth the price of betraying her father’s wishes. But when she discovers the government’s true motives, her bargaining chip may be nothing more than smoke.

Burn Out combines high-stakes action, adventure, and a hint of romance in a thrilling science fiction debut.

What I Thought: I liked Burn Out!  I thought the idea of an asteroid hitting the sun, causing the sun to burn out at some point in the future to be really interesting, and different, as far as post-apocalyptic novels go.

I thought Tora to be an interesting, but semi-unreliable character.  She has her suspicions about what happened to her father, but as a reader, I was never completely sure about what happened to him, or to Tora’s mother or sister. We only get glimpses of them and the Consulate that’s now in charge, plus there are some untrustworthy characters we meet along the way.  It’s hard to know who to trust, and what’s really going on because you’re never sure who’s telling the truth or who’s lying.  And she seems to be the only female on earth, but as it turns out, there is another survivor, which makes me wonder if there are other people still on Earth, or if everyone else really has left.

I really liked the characters, though, and Tora’s pretty tough.  I also have so many questions about the other characters, and they are a big mystery to me.  What they really up to?

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the science we see in the book, and as someone who doesn’t know, well, much of anything about science…I was going to say it seemed plausible enough, but now I’m not sure.  I do get the comparison to Across The Universe, but having never read The Memory Of After, I’m not sure how it compares to that book.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it enough to read the sequel, but I didn’t love it.  It did end a little abruptly, and I’m hoping the next one doesn’t end that way.

The Shadow Queen CoverBook #2: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

Published February 2016 by Balzer+ Bray|387 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Ravenspire #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale Re-Telling

What It’s About: Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

What I Thought: The Shadow Queen seemed right up my alley- I do like fairy tale re-tellings, but this one was just okay.  I liked the idea of a dragon huntsman, and the use of magic to help out neighboring kingdoms.  And the magic that Irina used to make the kingdom hers, even though it clearly wasn’t.  I had a hard time getting into it, though, because I feel like I’ve read this story before.  It just wasn’t different enough to make it stand out against other books in the genre, and I’ve read my share of fantasy/fairy tale re-tellings.  I think people might like it, but it wasn’t for me.

I did like Kol, but not as a love interest for Lorelei.  I think they’re better off as allies, and they didn’t work as a couple for me.  I thought they had no chemistry, and I had a really hard time believing in their romance.  I didn’t care for Lorelei, and even though I felt for her, something about her character fell flat for me.

My Rating: 2 stars.  This one wasn’t for me, but I did like the idea of a dragon huntsman.

This Savage Song CoverBook #3: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Published July 2016 by Greenwillow Books|427 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Monsters Of Verity #1

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Horror

What It’s About: There’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

What I Thought: I’ve heard a lot of really good things about This Savage Song, and I know it’s received a lot of rave reviews, but unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me.

I thought the world-building was really confusing and not very clear.  I knew there were monsters and they were born from really horrible things, but for me, the book made that concept seem a lot more confusing than it really was.  And the differences between the different kinds of monsters was also really confusing.   I wasn’t sure what the differences between them were, and it seemed like they were different, but it wasn’t really explained how they came to be or how they were different.

And the city of Verity, and it being closed off also seemed really confusing.  Sometimes, it seemed like the things going on in Verity were happening elsewhere around the country.  Other times, it seemed like Verity was the only city affected.  I ended up feeling really confused about it, because the history and how Verity got to that point wasn’t explained very clearly.  Not that we get much, because we don’t.  It’s hard to tell how much backstory there is on Verity and the monsters, because I thought the things we do get were confusing and not explained well.

I didn’t like Kate at all, and she seemed to be intentionally horrible and destructive- she seems to act that way to get attention and prove she’s like her father.  She sets a school on fire because she didn’t want to be there, and I wouldn’t have minded it, except it seemed random and for no reason.  As much as I know that people do act that way for no apparent reason, I also wanted something more from her.

As for August, I didn’t really care for him either.  He’s very much a tortured soul that’s supposed to be poetic and romantic and swoon-worthy, but in his case, it was just unappealing and annoying.  They live in a bleak world, but I wanted something more from them.  Maybe some hope or something?  I’m not really sure, but something was missing from both of them.  Maybe it’s because of the world they live in, which is really dark and hopeless and not a world I’d want to live in.

My Rating: 2 stars.  It’s definitely not for me, but I can sort of see why people love the book.

Book Review: The Beauty Of Darkness by Mary E Pearson

The Beauty Of Darkness CoverBook: The Beauty Of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

Published August 2016 by Henry Holt & Co|688 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: The Remnant Chronicles #3

Genre: YA Fantasy

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous – what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson’s combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

The Beauty Of Darkness  (BoD)was completely amazing!  This is a series that gets better with each book, and after The Heart Of Betrayal (HoB), which I thought was better than The Kiss Of Deception (KoD), I couldn’t wait to read BoD.

Seriously, this book is so good!  I’ve loved Lia since the beginning, and I didn’t care about the love triangle, at least in the sense that I was always Team Lia.  And the love triangle wasn’t annoying like it is in most books, because both Rafe and Kaden bring out different things in Lia.  I was slightly surprised by how things turned out in the romance department, especially for one of the characters, but they all have things they’re dealing with, and I’m glad that things worked out for all of the characters.  They all deserve peace and happiness, and I really felt like things were going to get so much better for Morrighan, Delbreck, and Venda.  Especially Venda, because they truly deserve good things.

I loved Lia’s transformation the most, though.  She’s so different than the Lia we met in KoD.  She’s determined and driven and still caring and full of compassion, and it makes her so awesome that you can’t help but root for her. Even when she doesn’t have a lot of support, she is very determined to help all of the kingdoms and defeat the Komizar so that everyone can have a future.  She doesn’t back down, even when people doubted her, and thought she should do something different.

More than anything, Rafe, Lia and Kaden felt very real and very human.  They weren’t perfect (especially with one thing Rafe did regarding Lia), but I understood why they acted the way they did.  They were flawed, and that was really nice to see, just because sometimes, YA characters don’t come across that way.

I really liked that we saw Rafe, Lia and Kaden narrate the book, because with so many things going on, it meant we got to see what was going on with each character.  I really like Pauline as a character, but I’m not sure how I feel about her chapters.  We do get a perspective that we don’t get with the other characters, which I really like, but I didn’t particularly care about what was going on with Mikail.

I’ve really come to love this series, and even though I’m glad I read it (mostly because I needed to know so many things), I’m also sad, because it means there are no more books in this series, and I won’t get to read them for the first time.  There’s always re-reading, and I actually really want to re-read the series now, because I have the feeling that there’s a lot I’m going to pick up on now that the story has come to an end.

The one thing I loved the most in the trilogy was the histories that we see throughout the books, and that was one of my favorite things in BoD.  In this book, we see that the texts we see don’t always give the whole picture, and that some history is hidden away, because it doesn’t support the view or story that those in power want out there. And it’s a reminder that history can be lost in so many ways, whether it’s an oral tradition that no longer gets passed down, or a book that’s hidden or burned because someone doesn’t want it out there.

And she did such a wonderful job at tying all three books together that it’s really hard to pinpoint each thing I loved about the book.  Everything seems like an accurate word, but at the same time, it’s too vague to accurately encompass what I loved about the book.  It seemed more emotional than the previous books, and it was hard not to start crying at a couple of different points.  I loved the details from the first two books that we see in this book, so it’s definitely a good idea to read them first, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve read them.

I haven’t really touched on anything specific, because I don’t want to give anything away.  Just trust me when I say that you need to read this entire series.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

5 stars.  I think it may be the best in the trilogy, and I’m having a hard time deciding if The Beauty Of Darkness or The Heart Of Betrayal is my favorite, because each book was better than the last.

Book Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

The Crown's Game CoverBook: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Published May 2016 by Balzer + Bray|416 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: The Crown’s Game #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Vika Andreyev can summon the snow and turn ash into gold.

Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air.

They are enchanters, the only two in Russia and, with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, a duel of magical skill. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter, even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has.

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

Imagine The Night Circus, set in Russia, where the “winner” of a magical duel becomes the adviser to the tsar, and the loser dies, because only one enchanter can access the magic source…and you have The Crown’s Game. The Night Circus is a magical book, and this book was pretty magical, with a touch of politics.

I really liked learning more about Nikolai’s family, but I wish we knew more about Vika’s family.  I know that learning about Nikolai’s parents is much more important to the plot than Vika’s parents, but still.  I’m holding out hope that we learn more about them in the next book.

I really liked both Nikolai and Vika, and how different, but also complementary, their magic was.  It makes me a little sad that only one could survive but only one enchanter surviving makes a lot of sense.  I also feel pretty hopeful we haven’t seen the last of both Nikolai and Vika- I only say both because I don’t want to spoil what happens, because it took me off-guard.

And that leads me to Pasha, who I hate with a passion.  He is a complete idiot, and I hate that he became tsar. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time someone made bad decisions, and that people who aren’t good leaders become leaders anyway.  Still, his actions caused a lot of hurt for a lot of people, and while I get that he didn’t fully understand the consequences of his actions, he did get a very horrible wake-up call when he finally realized the effect his decisions had.  I hope he doesn’t try to get Vika back, because I don’t think she’ll have it. At all.  And even if he does, I hope she doesn’t give him another chance.  She deserves a lot better than the spoiled brat that is Pasha.

I also love that we have a fantasy novel set in Russia.  Shadow And Bone is the only other Russian-inspired fantasy I can think of, and Russia is the perfect setting for the book!  I love the story behind the magic and the Crown’s Game and the enchanters, and it all works really well together.  Skye did such a great job with the research, and she blends fantasy and history really well.  It’s such a believable story, and there were times where I forgot that magic wasn’t real because it blended so well into this world.

I expected something slightly darker to the duel, but the way that things went (at least initially) is what reminded me so much of The Night Circus.  For some reason, they are very good read-alikes, and I recommend it to anyone who loves The Night Circus.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the magic, and everything about it the duel (again, initially), but based on the summary, I thought it would be a lot more cutthroat than what we got.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I didn’t love it, and I did want something darker/edgier than what we got but I also loved seeing the magic, and I liked the blend of history and fantasy.