The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book.This book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book. The idea of seasons being a kingdom is pretty cool. Some kingdoms have one season all the time and some kingdoms have all four seasons every year. The Season Kingdoms and the "Rhythm" Kingdoms don't like each other. That's a lot of kingdoms and weather to keep track of, which is where the love/hate relationship comes in. The world is interesting and complex but difficult to figure out which made the narrative prone to info dumping at times. Thankfully, the kingdoms and their cities had obvious names to help me out. I liked the play on the names of calendar months for the capital cities - Jannuari, Abril, Oktuber, and Juli. But going for the obvious made it feel a little cliche. The people in the Autumn Kingdom had a Native American ethnicity. The people of the Winter Kingdom had all white hair and blue eyes. It's fun and cheesy at the same time and I still can not figure out how I feel about it.
The magic system grew on me. I did not like it at first. From a logical standpoint, it seemed completely stupid to have magic reside in an object that can easily be stolen (see also: the entire conflict of this novel). I wanted to tell the whole Winter Kingdom, "Duh. That's obviously a stupid idea." Many, many chapters later it's explained why magic only resides in objects and I changed my mind about not liking it. The nature of evil is portrayed through magic as feeding on itself and being about a choice between good and evil. It was actually pretty interesting. Although, there was one scene at the beginning that seemed like it was supposed to have a lot of shock value but since the rules of magic hadn't been explained yet, I was not impressed.
The writing wasn't the best I've read. It had a few cliche sayings that pulled me out of the story and would sometimes tell me things I had already figured out. Villain motivation is very important to me. This villain fell into the category of wanting more power for no particular reason. That is probably the least interesting motivation that a villain can have. I mean, at least have a reason for all this power. Maybe he's always wanted all the things because he never had the things. Please. Something. I kept wondering through the whole book what it was that he wanted. They just called him "evil" the whole time.
Meira is a strong, spunky female lead. I liked her character and reading about her. She wants to be a soldier, not a princess. As much as I liked Meira though, I loved Theron. I thought he was the best character in the book. He was so far from cliche that I don't think Theron and cliche have ever met. Theron says my favorite quote from the entire book:
"There will always be a THEY in your new life, Meira. THEY make decisions; THEY mold your future. The trick is to find a way to still be YOU through it all."
-Sara Raasch, Snow Like Ashes (Chapter 14)
Overall, this was a good epic fantasy with an interesting world (once I figured it out) full of fun characters but had a few too many cliche moments for me to completely love it.
Content warning: some violence that is mildly graphic...more
Quiet changed how I view introverts and made me realize how many biases there are against theThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Quiet changed how I view introverts and made me realize how many biases there are against them. Our society values people who are outgoing and people who are shy are considered to have some sort of flaw even though that is their natural personality. I had never thought about or even realized how our society values a very "narrow range of personality styles. (pg. 3)" As an introverted person, I didn't think I would have any biases against people who are labeled as shy. Was I wrong. Many shy people are encouraged to be social and change which gives them a feeling that something is wrong with them instead of them just having a different personality.
Introversion— along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness— is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 4)
My favorite thing about this book was how it showed that introverts have strengths just by being who they naturally are. An example she used was Rosa Parks who was "shy and courageous (pg. 2)." Susan Cain points out that the Civil Rights movement wouldn't have gotten started if Rosa Parks had been an outgoing and loud person. It succeeded because she was a quiet, well respected person and the fact that she stood up for herself gained more attention because it was easier for people to realize the huge injustice of it since she was acting against her personality.
Here are a few of the strengths that an introverted person naturally has:
Function well without sleep (pg. 3)
Good at negotiating because their mild-mannered disposition allows them to take strong/aggressive positions and be accepted more easily (pg. 8)
Think before they speak or act (pg. 8, 168)
Prepare more for speeches and negotiations (pg. 8)
Asks lots of questions and listens intently to answers that leads to strong negotiation skills (pg. 8)
Work slowly and deliberately (pg. 11)
Ability to focus intently on one task and high abilities of concentration (pg. 11)
Relatively immune to the temptation of wealth or fame (pg. 11)
Able to delay gratification (pg. 163)
Don't give up easily (pg. 168)
Leadership style that wins people over (pg. 197)
Work independently which can lead to innovation (pg. 74)
I loved hearing the definition of an introverted person that wasn't framed in a negative way compared to an extroverted person. An introverted person enjoys less stimulation which is why they tend to like things like reading. They recharge by being alone while extroverted people recharge by socializing. All introverted people are not necessarily shy. I really liked Susan's illustration of how shyness and introversion were two different things.
Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.
- Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 12)
There's a quiz in the book to see which end of the spectrum of introversion/extroversion you fall on. She states several times that no one is completely extroverted or introverted. I did get 15/20 on the test which means I fall heavily on the introverted side. So this book felt very relevant to me. But even if you don't feel like an introverted person, this book has so much value because it's pretty much guaranteed that you know or are related to someone introverted and it can help you understand and relate to them.
One epiphany I had about myself was learning that some introverted people are sensitive. There's a study in the book about babies who had personality assessments when they were babies and again when they had grown up. They found the babies who were sensitive, who cried at loud noises and bad smells more easily turned out to be mellow, introverted adults. The babies who were easy going and didn't react much to new things grew up to be more outgoing. It seems like it should be the other way around, but it makes sense. If an introverted baby is overwhelmed by stimulation, they choose to be around less stimulation as they become adults. I immediately called my mom when I read this study because I will never live down the stories of being the baby who was scared of the orange rug every time I sat on it, the lamp from just looking at it, and my aunt's braces when she smiled. And when Susan Cain is talking about sensitivity she is using the psychological term.
Many introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 14)
It’s as if, like Eleanor Roosevelt, they can’t help but feel what others feel.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 138)
I wasn't expecting this book to help me think about what I really want to do with my life. Introverts are more likely to ignore their own preferences for career choices. The author talks about her career choice as a lawyer and even though she was good at it, she didn't enjoy or even want to do it. She listed three steps to finding out what you love to do.
First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. (pg. 218)
Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to. (pg. 218)
Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire. (pg. 218)
When I went through these steps I realized that I love reading and reviewing books. Go figure after studying music and then finance in college that I would eventually come back to reading which I have loved doing since elementary school. Blogging about books has been such a great outlet and way for me to write which I also loved doing. I had to giggle when I came across this quote because my husband can't believe some of the things I post on my blog for the world to see sometimes.
Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read...
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 63)
If being introverted is so great, why isn't it valued in our society? There's an entire chapter that talks about the shift in American culture to over-emphasize the value of extroverted people that led to a devaluing of introverted people. It was very interesting. It involves industrial change, work force changes, and even parenting changes. She compares other cultures to America's (like China) and shows how their value of extroversion is not as strong or even the opposite and how that affects their culture. The biggest thing that contributed to extroversion being over-valued has to do with the business world. Loud, fast talking people are seen as leaders even if it negatively affects others. Harvard Business School teaches that true leaders have quick and assertive answers which might have led to many of the financial crises since the slow and cautious decision makers were mostly dismissed. There was a study in the book that questioned whether extroverted people are always the best leaders. It turns out they are excellent leaders if their employees are very passive, but in a work environment where the employees are more proactive an introverted leader is actually more efficient at utilizing the knowledge and experience of their employees.
You would think that as an introverted person it would be easy to parent an introverted child. That's not necessarily true and I enjoyed the parenting tips in the book. I need to remember that my child is just sensitive to things that are new in general and not to label him as shy or anti-social.
I feel like I know myself a little better after reading Quiet. I can recognize now when I’m feeling overwhelmed from stimulation and I make it a point to take time to myself to read or spend time on my own. It’s made me a lot happier. I also have been standing up for myself more, but in my own way by asking lots of questions and not being afraid to speak my mind just because I’m not a loud person. It also made me realize the social pressures I had been putting on myself and my kids. I always felt guilty for not having “enough” play dates and social time. And by “enough” I mean daily play dates. I realize now that the pace of a few times a week makes both my and my kids happy. I don’t feel pressure to have them constantly doing something with other kids anymore. Most of all it helped me realize that I am not an anti-social person. Now that I'm aware that going out with lots of friends or to parties will drain me, I make time to wind down afterwards and I no longer turn down social invitations since I understand my personality better. I feel like for me, this book accomplished what Susan Cain wanted it to.
If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 16)
Overall, Quiet shifted my perspective on what it means to be introverted and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I highly recommend this book.
I read this in one sitting as a bet against a friend that I couldn't finish a 200 page book iThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I read this in one sitting as a bet against a friend that I couldn't finish a 200 page book in less than 4 hours. I did! I win :) I loved the themes in this one about looking on the inside instead of the outside. The characters either focused on the external appearances of things or the internal value of things.
This story is told in duel perspectives that alternate each chapter. The boy, Bryce, had a charming but sarcastic voice with not much dialogue while the girl had a sweet, funny, and endearing voice with a Hermione-type personality. After reading a while I noticed that the girl, Juli, focused on dialogue and detail. The voices were distinct and I enjoyed reading each of their stories. But I think I might have liked Bryce's voice just a little more because his slightly negative attitude and sarcasm were just so much fun.
Finally I break free and do the only manly thing available when you're seven years old - I dive behind my mother.
- Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped pg 3 (Bryce)
Yes, each chapter tells the same plot from the previous chapter but just from a different point of view. While the plot being retold did make the book feel a little long and slightly draggy, it was definitely not boring because the author, Wendelin Van Draanen, did a awesome job messing with your perspective and challenging your biases. For example, there's one scene where Bryce insists that he didn't say anything mean and just summarizes what he said and is baffled by Juli's anger. Since you are reading that scene from his point of view, you agree with him. When you read Juli's chapter, you see the actual dialogue of what he said and your perspective flips and you see that he was being kind of a jerk.
That's not to say I chose a side. I could see why each character did what they did and it was so interesting to read two different views of the same events or conversations. Since you know what motivates each of them, you don't really judge them as one being better than the other. I also liked seeing how Bryce would do something out of self interest and Juli would see it as kind. It was cute to see how they interpreted each others actions. They both almost always got the other's motivations wrong.
I thought that this was such a beautiful novel about how important it is to look at things and people for what they are on the inside instead of how they appear on the outside. And when you do this your perspective can totally flip.
It was on a day like that when my father's notion of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts moved from my head to my heart. The view from my sycamore was more than rooftops and clouds and wind and colors combined.
It was magic.
- Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped pg 37 (Juli)
Overall, it was a cute love story about seeing people for who they really are....more
I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the bThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the book surprisingly easy to read especially considering how old it is. The thing that really stands out in this book and the thing that has made it last for so long are the characters. Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric, sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest. And of course the thing that makes his character so fun to watch on TV in the modern adaptation - his cocky genius. I couldn't hate this guy if I tried. I loved seeing these two iconic characters meet (Sherlock and Watson) to set the stage for the rest of the Sherlock Holmes series.
The first half of this book was a fascinating mystery. I was glued to the story, turning pages, dying to know what happens next. Then we get to Part 2. The second half of the book was the longest, most drawn out and boring flashback I have ever read. We find out the solution to the mystery at the end of Part 1. Part 2 goes into why he did it. Apparently Mr. Doyle doesn't believe in recapping what happened. We get to live it. If we're going to live through it, at least make it interesting. It was not at all interesting because almost nothing happens for most of Part 2. I skimmed a lot of it. It also felt very disjointed to go from a mystery in London to the American West. It felt like I was reading two different stories that had nothing to do with each other. Part 2 is only tied in to Part 1 by the very end.
Portrayal of Mormons
I have to say as a Mormon, reading Part 2 of this story was a little difficult for me since Mormons are not painted in a good light for this part of the story. But let's start with this hilarious quote first.
In the central portion of the great North American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert...
- Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet p. 63
Repulsive! Arid! My home this is! Yoda and I are highly offended. Okay not really. But he kept describing the whole state of Utah like it was entirely covered in the Salt Flats where everything was covered in "alkali dust" and used words like "barren", "misery", "despair," and my personal favorite "gloomy." The whole thing just made me laugh. While it is true that the west side of the Great Salt Lake is all those things, the pioneers settled on the EAST side of the lake which was your more run-of-the-mill desert with snakes and cacti and stuff. And regular desert dirt that almost nothing can grow in thank you very much. I mean if you're going to insult my state at least get it right. :)
The thing I struggled with the most was the portrayal of Mormonism as a cult. And when I say cult I mean a group forcing people to do things by threats or brain-washing. Mormons believe the point in life is to make choices. There is a point in the story where Mormon pioneers find a starving, wandering man and his daughter and say they can join them only if they become Mormon. Brigham Young (or any Mormon) would NEVER force anyone to be Mormon. Not cool Mr. Conan Doyle. I did some research and in Mr. Doyle's defense, he believed these things to be true at the time. Still - forcing people to do things is against our religion and always has been.
The murderer's motive was based on their hatred of the practice of plural marriage (or polygamy). While Mormons did practice it, it was portrayed in the book that if you didn't get married to more than one person you were kicked out (and then hunted down by a secret band of murderers. Say what?? That most definitely didn't happen). Not everyone practiced plural marriage. Many early Mormons were monogamous and were in fine standing with the church. I won't go into tons of detail in this review, but if you're interested the official Mormon (also known as Latter-Day Saints or LDS) website has more information on plural marriage and Mormonism. It's an interesting article that talks about the trials the people who lived it faced, how long it was practiced and more. And just to be thorough Mormons don't practice polygamy today and haven't since 1890.
Overall, I adored the first half of the novel and meeting the most iconic characters in literature, but I found the second half to be boring and the anti-Mormonism made me uncomfortable. I would give the first half of the novel 4 stars and the second half like 1/2 a star....more
My biggest thought about the House of Ivy & Sorrow is that it could have been more. The vThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
My biggest thought about the House of Ivy & Sorrow is that it could have been more. The voice was there, but it didn't come out as much as it could have. The conflict definitely needed more to it. Even with a twist, the conflict came with an explanation already just based on how the world works and it made it hard for me to stay connected to the story. I almost didn't finish this one because about a third of the way through I didn't feel like I would learn anything new about the conflict. To be honest, I didn't learn anything new about the conflict at the end. It came out like I thought it would. But the way it was resolved was interesting. I liked that the resolution came from the girls and their friendship. Girl power!
I liked the magic and the characters in this book. The idea of magic coming from places was creative. The character Nana was one of my favorites. She had the strongest personality in the book and I enjoyed reading about her. The love interest seemed a little boring at first, but he came with an interesting twist of his own. The romance was a little cheesy for my taste, but it was still cute for the most part.
I didn't enjoy the writing. There were a few cliche moments, but luckily it didn't go to the extreme or I would have definitely chucked this book across the room. The dialogue was interesting, but I found that the main character said "No" a lot, in big long strings, when things didn't go her way. Maybe it's a little much to expect someone to realistically be eloquent in moments of stress. I don't know.
I was disappointed, to say the least, when I found out the villain's motivation. I think this goes along with the weak conflict. The villain and conflict just needed to be turned up a notch and it would have been awesome! And then the villain had to go and be all tacky. He was cheesy enough to make me cringe a little. If only he had a mustache to twirl....
Overall, the magic and characters were good but without a strong conflict or interesting villain motivation this book just didn't keep my interest.
Content warning: a few brief kissing scenes and pain used for magic that is mildly disturbing (e.g. pulling out fingernails and teeth etc.)...more
Elusion was a fun adventure but it felt like an introduction to a longer novel instead of theThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Elusion was a fun adventure but it felt like an introduction to a longer novel instead of the first book in a series. I liked that it took the time to set up the world and characters, but I don't like it when the first book in a series doesn't resolve anything at all. I didn't see any story arc that was just for this book. I read this on my kindle and I was expecting to turn the page and see "Part 2" or something like that. I was shocked that it was over in the "That's it?" kind of way. There is a plot twist at the end but I kind of saw it coming. Part of my disappointment of the abrupt ending was that I felt like things had just gotten started and suddenly the book was over.
The world in this novel is very interesting, especially the virtual reality element. It was easy to imagine the "Elusion" or the virtual reality world. It was vivid, interesting, and almost magical. I liked the blending or illusion and reality and the crazy, unexpected things that happened because of it. Virtual reality was presented in a way that I haven't read before. It discussed having technology connected directly to your brain and brought up the themes of addiction. What if technology is physically addicting? At what point does technology start making our life worse rather than better?
The characters were confusing to me. Regan is the main character and she has two "friends" name Josh and Patrick (I say "friends" because they are guys and this is a YA novel so....yeah. I think you know what happens as well as I do). On the one hand, I liked how distinct Josh and Patrick's personalities were. But on the other hand I didn't like that both of them did some majorly untrustworthy things for kind of lame or even unexplained reasons. I liked Regan. She was a sweet, sad, and likable girl though I don't understand how she saw either of the boys as remotely trustworthy.
Overall, it was a fun adventure set in a interesting and magical virtual world but I felt like it was more of an introduction to a longer story than a novel.
Content warning: mild swearing and a few make out scenes...more
I loved Let the Storm Break as much as the first book, Let the Sky Fall. I flew through thisThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I loved Let the Storm Break as much as the first book, Let the Sky Fall. I flew through this whole book so fast that I hardly took any notes. Being that immersed in a story is a lot of fun but it makes for crappy reviews. I'm going to try to think of more to say than "asdjfkl it's so awesome go read it."
Vane is such a great character and I love his sense of humor. He's cracking jokes about Legolas that no one gets and I love it. He has this sarcasm and blunt honesty that make him so much fun to read about. Vane feels like a realistic teen. He's got this immature streak that I find so funny.
So there are "relationship issues" like there are in many second novels that have romance. But I thought it was very well done because it was more about each of them working out their own things and not just trying to tear apart the relationship that was just made for the sake of conflict. I hope that makes sense without spoiling it.
The power of the winds coming from their songs that only sylphs can sing is one of my favorite things about the world building in this series. It's just beautiful and simple.
One of the things I did not like about the first book was the lack of an interesting villain motivation. This book shed some more light on the villain. The villain just got upgraded from "I want to take over the world for no reason" to "Mad Scientist" and I found it very interesting.
Overall, this book has great romance, funny and realistic characters, and a beautifully simple world.
Content warning: kissing scenes and a few immature jokes about things like farts and boobs....more
I picked up Bowels of Hell right after The Orphanage. What a cliffhanger! I was on the edge oThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I picked up Bowels of Hell right after The Orphanage. What a cliffhanger! I was on the edge of my seat wondering how Billy and Amber would get out of this mess. The reaction of the orphans when they see that Amber and Billy are missing was really poignant to me.
I loved getting to know more of Amber's backstory in this one. And there's such a cute moment between Billy and Amber when Billy is just in awe of something she has done. I like how their relationship is developing. They have such great chemistry together and yet they argue about things that girls and boys often do. I just find them endearing.
Billy, an Aboriginal Australian boy, is very non-judgmental even when he has culture shock and just can't understand something. I was touched by how unselfish Billy is. When Billy is faced with death, all he thinks about is his clan and how they won't be able to pass on their traditions. Billy is a joy to read about and so easy to like.
Overall, I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and seeing their relationship grow. I can't wait to see where the story goes next!
Content warning: graphic descriptions of survival skills and a discussion among the boys about circumcision....more
Dreams of Gods & Monsters was an epic and beautiful finale to one of my new favorite fantThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Dreams of Gods & Monsters was an epic and beautiful finale to one of my new favorite fantasy series. The romance made my heart melt. There was a Star Wars joke about using a Tauntaun to keep warm which I loved. There was more of the blunt, honest humor that I laugh out loud at. Behold my favorite joke ever.
Razgut paused as though he were thinking up a reply, and then he farted. Squinching up his face, he did so with effort. The reward was slight in resonance but grand in aroma, and the emperor was not amused.
- Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 367
I'm certainly amused by Razgut. Speaking of Razgut, I kind of wondered when he was going to say "my preeeciousssssss" because he totally reminded me of Gollum. He was pitiful, ugly, scheming and for reasons I don't understand I kind of liked him and felt sorry for him.
The book before this one, Days of Blood & Starlight, was very dark. Dreams of Gods & Monsters did a good job showing that no matter how dark things get, love and mercy matter.
But all he could think, in answer to that, was what Karou had said earlier, about the darkness we do in the name of the dead, and whether it’s what they would want for us.
-Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 264
The writing is beautiful and just sucks you right into the story.
She’d spoken of their happiness as though it were an undeniable fact, no matter what happened— apart from everything else and not subject to it. It was a new idea for him, that happiness wasn’t a mystical place to be reached or won— some bright terrain beyond the boundary of misery, a paradise waiting for them to find it— but something to carry doggedly with you through everything, as humble and ordinary as your gear and supplies. Food, weapons, happiness.
-Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 413
As much as I loved this book, I wish it had ended 100 pages sooner than it did. Not because I thought the book was too long but because I felt like the final subplot that took up those last pages was unnecessary. The final subplot goes into the epic territory of Where This World Came From. Honestly, I don't like knowing that much detail because I feel part of the beauty of an amazing fantasy is leaving a little left unanswered especially about the origins of a fantasy world. For example, J.K. Rowling describes a hidden world of witches and wizards but she never attempts in the narrative to explain where the first witch and wizard came from. I think if she had, it would lose a lot of it's magic. Laini Taylor literally answers all the questions and to be fair she did foreshadow this plot in the previous books so it is nice that she didn't just abandon it. But I felt like the story would have worked much better without that final subplot because I felt like the plot really dragged through those last 100 pages.
Overall, it was a very satisfying conclusion to my favorite series but I was not a fan of that final subplot about the origins of the world because I felt it was unnecessary.
Content warning: a few suggestive scenes and some language....more
As dark and epic as Days of Blood & Starlight was, I found it surprisingly funny. I especThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
As dark and epic as Days of Blood & Starlight was, I found it surprisingly funny. I especially loved the Monty Python references. While Daughter of Smoke & Bone was more of a love story, this sequel was more a story about war. The author does an excellent job of showing how pointless war is.
Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy: a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate.
- Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight pg 205
I thought I would lose interest in this book since the romance wasn't as prominent, but I care so much about the unique and interesting characters that I couldn't put this one down. This is one of those books where I did nothing all day but read and my house was a complete mess by the time I was done.
The only way I can think of to describe the writing is "intelligent." There are witty references and Laini Taylor can play with my expectations like a violin. And like I said - the writing is just so funny.
Well, Karou wanted to retort, with all the gravity and maturity she could muster. Duh.
-Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight, pg 45
Karou, the main character, grows so much in this book. You can see the small steps of her becoming an adult. Karou learns about forgivness to herself and others, seeing the big picture, and not blaming herself for everything. The huge amount of character growth like this is one of the reasons I love to read Young Adult. Laini brings up a lot of interesting questions about Akiva, too. The book brings up his past, his people, and hints at what role they might play in the next book.
Overall, I loved this beautiful and intelligent sequel as much as the first book in this series. It's a great look at how pointless war really is.
Content warning: an attempted rape scene, frequent language, violence that was sometimes kind of graphic....more
Cruel Beauty was a very dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast that had an unexpected mix ofThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Cruel Beauty was a very dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast that had an unexpected mix of Greek Mythology. The story opens on a very stiff and formal life for the main character Nyx like a dark version of Downton Abbey. Then we get a nice, long lecture on How This World Works that I found hard to get through.
I was entertained by the story but I really didn't like the cop-out device of Nyx having "no choice" to create these dramatic situations. Nyx is engaged to a demon since birth because her father made a bargain and now she has no choice but to marry him. This bothers me for two reason. 1. It takes away the self-sacrifice element of Beauty and the Beast that I love but, more importantly, think was the main point of the fairy tale. 2. Her dad is an idiot. And 3 -- okay apparently there are more than reasons why this bothers me -- she doesn't "have" to do anything. It made the main character seem very passive about her life. She was very negative and spiteful all the time. I didn't like her all that much, which is fine, but if she's going to be unlikable then at least make me understand why she did things. I never understood why she did things.
I did like the quest of trying to find the demon's name which was one of the few elements remaining from the original fairy tale. The castle was a wonderful adventure full of strange rooms like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
I won't spoil the ending, but I didn't like it. I felt like the ending did not have anything to do with what they had been doing for almost the whole novel. I felt like we spent the whole novel doing one thing and she suddenly decides to change course and last minute do something very drastic. And as the books comes to a close, I felt like the characters were so completely different that they weren't even the same characters anymore. They felt like strangers and I didn't care all that much what happened to them.
Overall, it was too dark of a fairy tale retelling with poor world building and unlikable characters that just wasn't for me even though I did like the Greek Mythology element of the story. Content warning: quite a bit of dark innuendo (that is thankfully not very graphic) about a girl trying to seduce a demon which I found mildly disturbing....more
Spoiler free even if you haven't read the first book in this series.
Elisa has been growing and changing throughout the series and The Bitter Kingdom was no exception. She starts to define herself by trying new things and seeing what she likes instead of focusing on comparing herself to others, especially her sister, and coming up short. In fact, she purposefully learns and pursues the things that were hidden from her or that scare her and it made her a fascinating character to read about.
I liked the friendship that developed between Elisa and Storm. He seems to be a very loyal friend but the culture that he grew up in makes him not completely trustworthy. His culture also gives him a very literal personality that I found endearing. One of my favorite quotes from the novel came from Storm when he's explaining the Joyan culture to someone and how it's different from his own.
"Joyans consider it rude to express one's true opinion unless it is unequivocally flattering."
- Rae Carson, The Bitter Kingdom, pg 235
There has been romance throughout the series, but it starts to rival The Princess Bride with the devotion and the kissing scenes that have lots of spark that I know the kid from the Princess Bride movie would definitely want to skip.
The writing had a few cliche moments. I liked the writing from the first two books better. Each book has a journey, but for some reason this one felt a tad bit long. However, the plot was such a fun adventure that reminded me of entering the mines of Moria that it kept my interest very well. There was also a very brief reference to "machine magic" that isn't really expanded on, but it does support my theory that I discussed in my Crown of Embers review that perhaps the Joyan race came from our world.
Overall, it was a fun adventure with epic romance and a main character who is constantly growing and changing into someone I would want to be.
Content warning: mildly graphic violence and a suggestive scene....more
The One and Only Ivan was just the bittersweet book I needed when I was dealing with a stressful week. I read it in about one day because I could notThe One and Only Ivan was just the bittersweet book I needed when I was dealing with a stressful week. I read it in about one day because I could not put it down. The whole story felt like a work of art about a gorilla who makes art. The voice was such a cute, appealing, and engaging one. The format it's told in is kind of a journal that makes you see the world the way Ivan, the gorilla, does. You really get to know him and how sweet he is which makes it all the more tear jerking when you learn some of the horrible things that happened to him.
The One and Only Ivan is a book I could see kids liking. Ivan, the gorilla, loves to draw simple things and eat his crayons...and sometimes his art. But the writing was so poetic and beautiful I enjoyed it immensely as an adult.
"He goes back to work. His mop moves across the empty food court like a giant brush, painting a picture no one will ever see."
Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan pg 233
It was the ultimate showing not telling and it sucked me right in. And the art inside was just as beautiful as the writing. It looked stunning even on my kindle and it looks even better in the print version.
The animal characters are all full of personality. I found each of them wonderful and very caring - even the sarcastic homeless dog. I really liked Stella, the elephant, and she had my favorite quote from the book:
"I always tell the truth," Stella replies. "Although I sometimes confuse the facts."
- Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan pg 66
The impossible task that Ivan tries to achieve reminded me of Finding Nemo and how impossible it sounded for a fish to escape a fish tank and go back to the ocean. I was rooting for Ivan hard and hoping with everything I had that he would overcome.
Just when I was teary eyed enough, I read the Author's Note about how The One and Only Ivan was inspired by a true story. She embellished of course, but definitely not as much as you'd think. Very much of this story is similar to what happened to a real gorilla. Someone get me some tissues. Was I really having a stressful week? I've forgotten what it was.
Overall, this was a work of art about hope and the sad reality of animal cruelty that was brought up in a beautiful way that children could relate to and understand.