This review was originally posted on Emily's Reading RoomAudio Review: I feel like this is a little redundant from my other reviews, but Elizabeth EvaThis review was originally posted on Emily's Reading RoomAudio Review: I feel like this is a little redundant from my other reviews, but Elizabeth Evans nails the narration in this book. It's a behemoth at 20 hours long, but I was consistently hooked by not only the story, but the lovely dimension that Evans brings to all the characters. This book took me a month to listen to (especially since I had an unfortunate accident where I accidentally lost disk number 14 in the gap between my cd player and the dashboard. I had to go to the place that installed my stereo and they had to take off my dashboard to retrieve it. Oops). Anyway, it's worth listening to on audio, even though it takes forever. I felt like I was immersed in the world and I got a whole month to experience it.
Review: What to say about this book. I feel more sheepish than ever about my initial reluctance to this series. I misjudged this series as candy fantasy and severely underestimated its depth. These books keep getting better and better.
One of the things that I look for in a fantasy series is attention to detail. It means that the writers I like are typically not "pantsers." This means they don't dump a manuscript on the page and fix it later. (There isn't anything wrong with this, don't feel bad if this is your method of writing). I have googled to see if Sarah J. Maas is a plotter or a pantser and I haven't been able to find the answer. Anyway, I suspect she's a plotter. Here's why: everything that happens in this book means something. Conversations or little throwaway actions by minor characters end up coming into play later. There isn't much more as a reader that thrills me than this. (Yes, I'm a nerd). But, to really feel invested in a series, I like knowing that each book builds out the world bigger and bigger and that each character has something to contribute. As an added bonus, this level of detail makes the series EVEN BETTER when you re-read it.
I mentioned this in my review of Crown of Midnight, and it still applies here. I can't believe the limits Maas pushes her characters to. It's clear she knows them, their fears and their weaknesses. And while no death or event feels cheap, this is a book that will pull all kinds of emotional and empathetic strings.
One of the things I was absolutely not expecting, was the addition of Manon and the witches. This is a storyline that I can't wait to follow and explore, because it's incredibly rich. As one of the main points of view in this novel, I was initially puzzled at Manon's presence. She's very unlikeable. But, the relationship and the tiny fissures I'm seeing in that character are exciting. And, it's another hallmark of good, compelling writing. Manon is not the main character, but I feel just as invested in her story arc as Celaena's.
One last thing, Chaol. At the end of Crown of Midnight, I knew pretty firmly where I stood with his relationship to Celaena. Spoiler for Crown of Midnight: (view spoiler)[Once the incident with Nehemia happened, along with Celaena's reaction, I knew their relationship was over. (hide spoiler)] As I went throughout this book, I'm further solidified in my resolve. There are some things that a relationship doesn't recover from. And while I could be dead wrong, I feel like I understand Celaena enough at this point to say I think it's too late. Of course, the series isn't over, and a lot can change, but there you have it.
Essentially, if you love high or epic fantasy, this series is a winner. I'm stamping my seal of approval (Oooh, I should make one of those) on it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
So, as a recap for my experience with this series: I read the first book when it came out several years ago and I was unimpressed. For YEARS after thaSo, as a recap for my experience with this series: I read the first book when it came out several years ago and I was unimpressed. For YEARS after that, I endured people telling me this series was good and I was crazy for not liking it. And in my stubbornness, I was sure they were wrong. So, I continued to not read the second book. Though a tiny part of me wondered if I was missing out. Then I decided to give the series another chance with a re-read on audio. And I loved it!
Then we come to the second book. And now I feel like a total loser for not just trying this second book anyway. Because every problem I had with Celaena was solved with this second book.
After completing her time at the Princess Academy and even setting up a school for the childrenReview posted at Emily's Reading Room on August 6, 2012
After completing her time at the Princess Academy and even setting up a school for the children at Mount Eskel, Miri is given the opportunity to attend school off the mountain at the Queen's Castle in Asland. Miri is delighted to be with her friend Britta again, but soon learns that there is serious unrest in the kingdom. Between being faced with the big city, new friends, and challenging new ideas, Miri's loyalties are torn.
Oh yeah, and Peder is there.
Though I trust Shannon Hale implicitly to tell a good story, I was very.... curious to see how she would continue Miri's story when I felt like Princess Academy wrapped up so well. And it went in a direction that I absolutely was not expecting. And I mean that in the best possible way.
For some reason, I read the acknowledgements first. And I immediately knew that this book was going to be something special. Hale mentions that a portion of the proceeds of the book will go to LDS Humanitarian Services to help those who can't meet their most basic needs.
And on that note, I began the book. And I was bowled over by the most expert way that Hale handles complex situations like revolution, poverty, loyalty, and love. I've often felt that the best children's writers are able to take a sensitive issue and pose it in a way that is both thoughtful and respectful. There are so many ways that this book could have become preachy or false. But, it was handled so beautifully that I really think that I loved Palace of Stone more than Princess Academy. Which I didn't think was possible.
Miri is a strong girl. She has a strong, sound mind. Though goodness knows I love a girl that kicks butt ala Katniss, I really loved that Miri is most definitely not violent. But she is equally as strong. She comes off her mountain and out of her comfort zone. And she is stretched and tested in many ways. She doesn't always make the best decisions, but she does a darn good job of using her head and trying her best to help in a situation that is most definitely not black and white.
In regards to Miri and Peder. Peder comes with Miri in order to work as an apprentice to a stone carver in Asland. While Miri immerses herself in her studies, Peder works with equal fervor in his job. In fact, Peder becomes so entrenched (and exhausted!) by his work, Miri starts to wonder if he really does care for her. Which allows the sneaky addition of another character that opens Miri to questions about where she really does belong.
If you enjoyed Princess Academy, you are going to ADORE Palace of Stone. But, if you haven't read Princess Academy yet, you'll definitely want to get on that....more
Divergent deserves a round of applause for breathing some life into a genre that was beginning to wilt.
There were so many things I loved about this boDivergent deserves a round of applause for breathing some life into a genre that was beginning to wilt.
There were so many things I loved about this book. Right from the start we are introduced to a society that has created a system based on values, which seems like a great idea, right? As you read, you try to figure out which faction would best represent your values. Do you value courage, honesty, selflessness, or knowledge? Soon you discover, along with Tris, that it's not as clear as it first appears. Breaking rank from your family is dishonorable, and not all factions are considered equal. Even within factions there are tensions and disagreements about what they truly value. All of this together creates an internal and external conflict that is so complex and interesting, I couldn't put this book down.
Tris was a fantastic female lead. She has the grit and determination to be a warrior, but also a kind-hearted nature, whether or not she realizes it. The romance was not so unexpected for me, as I saw it coming from a mile away. No matter though, it was sweet and well-developed.
While the writing was not as well-crafted as the Hunger Games, meaning that there aren't any specific passages that I can look back on and think that they were beautifully written, the whole story flowed very nicely. I've found lately that some writers, in an attempt to convey urgency in their writing, end up making their plot disjointed and the pacing irregular. That definitely was not a problem in Divergent.
I am eagerly anticipating the release of the sequel, Insurgent, next year. And thanks to the lack of a cliffhanger ending, I'm not being bullied into reading it either. If you haven't read this one, definitely pick up a copy and prepare to be enthralled. ...more
Everyone should listen to this audio. Alan Cumming is absolutely amazing at making this story come to life in a way that I never could just reading itEveryone should listen to this audio. Alan Cumming is absolutely amazing at making this story come to life in a way that I never could just reading it in my head. Each character has a distinct voice that so perfectly corresponds to the character. Deryn has a bit of a scottish lilt to her voice, Count Vulger has a ominous, yet sarcastic tone. Eddie Malone's New York accent was so spot-on and hilarious that I kept waiting for him to show up in the book again so I could hear it. It was an absolutely delightful audio to listen to. My husband loves the series, and really enjoyed the audio as well. We often found ourselves repeating words or phrases in the accents of the characters.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the author's note at the end. I am a little more than rusty on my World War I history, and I really felt like the history that was integrated into this book was so interesting. Especially since it was all told from a European, not American, point of view.
Beyond that; however, the story was well-crafted and compelling. Both Deryn and Alek's stories were fast-paced and thrilling. As they work through the challenges that face their relationship, they form a close bond, but a very delicate one. It will be interesting to see what happens in the final book when some of their secrets will be revealed.
One of the things I missed in the audio were the great illustrations that are included in the book. Mr. Westerfeld has created some amazing machines and creatures, and I am absolutely inspired by his creativity. Each creature and machine has a little bit of reality mixed in with a hearty dose of fantastic. I went through the book after I listened to it on audio and looked at the great illustrations.
I really hope that with the popularity of this series that we'll see more stories like this. I'm still relatively new to the steam-punk genre, but if I can get my hands on more books like this, I'll be a fan....more
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I started it back in July. I had just finished re-reading The Hunger Games and Catching FiI've had this book sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I started it back in July. I had just finished re-reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in preparation for Mockingjay. About a quarter of the way through the book I stopped reading. I realized that I was reading it with a violent-out-to-get-you-government filter. And Matched just wasn't doing it for me. So, I put it away for awhile to get in the mood. (I think also some of the hype was getting to me, and there was no way it was going to live up to it).
So, during the Christmas/New Years break that I had from work, I picked it up again. And I absolutely loved it.
It was different than The Hunger Games series in that it isn't nearly as brutal or bloody. As with most dystopian novels, Cassia's Society is all about control. However, The Society has created an illusion that through their control everyone is living at their highest potential. There is never a need for fear or sadness because everything is so strictly monitored. Their world is not cluttered with information because their books, movies, and songs are carefully selected. Citizen's food is given in specific portions and with nutritional value to optimize the health of every person. And, of course, matches are selected based on the compatibility of each party for maximized happiness.
Is Cassia's Society so different from our own? In our efforts to create a healthy society have we overstepped our bounds? I'm thinking of recent lawsuits against McDonalds for causing obesity. Or the laws passed in recent years to ban trans fats from restaurants in California and New York. While I obviously feel that eating healthy is important, at what point do we take away individual freedom and responsibility because "we know better"?
One of my favorite parts of the book comes when Cassia realizes that the world in which she lives no longer values creation. Quoting from my uncorrected proof copy:
"Standing there looking at my work, however, I realize that all my family has ever done is sort. Never create. My father sorts old artifacts like my grandfather did; my great-grandmother sorted poems. My farmlander grandparents plant seeds and tend crops, but everything they grow has been assigned by the Officials. Just like the things my mother grows at the Aboretum."
Now, I've never been one for poetry. I don't know that I have the type of mind that can truly appreciate it. However, I do love music, and books, and the ability that I have to speak my mind however I wish.
Without belaboring the point, this book gave me quite a bit to think about. I know many people will like the book for the romance. Frankly, both boys are a great fit for Cassia in different ways, so the love triangle really isn't about pitting one against the other (a la Twilight). Cassia's parents are pretty flat, as are her friends. We don't really get much into the heads of other characters besides Cassia and Xander. I am not entirely sure if that was intentional to show that over time people have really become devoid of original thought.
Therefore, count me among the many that will be eagerly awaiting Crossed when it comes out in November....more