I'm just going to get to the point straightaway: there probably won't be many in-betweeners on this one. 99 Days is a book that you're likely to either love or loathe, depending on your stance on cheating and love triangles and how open-minded you are to either concept. I don't particularly enjoy reading about these things, but I'm not opposed to reading for great writing, despite what happens in the story. And I really, really liked How to Love, so I knew I had to give this book a chance.
I'm really glad I didn't let ideas that make me uncomfortable keep me from picking up this story. 99 Days was genuine, gritty, and realistic. It was complicated. It was messy. But there's so much more to the story than just cheating. It also explores society's tendency to automatically assume the girl is at fault when something like this happens, to start with the insults and end with harassment while the guy sees no punishment for his actions. This book also features a unique mother-daughter relationship that was painful to read about and probably much worse to endure in real life.
Every single character in this book is just so flawed. I don't think you're necessarily supposed to like them, but I actually found that I did, even if I didn't always (read: ever) agree with their choices and actions. But I get it. At eighteen, you don't always make the best decisions. I know I didn't. I always feel the need to divulge too much when a story likes this comes along, but I'm going to refrain from that now. Instead, I just think it crucial to point out that many of us have made mistakes of this proportion, even if they weren't necessary of this caliber. Also, everyone deserves a second chance.
The relationships in this book are just as complicated as the characters in them. From the flawed mother-daughter relationship I mentioned earlier to the brother triangle the main character finds herself in, these characters have issues. I appreciated that self-deprecating Molly was able to acknowledge in the end that it wasn't just her own actions that resulted in her current circumstances but a culmination of hers and those that loved her. She started this book out so miserable and alone, and even though the ending was rather bittersweet -- but entirely of her own making -- I still smiled at the fact that Molly was getting her second chance.
99 Days was a hard book to read but also a very difficult story to put down. There's just something so addicting in reading about someone else's misery, especially when it's so relatable. It's hard to look away from something like that, and this story is no different. It's not even 2015 yet, and this book has already made my favorites list for the year.
First, if you have not seen the awesome full-length Veronica Mars movie, I recommend doing so before reading this book. The movie picks up nine years after the end of the show, or ya know, Veronica's first year of college. The book picks up shortly after the end of the movie. And though the book does a slight recap, you'll benefit more if you watch/read in the proper order.
Second, this audiobook was amazing. Not only because it was narrated by Veronica Mars herself -- also known as the fantastic Kristen Bell -- but because it reads like an episode of the show. I mean, I'm sure it helps that the voice-overs that I'm used to in the show were narrated by the woman who plays the role, but I could perfectly envision each character as they made an appearance in the story. And I loved them all as much as I ever did, even that jerktastic Dick Casablancas.
I just love the adult Veronica and that even though she's grown up, she's still the same mixed up girl she was. She's still questioning her choices and her romantic entanglements, but even those have a darker edge to them now. The movie and this book together helped to make the nine years since the show's demise feel legitimate, like nothing and everything has changed.
The mystery is just as twisty as you've come to expect from VM, too. You always think you have the perp pegged, and then BAM, Veronica blows all of your theories out of the water with her shrewd sleuthing techniques. There are surprises, and then there are SURPRISES. I honestly can't imagine that fans of the show will be disappointed in this most recent installment in the Veronica Mars world. But if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you go the audiobook route. It's just as phenomenal as watching an episode.
An advance copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The audiobook version was also provided for review, whicAn advance copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The audiobook version was also provided for review, which is what this review is based on. My thoughts are my own.
Exquisite Captive began very slowly, methodically building the world of Arjinna and portraying life as jinni slave here on Earth. There wasn't a chance that I was going to put the book aside, though, simply because of slow-pacing early on. Even a less-than-favorable narrator couldn't make me leave this story for later. I've only read one other jinni novel that I can recall, but it's clear to me that this new trend, this revival of an old favorite mythological being, is going to be to my liking.
Erin Mallon is not a terrible narrator. I listened to her narrate the entire Sweet trilogy by Wendy Higgins, and she only started to annoy me toward the end of the series. However, I feel that she was badly cast in Exquisite Captive. In fact, she may have been part of the reason I didn't love this novel quite as much as I expected to. I love a narrator who becomes the characters they're portraying, and Mallon just never seems to. She's not just reading the book, but it also seemed like she never connected with the story herself and it showed in her performance. Also, her male voices are kind of ridiculous, but at least she didn't have to affect a fake British accent this time around. I would have much preferred a narrator with a hint of ethnicity, especially considering the diversity of the characters in this story.
The cast of characters in Exquisite Captive is fairly complex, making it hard to truly connect with them or even discern their likability. Questionable motives. Political machinations. A sympathetic villain. I never knew exactly what to expect from any of these characters, and they surprised me more than once. I knew from my experience with Something Real that Heather Demetrios is gifted at creating a really well-drawn, vivid cast of characters, but I might be even more besotted with Nalia and Raif than I was with Patrick and Chloe. Which is saying a lot because I shipped that pairing SO hard.
Nalia is the last remaining member of her people, a powerful line of the jinn with unsurpassed powers. They were the leaders in Arjinna, and now that they are all gone, Nalia is the heir to the throne. Many things stand in her way -- not insignificant, the fact that she doesn't want to be princess and rule the other jinn -- including that she's enslaved here on Earth, complete with a bottle for a cage when she misbehaves. Nalia is not without her faults, and her sense of morality does come into question several times in this book. She's committed heinous acts and she wants no part of the rebellion...until it wants her, and even then, her thoughts are only of escaping her master and freeing her brother, the only family she has left.
But Raif changes her mind, or rather gives her more reasons to fight. Their initial interactions were of a political nature, but it soon became apparent that as much as these two seemed intent on hating each other, theirs was going to be a star-crossed love. First, I don't think I've ever met a character named Raif that I didn't like. They're usually the bad boy with an attitude type, but I'll take a powerful, chiseled, tingly-skin-making jinn any day. Raif is the leader of the rebellion, having taken over the duty when his father was killed. Nalia should be his enemy; she stands for everything he's fighting against. And yet, they cannot deny their attraction.
Malek is quite the enigma for much of the book. He is not the true villain in this story, but he is the immediate threat to Nalia's future. And yet, his feelings toward Nalia have grown into something other than what one would expect from a master/slave relationship. Malek has mistreated Nalia for most of the three years she has been in his service and she will always be beholden to him as her master, yet he's never taken advantage of her and is only now pressing her to explore her own feelings for him. I find Malek's character exceedingly intriguing and darkly sexy in that redeemable villain kind of way.
I thought the introduction of two leading men would result in the ubiquitous love triangle, but the romance here is more complicated than that. One of the men is her master and the other is her sworn enemy. There are obviously reasons why neither of these men should have a future with Nalia, and yet, by the end of the novel, it's clear to which man her heart belongs. I'm not writing off the resurgence of the love triangle in future books, but it would take some serious creative maneuvering to make that a viable arc, considering how quickly and neatly it was packed away in this installment.
Nalia is faced with choices she may not be able to come back from in this book. There's not simply the matter of a rebellion brewing in her homeland, but she must also now free the slaves on the Dark Caravan, in addition to saving her brother. And with the turn of events there at the end, I imagine things are only going to get more difficult for her. I'm anticipating exciting things for the sequel.
An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. However, this review is based on an audiobook version ofAn advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. However, this review is based on an audiobook version of the title procured from the library. My thoughts are my own.
Every short story in a collection like this can't be a winner for every reader, but I dare anyone to say that they read all of the stories in this anthology and didn't feel at least a little holiday cheer by the end. Some of these stories were written and narrated by favorites of mine, while others were by authors and narrators I've only ever heard of...if that. I tried to go into this audiobook without knowing who wrote each story, and even though the author is stated before each story, it was so quick that I missed a lot of them at first. But my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to know who certain stories were written by. Some were kind of obvious and some were complete surprises. Here's how they fared all in all:
Midnights by Rainbow Rowell and narrated by Rebecca Lowman - ★★★★★
This story, I had no problem whatsoever guessing the author. It felt very reminiscent of Fangirl, which is by no means a complaint. It's just that RR really knows how to write a coming-of-age story that feels genuine. Midnights chronicles several New Year's Eves in the MC's history with the love interest in a somewhat random order to fill in some blanks and show how this story's couple came to be where they are this New Year's Eve. It was bittersweet and everything you expect from a Rainbow Rowell story. And I don't think I will ever approve of anyone but Rebecca Lowman as narrator for RR's stories...she is perfect.
The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link and narrated by Fiona Hardingham - ★★★★
This story probably won't resonate with most readers the same way it did for me, but I kind of loved it. I don't think I can say I've actually heard of Kelly Link before, but this haunting tale of a love that defies logic -- not to mention the borders of the living world -- has intrigued me enough to research the author to find more of her works. Also, it probably helps that I love Fiona Hardingham as a narrator, and her performance made this story that much more interesting. Her accent also made it feel more authentic.
Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña and narrated by Henry Leyva - ★★★★
I've been meaning to check out this author's work for some time, so I was happy to see that a short story from him was included, especially as it lent some diversity to the anthology. Loved the male perspective...that was a definite plus. Not so sure I loved his love interest, considering the circumstances, but I liked how the scholarship kid made out in the end. Never heard anything narrated by Henry Leyva as far as I know, but I really bought his performance.
Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han and narrated by Kim Mai Guest - ★★★★
Another favorite author paired with a favorite narrator; this makes my heart happy. Especially since this story was kind of like the movie Elf but with a female protagonist. It was bittersweet, much as I've come to expect from Jenny Han, but even so, I felt a twinge of hopefulness there at the end, despite it all. Also, I think I would give this story the award for best title in the anthology, even if the story did feel like the shortest one in the bunch.
It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins and narrated by Samantha Quan - ★★★★★
This story was definitely cute. Like, make my heart sooo happy cute. So, of course it's from Stephanie Perkins. She knows how to write love interests that just melt my heart. And she writes normal girls who get themselves all flustered over said heart-melting love interests. And I like the homage to Charlie Brown. I'm not familiar with this narrator, but she did an outstanding job of making me fall even harder for these characters.
Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan and narrated by Dustin Rubin - ★★★
I've only read Levithan's collaborations with other authors, including John Green and Rachel Cohn, so I only know how his characters bounce off of another author's characters. Without that added narrative, this story just fell flat for me. I was pleased to see that a LGBT story was included in this collection, but I wish the romance would have jumped out at me the way they have in the author's previous works. Another narrator I'm not familiar with, and honestly I can't say the performance was all that memorable either.
Krampuslauf by Holly Black and narrated by Julia Whelan - ★★★★
This story was another win for me, and not just because of the favorite author and narrator combo. I liked the contemporary start the story had but loved the fantastical turn it took. After listening to this story, I had to look up Krampuslauf to see if it was a real thing because I was so intrigued by where it took the story...it is a real celebration and one I'd like to witness some day.
What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Foreman and narrated by Abby Craden - ★★★
I've only read If I Stay and Where She Went by Foreman because I'm not sure that anything else by her would be a good fit for me. Case in point, this story. It features a mixed couple getting to know each other, feel each other out without offending one another with stereotypes and generalizations. I liked that aspect, but I just think maybe it was just a bit too heavy-handed in this story. Or it's Foreman's writing style that didn't work for me. Another unfamiliar narrator that did a decent job, though.
Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire and narrated by Lincoln Hoppe - ★★
This was my least favorite story in the whole anthology. I should also probably mention that I never read further than the first book in the Hourglass series, either. I'm just not a fan of McEntire's writing style or the fact that I never connect with her characters. This story was basically one of those in which a good girl makes a bad boy question his wicked ways. That can usually be a fun scenario, but it was just boring in this case. I liked the narrator, though.
Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White and narrated by Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez - ★★★★
Well, butter my biscuits! I totally expected to be disappointed by this story because I've all but given up on the author's work up until now after finding myself unable to finish the Paranormalcy series, but I was very happy with this story. I really, really thought it was going to take a more magical turn, but I'm glad it didn't. Basically, the MC is soooo ready to graduate and leave her sad life and tiny town behind her...until a cute new boy enters the picture and gives her a reason to stay. That's not even the best part, though! Family present and accounted for. Diversity. And standing up to physical abuse. And it managed to be quirky and funny, something her previous books attempted and it fell flat. Not in this case. And the narrator was legitimately good, especially her accents and pronunciations.
Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter and narrated by Shannon McManus - ★★★★★
I've never read an Ally Carter book before, but I am now convinced that I have to read them all. (I know, Summer...you've been telling me this for ages now.) I love when starlets want to disappear from the limelight because I imagine that most do from time to time. But I also love a takes-no-sh!t love interest, too, and the one in this story is kind of the best. As is his family and the whole situation the MC finds herself in. Carter may soon become a favorite, and it doesn't hurt that she's paired with another of my favorite narrator's in this audiobook anthology. This was definitely one of the highlights of the collection for me.
The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor and narrated by Ann Marie Lee - ★★★★★
In a collection of mostly contemporary tales, Laini Taylor manages to stand out, as usual. This was by far the most fantastical of all the stories in the anthology, and it was also probably the most melancholy. But it was oh so evocative, as I've come to expect from Taylor, and I am in no less awe of her exquisite prose than I was when I finished her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. But this is the problem with fantasy short stories: they always leave me wanting more of the world and characters, and I know I'll never get my wish. I've also never experienced an audiobook narrated by Ann Marie Lee, but I'm a fan after this story.
A bit of a mixed bag, for sure, but there's a little something for everyone here. I don't read many anthologies, but I heartily recommend this one.
Oh, and did you know that the couples on the cover actually represent the couples from the stories? How cool is that?
You know when a sequel just blows your ever-lovin' mind, leaves you screaming and angry and in ruins? Lady Thief is that kind of sequel. I don't know how the author managed to make me fall even harder for these characters, but she did. And now my poor heart is in tatters after that ending.
Okay, so, if you know the story of Robin Hood fairly well, a lot of what happens in Scarlet and Lady Thief won't come as a surprise to you, but the way that events unfold is sure to. You might think for a second that in this one instance, Gaughen's going to go the traditional route and orchestrate the same sequence of events you've come to know as the history of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. But you'd be wrong. Though I've had many of my theories pan out over the course of these two books, I still feel like the story is remarkably fresh. I think the fact that I'm able to foresee a lot of what's to come is actually one of my shortcomings, not the author's.
I am still so in love with the fact that Scarlet is who she is, that she's survived what she has, and she still manages to persevere, to fight and love and do what she can for the people of Nottingham. Scarlet's narrative is sparse but that doesn't keep her from painting a very brutal picture for us. She doesn't hide her feelings nearly as well as she once did, though, and with what's going on now, it's no surprise. I had so hoped that she'd finally get her chance at happiness, but it looks like it wasn't meant to be, at least not yet.
Robin is a bit broken after what he suffered in the first book, and Scarlet bears the brunt of his inability to cope. As such, she's forced to make a decision that will change the course of her and Robin's future, though not as either of them expected. Neither of them knows of the stratagems already at play when Scarlet accepts a bargain from Lord Gisbourne, and when Prince John involves himself in her affairs, all hell breaks loose for Scarlet.
Fortunately for Scarlet and Rob, they find -- or rather, make -- time for romance along the way. Because of their honor and devotion to each other, I feared we'd go another book without so much as a single kiss between them, but they put that aside to bask in each other while they can. Nothing about their future is set in stone, and if the past is any indication, they have a long road to travel before they can truly seek solace in each other's arms. So it was nice to see them give in to their hearts and take a moment or two for themselves, even if doing so was technically wrong. (I'm not here to judge, but Scarlet is a married woman. Just sayin'.) Their love story is raw and achingly painful, but deliciously so, and despite all odds, I'm still betting on them.
The other characters' stories have all become compelling in their own rights. [Little] John may finally be over his roguish ways, which is quite the change from the first book. Much is showing just how capable he is and is full of worthy advice for Scarlet. Even Gisbourne's story arc proves quite intriguing. He may be pure evil incarnate, but in the beginning, he was such an enigma and as much as I loathed him, I still wanted to know how he came to be the man he was. I got more than I bargained for in that respect, but it's fitting and makes the story that much more captivating.
As I said, if you know anything of the lore surrounding Robin the Hood and his entourage, you can guess where the story is headed for both him and Scarlet, especially with the death of the sheriff and Prince John's political machinations while his brother is away. But the ways in which the end result was achieved were still shocking and at times, utterly heartbreaking. Guard your heart, folks...you're in for a bumpy ride. And if you're waiting until the third book is out because you've heard about the tear-inducing cliffy at the end of Lady Thief...well, that's all well and good, but it's still going to be there whether you wait or not, and you can't change what happens, much as you'll want to. So, what I'm saying is, hurry up and read it so we can discuss and be miserable together while we wait for book three. ;0)
GIF it to me straight: I won't be able to wait another year...I won't...iwontiwontiwont....more
Wow, what an impressive sequel! So action-packed and explosive. The only thing it was missing was (view spoiler)[Aiden/Apollo (hide spoiler)]. :P I waWow, what an impressive sequel! So action-packed and explosive. The only thing it was missing was (view spoiler)[Aiden/Apollo (hide spoiler)]. :P I was afraid this sequel couldn't live up to its predecessor, especially after all that carnage in the first book. But I think Mortal Gods surpassed Antigoddess, if only by a margin. I can't wait to see where Kendare takes this story next!
The narrator for this audiobook was superb and brought these characters to life for me. Her accents for British Odysseus and for Aussie Achilles were pretty great, especially considering I didn't think I was going to like her narration style at first.
All in all, this sequel gets an A+ in my book! :D["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Have you read Throne of Glass? Did you love it? (Of course, you did.) Then you must read The Assassin's Blade, a series of five novellas, all still from Celaena's perspective in the third-person narrative. (I realize that the full-length novels are third-person omniscient, but a lot of times, novellas are from another character's point-of-view specifically, and I wanted to assuage any doubts.)
I'm not going to go into each novella, but suffice it to say, they are all very enlightening and show Celaena's considerable growth as a character. I've just finished my re-listen of this series to-date, which obviously included this collection, so that I could start Heir of Fire with no reservations, and I have to say, Elizabeth Evans is a solid pick to voice these books.
If you haven't started the series yet, this is definitely a good place to start. If you've already read the first two books but have lingering questions about Celaena's past, you should pick up The Assassin's Blade. Of course, I'm a fangirl, so *I* think you should read all the books in the series.
Hey, I think this may just be my most succinct "mini" review yet!
Ugh. I hate writing reviews like this. It's always easier to write a review for a book that you either had strongly positive or entirely negative feelings toward. I always feel so inept at writing reviews for the ones that are only so-so, that evoke no real emotional response from me. So it goes.
Possibly the problems I had with Tsarina are due in part to some really high expectations I had going into the story. I've only read Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce before, but I liked it well enough to think that I'd enjoy her retelling of the end of the Romanov reign in Russia. I also really like historical fiction and anything involving Russia. And then Wendy loved it, so I thought it was a guaranteed favorite because we often love the same books.
And don't get me wrong...there are aspects of this novel that are absolutely lovely. The prose is gorgeous. The setting is stunning. The magical bits weren't overbearing. And yet it still wasn't enough to make me love the characters. I felt zero connection to them, and as that's usually the aspect that has me falling for a book -- even when the writing isn't superb -- it made it difficult to enjoy this novel to its fullest.
Also, the romance was, um, sketchy? I really liked how the relationship between Natalya and Alexei was portrayed as something so lovely and heartbreaking in so few words. But then the war between the Reds and the nobility of Russia comes to a head and nothing is certain anymore. And I don't like where things in the romantic department left off or where they picked up because of those uncertainties. Sorry I'm being intentionally vague, but it's best I not say anything further for fear of spoilers. I just think things could have been handled a little differently so that it didn't feel like a complete upheaval of feelings. That, or it's possible that my complete lack of connection to Natalya just made it feel more sudden than it was.
I feel like a total black sheep here. I didn't hate the book. But I also didn't love it in the way that I thought I would. I mean, from the outside, this appears to be a total "Jen" book: spectacular cover, historical fiction set in Russia, elements of magic that were -- for the most part -- only hinted at for much of the book. But the first half was a total snooze-fest for me, with much less dialogue than I prefer and two girls running all over the city with no clear goal. And that kind of set the precedent for the rest of the novel for me.
Regardless, I still think this novel will resonate with a lot of readers, especially fans of Pearce's other work because as I said, the writing is still pretty fantastic. And there are a lot of elements that are done well in this story. It just so happens that the ones that I regard highly did not meet my expectations in this case, unfortunately.
GIF it to me straight: I so badly wanted to love this story, but I was pretty underwhelmed by it....more
So, April and I both read this book at the same time and both ended up adoring it, and since we read the story sorta together, we figured we'd review it together. We've never attempted a joint review like this before, so we may ramble and we might digress, but I think our love for this book will shine through regardless. =)
What drew us to the book in the first place:
Before being sent the invitation to read this title via Netgalley, I'd already had every intention of reading Open Road Summer. I'd read Jennifer Echols' Dirty Little Secret last year, which was about a rising country star, and I liked it well enough, but I kept hoping for more of a connection with those characters. From everything I'd read in early reviews for Emory Lord's debut, there was no question I'd find that connection with Reagan, Dee, and even Matt. Also, I'm sort of a recent convert to country music, thanks to my husband and daughter -- whose favorite artists are Eric Church and Carrie Underwood, respectively -- so I was intrigued by that aspect, as well.
I saw it on Goodreads. A few bloggers I follow were reading it, and all of their status updates were positive. Then I saw it was on Netgalley and requested it right away. I knew this was something I would like based on the description. Plus, it has the word Summer in the title. This Winter has sucked, so I crave any story with warmth.
Open Road Summer is the kind of book that won me over to contemporary. The writing is solid and flows as well as the songs being sung on Lilah's tour, and it's touching in a way that isn't overly sentimental. It's fun and light-hearted, while at the same time delving into some deeper subject matter, including physical abuse and the effects of becoming a celebrity as a teenager. But the book isn't preachy, nor does it attempt to be an "issues" book; it's just a genuine story of how one summer on a country music tour can change your whole perspective, and I enjoyed it immensely...if that wasn't already clear. =)
April: I loved the story. I mean, how can you not? It's summertime and she's spending it on tour with her best friend. The whole set up is full of win. But it's not all fun and games, there are issues that arise, and issues that they've both already been working through. Have no fear though, Emery Lord tackles all of that while keeping Open Road Summer light and enjoyable. These kind of contemporaries make for the best summer reads.
Connecting with the characters in a story is probably the most important aspect of the reading experience for me. I'm not a country music artist on my very first headlining tour and I don't come from a somewhat broken home, but even so, I felt a genuine connection to both Dee and Reagan. (Lilah Montgomery is Dee's stage name, in case you were wondering.) And Matt was just about the sweetest love interest I've ever come across -- I do like boys with Southern charm! -- but I'll get to him in a bit. I liked the group dynamic early on between these three friends on tour, and I liked how their relationships progressed over the course of the book, despite some tricky circumstances.
Reagan is a tough cookie, and at first I wasn't sure if I was going to like her, but I warmed up to her character pretty quickly. Her friendship with Dee/Lilah is what thawed me. I adored Dee. I could not stop thinking of Taylor Swift while reading this though. She has this Taylor Swift vibe, but like if Taylor Swift wasn't annoying. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan, and belt her music in the car often, but I can see how she gets on some peoples nerves. Dee is the cute, country sweet heart girl, blonde hair, blue eyes, sings about her life experiences. But doesn't date every celebrity that walks by. She's awesome and I loved her. lol Matt, I really liked him, even though he was a bit cheesy at times with his songs.
I totally got a Taylor Swift-vibe from Dee, too! Or maybe a younger version of Carrie Underwood. Or a mix of those two. But definitely a country cutie all the way. :D
Reagan and Dee are the kind of best friends you envy: they've been through thick and thin together and even the worst fight won't keep them apart for long. They'd do anything for each other, which is why Dee invited Reagan along on her tour when she saw that Reagan needed a break from what had become of her life. Reagan helps Dee attempt to get over a bad but amicable break-up and Dee gives Reagan the space she needs while also trying to help her cope with the fall-out of her own break-up, which includes the physical and mental effects of some physical abuse. These girls are thick as thieves, and watching the further evolution of their friendship during the cross-country tour was one of my favorite aspects of the story, especially when they were depicted just as two girls, hanging out and doing normal friend things.
This was my favorite part of the whole book. There are not enough stories out there with friendships like Reagan and Dee's. I think that every girl should grow up with a friendship like theirs. I loved how Reagan was there for Dee when things got crazy. Like Jen says above, the evolution of their friendship was great to watch.
The Music & the Tour:
The musical portions of the story were probably the weakest for me, and that's mostly due to Matt's writing songs for Reagan, which sometimes felt trite and a little cheesy. But it was also sweet. Reading about all of the behind-the-scenes stuff on tour was infinitely more fun. Except when Dee as Lilah was being harassed by paparazzi or found herself the subject of tabloid gossip. The way Dee handled it all seemed realistic, as did the actual interactions with the media, especially considering what you can read in gossip magazines or see on TMZ. It was unsettling and had my blood boiling at times, but I appreciated that this aspect of life as a country music darling was highlighted in the story, rather than being glossed over.
April: I normally don't like music written in books. When a whole song is written out, lyrics and such, it annoys me. Especially if it's often, because what do the songs actually sound like? Lyrics are never enough for me. Is that lame? lol. Maybe. I did love the tour stuff, the concerts and all that jazz. The paparazzi stuff had me pissed off too, but it's a real thing. If I ever had a chance to be rich and famous, I would turn it down because it's just not worth all that. I also think Open Road Summer covered that aspect well.
If the friendship between Dee and Reagan was my favorite part of Open Road Summer, then the romance between Reagan and Matt was my second. Reagan just got out of a terrible relationship with an older guy who treated her badly. She's not looking for love while on tour with her best friend. But she wasn't expecting Matt to join them on the tour, nor did she expect him to be just the sort of nice guy she needed in her life. To complicate matters, because of gossip surrounding Lilah's newest album and her source of inspiration, Lilah's people are allowing speculation that Matt joined the tour as Lilah's boyfriend. Matt and Dee don't exactly pretend to be dating, but they don't deny the rumors either. Reagan's determination not to fall for Matt and let him in because of the potential heartbreak of dating a famous country crooner and Matt's resolve to win her over battle it out for much of the book, but it was fun rather than aggravating. And then there's that thing between Dee and Jimmy. *sigh* This book was just like reading a freaking country song. :D
April: The romance was cute. I loved that Reagan was hesitant at first. Coming out of a bad relationship, you aren't looking for a new one. That's realistic. I've been there, personally, so I connected with her in that way. But then Matt comes along, and some things you just can't fight. Like my husband for instance. I almost didn't date him because I just got out of a bad relationship, but here we are. Their romance was adorable and real to me. Also all the stuff Jen says above. She got to this section before I did and puts it into words so much better and I'm lazy so Ditto! lol.
Haha, April...ditto works. :) OH! And I almost didn't date my husband because I was actually stillin my bad relationship when we met. But I totally related to Reagan in that respect, as well. I think it's hard not to relate with her on some level.
Open Road Summer is the quintessential summer read, full of ups and downs, love and loss, and I know I'll be picking it up for a quick read again this summer. Everything about this novel makes me smile, even when less than pleasant things were happening in the story, simply because it was so genuine and heartfelt. This book is definitely going at the top of my Top Summer Reads Recommendations list...whenever April and I get around to putting that thing together. =)
I loved Open Road Summer. It had everything I was looking for. It's one of those books that reminds me why I love contemporary so much. This was such a great debut and I look forward to reading more of Emory Lords stuff in the future.
GIF it to me straight:
After this book, we're both ready for summer & a good road trip! =D
Jen: Although I've loved every single one of Kasie West's books -- and I've read them ALL -- I think On the Fence will go down as my favorite. Well, at least until her next novel is released. :) Best friend romances are my absolute favorite because from the get-go, you know the characters know each other and the risk of insta-love is fairly non-existent. Having said that, this may also be my favorite best friends romance. I loved this story THAT much.
April: I have only read one other Kasie West book so far and that was The Distance Between Us. I loved it, but if I had to choose a favorite, On the Fence wins hands down. I adore best friend romances and I have to agree with you, I think this may be my favorite one too. I think that has a lot to do with the characters. West just has this way of making you fall in love with them.
Jen: She does, doesn't she? I mean, I love that Charlie's a tomboy who finds her girly side, but I also love all of her brothers and her dad and the influence they have on her, besides the swoony Braden. But what I loved best was how much effort Braden puts into convincing Charlie that she's perfect the way she is, that she shouldn't change for a guy or pretend to be something she's not so that a boy will like her. That is such a great message, one that more girls need to hear.
April: Absolutely, it's the best message for girls. As a mom of a young girl, I want her to read books like these. Books that will show her that being yourself is what's most important. Never change for anybody. Her dad and brothers were a real trip for sure. They made me laugh numerous times. One other thing I really liked was how she tied this story in with The Distance Between Us. I knew going in that there was a cameo appearance, but I thought it was just Caymen and Xander. Not another character I had loved, but made me so happy when she showed up.
Jen: I love when authors do that, too...just give you glimpses of characters from previous books. It's just nice to know that they're still doing okay. ;0) What else was great about this story was those fence chats. My goodness, the honesty that pours out from both Charlie and Braden...it was refreshing to see the wall come down between them, even though there was technically a fence separating them. Even if the potential for something more between them hadn't been there, I would still have loved this aspect because it felt so genuine and we learned so much about the characters and their families through these talks.
April: Those fence chats were killer. I looked forward to every single one, they really were the highlight of the story for me. I didn't really connect the whole walls coming down, and fence thing, but yes! Great symbolism. Another thing I found really interesting was the mystery behind her mom. I wasn't expecting any serious undertones, but I felt like they added some depth to the story.
Jen: I had a feeling there was more to the story, especially since no one seemed to want to talk about it, but I tried not to dwell on it too much while I was reading. I did like how the family seemed to have pulled together over the years and practically made Braden one of their own since his own home situation wasn't ideal. Besides those fence chats, I liked the closeness, the bonds between all of the characters. And I also enjoyed the competitive nature between them. So much fun watching them all try to outdo each other, especially when it came to their wacky dares.
April: Their dares were hilarious. Especially that first one we are introduced to, I will admit I may have gagged a bit. lol Too Funny. My ending thoughts are... On the Fence is a great summer read. And I know that we said that last Friday about Since You've Been Gone, but we have just been so extremely lucky when choosing our buddy reads/ listens. *high five*
Jen: *return five* We have definitely had some great luck picking our summer reads. But it also helps that we've had really good experiences with both of those authors prior to their new releases, too. =D I highly recommend this one, though...even if you've never read a Kasie West book, even if you don't normally like contemporaries. This book is just too much fun to pass up!
This just might be my favorite Morgan Matson book yet, and that's saying a lot considering just how much I adored Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. Morgan just has this way of getting you to experience everything that her characters are going through emotionally, and you build such a connection with them and the story that it becomes hard to let go of them once the book is over. Trust me, I also just finished Second Chance Summer, and holy wow, my cup runneth over with pain and love and longing.
And though Since You've Been Gone isn't a sad book, per se, it is still one that will tug at your heartstrings. I stressed and ached right along with Emily as she learned to cope with who she was in the wake of Sloane's absence. Because I've been there. I've been in a relationship -- friend-wise and romantically -- where I'd spent so much time in that person's company that I no longer knew who *I* was apart from them. And that's exactly what Emily is facing. A summer without Sloane, her cohort, confidante, and the only person who could even remotely make Emily come out of her shell.
And then there's the list. In adulthood, I can say that I wish someone had forced a list like that on me, made me live outside of my comfort zone for a summer. But at that age, I probably would have taken one look at that list and said, "Yeah, effin' right." Because as any shy, introverted person knows, those "simple" tasks are difficult. They take someone brave and courageous to complete. Which is one of the reasons I adored Emily's character. She wasn't brave in the beginning; she saw the list as a means to an end...an end that would lead her to Sloane. But as she checked off each item, her confidence grew, and she was more Emily than she'd ever been before.
But we can't forget that Frank -- and others, yes, yes -- aided Emily in her quest to finish the list. The friendships that Emily developed along the way were so genuine and exactly what Emily needed. Since we didn't know Sloane's whereabouts, I often found myself wondering if all of this, not just the list but all of it, had been planned, the way everything fell together for Emily so beautifully. But I think in the end, that's just the nature of the list...it brought people into Emily's life that she otherwise would never have truly seen. Sure, she knew Frank from school, but until this summer, she'd never even had a conversation with him.
Missing conversations with Frank would have been tragic. He is not perfect, though Emily sure had him pegged as such before they even made first contact. He is not dangerous or brooding or chiseled. Frank is just a clever boy with a surprisingly nice physique who asked Emily to help him with his running. They talk about everything under the sun, do so much together, even when it's not related to the list, and with Sloane out of the picture, Frank's the closest thing she has to a best friend until she can track hers down. Still, as close as they are, they're getting closer by the day, and there are minor complications that could potentially reset Emily back to the girl she was at the start of summer.
I loved the emphasis on friendship before everything else, though. I've noticed it's a running theme in Morgan Matson's novels, and I wholeheartedly approve. Through a series of flashbacks, we get to see who Emily and Sloane were as best friends: how they met, how they interacted with others, how boys fit into the mix. But I think it's because of these flashbacks that I loved seeing Emily on her own even more. Sloane was the driving force behind their friendship, and it was empowering to see Emily step out of Sloane's shadow and make new friends and try new things. It was also nice to see that the author didn't only focus on that friendship but that of Emily's new friends, as well, and what Emily's entrance in their lives had changed.
I already gushed about this narrator in my Amy & Roger review (linked above), so I'll just say that I think bringing Suzy Jackson back for another Morgan Matson novel was a genius idea. It's been awhile since I listened to the other audiobook, so I had no problems whatsoever differentiating and separating Suzy as the voice of both Emily and Amy, and I thought her voice fit both characters equally. Suffice it to say, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up any novel narrated by Suzy Jackson.
Nor will I hesitate to pick up a Morgan Matson novel. Seriously. My adoration for this author's work knows no bounds. I want a hard copy of all of her books for my shelves, especially since they come with awesome little tidbits, like receipts, to-do lists, and music playlists. Those kinds of things just make the reading experience that much sweeter. But nothing is sweeter than a charming coming-of-age story of friendship, love and all the points in between, especially when it leaves a perma-grin on your face like this one did. :D
I don't know if it's just because I listened to the audiobook -- narrated by the fabulous Katherine Kellgren -- which can completely change how a storI don't know if it's just because I listened to the audiobook -- narrated by the fabulous Katherine Kellgren -- which can completely change how a story is interpreted, but I loved this story waaaaaaay more than I had expected to based on the reviews I'd been seeing. And I can fully appreciate why studios would have been clamoring to option the book for film. It was quite the adventure.
An advance copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is based on the audiobook version obtained from my library.
I requested a review copy of this novel when the hype was just fueling up. Then I started seeing some very middling reviews roll in, and I decided to put it on the back burner until someone could convince me that it was worth my time. But then I kind of forgot about and it released to little fanfare. So what do I normally do in situations like this? Go the audiobook route.
And it absolutely paid off for me. I'm not sure if it's because one of my favorite narrators is reading the book or the fact that it was an audiobook at all, but I freaking loved this story. It was a bit convoluted at times, what with the story set in the distant future but with a very historical fantasy vibe, but I think it all came together admirably in the end. After all, I don't think it's that preposterous to think that we might revert back to our medieval ways should things not fare so well for us in the future. I mean, you've seen the mobs and the looting after a natural disaster hits, right?
The people of the Tearling are not total barbarians, though. I think Queen Kelsea is proof of that. She actually reminded me of Elisa from Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns series: not meek, not gorgeous, and definitely not confident, but someone with the power to change the world with the right tools and companions. And even before Kelsea has been crowned, she's affected major changes in her kingdom, changes that most certainly will bring war to their door. But she has set herself to the task of becoming a far better queen than her mother ever was, and I think with the upbringing she had and the companions she now keeps, she can certainly rise to the challenge.
Though I compare the main character to one in a favorite YA fantasy series of mine, this novel is unabashedly adult in nature. There is swearing. The sexual situations are numerous, though not terribly graphic. And there are all manner of vulgar references and circumstances. It didn't bother me in the slightest, but considering Emma Watson is set to play the lead role in the movie adaptation, I wanted to convey that this story is not written for her usual audience. That said, I believe Emma will bring the fiery temper yet quiet reserve of Queen Kelsea to life beautifully on the big screen.
There isn't a lot of romance to be had in this book, not that I minded that either. Kelsea is considered very plain, and at this point in her story, she is more likely to be used as a pawn than an object of someone's affection. There are hints at a potential romance in the future for young Kelsea, but it's also not obvious at this point if her feelings are completely one-sided or not. She has proven herself a very formidable queen, though, and to some, power is more attractive than actual beauty, so we shall see where that aspect takes us.
I found this story to be absolutely captivating. One of those where I found myself inventing chores so that I could listen longer. Its dark and atmospheric setting took hold of me and the characters just would not let me forget them, especially with the fabulous Katherine Kellgren narrating it all for me. I know what other reviewers are saying, but I think this book is just one of those that you have to try for yourself.
GIF it to me straight: Turned out sooo much better than I was expecting....more
I really enjoyed The Program when I read it last year, and because of that and because of where the first book left off, I had some seriously high expectations for this sequel. The Treatment pretty much lived up to them, despite the fact that it still felt like something was missing, but overall it was still a really great conclusion to this story.
Duologies seem to be the current trend in YA literature, and I have to admit, I'm on board with it. If an author can't fit the entire story into one book, then I'd still much prefer they tell it in two rather than making me wait for a third book to get to the resolution. I felt like I'd already been waiting much too long for the rest of Sloane's story -- even though it had only been since April -- so when I got that approval on Edelweiss, I immediately started the book, which meant I was reading it around Thanksgiving.
I tried to savor it, but you know how it is when you've really been anticipating a book. The mere thought of setting it aside for one mundane task or another makes you twitchy. Yet, even though this story was pretty compelling and was go-go-go nearly from cover to cover, I still felt like some of the driving force of the first book was missing. Maybe it's because this was one of those always on the run books, where the characters are always running, always being chased, and I never got the opportunity to feel settled. I felt like I never had the chance to reconnect with these characters in the way that I did in The Program.
I know some people are worried about that potential love triangle/quadrangle, but honestly it doesn't even really exist, nor is it really all that relevant. Realm -- who I don't even think I mentioned in my review of the first book because he was of such little import to me -- is in love with Sloane, and Sloane and James are still trying to rediscover what they had before The Program took their memories away. And Dallas -- a new character you'll love to hate or hate to love, I'm still not sure where I fall on that one -- is in love with Realm. The thing is, so much of what these kids feel is based on how they felt before The Program got a hold of them -- even if they have no memory of it -- or what they did after they got out. They're on the run so much in this story that I don't think any of them really have a chance to stop and consider what they're feeling. Because of this, I was never sure I could trust anything they said or did when it came to their feelings. And yet, I still had a good idea how this situation would turn out romantically.
Because of that, I didn't really focus too much on the romance. No, my favorite aspect was all of the questions this story raised. Some really thought-provoking questions. Like, what role does memory play in a person's relative happiness? As a society, are we over-diagnosing mental health illnesses, perpetuating the myth that prevention through early, and sometimes aggressive, treatments is what's most advantageous? I don't think the author set out to answer these questions, only to make the reader ponder them, and more, as the story progressed.
I'm sad to say that I am a little disappointed in this sequel, only because it didn't have that same oomph I felt while reading the first book. Also, the ending was a tad anticlimactic, considering the build-up leading into it. Even so, I'm still really impressed with this series, with the writing, and with the author's handling of such a sensitive, controversial subject. I definitely plan to read more from Suzanne Young, as I've now enjoyed two great series from her.
GIF it to me straight: Sad that it's over, but it left me with a lot to think about....more
So, The Forever Song is another book that April and I read "together" and discussed afterward. We chatted back and forth about it, and I pretty much pasted the contents of our discussion below for your reading pleasure. We tried to stay spoiler-free for the entire series, but as always, read at your own risk.
As a series finale/the ending to a trilogy, I found The Forever Song to be adequate yet slightly mediocre. I liked it, but it didn't have the pull for me that the previous books in the series did. I found that I could easily put the book aside and read other things without my mind wandering back to it, wondering what all the vamps were up to while I was elsewhere. This saddens me because this is one of the best vampire stories I've read in awhile, but it also should be noted that my lackluster feelings on the finality of the series are in no way detrimental to my opinion of the series as a whole. It's still one of the best vampire series I've ever read.
I really loved this one. Though I do know what you mean as far as being able to put it down. I didn't think about it much when I wasn't reading it. It's certainly not as gripping as the first two. But overall, this series is pretty awesome.
The thing that made The Forever Song for me was Jackal. He kept me laughing the whole time. While I love all of the characters, Jackal outshines them all in my eyes.
No doubt about it, Jackal made this book for me, too. I mean, I loved him more with each book as the series progressed, but he was undeniably awesome in The Forever Cure. And how far his character has come...he's no angel by any means, but by the end, there's something redeemable about him. I'm really going to miss that guy. Probably more so because I always pictured him as Chris Hemsworth while I was reading. =) Also, he had the best lines. His banter with Allie was priceless. I think it's kind of obvious that Kagawa loved him as much as we did. I know this is probably wishful thinking, but I'd love to see him get his own spin-off series. I could read about him and his antics ad nauseam.
I also love what a survivor Allie has proven herself to be over the course of the series. She's suffered loss time and time again, and yet she keeps moving forward. Allison battles her humanity the entire time, questions whether she is a monster, and yet I don't think it was ever tested as much as it was in this final book.
Yes!! Allie has always been strong through-out the series, but in The Forever Song, she really shows her strength. Both mental and physical. I can't imagine what it must be like for a vampire fighting off that hunger. But I do love food and if humans were like cupcakes to me, it would be really hard to contain myself. So major props to Allie.
And how about that twist? That "No Freaking Way" moment! I won't mention what it was, but I so didn't see it coming and I'm not sure why I didn't, but wow. I was hesitant at first whether I was happy about it, and it took me a while to warm up to it, but in the end I think it worked out alright.
Ha! I actually had a few of those moments, but I think I know which one you're talking about. :) I actually expected something along those lines, and I was anticipating and dreading it at the same time. But you're right, it did work out plot-wise and hurting-my-heart-wise, so I'm okay with where Kagawa took the story from there. That last thing that happened, though, that last major thing...that gutted me. I actually cried some. I don't cry often or easily when reading, but damn.
I wish I'd felt such powerful emotion -- even if it was only hatred toward Sarren -- for the entirety of the book, and not just in a few spots. It just felt like the guts of the book was lacking: we're moving along well, exciting things are happening, then we fall into that valley of a middle where I stayed away from the book for well over a week because I was kind of bored, and then we're at the end, which is damn near explosive with all the things that are happening. I mean, the middle wasn't a total snoozefest because we were learning things about the characters, even when things weren't happening to them, but I needed more to hold my interest at that point.
Oh my gosh, yes that last thing. That might have killed me just a little bit. But I guess it made sense and I can see why she wrote it that way. Still it didn't make it less heartbreaking.
I agree that the middle didn't hold my interest as much either. I put it down as well, but picked it back up way sooner than you did lol. I found it interesting enough, but I think my biggest problem is that I'm not as into vampires as I was when I first started reading this series. The ending sure was jam packed though! Near explosive is the perfect way to describe it. Once I neared the end it was hard to put down and I was pretty happy with the conclusion. I'm kinda sad that it's all over now but I feel like there could definitely be a spin of if she chose to write one.
Yep, I was in the market again for a good YA vampire story when I found The Immortal Rules, but I've since overcome that desire. I do appreciate that Kagawa's vampire tale featured a post-apocalyptic setting, which made it very different from those that came before it, and the series will forever have a place on my shelf. This ending is bittersweet but satisfying. And, yet, I still find myself hoping for more of this world by way of a Jackal spin-off. (Nope, I'm not going to let that go. :D)
When you get to this point in a series, it gets increasingly more difficult to review a book wiThis review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
When you get to this point in a series, it gets increasingly more difficult to review a book without spoilers. Also, it's all relative. What one person considers a spoiler may not matter to the next person. I didn't provide any major plot details below, but as always, you should read at your own risk if you've yet to read this installment.
In The Fiery Heart, Mead finally did what all of us had been expecting for awhile based on our experiences with her previous books. She gave us what we wanted and then took it away, as she is wont to do. The Bloodlines series is actually the third of Mead's that I've undertaken, and it might just be my favorite. And not just because of the Sydrian romance, though that is definitely a big part of it. Yes, you can see some patterns among the different series; you know that she's going to separate the beloved couple and wreak havoc on the lives of everyone involved, but she manages to do so without her tactics becoming stale and predictable.
I loved Rose and Dimitri in the Vampire Academy books, but they were extremely compatible, with the same sense of duty and honor. The only thing that really kept them apart, besides Dimitri turning Strigoi, was the fact that he was several years older and also her mentor and tutor. With Sydney and Adrian, though, there are so many more complications from a relationship, which is why Sydney fought her feelings for Adrian so adamantly. She's an Alchemist and he's a Moroi...one of the good vampires. They're not exactly enemies, especially as the Alchemist's primary mission is to keep the Moroi's existence a secret from humans, but neither is a relationship -- friends or otherwise -- simply frowned upon. No, it's flat-out not allowed...by the Alchemists or the Moroi. Which is why Sydney and Adrian kept their relationship a secret for as long as they could.
Until someone close to them betrayed them to the Alchemists. Which landed Sydney in a rehabilitation camp, not unlike the one Keith was sent to earlier in the series for his crimes against the Alchemists. And if you've read the previous books, you know that didn't turn out so well for Keith. The Alchemists resort to all methods of torture to rehabilitate their wayward agents, and when all else fails, a full re-inking is their last option, one that leaves the Alchemist traitor resembling something closer to a robot than a human being. If Sydney isn't careful, the same could be her fate.
Lucky for her, though, Adrian's not going to give up on finding her. He does lose track of himself, letting his depression and feelings of inadequacy lead him astray for a time, but his thoughts are never far from Sydney. I love that we got to see some dream-walking again (finally) and that Sydney got to use some of the magic she'd been practicing, that the Sydney Sage we knew and loved way back in VA is still alive and kicking. And she's not going to take this rehabilitation thing lying down. Sydney's a strategist, the girl with the plan, and even though she knows Adrian is out there doing everything he possibly can to help her, she knows she cannot rely on that hope alone.
But just rescuing Sydney from the Alchemists won't be enough to keep her safe, so Adrian does something so completely out of character, so crazy that I never even considered it within the realm of possibility until now. Though, if you've been reading the series, you'll understand that it's not that unbelievable that he'd do something like this. And now that we've come to know the lengths that the Alchemists will go to in order to further their own agenda, it isn't all that surprising that they would retaliate because of Sydney's escape and the subsequent aftermath.
This book had such a different feel from previous books in the series. Still the same old cliffhanger, still action-packed, still full of the antics of one Adrian Ivashkov. And yet this book was just MORE. More daring. More intense. More to the point. I'm surprised by how much I loved this installment but at the same time, I'm not. With VA, I found myself growing weary by the fifth book, more than ready for Rose and Dimitri to get their happy ending. But with these books, I'm just curious to see what craziness Richelle Mead has in store for us next.
I've listened to both the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines books on audio, so I'm more than familiar with Emily Shaffer and how she voices some of my favorite characters. I'm exceptionally pleased that Mead went the dual POV route, though, with this series after the first couple of books so that we could get a male narrator for Adrian's perspective. I guess because he's Moroi royalty, Shaffer always affected a slightly English accent for Adrian, which wasn't bad, but it also seemed unnecessary, especially when Neil came along and really was English. It doesn't matter now, though, because Alden Ford owns Adrian. Ford as Adrian is cocky and self-assured, but he also capitalizes on Adrian's self-doubt and failings in order to gain sympathy for the character. He's kind of perfect for the part, as is Shaffer as Sydney. If you haven't started the series yet, I highly recommend trying out the audio, though the fact that Mead manages to give both Adrian and Sydney very distinctive voices means you'll have no trouble keeping the perspectives separate if you read the text.
GIF it to me straight: Some serious shockers in this installment but some serious Sydrian feels, too....more
Claire Legrand's Nutcracker-inspired Winterspell isn't so much a retelling as an exploration of the darkness, the sensuality of the original tale. This novel endeavors to bring into focus the desires and wills of the characters and divine where they came from and what makes them tick. This is my first experience with this author's work, but her evocative prose and nuanced additions to the story mean I will definitely be coming back for more.
Let me just get this out of the way. This is not the Nutcracker story you grew up with. The gist is similar, but Winterspell delves deeper and deeper into the world of the Sugar Plum Fairy and all of those "delights" afforded to the kingdom, be it the ubiquitous sugar or those costumed dancers. And what you'll find is not a beloved fairy tale but a war that has been brewing for ages.
So, yes, in answer to the question that is most likely plaguing you, this story does rely heavily on faeries and magic. But that shouldn't surprise you all that much considering the source material. There are malevolent faeries and destructive humans and slippery mages in the land of Cane and none of them are very willing to share the land. Oh, and Clara is caught unawares by all of this when her father is abducted by faeries in order to lure her to the land of magic.
The usual characters are all present in this story, though their roles have been somewhat altered from the original tale. I loved Clara's determination -- to master her future, to save her family, to discover her family's deepest secrets. She is strong but not infallible. She is vulnerable, but she will not be discouraged. I truly love what the author has done with this character above all others, but I loved the fact that, though changed, all of the characters were still reminiscent of their original selves.
Another aspect that I really enjoyed was all of the clockwork and those little mechanized robots that kept tabs on the Queen's empire. I'm finding more and more faerie stories that include steampunk elements and faeries who like to tinker, and it quite endears them to me, maybe because it helps to somewhat alleviate that feeling of complete otherworldliness that clings to them. Winterspell didn't feel like any of those other steampunk faerie stories I've read, though. It's dark and stunning and utterly tantalizing.
And so, so seductive. Not just the gorgeous storytelling but also the character interactions. As I said, this is not the tale you were told as a child, and it becomes so much more sensual at the hands of Legrand. There were moments when poor Clara felt utterly indecent, but I exalted in seeing this story in such a new and different light. I've always loved The Nutcracker, and I had a feeling I would feel similar after reading this story inspired by it, but I loved Winterspell even more than I expected.
GIF it to me straight: I know, Jared...I'll never see The Nutracker the same way, either. (But seriously, wowsa, I loved this story so hard.)...more