ETA: I have been saying I'll finish this series for years. Since I pre-ordered the Aussie version of the finaAmazing sequel! Just amazing!
ETA: I have been saying I'll finish this series for years. Since I pre-ordered the Aussie version of the final book. And I am finally doing it. I even created a shelf on Goodreads called "so I can finish the series" because this phenomenon is not restricted to this series. :P I loved it every bit as much upon my re-read and now I'm wondering why I've been putting this off......more
I love a good mystery as much as the next girl, but I'm not surprised by them much these days. Too often I find the mystery to be entirely too predictable and that aspect alone makes it hard to hold my interest. And I'll admit that in Every Breath, I did suspect the culprit early on, but there were just so many other elements that kept me captivated by this story. With stories like this, I'm usually looking at the bigger picture, trying to determine how everything's going to pan out, but with Every Breath, I was living in the moment, eager to spend each page with the characters as they worked the mystery out themselves. In short, I was happy to let Mycroft and Watts handle the investigating while I followed their shenanigans.
And a lot of that has to do with the characters Ellie Marney has created. Mycroft is eccentric and has few meaningful relationships though he knows everyone he bumps into around the city, while Watts is close to her family and obsessed with returning to the countryside and the life she was forced to leave four short months ago. And yet, they work so well together despite all of their many differences. The best way I can describe James Mycroft and Rachel Watts is this: teenaged Mulder and Sculley. Their dynamic is just so ON. Mycroft is willing to believe that there is more to the story than a senseless killing and Watts isn't ready to jump on board with one of Mycroft's crazy theories. But she's still up for a bit of amateur sleuthing, regardless. This makes them the perfect investigative team: one of them thirsty for the truth and willing to risk much in the search for it and the other to balance things out with reason and logic. Also, the chemistry between these two is off the charts, much as it was with Mulder and Scully, though it takes much less time for Mycroft and Watts to embrace it.
Thank goodness! The frustration from watching these two hem and haw around each other nearly did me in. Just about the time the sexual tension reaches a fever pitch, the dam finally breaks and we get one spectacular show. Once they do finally get to the point that they can openly admit their feelings for each other, it is the sweetest kind of romance. The slow-burn was well worth it, but by the point that they realized how they each felt, we already knew they'd each go to extraordinary lengths to protect one another and in support of each other.
"Mycroft and I are on a strictly last-name basis, but he's on a last-name basis with everybody. He pointed out it was perfectly appropriate in our case, anyway. He said if Sherlock had Watson, it was only fair that Mycroft should have Watts."
I love the homage Marney's Every Breath pays to the original story, too: numerous mentions of Mycroft being "Sherlock's much-smarter brother", Homeless Dave being "Mycroft's very own Baker Street Irregular", etc. I've not read many Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but I've always loved how clever they were. Every Breath was no less clever but it was just such a refreshing spin on the old Sherlockian murder mystery.
Setting this novel in Melbourne, a city that's already a mystery to me, makes this story that much more captivating, too. Watts is practically an outsider herself, having grown up in the countryside of Australia, not a big city like Melbourne, and as she got to know the city better, so did I. It was kind of the perfect setup to draw a reader like myself in. And by that, I mean a reader who prefers when the setting feels like a character itself, the way that it's explored in the story. Also, I love Aussie slang...the fact that this wasn't changed in the US version endears the story to me that much more, makes it feel even more authentic.
Honestly, I think I've found my new favorite mystery series. The fact that it's written by yet another awesome Aussie is just a bonus. Another bonus: while some people are satisfied waiting for the next book to come out here in the States, impatient people like myself can order the UK/Aussie versions and get the rest of the story that much quicker. Which I will most definitely be doing with this series. =) This was such a fantastic debut and I can't wait for all of you to get a chance to meet Mycroft and Watts for yourselves!
I know I just read this, but I was perusing my library's website for my next listen and this was available and IRe-read/listen. Original review here.
I know I just read this, but I was perusing my library's website for my next listen and this was available and I already missed Blue and the gang, so I thought why not. Plus, Will Patton WINS at narrating this series...I can't believe I ever doubted him. I mean, he was in a movie about fast cars...Maggie enjoys cars and driving fast...it just doesn't get more perfect than that. =)
ETA: This book was phenomenal the first time I read it, but the audio is even more so....more
An ARC of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review, however, is based on the audiobook version, which waAn ARC of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review, however, is based on the audiobook version, which was procured from my local library. My thoughts are my own.
This story was absolutely adorable and exactly what I needed while I was reading. I never would have believed that fourteen (14!) different perspectives -- and two of those from a squirrel and a bench -- could work so well, but they did. Even despite the fact that none of those were actually from the couple in question -- or possibly because of it.
I delight in people-watching, guessing where people are headed and what their stories are, and that's essentially what this book is: fourteen different viewpoints and opinions on one couple's path to each other, some even from inanimate objects. I was ecstatic to see how painfully awkward Lea and Gabe were around each other, as seen through the eyes of friends, casual acquaintances, and even a nut-obsessed squirrel. (He was my favorite point of view, in case you were wondering.) Despite how cute the story is, it's actually quite realistic, if you discount the fact that a squirrel is narrating at times. :)
I had an ARC of this title, but there are never enough hours in the day to read all the novels you'd like, so I went the audio route, thanks to my local library. And, oh my goodness, it was even more adorable than I would have believed. Will Damron narrates all of the male perspectives, plus those of the squirrel and the bench (IIRC), and Amy Rubinate voices the female narrators in the story. Considering there were so many different perspectives, it would have been easy for some of them to sound similar, but each narrator did such a fabulous job of making each character's voice unique, making them sound like the type of person they were portrayed as while they relayed what they knew of Lea and Gabe.
If you're in the mood for a quirky little romance that's as unique in it's presentation as it is genuine, I heartily suggest you pick up this would-be comedy of errors, full of missed opportunities and miscommunication. You'll be smiling all the way through, I guarantee it.
Needed a refresher before I pick up my ARC of This Shattered World, even though it's a companion. (I really juRead in 2013 - original review here.
Needed a refresher before I pick up my ARC of This Shattered World, even though it's a companion. (I really just wanted to hang out with Tarver again. :P) Audio version is GOOD. Highly recommend. =)...more
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.
When I first saw this book pop up on Edelweiss, I passed on it. I saw my friends snagging it and I saw it mentioned on Goodreads again and again, and still I passed. I just didn't think this was going to be my kind of book. The cover did nothing to disprove that theory, either. I even think that the first time I read that summary, I was under the impression that the story was a dystopian, what with the mention of a secret society and such.
Boy, was I ever wrong. I should have guessed that it was more military-geared based on the cover, but even that alone wouldn't have piqued my interest the way all of the reviews from my fellow bloggers did. So, when I was offered a chance to review the audio for this novel, I jumped at the chance, especially when I realized that Khristine Hvam was the narrator. She's one of my very favorites, having narrated many, many of the audiobooks I've listened to over the last few years, and it would have to be one terrible story for me not to enjoy her portrayal. As it stands, I loved this book that much more because of Hvam's narration. I felt everything as Sam experienced it: the betrayals, the injustice, the pull toward Drill. I don't think I could love this story more because of her excellent performance.
I enjoyed the military aspect of this story, though it wasn't my favorite part. I actually considered going into the Air Force right out of high school, but school had already been so regimented for me that I decided I needed a break and a chance to be a normal teenager, at least for a little while. Sam, on the other hand, was raised in a military family. She ate, slept, and drank the military regimen from the time she could walk, and she's still doing it. After a family tragedy and a dare that she couldn't back down from, she's joining Denmark Military Academy as part of the first class to allow females into their program. And not many are happy about this development.
Sam is such a fierce, determined character, not badass in that she's perfect at everything she attempts. But every time she doesn't succeed or doesn't do her best, she picks herself back up and tries again. I think that's the sign of a true heroine...one who doesn't have an easy go of it but continues just the same. That determination of Sam's instantly booted her to my list of favorite characters. Sam is constantly bombarded with reminders that very few people want her at the DMA and many will go to great lengths to see her fail or to get her to quit. She's pretty stiff competition for a lot of the male recruits, and that does nothing to help her situation.
But not everyone and not every recruit is against Sam. There are three other female recruits in the program, though the allusions to female solidarity that I've seen in some reviews kind of boggle my mind. These girls should have stuck together and rooted for each other's success, but instead, some are no-shows, some give up, some let the bullies win, and some join the other side. She did have one true female supporter along the way, and she was probably the most important to begin with. However, Sam has a few male friends in the academy, too, ones who understand unity and working as a company and not for their own advancement, and they make the experience slightly less taxing for Sam.
Rites of Passage is pretty brilliant. The author takes the military experience, feminism, and a secret society and meshes them to create this absolutely intriguing story. And then she goes and creates this totally swoon-worthy romance that is scorching hot, not because it's forbidden but because it's so genuine and the love interest has Sam's best interests at heart. He's not a bad boy. He's not a douche. He's just her Drill Sergeant, and he's not afraid of a strong female who's willing to prove herself, no matter what.
My only complaint about this book is that I think part of my copy was missing. I am usually a fan of an open ending, but after all these characters had suffered -- for their own dreams and for each other -- well, I just hoped for more of a resolution for them. Not necessarily a happy ending, mind you, but at least a real hint at what their future held.
Rites of Passage will go down as one of my very favorite debuts of 2014, one of my favorite audiobooks of the year, and probably the best representation of the military experience I've read to date. I'm really hoping there will be a sequel or some kind of novella, at least, to provide a more resolute ending, but as it is, this is still one of the best books I've read all year. I absolutely loved this story. Many thanks to all the bloggers who reviewed it and pushed me to give it a chance!
“But what if we can’t find Jude?” He leans closer. His breath is warm on my ear. “We will.” “How can you be so sure?” I want to believe him so badly, but this is Rafa. The guy who’s all action and no plan. His smile is tired, knowing. An echo of a shared past I don’t remember. “Because I’m not smart enough to give up, and you don’t know how to.”
I seriously had to re-read this novel -- granted, I read it for the first time back in August -- in order to review it properly, and I still don't think I can adequately portray just how much I love this book...or this series, for that matter. It's been yet another month since my re-read, and I'm still having trouble gathering my thoughts. Why are the novels I love the most the absolute hardest to review? BUT...I have to do this now because my copy of Shimmer will be here in mere days, and I'll completely forego everything else to get to that book...including reviewing the previous book.
It's kind of a well-known fact that contemporary novels from Australian authors tend to be very beloved among us readers, but now we're finally getting wind of some of the awesome paranormal stories they write, too. And I am hooked, guys. So much so, that I'm not satisfied borrowing from wonderful friends anymore or waiting for the US release date. No, I had to go and buy myself a copy of this novel -- and the next one! -- from an overseas vendor to satisfy my need for more Rephaim adventures, even knowing that I'll still have to wait another year or so for the final book in the series. I think my desperation for these books speaks volumes, but just in case that's not enough to convince you, I shall proceed with fangirling over Haze. Fair warning, though: this is the second book in the Rephaim series, so there are possible spoilers for Shadows.
Haze picks up shortly after the events of Shadows, with Gaby having known that she is Rephaite -- a half-angel/half-human tasked with finding the Fallen and ridding the world of demons in the process -- for just about a week. The life she thought she knew isn't real. The brother she's spent the last year mourning doesn't exist. But there's a chance he's still alive, and now that they've established this possibility, Rafa wants to set out in search of him, like yesterday.
And Gaby is just as excited at the prospect. But she's hesitant, too, to discover the demons of her past, the past she can't remember. And so she and Rafa set off in search of other demons...demons they can hunt and kill and cleanse the earth of...at least until she's ready to search for Jude. In doing so, she proves to her fellow Rephaim that she is not the Gabe they remember at all, that she has changed or at the very least no longer remembers who she was before. The amnesia plot was used primarily -- and well, I might add -- in the first book to help establish the world and conditions of the Rephaim by having the Rephaim themselves explain to Gaby everything that she would have already known as Gabe. In this book, Gaby's memory loss furthers the plot by elaborating on her past relationships with the other Rephaim, those whom Jude left the Sanctuary with a decade ago.
It also adds more than a little tension to her relationship with Rafa. He still won't reveal what caused the big break, what drove Gaby and Jude to different sides, or why she and Rafa were basically enemies for the last ten years. But even though we get no answers in that respect, their banter and chemistry is still at an all-time high, fueling their actions and their passion, regardless of what they're doing. There are more than a couple of steamy scenes between these two, but there are tender ones, too, and I loved those just as much.
“I know things are messy with us, but do you really think I could just walk away from you?” This time he doesn't look away. “Do you really think I'd let you?”
However, Rafa grows agitated and frustrated with Gaby's stalling on the Jude situation, and though I'll admit it did slow the progress of the novel somewhat -- they didn't even set out in search of him until around the halfway point -- I understood Gaby's apprehension...and Rafa's, too. Neither knows which Jude they'll get, assuming that they find him at all. I think this might be the point at which Rafa and Gaby grow the closest, neither wanting to voice their fears but sharing them all the same. Their relationship is coming into its own, but it never overshadows the bigger picture.
Suffice it to say, this book by no means suffers from the dreaded Second Book Syndrome. It's exciting and emotional and raw and packs an even bigger punch than Shadows did. It is pure excellence with none of that filler you find in a lot of sequels. It simply expands upon the things that were already so well done in the first book: the tight-knit bonds and friendships, the slow-burning romance, the kick-ass fight scenes, and Gaby's insatiable thirst for answers to her past. I could go on and on ad nauseam about this series, but really, the best thing I can suggest is picking it up and seeing for yourself just how amazing these books are. Once you do, it'll probably take you ages before you can form coherent thoughts about it, too. ;0)
If I haven't sold you on this series yet, you really should visit the author's website. It hosts a bevy of information on the series, on the characters, and on the mythology behind it all. Plus, it's fairly entertaining. Just like the Rephaim series. You can also check out an excerpt from Shimmerhere, assuming you're already caught up with the series.
Read this earlier in the year and LOVED it -- full review here -- but I love the story even more now, having listened to the free audiobook from the SYNCRead this earlier in the year and LOVED it -- full review here -- but I love the story even more now, having listened to the free audiobook from the SYNC program. The narrator was fabulous, with her gorgeous accent and her expressive voice. This is one of those occasions where the audiobook makes the story THAT MUCH better. I highly recommend it....more
An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review, however, is based upon a purchased copy ofAn advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review, however, is based upon a purchased copy of the audiobook version.
I put off reviewing this book, well, because I'm lazy. And honestly, that summary does a great job of telling you what you're going to get with Jackaby. When it says Doctor Who meets Sherlock, it means it. You've got the paranormal aspects of Doctor Who set as the backdrop for a murder mystery the likes of which Sherlock would love to get his hands on.
Just like the two BBC shows that seem to be at least partly the inspiration for Jackaby, this novel includes a healthy dose of humor to the story to lessen the effects of the grisly tale held within its pages. I love a great mystery novel, but it can't always be murder and mayhem, especially when there's little to no romance to be had to distract you from the gruesomeness.
Much like Sherlock, Jackaby is the type of character to find romance a very unnecessary diversion from the matter at hand…even a complication. So, the romance is left to young Abigail, who seems to have struck the fancy of Detective Cane. Though the thought has been planted, it's unlikely we'll see any real swoons until later in the series. And I applaud that…this isn't really the type of mystery novel to really call for a love story.
Ritter has created such a rich world in Jackaby that I found myself immediately immersed in it, as if I, too, were walking the streets of New England, trying to crack the case. Set near the turn of the century, the depiction of New Fiddleham and what lurked there was elaborate and breath-taking. The story was unique in its execution, and I found myself at the end of the story before I knew what had happened.
Jackaby does, however, remind me of another series I started listening to right around the same time: The Paper Magician trilogy, which I briefly reviewed on Goodreads. If you enjoyed those books, you'll likely enjoy this new Sherlockian series and vice versa. Also, Nicola Barber is a fantastic narrator for this series. I've listened to many audiobooks performed by her, and I've never been disappointed. Her accent also lends an air of authenticity to the story.
And what a story it was! I've always been a fan of Sherlockian-type mysteries, and William Ritter's Jackaby is no exception. I just saw that the cover for the sequel was revealed while I was on vacation last week -- that or I missed it recently -- and I might love it even more than this one. Which was why I was finally inspired to write my review for this amazing book.
More Tarver! And that's really all you need to know. :)
Just kidding. Sort of. The thing is, I tried to get TarvThis review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
More Tarver! And that's really all you need to know. :)
Just kidding. Sort of. The thing is, I tried to get Tarver to divulge the details on his hero status several times in our interview last year, but he was more than a little hesitant. That's probably because in this awesome FREE short story, he finally explains the true nature of the mission that led to his being on the Icarus in the first place. This story is a bridge between These Broken Stars and This Shattered World, and it really foreshadows what we can expect from the sequel.
Also, I really enjoyed the manner in which Tarver's version of things comes to light. In much the same way that These Broken Stars was an interrogation, with snippets of the actual conversation interspersed into the story between chapters, This Night So Dark is basically Tarver relaying the cause of his nightmares -- that fateful mission all those months ago -- to Lilac. Bits of their conversation are placed between chapters as they reflect on what they've each realized and what it means. And in the meantime, I got a Tarver/Lilac feelsplosion! =)
After reading this novella, I am just that much more excited to get to my copy of This Shattered World. I think I've put it off long enough now. I can't wait to meet the new characters -- and see a bit more of Tarver and Lilac, not gonna lie -- and see how they all fit into the scheme of things. This Night So Dark is a must-read if you've already read These Broken Stars and you plan to continue the series. And you really have no reason not to read it since it's absolutely free!
Do any of you watch The Following? That Kevin Bacon show on Fox that follows his character as he tries to determine a serial killer's next move in an attempt to save the next victim? This book reminded me a lot of that show -- especially the utilization of a criminal mastermind already serving time for over a dozen murders -- and that isn't a bad thing. I really thought I wasn't going to like that series because of all of the gratuitous violence, but as it turns out, I rather like trying to get inside the head of a serial killer. And that's exactly what the Naturals are up to in this sequel.
The gang's all back together and they're still trying to cope with the fact that none of them realized that there was a serial killer in their midst this past summer. To take their minds off of that, there's a new serial killer in town and he's mimicking the murders of one Daniel Redding...who just happens to be Dean's serial killer father who's been locked away in prison for the last five years. As you can probably guess, because of that, this book focuses on Dean a lot, though it's still narrated by Cassie, who spends a lot of her time analyzing Dean while also trying not to push him further away.
And while she pretty much fails at that 90% of the time, she's still got Michael not pressuring her -- but totally pressuring her -- to come to a decision, i.e. pick him or Dean, once and for all. Of course, he obviously thinks she's going to pick him with that kind of confidence and determination, but Cassie is all over the place. This love triangle of doom, while not the focus of these books, drove me a little nuts because one minute Cassie doesn't want to feel anything for either boy, the next she's nearly kissing Michael, and the next she's having a heart-to-heart with Dean, trying to gauge his feelings, if any, for her. It seems pretty well resolved by the end of this novel, but I don't necessarily like the path it took to get there.
Like I said, that's not the focal point of this novel, though. The copycat serial killer is and more is at stake now than ever before. Because of who the killer is copying. Because there's a new agent on the case to replace Locke. Because of said agent's relationship to both Briggs and the serial killer. Because no matter how much the FBI wants to keep the Naturals off the active cases, they need these kids' help because of their special abilities.
Things were slow in the beginning of this novel, with the post-Locke adjustments and the Agent Sterling adjustments, but the plot is absorbing in a way that even the first book wasn't. And yet again, Barnes was able to create some really great twists that I did not see coming. I was excited to see that after The Naturals, there would be a follow-up to Cassie's story. I am even more giddy with the ending to Killer Instinct because it seems like there's quite a bit more story to tell and I'm very eager to get to it.
GIF it to me straight: Oooh, creepy...but definitely something to keep in mind....more
ETA 2/14/18: My bestie was in town last weekend and we rewatched our favorite episodes -- mostly the ones featuring LoVe -- and that still wasn't enouETA 2/14/18: My bestie was in town last weekend and we rewatched our favorite episodes -- mostly the ones featuring LoVe -- and that still wasn't enough VMars for me so I decided to download the audiobooks for the books that came after the movie and experience them again in their full glory...even if Mr. Kiss and Tell isn't narrated by Kristen Bell. :( I still want more. I need more, dammit!
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.
Bargains with the Gentle Lord. A ghostly, overprotective fairy (god)mother. Defenestration. What more could a girl ask for in a Cinderella retelling?!Bargains with the Gentle Lord. A ghostly, overprotective fairy (god)mother. Defenestration. What more could a girl ask for in a Cinderella retelling?!?
If you loved Cruel Beauty, I'm pretty positive you'll love this short story. I'd bet the Gentle Lord on it...except I'm smarter than that. =)...more
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?
I adored this book. I wanted to slap Bonnie™'s mother more than once, and I just loved how Chloe and Benny got each other through it all. That family was pure chaos! And Patrick...suh-woon. Yep. I loved this book, and I'm kinda surprised it didn't get more hype before it's release because it's full of win. I don't even like reality TV all that much, but it's probably my dislike for it that made this book even better because I have a feeling it's pretty close to how all the behind-the-scenes stuff goes down. Also, I've often thought that putting kids on camera for entertainment without their consent could be likened to child abuse, and I was glad to see that aspect wasn't taken lightly here.
What has happened to me that all -- well, most of -- the books that I adore lately have been contemporaries?!? I used to despise this genre, but now I can't even remember why. Because now, these are my go-to books. When I'm in a funk or a reading slump or whatever, I pick up a contemp and I'm happily entertained for hours.
With Something Real, I think I'll be entertained for eons. This is the kind of book I can read over and over again. This story garnered ALL THE FEELS from me. And so rather than splitting up my review based on characters and plotting, etc., like I usually would, I'm going to do this one a little differently. I'm going to separate my feelings and what triggered them.
“Even Mom doesn't understand how being in front of a camera all the time twists and warps you. How one second it makes you feel unbelievably alive and the next publicly strips you down until all that's left is one big question mark.”
First and foremost, my anger comes from being a mother. As a parent, I cannot fathom subjecting a child to being in the spotlight like this, let alone a family consisting of thirteen children. Times are going to be tough as it is, but how does any self-respecting mother do this to her children? Especially considering what one of the eldest has already suffered because of being on a show that is broadcast nationally. Beth Baker-Miller™ is one of the worst kinds of human beings...those who live for attention and don't care about the cost, even when it's their own family. There was not a single redeemable quality in this woman, and what she did or didn't do at the end of this novel made me question whether she even deserved to have the other children in her care.
Also, I have mad hate for the show's producer Chuck, who is the slimiest of all in this story. He manipulates, cajoles, coerces, and threatens, and he is beneath scum. I imagine a lot of reality TV show producers to be of his ilk, and for the sake of everyone who has to deal with swine like this, I am sorry. I'm not a big fan of reality shows, but I imagine it's not as fun to be the subject of them as it might appear or as others make it out to be. I'm rather intrigued by the leaps and bounds this book took to show the behind-the-scenes stuff. On one hand, I hope this is all entirely fictional, but on the other, I'm pretty sure it's not, and I feel awful for ever having watched a single minute of this kind of drivel, entertaining as it might be at times.
The main character Bonnie™/Chloe hasn't had the easiest transition from reality TV stardom to normal girl. But she's relatively happy with her normal girl status now that she's starting her second year of public school as a high school senior. Until her mom and stepdad decide to start doing the show again, without consulting any of the rest of the family, that is. Chloe has suffered the most at the hands of the Baker's Dozen show, and you'd think her family would at least have the decency to forewarn her that the show was being picked back up, but aside from her brother Benton™, no one seems to care what this might do to Chloe's fragile state of mind.
What I hate most is that Bonnie™/Chloe's mother doesn't even notice the repercussions. She thinks her daughter is acting like a typical spoiled teenager who's not getting her way. I don't think Beth Baker-Miller™ realizes that it's taken Chloe four -- FOUR -- years to finally find some amount of normalcy in her life after what happened in the last season of Baker's Dozen. Which makes my heart hurt even more for Chloe. But worse than that, I wished physical violence on this mother and the stepfather she brought into these kids' life after the sh!t hit the fan in that last season. How could any mother be so oblivious, let her own desires outweigh those of her children, whether they come from her loins or not?
Which brings me to my next point. The way that everyone allows Chloe to be portrayed on national television is an abomination. Seeing it from Chloe's eyes and then seeing how everything is edited to make it more dramatic, or to make it look as if Bonnie/Chloe™ really is the poster-child for Teenagers Gone Wild, I wanted to do more than cut cords or palm cameras out of Chloe's face. No one deserves to have their whole life on display for strangers like this. It more than borders on child abuse in my opinion. And I'm really glad to see that this aspect wasn't taken lightly in this story. There's even talk of getting the ACLU involved, so kudos.
I am unbelievably grateful that Chloe had a sibling like Benny to help get her through all the drama. Beginning, middle, and end...he was there through it all. He pushed Chloe when she needed it, but he also gave her space to do what she needed to do when she wasn't being rational. Benny was her back-up and Chloe was his. I love how out of all the siblings, these two are the closest, have the best connection, and stand by each other, no matter what. I think the only times I laughed in this story with true frivolity -- because of all my fury at the other characters in the story --were when it was just Chloe and Benny hanging out, shootin' the sh!t. Also, Benny drunk is kinda priceless. I'm not condoning underage drinking, per se, but when the situation warrants...
Okay, so I said that I didn't laugh all that much, but I did snicker a lot. Ugh, I hate that word, but it's the best description. Here's why:
"I'm surprised she doesn't get a sunburn from the rays of her own awesomeness," Benny says as she heads to the first floor. _____
There should be a class on what to do with your hands during awkward moments. Like, no other animal has to stand with these ridiculous appendages that make everything worse. Hands are awkward as hell. I watch Tessa disappear down the hall, belonging, being absorbed into the crowd. _____
"Did you apparate here or something? The bell rang two seconds ago." _____
"How was the salon?" Tessa asks, after we're through psychoanalyzing my date. "Did you get claw-the-rapist nails?"
"When his lips finally leave mine, his fingertips stay on my cheeks, and he looks at me--really looks at me--for a long time. Five seconds? Minutes? Centuries? Maybe it's the feeling behind his eyes or the way the warmth of that kiss slowly slips back on the tide of our breath, but I suddenly feel like I need to leave. Now."
Benny may have been a great counterpart to Chloe's persistent pessimism, but Patrick brought the swoons and more. We talk about book boyfriends all the time, but usually as in "I would want this guy to be my boyfriend in real life". In this case, I don't think I've met a more perfect guy to be this character's boyfriend. He's patient, forgiving, caring, but he still manages to be a separate entity and not too clingy. A girl should be so lucky as to have a guy like Patrick in her life. He takes all of this reality TV stardom stuff in stride. Patrick does everything he can to make a relationship outside of that world a possibility for Chloe, and I think that without his soothing presence, Chloe might not have managed nearly as well as she did. Also, he gave her the strength to stand up for herself. I know the saying always goes "Behind every great man, there's a great woman", but I think the opposite holds true, as well, especially for this couple. It takes a solid partnership to make any relationship work, and that's what we have here.
Also, there's that scene in the janitorial closet. My god. =)
"Chlo, that boy has forever written all over his face when he looks at you. A cat lady you shall never be."
Another thing I really enjoyed about this novel was all of the extras included: press releases, twitter feeds, blog posts, interviews, etc. And, of course, those cute text messages between Patrick and Chloe on her secret phone. It really lent to the air that this was reality, that this is how life goes for someone in Chloe's position. It also made for an even more entertaining reading, especially how each piece was spun one way or another. This book really makes me sad for all of those kids who were on Jon & Kate Plus 8.
"I'm not Bonnie™ or Chloe. I'm the essence of her, the nontrademarked person the camera can never capture and my parents have no right to sign over. There is a sovereign nation encased in this skin that MetaReel can never trademark."
I am honestly surprised that this novel didn't receive any hype prior to its publication. It is so unbelievably genuine and completely from the heart, and it ranks up there with my favorite YA contemporary novels ever. I don't think I've ever read a novel that compelled me to be one with the narrator and simultaneously feel so much, and I'm really hoping this isn't a one-time deal. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what else Heather Demetrios brings to this genre, and I hope she continues writing with this outstanding voice of hers.
Wow, this review turned out to be way longer than I anticipated, and the sad thing is I haven't said all that I have to say about this lovely book. But you should read it. You should absolutely read it. :D
GIF it to me straight: Why is no one talking about this book?!?...more
Edited 7/12/18: Ugh. So sad but so, so good. And I honestly can't remember much of what happens in the final book, so it'll kind of be like reading itEdited 7/12/18: Ugh. So sad but so, so good. And I honestly can't remember much of what happens in the final book, so it'll kind of be like reading it all over again for the first time. :D
An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration.
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
This adorable little romp in Italy is exactly what I needed after the more serious and fantastical fare I've been reading lately. Whenever I need a good palate-cleanser, I turn to fluffier YA contemporary novels, and sometimes I hit the jackpot and end up reading really endearing stories like this one. I enjoyed this one so much that it made me not want to cross back over to the dark side of YA fantasy, so as soon as I was done with Wish You Were Italian, I immediately picked up the other book in the IF ONLYseries.
I was pretty impressed with the story and the writing in this book, especially considering that this is Kristin Rae's debut novel. (That's not to say that I haven't loved debut novels before, but they're not usually contemporary stories if I did.) This novel is so charming, so delightful, and I just didn't want Pippa's adventures abroad to end. Even though I've never traveled to Italy, Rae's beautiful descriptions of the country, the monuments, and the people instantly transported me there, as if I were seeing everything through Pippa's eyes for the first time. And the way she captured the moments that were truly important to Pippa...I wanted to be there experiencing them with her. Italy essentially became a character in its own right, thanks to the gorgeous imagery in Rae's writing.
Pippa is going to be in SO much trouble when she gets home. But for now, she's having the time of her life, gallivanting across Italy's countryside, seeing all the sights and sounds she would've missed had she stuck to her mother's original plan. Pippa is really going against the grain with her little excursion, but it's easy to see why this little escape was so necessary for her, considering the strained relationship she has with her parents, most especially her mother. But she keeps in touch with her best friend Morgan and her Gram, and though it's risky being on your own in a foreign country, I commend her bravery because I'm not sure it's something I could've done myself at that age. Though, looking back, I wish I'd had an opportunity like this...I don't think I could have let it pass me by either.
Besides, Pippa makes friends with a local girl who changes the whole course of her summer, and she also has that homework assignment Morgan gave her to keep her busy. Plus, Pippa met someone her very first day in Italy. Okay, she actually meets TWO someones. Darren is an archaeology student working on digs across Italy, and "by chance", he and Pippa keep running into each other. Their little tête-à-têtes are always unbelievably cute, but it's kind of obvious that both struggle with starting something they can't finish once summer is over, despite how in-tune with each other they might be. Also, Darren also suspects something might be going on with the brother of the girl Pippa is staying with...and with good reason.
I don't worry about love triangles as much as some, and this one really didn't bother me because Pippa has a good head on her shoulders and realizes the likelihood of anything lasting with either guy is slim. Still, one of her "goals" thanks to Morgan's homework assignments is to fall in love with an Italian guy, so I don't discredit her for trying to determine if there was something between her and Bruno. It's the summer before her senior year, after all, and she does figure things out for herself before they get too complicated and someone gets hurt.
That's another thing. I really liked how everyone actually communicated in this story. That's one of my biggest pet peeves in a story: when there's so much unnecessary drama because no one a) talks to each other, b) asks one another the right questions, or c) admits what they're feeling. And though there are plenty of misunderstandings and wrinkles along the way in this story, they manage to get ironed out pretty quickly, with little suffering on anyone's part.
I really enjoyed this debut from Kristin Rae, and it makes me curious to see what other stories she's working on if she can craft such a fun, fanciful read with so many positive elements. There may not be a perfect summer read for everyone, but this one comes pretty darn close. Also, it made me buy gelato, which is never a bad idea. =)
GIF it to me straight: Awwwww's all around....more
Midnight Thief was full of surprises. It would have been a great novel to use for my "Review in a GIFfy" feature, if only to use a lot of GIFs with shocked faces. I read the novella last fall after the author graciously sent me a copy, and I think she did so to throw me for a loop once I got to Midnight Thief. Poison Dance is a prequel to this novel and provides the backstory for a very significant character in Midnight Thief, one that seems very much changed...or maybe affected is a better word choice. If you decide to read that story prior to this full-length novel, I recommend keeping in mind that the author wrote the prequel because she had lingering questions about one of her characters.
The characters in Midnight Thief were nothing like I was expecting, especially after reading the prequel story. They were so much more, and I'm actually pretty satisfied with the direction the author took with each of their stories, even if it did take a bit of deliberation to get to that point. I won't make any justifications for any of the characters, but I feel like their actions -- and what led them to them -- were fitting. Kyra is a very talented thief, one with cat-like grace who can circumvent palace guards and deadly assassins alike. But she isn't a skilled fighter. Her successes have all come from her need to survive and look out for the few people who depend on her. Tristam is a privileged knight, dead-set on avenging his friend's death at the hands of the Demon Riders. The story is told from both of their perspectives through alternating chapters, and when I got to nearly half-way through the novel, I started to wonder if the two main characters would ever meet. But meet they did, and what an encounter that was!
I really enjoyed the writing in this story. It's not high fantasy with crazy names for people and places, or one where I needed a map at the start of the book to get some sense of the land, but there is a seriously fantastical element having to do with the Demon Riders that I wasn't expecting at the onset of the novel, and that more than made up for the slightly slower pacing in the first quarter or so and kept the story from feeling generic. I did find that it was fairly easy to guess the nature of the "startling secret" mentioned in the summary, but it didn't detract from the story. In fact, I think knowing that made it easier for my brain to take a break and ignore clues to other goings on that might have made parts of the ending less astonishing. What I mean to say is, though some aspects of this novel may seem slightly predictable, the novel as a whole lends itself to an air of unpredictability, much to my delight. I'm horrible about trying to guess every secret a story holds, and I love a book all the more if it can keep me guessing, as Midnight Thief did.
I've found lately that a lot of summaries for fantasy novels like to mention assassins in the story and then not a whole lot of assassinating actually happens. Kyra is NOT an assassin, nor does she wish to become one. Honestly, there isn't much in the way of assassinations in this novel, but there is plenty of intrigue, death and betrayal, and I don't think that's too far off. Also, I appreciate that this summary makes little to no mention of a romance because this was most certainly not a swooning, fall into his arms kind of story. There are a few moments, and they were spectacularly handled -- both by the characters and the author -- but romance is definitely not where the author's focus lies in this first book. I loved where the author left things, with questions and uncertainties for both of the characters but no one's life is left hanging in the balance. Though there are definitely some major changes coming for some of the characters.
Midnight Thief is an excellent fantasy story that is sure to keep you on your toes. This novel will surely appeal to readers looking for a fast-paced story, full of danger and intrigue and just a hint of romance. It was riveting and damn-near unputdownable, and I hate that I now have to wait another year for more of this story. If you're contemplating reading this story or still unsure, I highly suggest picking up the novella, which is free for Kindle and Nook right now.
I am always, always on the lookout for a new fantasy series to flail over. So when early buzz started heating up over Snow Like Ashes, I told myself, "Jen...Jen...let's not get ourselves worked up over the book yet. Let's wait and see what some of our friends think before we go getting burned again." And I did. I waited. And I waited...not so patiently, I might add...until I could wait no longer and had to dive in. And I must say, those early reviews were spot-on. This book was fan-freaking-tastic. I couldn't put it down. I couldn't stop thinking about it when my family forced me to put it down in order to pay attention to them. Hell, I still can't stop thinking about it and it's been a couple of weeks since I finished reading it.
Just imagine Xena with white hair and you've got some idea of what Meira is like.
Meira is a character to root for. She's fierce and determined and skilled with a chakram. Meira is also loyal to a fault and wants nothing more than to be a functioning member of the ragtag group that managed to survive Winter's siege some sixteen years ago. She's plenty capable and more than a little strong-willed, and I really enjoyed seeing her come into her own as the story develops.
I did find her budding romance with the Crown Prince to be inexplicable, considering they each knew that it was impossible for them to become involved, what with Mather expected to rule the kingdom once they'd secured it for their people again and Meira only being an orphaned peasant girl, but that situation worked itself out, much to my delight. However, some readers -- particularly those not fond of triangles -- may find the way in which it does get resolved to be tiresome. I did not. It's one of those situations where the relationship never fully developed -- where the characters outgrew each other -- because of everything that stood in the way, and then a much more suitable candidate swooped in to steal our girl's heart. The circumstances in which Meira finds herself in this more suitable love interest's company weren't the best, but I found that even that was perfect, as if the whole scenario was fated to happen.
Sara did a great job of tying the magical elements into this story without ever giving too much away. I'd think I had a handle on everything, had the whole mystery of that fateful night sixteen years ago figured out, and then she'd throw me for a loop again. This happened several times until I just stopped trying to guess the outcome. Basically, the author surprised me at every turn, with her inclusion of magic in the story and how it was used, with her characters, and even with the romance. And I could not stop reading for fear of what the next surprise would bring.
Snow Like Ashes reads like a stand-alone, which I loved. There's the introduction to the world, which is a bit daunting at first but it becomes easier to understand the kingdoms and their monarchies as the story progresses. Plus, there's that awesome map to help things along. (I adore maps.) There are fight scenes and intense battles that solidly pit good against evil. And there's a firm resolution to this book, meaning no heartbreaking cliffhanger to wail over at the end. Though, if you're anything like me, you'll still wail over the fact that you don't already have the second book in your hands.
I must admit, I've never read a book by Mary E. Pearson. So when Kristen practically forced her copy on me (hehe), I was all:
And then I got to chapter 2, and it was on.
Not only is Lia fierce and determined not to be pushed into a marriage she does not desire, but her friend and lady's maid is just as awesome.
I don't know if Pearson always writes such strong-willed female characters, but I am impressed. Not just with those characters, though...with everything.
The setting. The writing. The transitions between points of view. And there were several of them. All:
And as the story wore on, I found myself captivated, reading it anywhere and everywhere I could.
Then I found that I couldn't put the book down.
But when I got to page 300 or so:
I did a bit of this:
But then as I absorbed it all:
I can't say that the second half was lacking because my anticipation was still through the roof,
but it almost seemed like two separate stories after that point. Before: historical fantasy.
After: a quest-like fantasy, through the unyielding desert...
with the possibility of some magic.
I say possibility because, well, I haven't seen any true magic yet. But I sense it.
A love triangle that isn't
Log wrestling...but with ruggedly handsome men over a mud pit ;0)
All in all, this book was
And I think that it ended at the best possible moment, even if the wait for the next book is going to kill me. _________________________________
The Kiss of Deception is actually my first experience with a Mary E. Pearson book. I think the science-y medical and ethical issues in the plot kept me away from The Adoration of Jenna Fox initially, but having taken a glimpse at the synopsis again, I can't really say exactly why. I love a good, introspective amnesia story, so I'll have to give that series a try soon, especially considering how much I loved this fantasy story from the author. And her characters. Gawd, those characters!
Lia is a formidable heroine. She is fierce and determined and willing to do the unthinkable to escape a life she does not want, including running from an arranged marriage. I can definitely get behind a protagonist like that, especially as she continues to grow over the course of the novel. She also has good taste in friends. Lia's lady's maid and dearest friend sticks with her through thick and thin, and she just may be the Princess's saving grace when all is said and done.
The first half of this novel spent a good deal of time introducing us to the characters and it felt more like a historical fantasy novel, which is pretty much what I expected based on the cover and the summary for the book. However, I did not expect the turn the novel would take about halfway through the story. The setting and the story abruptly changed, and it became more of a quest. But the transition to this aspect of the story and the deception that led there is handled phenomenally by the author. Things got a bit chaotic there for a bit, but I loved every second of it. It was shocking, surprising, and I found much of it to be entirely unpredictable, much to my own delight. The writing was just fantastic, and there was no way I was going to be able to put the book down after that.
This novel is actually rather brilliant. There's mention of magic but little to be seen of it. There's a day of sporting events that culminates in a bout of log-wrestling, which is just all kinds of genius. There are gypsies and vagabonds and vagrants of all sorts. And there is a bit of a love triangle that I didn't find distracting in the least because of how the characters are written. It does get a tad messy toward the end with no resolution, but that's the least of our girl's worries at that point. And I honestly don't think you should worry about the "love triangle" either because it's mostly nonexistent. Mostly.
At the heart of the story, I think the issue is who do you trust when no one is supposed to know who you are but practically everyone does? And moreover, most of those people aren't overly concerned with your well-being. Of course, Lia is unaware for most of the book that her life is in any real danger, though she knows there are people searching for her after she ran away from her wedding. That's probably the biggest deception of the story: her perceived safety, especially when it comes to the two men who've worked their way into her heart. It's also one of my favorite aspects of the story: not knowing who is who and what their intentions are.
It's books like this and The Winner's Curse that have reaffirmed my fanaticism for fantasy stories. I've read some real duds lately, but I think I'm finally out of that rut, thank goodness, thanks to books like these. Granted, I'm now craving some sequels like never before, but I survived the waiting with The Girl of Fire and Thrones series, and I know I'll survive this wait, too. (BTW, if you liked those books, you'll more than likely love this one, too. Just sayin'.) If you don't have this book on your TBR, you should remedy that immediately. It's full of adventure, romance, and betrayal, all of which obviously make it a captivating fantasy novel. I can't recommend it enough, and I'm actually already considering a re-read, if that tells you anything about my adoration for this book.
Be sure to check out my stop on the blog tour on July 7th!
GIF it to me straight: Just absolutely phenomenal!...more
First and foremost: You absolutely must read Tarver's free novella. If you were a fan of Tarver in These Broken Stars, you will appreciate his heroism in This Night So Dark. And even if you weren't a fan of his -- but let's be honest, that's not really a possibility, now is it? -- you'll still need to know things and you'll be a lot closer to those discoveries if you read this short story. Also? It's bloody FREE!
Reasons to read: Well, for one, the aforementioned Tarver makes an appearance, as does the lovely Lilac, and they're kind of awww-some. But the new couple is awe-inspiring in their insta-hate and it's kind of fun to watch them chip away at each other's defenses. Also, there's the whole corporate conspiracy-turned-intergallactic planetary disaster waiting to happen. It's as much fun to see unravel as it is to sing about.
The story: So much win here, let me tell ya. Whereas These Broken Stars was pretty heavy on the survival story, This Shattered World focuses on the rebellion instigated by the blight upon Avon, not unlike the one that was developing on the planet Tarver and Lilac spent a good deal of time on. Except in this case, the planet is inhabited and the natives are not happy. As you can probably tell, though, it helps to have read the previous book. It's not necessary, as this is technically a companion story, but it helps all the same.
The characters: Everyone in this book is very opinionated, and their beliefs run deep, meaning it's going to take a lot for them to meet anywhere in the middle. But that also means that some might find them harder to connect to. I liked their take-charge, no nonsense attitudes, and I liked how they meshed -- or clashed, depending on the circumstances.
The villain: There is a somewhat localized villain/non-villain and then there is the über villain. Both are likely of the mind that they are making great strides for their people, but then again, so was Hitler.
The romance(s): Flynn and Lee have serious chemistry right from the beginning, but they fight it every step of the way. And I mean every step. But it's worth it in the end. And, of course, Lilac and Tarver are more adorable than ever. I was glad at more than just a little peek at where their lives have taken them since the events of These Broken Stars.
The swoons: I love a good "sworn enemies-turned-lovers" romance. Those. Are. The. Best. Tension runs high in these situations, but so does the passion! (There's also a blush-worthy Tarver and Lilac scene, fyi.)
Everything's coming full circle: Since this is a companion novel and not a true sequel, I didn't expect any second book syndrome from it, but I also didn't expect to get so much more of the political intrigue and corporate espionage that was only hinted at in the first book. It may have been the complete opposite of the first book, but it made for a really engrossing read and led us right back where we needed to be.
The quotability: I was too busy flying through the pages to mark many quotes and passages, but I really dig this one:
"He doesn't look much older than I am, so even if he enlisted the day he turned sixteen he won't have more than two years of service under his belt. Enough to get cocky -- not enough to know he should wipe that grin off his face. A few weeks on Avon will do that for him. He's chiseled, with a chin so perfect, it makes me want to hit it. The shadow of stubble along his jaw only emphasizes the lines of his face. These guys invariably end up being assholes, but from this distance he's just beautiful. Like he was put together by an artist. Guys like this make me want to believe in God."
In summation: Exhilarating. Steamy. A story that felt familiar to it's predecessor but remained wholly unique. I loved each book equally because they were such different pieces of the same story and felt like clues to a bigger mystery that I can't wait to unravel. This sci-fi writing duo is tops with me and I can't wait to see what their next collaborative effort reveals. (May it also include Tarver and Lilac and Lee and Flynn.)
I could not have asked for a better ending to one of my favorite series...seriously. Some things went the way I'd expected, but there were a lot of surprises, as well...and not all of them welcome. But I can honestly say that this final installment was everything I was hoping for, and then some.
Obviously, with the way Fractured ended, we knew Lela was going before the Judge again and that she wasn't going to let Malachi go without a fight. Lela's fierceness and her willingness to sacrifice herself for those she cares about are what I like best about her, and that hasn't changed. And now she's got Ana -- or rather, Ana's got her -- as they trek through the Mazakin realm to rescue both of their loves.
This novel is kind of split between the Mazakin city and the rescue attempt and then what happens after. This final book is fraught with emotional moments: tearful reunions -- and amorous ones! -- heartbreaking goodbyes, daring escapes and startling realizations. It wouldn't be any kind of finale, though, if it didn't make you feel the whole gamut of emotions. I've always felt that there was a good balance between the darkness and the light in this series, though, even if it didn't always feel like it at the time. And nowhere is this balance more evident than in the dark, chaotic atmosphere of the Shadowlands and the nearly palpable romantic tension between Malachi and Lela.
I love happy endings as much as the next girl, but I'm also okay with a realistic ending, one in which the hero doesn't get the girl or the world isn't saved. I honestly couldn't tell you which type of ending I prefer because it really depends on the story thus far. But I can tell you that it is much easier for me to let go, to say goodbye to characters if I see them on their merry way before doing so. With this series, though, I don't think either ending would have made saying goodbye any easier. (Make of that what you will.)
I will say that this conclusion to the Guards of the Shadowlands series was completely satisfying. And it made everything these characters have been through totally worth it. This series has been so intense and so emotionally draining at times, but it has also been completely lovely at times, too. I cannot fathom never having experienced this world or never having met these characters.
GIF it to me straight: I don't want it to be over. :(...more
I don't know as much about the Tudor dynasty as I probably should, given that it's one of my favorite historical periods to read about, but Katherine Longshore excels at bringing that period to life in a way that is romantic -- poetic, even -- and not at all overbearing. It doesn't feel like a history lesson, but I learned a few things all the same, and I appreciate the author's note at the end detailing what liberties she took with the story and how they compare to what is known of that time period.
And I have to say that Brazen is now my favorite of her novels. I read an excerpt, and even from that brief bit of the story, I knew that I would end up preferring this novel over the rest in the series, though I also have to attest that it made me want to pick up the others again for a re-read. There was just something about this main character that I felt the others had been lacking. Maybe it's the fact that she bucked society's norms in a time when women had few rights and were little more than pawns. Maybe it's because she fought for love when she was told she could not have it. But I honesty just think I liked Mary's fire, her spirit and willingness to be good and honorable, even if those around her were not.
I really love how the focus of these books is always on one of the lady's maids to King Henry VIII's flavor of the moment. His breaking ties with Rome irrevocably changed the course of history, but the same could be said of the women's lives he touched as a result of that split. Gilt followed young Catherine Howard's rise to the queenship and her demise. (She was wife #5.) Tarnish followed a beguiling Anne Boleyn's rise to power. (For this book, the author took us back to Henry's second wife.) Brazen picks up at the end of young Anne's reign and her fall from grace, but it also depicted a friendship between Anne and her cousin and lady's maid Mary Howard and the heroine of our story.
When we first meet Mary, she is fourteen and about to marry Henry FitzRoy, King Henry VIII's illegitimate son, also only fourteen. And then the two are kept apart and not allowed to consummate the marriage for fear that it would bring illness to young FitzRoy if he was not mature enough when the deed was done. This meant that poor Mary's situation was always in flux, never knowing whether the King had other plans for his only son and planned to annul the marriage in favor of better partnerships.
That part is all true. Where Longshore deviates from the script is the actual relationship that develops between Mary and Fitz. Obviously, Mary had little power to control her future, but she did endeavor to love the man she was essentially forced to marry. With the help of her brother -- Fitz's best friend and boyhood companion -- and Mary's own friends Madge and Margaret, Mary and Fitz were able to spend a little time together and get to know one another, forming a bond despite the King's wishes. I loved how their awkward first encounters paved the way for some unbelievably swoony moments later on in the book.
And though I did know how their story would end, I was glad for those moments of happiness for them, especially considering how meddlesome both of their families were. As I said before, women were just used as pawns to strengthen alliances and in other business dealings, but the same can be said of illegitimate sons. Mary never had a hope of pleasing her mother, but her marriage to Fitz was everything her father could have dreamed of considering his aspirations to make Mary a queen. Or it could have been, had Mary done as he'd asked and gone against the King's wishes. But none of that compares to the demands the King made on young FitzRoy. Fitz wanted a father, but the King never deigned to be such to his only son. All the boy wanted to do was escape all of the court intrigue and be allowed to love his wife, but Henry VIII never saw fit to grant him that wish. Without the love of their parents that they so desired, Mary and Fitz took comfort in each other.
That's when things got interesting and quite delicious...until they took a turn toward heart-breaking. History -- or should I say the King -- wasn't particularly kind to any of Henry VIII's wives, nor to any of their lady's maids, and Mary is no exception. Nor were her friends. But Mary was quite a strong girl, and through it all -- family squabbles, Kingly dictates, and royal beheadings -- she held by her convictions and remained the good-hearted girl she'd always strived to be. The story Katherine Longshore presented here may be mostly fictitious, but I choose to believe that some good came from Henry's blasphemy, even if history is a cruel mistress. And because of that, Brazen will remain my favorite novel in this series...well, at least until the next book she writes.
Women's suffrage, art, and a feisty heroine combine in this historical fiction to create one insanely readable piece of literature that explores girl power to the utmost. Sure, there's a romance (or two!) but it was the focus on women's rights -- to vote, where the arts are concerned, and in the world at large -- that captivated me. Sharon Biggs Waller has certainly done her research, and I felt incensed on behalf of her characters on more than one occasion. After reading this novel, I also feel incredibly blessed to have the freedoms that I do, and I am grateful to all those who fought for my right to have them.
My favorite aspect of this novel, though, is how Vicky Darling found herself among the suffragettes in the first place. She was a reluctant addition to their group, not because she was not sympathetic to their plight but because she had goals and aspirations of her own, and she wasn't about to let anyone get in her way. Sadly, it was the very thing the suffragettes worked for -- women's rights, or the lack thereof -- that threatened to put an end to Vicky's dreams. And as Vicky struggles to take control of her own life, she meets so many young women who help put her predicament into perspective. Those friendships among political activists, artists, lady's maids, etc., only strengthened the message of this story. There is some pretty serious girl power between the pages of this story, and I can't help but feel that other young adult novels might benefit more from concentrating less on the romantic aspects and more on the other relationships in a story.
I think that through intense research and the author's bewitching prose, the Edwardian time period is represented beautifully in this story. Not only is it depicted through descriptions of the fashions of that time, but it is also reflected in the rigid class system and the women's suffrage movement that was reaching a fever pitch as this story unfolded. I also very much appreciated the importance of art as it was expressed in this story. It's clear that Waller scrutinized every detail of her story to the nth degree to make it as realistic and honest a portrayal as possible.
I was further endeared by Vicky's portrayal as a would-be suffragette. This young woman is an open-minded free spirit, trapped by the constraints dictating a young woman's life during this time period. Vicky's marriage is arranged for her, to someone she does not love. She is not allowed to pursue her artistic endeavors but is encouraged to take on social obligations befitting a young lady of her status and upbringing. And not once does anyone ever ask Vicky what she wants. I cannot even fathom having every aspect of my life plotted out for me without any input from me, and yet, Vicky tries to conform.
She accepts that she is to marry Edmund, all the while developing feelings for the lowly police captain who empathizes with the suffragettes and who saved her from certain incarceration when she first returned to London. And although this sounds like the makings for one of those loathsome love triangles, I assure you, it is clear from the onset where Vicky's heart lies, and although she attempts to do what is expected of her, she never truly wavers. Honestly, I don't think any girl could help but fall for the caring and understanding Will, though. As a writer and conscientious young man, he is the perfect companion for the willful and artistic Victoria Darling.
If it's not obvious already, I kind of loved this novel. I loved Vicky's willingness not only to stand against the injustices against women of that time but also her willingness to defy her parents and make her own way in the world. I loved how well-researched all the topics explored in this story were and how despite all that, I sometimes forgot I was even reading a historical novel as I observed these events through Vicky's perspective. But what I loved most of all is that even though this story is set in the early 1900s, it is still so relevant to today's youth because at its core, it is still ultimately a coming-of-age story about breaking free from everyone else's expectations and following your own dreams.
GIF it to me straight: This book is rocking some serious girl power!...more
Oh, wow. I enjoyed this even more than the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series. So much fun! And I've never been more attracted to a guy with a mohawkOh, wow. I enjoyed this even more than the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series. So much fun! And I've never been more attracted to a guy with a mohawk in my life...even if he is fictional. =)
Full review TK. _________________________
An ARC of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Funny story...I was in a bookstore the other day and they have these gorgeous leatherbound editions of classic books, and I sort of have a collection of them going, so I decided to peruse their selection. Lo and behold, what should I come across but The Art of War? I'd already read The Art of Lainey at this point, so I almost picked it up for that reason alone. I mean, you never know when something like that might come in handy, right? But honestly, I'd rather read about girls using this book of strategy and war tactics for winning back -- or getting back at -- their ex...it's way more fun. No, this isn't the first time I've seen The Art of War used in a story in this way, but it is by far my favorite. While Lainey and Bee's plan to win back Jason starts out juvenile enough, the book delves deeper into Lainey's psyche as she discovers that what she thought she needed may not be what she wants after all.
I'm just going to say it: I loved this book. I knew it was going to be cute, and I knew I was going to like it because I'd liked the author's previous work (under her pseudonym), but I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy this story. If you're going to use a romance trope, you can't go wrong with the fake boyfriend scenario in my book. It makes the love triangle aspect worth it, and I love seeing how it plays out: who falls for who, what lengths someone will go to to be seen by another character, how it changes people's perceptions. It's all in good fun...until someone gets hurt.
And there is plenty of heartbreak in this story. But Lainey isn't your typical weeping willow protagonist. She's strong (physically and mentally), capable, and fairly aggressive in her attempt to win back the love of her life. Break-ups are hard, but Lainey doesn't take hers lying down, even if the way in which Jason broke up with her was more than a little callous. We see from the get-go that this guy probably isn't worth the effort, but at that age and at that stage of heartbreak, it's difficult to see something like that on your own.
Good thing Lainey has an awesome support system. Lainey's brother Steve who is studying abroad for the summer isn't even physically present in the novel, but through emails and texts, he is a great sounding board for his wayward sister. I liked that Lainey's mother was open and honest with her, that she felt like my idea of a real mom -- one who means well but tries a little too hard to be the "cool" mom. Lainey's family owns the coffee shop that she, Bee, Micah, and Leo all work at, and I appreciated the fact that although Lainey's father was a little timid when it came to the kitchen staff at the shop, he didn't discount that they were hard workers or good people, just because of the way they looked or dressed. A lot of the characters seem outwardly stereotypical, but they are far from being what you'd expect, making some of them favorites of mine.
And that includes Micah and Bee, but I'll get to Micah in a minute. Strong female bonds that don't completely revolve around boys are hard to come by in young adult novels these days. And though a lot of time is spent discussing Lainey's plan to win back her ex, Lainey and Bee do talk about other interests and focus on their friendship in the meantime. They discuss college choices, what the next year and after will bring for their friendship, and they build each other up but are also honest with each other. At first, I was afraid that their friendship was a little too perfect, meaning a betrayal was surely on the horizon, but Stokes is boss at creating a realistic, lasting friendship. Looking back on Lainey and Bianca's friendship, you can see that it has it's ups and downs, that there are periods where Lainey is lonely, where Bee is out doing her thing and Lainey is missing her ex, but you're also witness to the not-quite-jealousy that Bee feels toward Kendall, the friend that essentially elevated Lainey's status at school and stole her away from her childhood friend. While Jason's out of the picture and Kendall is away all summer, the girls reaffirm their friendship, proving that some bonds are just impossible to break.
Micah, with his strokable mohawk, isn't your typical love interest. He's not even the typical "bad boy" character. Because he's actually a really sweet, caring guy. He and Lainey were actually childhood friends, as well, until something tragic happened to his family and he pushed everyone away. He was probably always destined to rock the mohawk based on his family background, but tragedy probably made him the deeper, more soulful person he appears to be in the story. And I liked that, I liked those hidden depths, especially as we see them unearthed by Lainey as their friendship/relationship evolves.
When Micah and Lainey first strike their deal to win back their exes, they're not really even friends. Neither is particularly fond of the other, but that's because they don't know each other anymore and are going off the perception they have of each other. As they spend more time together on their fake dates, they begin to see what they'd been missing, but they're also each changing themselves and each other. Micah makes Lainey question everything she'd thought about herself: who she is, what defines her, who she wants to be. They force each other to step outside of their comfort zones on these fake dates and they find themselves having a lot of fun with each other while doing so. They were on even footing in this way, at least until feelings got in the way and complicated everything.
The Art of Lainey may have started out with a simple win-the-ex-back plot, but it quickly developed into a story of self-discovery, full of character growth and realistic portrayals of teenagers and heartbreak, and it grew into a story that was so much deeper and thought-provoking than I had expected. I am in complete adoration of the characters Paula Stokes has created from her own story of heartbreak, even the ones that don't deserve my affection, because they were all so genuine and they all had their layers and issues to work through. This is the novel that young women need to read: to experience Lainey's determination, to be inspired by a friendship that stands the test of time, to realize that they are not alone in their heartbreak and that it does get better, and to open their eyes to possibilities and not limit themselves. This was such an incredible novel, and I can't wait to read more from this author. Especially more of Micah's story in Infinite Repeat! #YayMicah
GIF it to me straight:
And to that Micah novella: I can't flipping wait!!!!!!!!!...more
This got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but it soon got around to being amazing, just as I expected. I really love how everything's coming togetThis got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but it soon got around to being amazing, just as I expected. I really love how everything's coming together, how much better I understand this world now after this third book. Lots of new characters to love and/or hate depending on where their arcs take them, but just in this one book alone, I saw so much development in their characters.
An advance copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
**As always, no spoilers for this book, but there are potential spoilers for the previous books. Read at your own peril. But if you haven't started this series yet, why the heck not?!?**
After I finished my re-read/listen of the THRONE OF GLASS series, I had to wait a bit because I was still overcome with Crown of Midnight feels. Again. Okay, AND The Assassin's Blade feels. I had so many emotions leftover from the previous books that I didn't want that to affect my feelings toward Heir of Fire. After several weeks, though, I just couldn't wait anymore. (The first 30% or so of HoF was a tad slow for me, but I knew the pace had to pick up eventually, and it did.)
Even after waiting so long to start it, I was still a bit overwrought with everything that happened at the end of CoM, but I kinda think it worked for me. I was feeling every bit as gloomy about Celaena's situation as she was, which is to say we were having an extreme pity-party all on her behalf. Things have taken a dark turn for all involved parties, but most especially Celaena, who's coping with her past and what it means for her future while also trying to fulfill her promise to Nehemia. (If you haven't read The Assassin's Blade yet, I highly recommend it. It's the five prequel novels to the series, and they give the reader some incredible insight into Celaena's character.)
BUT this installment has really upped the magic factor. And unearthed some major secrets from Celaena's past that have only been hinted at before. This includes Celaena's ability to wield magic, as we saw in CoM. This book may be the darkest yet, but Celaena is still her charming self. And I don't mean that sarcastically...mostly. Seeing her have to really work at accessing her magic and seeing others' reactions to her progress were something else. This is a character who's been adept at everything she attempts, and to see her struggle -- and give up only to come back fighting harder -- only endeared her to me more. Celaena may be beautiful and fierce, but she is not above reproach and she is not without her faults. Her character growth over the course of this series has been monumental but never more astounding than in this book, especially as we learn more about who she is and what that means for everyone else.
Everyone else. Yes, them...they're important to the story, too. Favorites, those that remain anyway, are still featured prominently, but for now, we're beyond petty romantic entanglements. A war is brewing and there are ever so many more players now than there were before. There's the heartless Manon Blackbeak and her wyvern, who bears a striking resemblance to Toothless. (I'm not making that up...Summer thought the same of Abraxos when we discussed it. :D) And Rowan, the ageless fae prince tasked with helping Celaena access her magic and teaching her how to control it so that she might get the answers she needs. Dorian finds a friend in Sorscha, the healer who is complicit in her knowledge of the existence of magic in the castle. Aedion is Aelin Ashryver Galathynius's cousin and there is much more to him than meets the eye, especially once he learns that his cousin has truly survived all these years. I loved the addition of all these new characters and new perspectives and what they all bring to the table, and I sense that the characters that survive this book will become very important indeed in future books.
As I said, unlike the previous books, this installment does not focus on romance nearly as much. I appreciated that even though Celaena dwelled on what happened with Chaol a bit, she concentrated her attention on the task at hand. Chaol and Dorian do their own fair share of dwelling on the subject, and their friendship has suffered for it. Dorian has to learn how to wield his own magic while also keeping it a secret. Chaol's sense of duty, his desire to protect his friend at all costs, his love for Celaena, and his promise to his father are all vying for his attention. These two are at odds with one another after Chaol's decision to send Celaena to Wendlyn and his discovery of Dorian's own magic, and it leaves them turning to others for help. And for better or for worse, they'll each have to live with those decisions and what they may bring.
The tone of this book is definitely darker, but the story also delves so much deeper into this world. Yes, this is somewhat of a typical middle book, intent on exploring the world and the rules it abides by over intense action scenes and swoonworthy romance. However, that's not to say that neither of those things makes an appearance in this book. Those scenes are just few and far between in favor of the overarching theme of war that looms over everyone's heads.
I'm very much looking forward to where Maas takes this series in the next three books. I doubt I adequately expressed my sentiments in this review, but I don't think I could honestly do that without spoilers. So, I leave you with this instead: this book does start out slowly with a wallowing Celaena, but give it a chance. If you loved the previous books, you will absolutely find something to love in this book, as well. I promise it's just as engaging as the rest once it gains momentum. And if you haven't even started the series, 1) why are you reading this? and 2) I suggest trying the audiobooks, which are beautifully narrated by Elizabeth Evans.
GIF it to me straight: Pretty much. Also, I want demand my own wyvern....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!