Looooooved. I ADORE this series. (I've also been playing a lot of Dragon Age: Inquisition lately, so this book's maps, text excerpts, etc reminded meLooooooved. I ADORE this series. (I've also been playing a lot of Dragon Age: Inquisition lately, so this book's maps, text excerpts, etc reminded me of the different codexes and finding my way through a quest which was an aspect I really enjoyed)...more
So the part I listened to in audio was semi-painful for me, but after that, I quite enjoyed it, even though some of it is admittedly a bit problematicSo the part I listened to in audio was semi-painful for me, but after that, I quite enjoyed it, even though some of it is admittedly a bit problematic......more
I hate reality tv. Hate it. Which is why I didn’t initially request Something Real by Heather Demetrios, which was SUCPosted to The Bevy Bibliotheque:
I hate reality tv. Hate it. Which is why I didn’t initially request Something Real by Heather Demetrios, which was SUCH a huge mistake.
Because it’s utterly and 100% fantastic. Thankfully a slew of positive reviews from bloggers I trust convinced me to buy it, for I now have a new favorite sitting on my shelf.
Reality TV sets the stage in Something Real, certainly, but it provides the framework for our main character who has a simple problem: she wants only to be the version of herself that she feels she is. Born Bonnie™ Baker, she goes by Chloe now– the name that she chooses. Her mom, the producers of the show, and, well… America press her to act like someone she’s not and the situation grows increasingly fraught with tension.
This point was particularly driven home by the author’s mention of 1984 and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. A character analogizes being knowingly observed, as with cameras and the like, to the social media age, where we send versions of ourselves out into the ether. She goes a step further and makes the point that people act differently with their friends or family than at school. We are constantly oscillating between versions of ourselves based on what people expect from us.
Something Real is about finding the courage to stand up for who you are, despite what others want you to be.
Thankfully, Chloe has a great support system in certain members of her family. Benton™ is her brother and he’s AMAZING. Benny is funny and wonderful and cares very genuinely for his sister in a way that comes off the page as real. He’s exactly the sort of brother you’d want to have. One who is your best friend, but who doesn’t try to convince anyone that means he’s the boss of you.
There’s also Patrick, aka The Boy. Despite a relationship that is only just budding, Patrick not only stands by Chloe, but becomes one of her biggest support systems. Patrick is funny and sweet, and I loved that he doesn’t charge in to try to save Chloe. He helps where he can, but he gets that she needs to save herself.
There’s also Chloe’s best friends Mer and Tessa, who are great. They’re the types of friendships that I love– strong, non-antagonistic female friendships. Other authors, more like this, please!
Actually, you know what I can say about the relationships in Something Real across the board? They grow. None of them remain stagnant, which is perfect. Because as people grow and change, their relationships must too. From the first spark with Patrick to a boyfriend. From friends that know her only as Chloe, but get her past as Bonnie™. To Chloe’s sibling Lexie™ who is still pissed about her past as Bonnie™, but grows to forgive her as Chloe. To Benny’s relationship with his boyfriend, WHICH IS SO PERFECT I’M STILL BEAMING ABOUT IT.
To Chloe’s relationship with her mother, already pulled tight and fraying at the seams.
I wanted a different ending to this book, but the one that Heather Demetrios gave her readers was absolutely the right one for Something Real. (view spoiler)[What I hoped to be given was a mother that stood up for her daughter, and a family that stood clapping in the stands at Chloe and Benny’s graduation. Chloe’s mom keeps her family on the show. Lexie™ is the only one who comes to the graduation.
And that’s what was right for Something Real. It would have cheapened the book’s theme of standing up for yourself if Chloe’s mother had been the one who “saved” her in the end. The proud and smiling family at graduation is what I wanted– which is how I know it’s how MetaReel, or reality tv, would have scripted things. It would have felt false for this story. (hide spoiler)]
It was a simple message that life isn’t all it appears to be in media. Life simply is.
It may be fiction but readers will find ~something real~ in the characters["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I’ve started and restarted my review of This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. My thoughts seem inadequate. I didn’tPosted to Almost Grown-up:
I’ve started and restarted my review of This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. My thoughts seem inadequate. I didn’t know it was possible to connect this strongly with a book. To see myself in its pages so vividly.
Elise and high school-me led very different lives. I had close friends and passions. I was involved in clubs and hobbies. But still, a great deal of the time… I felt alone in a crowd. Different. Too different. Like I always said the wrong things, wore the wrong things, did the wrong things. I missed social cues that other people picked up on immediately. In high school, where the message feels like “conform or die,” I very often felt too close to the wrong end of the spectrum. I clung to my friends and my passions and they are what saved my life.
If I’d been Elise, who, at the beginning of the novel, has neither, I shudder to think what my life would have been like. Elise is at once her own best friend and her own worst enemy.
It was almost scary to see myself there in the pages of This Song Will Save Your Life– it meant that I felt everything more keenly than usual. Elise’s fragile hopes were mine, her mistakes were mine. There are some books where I can’t connect with a character, but it would have been impossible for me not to connect with brave Elise, who becomes, over the course of the novel, so strong in her own identity.
It was amazing to read a novel with a such a fleshed-out transformation thread– one that isn’t about getting “made over” or thrust into high school royalty. Elise, essentially, transforms into herself.
I think a lot of people are going to relate deeply to this one.
There is a boy, but swoons aren’t what this book are about. It’s about some of the most important relationships that you can have: Friends. Family. Your relationship with yourself. Each character and relationship is drawn with so much unflinching honesty, flaws and all. Toxicity and all. I’d venture to say that not a single character– even the most minor– is one dimensional.
This Song Will Save Your Life was a book that left me raw, with the feeling that I wasn’t reading it, so much as it had read me....more
I am a fantasy addict. Which, if you already follow this blog, you know. If you are new here, it’s a helpful thinPosted to Almost Grown-up:
I am a fantasy addict. Which, if you already follow this blog, you know. If you are new here, it’s a helpful thing to keep in mind. Because I read a lot of fantasy, and I love it, but Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy and, in particular, this novel stand apart from the rest.
I won’t bore you again with what I thought about the world-building (stellar), but let’s jump right into Alina and her character arc. She’s come so far from the mousy orphan we met at the beginning of Shadow & Bone. Her struggle with adjusting to having power and what it means for her relationships with people is so interesting to “watch.”
SPEAKING of relationships, in the last book, I was underwhelmed by Mal. I sort of just felt like: “Okay, Alina likes him, whatever.” BUT GUYS, I GET IT NOW. Mal is kind of amazing and fears that he’s not important enough to Alina. But he’s so wonderful and funny and just wants to be useful and like– he’s drawn so well in this book. SO WELL.
And on the subject of characters that I’ve had flip-flopped feelings for: The Darkling. My love of him from the last book (that I choose not to examine too closely because whoa I don’t have time for that kind of psychoanalysis) is OFFICIALLY gone because OMG I don’t remember the last time I found a character so CREEPY. And ruthless. He’s completely terrifying.
To continue along this line of menmenmenmenMANLYmenmenmen, may I say: STURMHOND HALLO. I really enjoyed meeting this guy. He’s SNARKY and hilarious. I’ll analogize him a little bit to Marissa Meyer’s Thorne, but with a bit more of an EDGE. I could go on, but… anything else I might say would be spoilerific, so I think you should read and swoon for yourself.
Goodreads rating: 5/5 stars. If you like fantasy and you’re not reading this series, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life....more
My first inkling that I was going to be in for an emotional wallop with Lady Thief came when I tweeted about starting it in the need of some escapism, and Gillian responded with “LIGHT, ESCAPIST FARE. #sarcasm.” Many others heaped on their agreements.
They were not wrong.
It took me about three weeks to get through Lady Thief and it wasn’t because of any lack of enjoyment, but because of an abundance of pain. I had to take breaks in my reading because, oh my goodness, friends, Lady Thief hurts so good. Our characters are suffering from the events of the first book, Scarlet, and my does it show. There is guilt and there are nightmares. There’s pain, anger, longing, and resentment.
But there’s honor too. And there’s love.
It struck me how well Gaughen doles out her doses of happy moments amongst characters riddled with (not-undeserved) angst. I clung to them. Robin and Scarlet have precious few happy moments, but when they shine together, it’s a blinding affair. I nearly had to be caught as I fell to the ground from swooning and shipping so hard.
And that’s big for me because while I really loved Scarlet, I remember not being overly impressed with Robin– I liked him well enough as a character, but not as a love interest. His jealous streak and commands didn’t do it for me. Nor did the love triangle between them and John, which thankfully was resolved early in Lady Thief. But now… Robin loves Scarlet so much and it’s way easier to understand his protectiveness when he’s not fighting her tooth and nail on each decision.
As the summary tells us, Scarlet returns to court as Gisbourne’s wife, the Lady Marian Leaford. And guys, Gisbourne was kind of… interesting this time around. He has moments that verge on niceness. The layering of his character as anything other than pure, unadulterated evil was interesting and worked. It didn’t make him sympathetic by any means (dude’s a legit villain), but it did make him a more dimensional character.
Since we’re talking about Gisbourne, let’s talk about some of the abuse dialogue that Gaughen skillfully wove in. Gisbourne asks Scarlet why she “makes him hurt her” and she rightfully responds that she doesn’t make him do anything. Similarly, Scarlet speaks of an injury as the first time she’s hidden one of the injuries: “it seemed like I were ashamed they’d done it.” Seamless writing and encouragement for abuse victims that the abuse is never their fault and they’re far from the ones who should be ashamed. Brava.
Another beautiful thing about Lady Thief: courtly intrigue. And a tournament! Huzzah! I can get behind mysteries and power plays, guys. I can get behind powerful ladies bonding and keeping secrets (I sort of guessed said secret and I was so proud). For fear of spoiling you, I’ll say no more, but the secret hints are dropped in a way that’s semi-obvious but not all IN YO FACE. It works.
I really also enjoyed Scarlet struggling to be the Lady Marian Leaford again and sort of giving up on that. She knows who she is and speaking differently doesn’t change who she is or how she sees the world. I loved her take on the tournament and court life.
Aaaaand finally… we have to talk about the ending because I swear to baby Jesus I am still upset over this. In the way that Gaughen intended, but still. Still. The action (and naturally this isn’t the only instance of action, but it stands out particularly in my mind) is written so well in this final climax. People are crashing together, there’s chaos, and then…
THEN I WAS SCREAMING.
And then there was a bit more as I begged Lady Thief to reverse the pain, REVERSE THE PAIN.
And then Lady Thief ended.
And I was left reeling.
Basically what I’m saying is this was an amazing book. All the feels.
“It is so hard trying to say what you mean.” -Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire
How very true that quote is and how very fitting for Elizabeth’s Wein’s work, which I could not possibly do justice with my own paltry words. I feel like it’s akin to tearing myself open to write this review.
Though Code Name Verity struck me more in the feels as I sobbed over its pages, I think Rose Under Fire is just as powerful and flawless. And perhaps– more important. Elizabeth Wein is a mastermind. That is an all-too-simplistic way of putting it. Rose Under Fire is an harrowing narrative of one girl’s time under unthinkable conditions. It’s mind-boggling and devastating.
In today’s day and age, it’s impossible to imagine that people once did not believe the accounts of torture and inhumanity that took place in Nazi-occupied Europe, behind the fences of concentration camps. That some people still don’t. Because, really: they’re unthinkable. They seem like fiction, like propaganda. It is heart-breaking to be with Rose as she realizes the truth.
Though fiction, Rose Under Fire is a testament to those people and those times. It’s an important read because, as Elizabeth Wein stresses in her afterword, she “didn’t make up anything about Ravensbruck [...] It was real. It really happened to 150,000 women.” These are the kinds of stories that are important to tell. To “tell the world.”
The characters in Rose Under Fire make me tear up just thinking about them, especially Roza, who’s been experimented on and in captivity since the age of 14, and copes with it all through her own particular brand of macabre humor. In fact, many of the characters deal with their horrific situation with that humor. Grasping at anything to lighten their horrible days. Making families from their comrades.
There is a part of me that want to talk about what a triumph of the human condition this story is. In a sense that’s true, but in a sense it could not be more false. It’s a story of how far humanity can fall. Of ordinary people moved to the worst and best of extremes, as some turn to evil and some struggle simply to survive, like clawing their way out of hell.
The fact that people made it out of camps like Ravensbruck is extraordinary. Poetry lovers will weep over the fragile, heartbreaking poems that Rose creates and recites. At first, as someone who is not a poetry aficionado, they took me out of the moment, but later I clung to them as a small beautiful thing among the desolate landscape of Elizabeth Wein’s words. I held fast to those crumbs of hope.
Hope. It’s one of the most powerful forces in the world. It can bolster or betray, but without hope, other people, and a degree of courage that seems impossible, Rose and some of her friends would not have made it through.
Rose Under Fire is just so important. I want to tie it up in a ribbon with Code Name Verity and deliver them to every teacher I know.
“Hope is treacherous, but how can you live without it?” – Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire...more
I finished Never Fade weeks ago. And it’s been hard trying to properly documePosted to Almost Grown-up:
I– Okay. Okay. Deep breaths, friends.
I finished Never Fade weeks ago. And it’s been hard trying to properly document the feelings that I have for it. I could probably leave you with keyboard smash here (asdlksufchhcfawgfug) and you’d have a pretty good idea of what the book did to me.
It’s particularly hard because Never Fade takes so many twists and turns. I would never want to spoil anyone because I want you to FEEL ALL THE FEELS the way that I did, and if I TELL you what’s coming, I don’t think it will be REAL for you the way that it was for me.
And friends, it was real to me. Alexandra Bracken is spectacularly talented and, time and time again, it was like she reached into my chest to check the tuning on my heartstrings. I texted many texts full of caps lock to my friend Steph, and inadvertently coined the phrase “emotiobs.”
Another text included the plea: “Help me, I’m dying.”
The characters that we meet in Never Fade, both old and new, never feel less than 110% authentic. And they’re AMAZING. It’s so great to see characters that seem like they’re truly growing or changing. Obviously this goes for our main character, Ruby, but it’s true of many of the other characters as well.
AND THE WORLD. We have to talk about it again, because lordy be it is the ~darkest. In The Darkest Minds (aka book 1), we saw it from one side… which was as dark as hell. But now, in Never Fade, we see another angle of Alexandra Bracken’s world and it’s twisty and messed up and it was TRULY fascinating to have the world expanded in this book.
Bottom line here, folks: if you haven’t already read The Darkest Minds, you should get on that so you get GET PUMPED for Never Fade with me. It deserves eleventy bajillion stars....more
Lordy, lordy, lordy. I bow to Kristin Cashore’s talent which is just as evident in Fire as it was in Graceling.
Obviously, having adored Graceling, I went into Fire with big expectations, but a little bit of a pouty face. Katsa and Po wouldn’t be there. I knew this and was prepared to miss them.
No offense to my favorite Gracelings, but I didn’t miss them. I didn’t miss them at all.
This was because, in Fire, Kristin Cashore once again created characters that were so utterly absorbing that I was much too busy focusing on them. The title character, Fire is vaguely reminiscent of Katsa in that they are both strong females who struggle with what they are, but each has her own distinct personality. Fire’s struggle to come to terms with what it means to embrace who she is without crossing a moral boundary line is engrossing. We also get a lot of peeks back into her past when she wonders if she used that power properly.
Fire is set in the same world as Graceling, but rather than Katsa’s kingdom and time, Cashore took us back in time and to a different kingdom. There’s different magical creatures in the lands. Where Gracelings ran rampant on Katsa’s turf, Fire’s homeland is plagued by creatures that they call monsters.
And she is one of them.
Fire is tied to Graceling by everyone’s least favorite character, Leck. With the earlier time, we see a little of Leck’s development. Honestly? I find him even more terrifying as a child than I did as an adult....more
Oh wait, I’m supposed to tell you WHY you should go buy this book first, right? Well,Posted to Almost Grown-up:
GOOD MORROW, FRIENDS.
Go buy this book.
Oh wait, I’m supposed to tell you WHY you should go buy this book first, right? Well, then, let’s hop to it!
We all know what a big fan of Tamora Pierce I am, right? Which is why a pitch that includes her name is guaranteed to draw my eye. But nothing besides the quality of a story will guarantee that it will hold my attention.
And boy oh boy, did The Cadet of Tildor hold my attention.
It wasn’t only that it held so many of my favorite elements: there was magic, a castle, and a strong female MC– it was that Alex Lidell crafted those elements so well.
For instance, our strong female MC, Renee de Winter is so proud of her future as a Cadet and so fearful that it won’t come to fruition– so she works at it. And the best thing about her is how much she grows as a character over the course of the novel. When the novel starts, she sees the world as very black and white. It was interesting as things changed for her so that she could see that there wasn’t always a clear answer.
Another character that I really enjoyed was Savoy, who was absolutely fascinating. He’s almost surly when he is called back to the castle in order to teach the cadets, but does a good job teaching. It was particularly interesting when we caught glimpses of what his character may have been like back when he was a student himself.
But the political unrest present in its pages is what gives The Cadet of Tildor life. The royal family fights against two crime families, who, in turn fight against each other as well. The seed of corruption runs deep in the world and as more was revealed about the families’ beliefs and the laws of the realms, I found myself actually understanding why different characters would ally themselves in certain ways.
The Cadet of Tildor is a fantasy novel that you’ll want sitting on your shelves alongside other YA fantasy favorites like Throne of Glass, Graceling… and yes, Tamora Pierce’s novels too.
…Is it okay if I tell you to go buy it now?...more
OOPS, I read Crown of Midnight in like… JUNE. It was actually a book I read DURING BEA while I camped out in lines. Should IPosted to Almost Grown-up:
OOPS, I read Crown of Midnight in like… JUNE. It was actually a book I read DURING BEA while I camped out in lines. Should I have reviewed it then? Probs, but I am a procrastinator, my dudes.
Here’s what you should know though: Crown of Midnight had me SCREAMING (not out loud of course– I imagine I would have garnered some LOOKS at BEA). I was caps lock texting Alexa much of the way through my reading.
Celaena is the king’s assassin now, and it’s REALLY interesting how it shifts her dynamic with others. The fact that she’s an assassin was obviously something that those closest to her knew, but the way their expectations and thoughts of her change with visceral reminders is fascinating.
Celaena’s changed as well, and she’s remained a character that I love. I love how she’s both kick-ass and a complete girly-girl who loves to shop. It’s something that I find fascinating– so often in fiction, women who like dresses or activities like shopping are written off as frivolous. It’s typically an easy way of stating that facet of their personality. But with Celaena, we have someone who is more than just one part of her personality. She can be soft, she can be hard, she can be frivolous and she can be serious. Just because she’s one way at one time doesn’t mean she’s that way all of the time. It makes her character incredibly dimensional and it’s one of the strongest things about Maas’s work.
Other characters are dimensional too, of course. This is one of the only series in which a love triangle (though that’s not an element that’s at play too much in this one… you’ll see) works for me. Why? Because I like both of the men involved. Of course I have a favorite, but I wouldn’t think Celaena was smoking something if she chose the other!
Naturally, Crown of Midnight is also filled with magic, intrigue, and action, and it’s an equation that equals an explosion of awesome. I’ll admit that I totally saw a twist at the end coming (from like… last book), but there are a MULTITUDE of other twists that I did not expect. Crown of Midnight is such a strong sequel… that it may have actually topped Throne of Glass....more
You guys, do not even TRY to hold me down while I fangirl flail over The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. ItPosted to Almost Grown-up:
Oh. My. Word.
You guys, do not even TRY to hold me down while I fangirl flail over The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. It’s a little dystopia, a little sci-fi/paranormal, and I was feeling very “meh” about anything even RESEMBLING the dystopian genre, but WHOOSH, Alexandra Bracken whisked my doubts away.
Ruby lives in a world where the kids who are still alive are regarded by society with fear– they’re Psis, or people with psychic abilities, and the government hates them so much that for the past six years, Ruby’s been locked up in a “rehabilitation camp.”
There were small notes of the novel that reminded me chillingly of the Holocaust. Psis, for example, are forced to wear a Psi symbol and a color that denotes which type of Psi that they are. They’re in these awful camps, where experiments used to be performed. It’s awful. The world that Alexandra Bracken created in The Darkest Minds is desolate and depressing. But that makes me that much more sympathetic to Ruby’s plight.
When she gets out of her camp, Thurmond, I bonded with Ruby even more. Because God, she is just so, so scared of the world around her and she has every reason to be. There’s no one to protect her, and if she gets caught, it’s probably a death sentence. With the powers and the way that society regards them, the Psis reminded me a little of the mutants of X-men, but Ruby doesn’t exactly have a Professor Xavier to guide her on her way. In fact, almost no one can really be trusted. But, thankfully she runs into other Psis on the run.
And as Ruby emerges from her shell bit by bit, she and her companions (who slowly earn that trust) become some of my favorite characters in recent memory.
They call a van named Black Betty home, and they are all so different from each other, but have managed to form this pseudo-family regardless. There’s Zu or Suzume, the adorable child (who, by the way, I was terrified the whole book was going to go the route of Rue), who manages to be a fully developed character though she doesn’t speak a single word. Chubs, who is extremely cautious and wary to outsiders, to the point where he comes off antisocial and asshole-ish. He likes books and learning (and book blogging!) and takes a while to warm up to, but then becomes an incredible friend. I related to Chubs EXTREMELY well.
But Liam… he needs a paragraph all his own. Hello, Swoontown USA. With his non-condescending “darlin’s,” and a bit of a hero complex, Liam is just WONDERFUL. He’s funny and stays good and upbeat through most of the novel, which is believable because we get to see the cracks in his molding here and there. And his relationship with Ruby is just… GUH. There is so much SLOW BURN. We see initial attraction, but neither of them jump straight to “GIRL/BOY, I wanna have your babies.” There’s the build-up. From strangers to friends, from friends to more-than-friends, and from more-than-friends to…
To the ending, which left me reeling and screaming.
Look, I don’t want to spoil this book for you, so that’s going to have to be all I say about the ending. Please read this book. Please?
To sum up: Read it. Please please please read it. ...more
I listened to all the people who DEMANDED I read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by taking advantage of the two free Audible books that I got this year. And guess what I learned?
Morgan Matson is extremely skilled in the art of MAKING ME CRY.
Because so many people recommended it to me, I didn’t bother looking up a summary of the plot before diving in. I thought that I was simply in for a fun, roadtrip-filled ROMP.
And while there was lots of romp-like fun to be had, what I didn’t count on was that Amy would go on such a personal journey as she and Roger made their way across the country. She finds her way back to herself and the mother and brother she’s grown increasingly distant from in the wake of her dad’s death, which she blames herself for.
She also finds her way to Roger.
Coincidentally, Morgan Matson is also extremely skilled in the art of making me swoon.
You guys… just. Roger. I recall feeling similarly about Second Chance Summer‘s Henry, but these are just… such nice boys. Cute nice boys. Nice boys who are cute. And funny. So hard to find and even if he wasn’t being particularly “romantic” with Amy during most of the novel, they had such chemistry and he was so sweet and damaged in his own little way that I… well, I swooned.
Initially, I felt very ‘meh’ about the audio, but I totally warmed up to Suzy Jackson as the voice of Amy. She didn’t do special “voices” like I’ve come to expect from other audiobooks, but her voice had all of the emotion that Amy felt in it. It was like Amy was really telling me her story. I know that if I ever reread the book in textual form, I’ll hear Jackson’s voice in my head because she was so very Amy.
To sum up: Though I can recommend the audiobook version without any reservations, mostly I just recommend that you read this book in whatever format you prefer. As long as you read it....more
When I started For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, all that I knew about it was that it was a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Word had not yet reached me that it was science-fiction… or, more importantly, THAT IT WAS AWESOME.
But I am here to vouch for the fact that it is one awesome, sci-fi, dystopian-esque, Austenite retelling.
I found it a little confusing at first as the world and characters were set up, but I’m telling you, guys, if you’re reading For Darkness Shows the Stars or plan to read it, muscle your way past that because it is so SO worth it. Once you get it, the world clicks into place and the story becomes so textured and gorgeous.
I love the world that Diana Peterfreund constructed in For Darkness Shows the Stars and I think that that is a big part of what gives the story such an amazing feel. It’s the future, yes. And yes, it’s science fiction. But the society is constructed in a way that hearkens back to class systems of the old days with the Luddites playing the part of the nobility. Although, HOLLER for a society that isn’t totally patriarchal in this case because women can be Luddite lords just as easily as men.
And, as I said, I think that vibe of old-timey-ness, from the fashions to the fixations on titles and estates, is what gives such an authentic feel.
Also, Luddites? They believe in keeping things “as God intended.” That means basically no scientific improvements. Really, it means no progress. Diana Peterfreund carries that element of nature through with some of her gorgeous metaphors and descriptions. They’re made all the more effective by the fact that the North estate is a farm and thus even more tied to nature than some other Luddite estates might be.
So now we come to Elliot, the daughter of the Baron North. And guys? I adore Elliot. She’s got this great and passionate love in the form of one, Kai alias Malakai Wentforth, but her father and sister are terrible at running the land and taking care of the people on it. She indulges herself in her feelings– she’s only human, but she is so heartwrenchingly mature about the decisions she feels she must make for the good of others.
Further, Elliot is so conflicted because Luddite ideals are entering a stage for her when they don’t completely make sense. They have the tools for improvement, but the protocols have been put in place to keep them all safe… right? It’s heresy– it’s arrogance to think any other way.
And then… guys, then there is Kai. And he is so cold and standoffish to Elliot and it breaks my damn heart when I compare it to the letters (placed between chapters) that their younger selves exchanged. Their scenes have so much underlying tension that–
No lie, I just stopped typing to clutch at my heart. It’s that amazing.
Now. I have not yet read Persuasion. HOWEVER. Diana Peterfreund executed her version of the story so beautifully in For Darkness Shows the Stars that I’m adding it to my classics must-read list.
Overall rating: 5/5. For Darkness Shows the Stars is a positively gorgeous retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion with superb language and layered characters....more
Lord knows, I loved Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas to PIECES. So, WARNING: GUSHING AHEAD. Where do I even BEGIN this ode ofPosted to Almost Grown-up:
Lord knows, I loved Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas to PIECES. So, WARNING: GUSHING AHEAD. Where do I even BEGIN this ode of a review?
Let’s try starting with the obvious choice: Celaena Sardothien. Our main character and assassin extraordinaire. I could write poems about how much I adored Celaena. I love how friggin’ dangerous she is. You guys, everyone is so afraid of her and she revels in it, letting everyone know that if she chose to move against them, they’d be dead in seconds. Homegirl is a bad-ass.
But there’s more to her than just that. I love how Celaena, despite said badassery, can be emotionally vulnerable… and hey, sometimes an ordinary girl. Her year in Endovier has scarred her, both physically and emotionally. It grates on her that she is serving a Havilliard (Prince Dorian), when she considers the line of Havilliard royalty to be on a level that is just below scum. She can be vain, indulging herself in pretty dresses, and confident in her looks to win men over. She likes reading, is decent with music, and has a bit of a sweet tooth.
And now she’s in for the fight of her life as she fights to become a hated king’s Champion. Despite her initial confidence, the challenges are not exactly a piece of cake. She’s got to keep her identity a secret amongst forbidable competitors. If that’s not enough, the universe keeps piling more and more on top of her, but Celaena rolls with the punches. And one punch she didn’t see coming? A love triangle.
Sarah J. Maas, you win ALL the awards for pulling a love triangle off. Plot-wise it is usually a total turn-off for me, BUT that’s because in most novels it’s so contrived. NOT SO in Throne of Glass. There is no clear choice, no obvious indicator that Celaena prefers one man to the other.
…And I can’t make up my mind either because GUYS. I would happily take EITHER one of them off her hands.
Dorian is funny and witty. He’s a bit of a womanizer, but NO WONDER with those looks. He likes to read and is pretty damn in touch with his feelings. But his feelings make him stronger and his character progresses until by the end he stands up for what he believes in.
And then there is Chaol. Who is also– Um– yeah. Well he’s gorgeous, strong, and committed to his position. He’s a warrior. But unlike Dorian, he doesn’t trust his feelings. He believes they’ll make him vulnerable.
If I’d known these things when I met her in a line at BEA, I would have begged Sarah J. Maas to tell me who I should root for because LORD I cannot decide and it is driving me nuts. I went actively seeking spoilers from her time on Fictionpress because I need a Throne of Glass OTP!
Aside from the boys, Celaena builds relationships with other people for one of the first times in her life. Nehemia, a princess from a foreign land and Nox, one of the other competitors. Are either of these friendships in her best interests? Probably not, but isn’t that the point? She’s finally building relationships without ulterior motives! Big character growth step.
The world that Sarah J. Maas built is very well-constructed, pulling you right into its flaws and past. Making you visualize the gaudy palace and drawing you into the web of power plots at play. And lordy, are there plots and sub-plots galore, but they all serve a purpose and are resolved at least enough to complete the novel, but leave room for expansion in the rest of the series.
Overall rating: 5/5. Slap a label on me and call me a fangirl because Throne of Glass is one of my new favorite books EVER....more
I don’t even know where to begin to review Code Name Verity. My hopes were high as I began reading due to all of the hype surrounding the title, which always feels like a bit of a gamble. But my hopes could have been even higher and Code Name Verity would not have disappointed me.
The phrase from the summary– “intricately woven”– is amazingly apt. As Verity writes her confession, trading her knowledge with the Nazis for a few more precious days, I felt vaguely ill, imagining the horrors that were to come. When Verity, referring to the war, “You always feel a little bit sick inside, knowing the worst might happen at any moment,”* it felt as if Elizabeth Wein knew what I was going through as I read her book.
Though seemingly a traitor, Verity is an amazingly brave and sympathetic character. Her captors are breaking her as best they can with the knowledge that her best friend has died, the screams of other prisoners, and her own torture. But she’s obviously angry over the great injustice taking place and she still she seizes on small moments of defiance. She also has her moments of caustic humor and times when her incredible intelligence comes through.
Historical novels– well-done ones– are a weakness of mine. and Code Name Verity absolutely qualifies. Elizabeth Wein did a clear amount of research to bring the terrifying times of World War II to life in excruciating detail.
Elizabeth Wein is also the master of surprise. I found myself sobbing rather violently through Code Name Verity’s resolution as she took me on a rollercoaster plummet of emotions.
Overall rating: 5/5. Masterfully written, Code Name Verity is a World War II novel that will break your heart....more
Scarlet. Where do I begin, you guys? I’m just coming down from a reread of Scarlet, so how about with the tried and true FANGIRL FLAIL? It is so rare that within a week I have two reviews going up of books that I love this much, and I’m LOVING it.
I suppose the fair thing to do would be to start my review of Scarlet by talking about one of the main characters, and the book’s namesake, Scarlet Benoit. I’m loving how Marissa Meyer managed to make a second kick-ass female MC in this sequel to Cinder, and has a second mystery for us to unravel– the mystery of her grandmother’s disappearance and past. Scarlet and Cinder are both the main POVs in Scarlet and both have distinctively strong personalities. I would want to be BFFs with either one (or both), easy and it was amazing to see their stories come together.
Having talked about the kick-butt girls, I would now like to talk about the boys. GUYS. This is another “Where do I begin?” scenario because there is a cornucopia of swoony boys present in the pages of Scarlet. There’s this guy named Kai (IDK, you may remember him from the first book?), but IN ADDITION, let us add: Captain Carswell Thorne who is so quirkily funny and cocky and perfect.
But Thorne’s day in the sun has yet to come, so really the person we need to talk about here is WOLF. And may I just say? Rawr. (Ah-ooo?) He’s so quiet and mysterious, and it’s a really interesting contrast with the ferocity that he unleashes from time to time. Plus, despite the fact that the events in Scarlet take place in a very short amount of time and the book is extraordinarily fast-paced (Seriously, NEVER A DULL MOMENT), the relationship between Wolf and Scarlet manages to feel fully-developed, without the insta-love element that often drives me mad.
Other things that cannot go without a mention: Marissa’s amazing world-building, for one. I talked about this in my review of Cinder, but now that the world (so to speak– this is a sci-fi novel after all, and there is more than just one world to contend with) is expanding we learn more, and it’s never presented in an info-dumpy way. It grows more and more fascinating.
I also want to nod to the way that Marissa caught her readers up with what happened in Cinder. This was something I noticed on my reread, but it’s so perfectly mixed into the book’s opening. Again, none of the boring info-dump that is a commonality in many series from book to book. The “catch-up” is part of the action.
But one of my favorite things about Scarlet is the humor. I legitimately laughed out loud multiple times. And the dialogue! It’s so snappy and on-the-money. So perfect.
To sum up: Whether you read it once, twice, three times, or ten times, I think you’ll find something new to love about Scarlet on every read....more
When Shadow and Bone surprised me by showing up on my doorstep, it took me all of 0.5 second flat to read the synopsis and bPosted to Almost Grown-up:
When Shadow and Bone surprised me by showing up on my doorstep, it took me all of 0.5 second flat to read the synopsis and become overwhelmed with excitement. FANTASY, said I. That is my ISH. And while the final cover ROCKS MY WORLD (just look at those onion dome, spire-y things! gorgeous), the ARC cover was nothing to scoff at either, which only built my excitement up further.
It is glorious when a final cover reflects what is INSIDE the books well. In this case, the cover works almost as an extension of Leigh Bardugo’s really excellent world-building. Onion domes (which, yes, I did have to google to find the term) are a staple of the architecture in Russia. And the realm of Ravka is heavily based upon Russia. And it is an INSPIRED choice. We get the roots of our world in the (again, Russian-inspired) language that is sprinkled throughout Shadow and Bone and it only grows from there. The world is different from your run-of-the-mill fantasy novel, but built convincingly.
Bardugo crafts her cast of supporting characters so cunningly it’s astonishing. Alina’s newfound friend Genya is a bit aloof and snarky, but as she seems to warm to Alina, I warmed to her. Little revelations are made that have me feeling pangs of sympathy toward the girl. And should we even get me started on the Darkling? For a great deal of Shadow and Bone, he had me all SA-WOONY.
Alina herself grows throughout Shadow and Bone out of a necessity. She has to cope with being thrown into the politics of her country, figuring out this new power of hers, and being torn away from her best friend (and swoon-feelings-giver) since childhood, Mal. Just when she’s almost adjusted– she’s moved on from Mal and she’s gotten a fairly good grasp of said power– the world as she knew it is torn asunder once more.
While still compelling, the pacing after that was rocky; the events that followed seemed very rushed to me. Alina is brave, undoubtedly, and makes some tough calls, but well… Mal stopped giving me swoony feelings for the most part. I felt far more I-wanna-smack-this-boy-upside-his-head feelings.
BUT I don’t want you to think that that detracts in a BIG way from the ending. The plot is still riveting and perfectly twisted into a bleak and hopeless ball of despair before the GRAND finale.
Overall rating: 4.5/5. A WIN for the fantasy genre. Both unique and compelling, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo should find a happy home on many bookshelves....more
I fell in love with Kristin Cashore’s characters in Graceling and Fire. It was in Graceling that we first met a young princePosted to Almost Grown-up:
I fell in love with Kristin Cashore’s characters in Graceling and Fire. It was in Graceling that we first met a young princess named Bitterblue with a father who was so evil that he’d thoroughly corrupted the land he ruled over with his power. I looked forward to catching up with Bitterblue after she’d had a chance to grow into her title.
I keep seeing mixed reviews for Bitterblue. Some people are lovin’ it, some feel let down by it. My opinion? I adored the novel, but I had to adjust my expectations. Mind you, I didn’t have to lower them, but while Fire and Graceling were fairly action-packed and moved about the Seven Kingdoms a great deal, Bitterblue is rooted in Bitterblue’s castle, in her city. They’re fleshed out, a small world themselves, but the characters don’t roam as much as in the other novels. And as April of Good Books and Good Wine pointed out, Bitterblue “is definitely more politically-oriented.”
Bitterblue is itching for the ability to do something. Her advisers have fenced her in so that any attempts she makes to advance the lives of her people, to understand what is going on in her reign, are hindered. She feels like a powerless queen. A puppet queen with her advisers pulling the strings. A queen in name only. You get where I’m going with this? A redundant queen.
But Bitterblue, like Fire and like Katsa, is a heroine that I can get behind. People try to keep her in the dark? NUH-UH. She may not have Katsa or Fire’s supernatural abilities, but Bitterblue’s got a sharp and agile mind that she puts to WORK. Everyone is crazy. Her advisers– the people who are pretty much running her kingdom instead of her– are CRAZY. And dammit all, with the help of those she trusts (sidebar: one of those people is a librarian named Death– BAHA) she’s going to FIGURE OUT why.
Bitterblue has also got a natural curiosity about the people she rules over that leads to her sneaking out of her castle where she meets Saf. I love how Kristin Cashore sculpts her romances. Particularly, I love how no two are exactly alike and that each result of a romance depends on the heroine. None of them let anyone else tell them how a relationship is going to wind up.
Finally, Bitterblue is joined a cast of familiar characters and you can’t help but smile. Katsa and Po are the people we grew to love before, and though this isn’t their story, they add an extra oomph to it.
Overall rating: 5/5. For me this was a very satisfying conclusion to the Seven Kingdoms series. The only thing that would make me more satisfied would be the announcement that more books were going to be written....more