Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Burning Sky

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas has been on my radar for quite some time. Partially because, well, have you seen that cover? It's awesome! But it looked like one of those books that I'd passively enjoy while waiting for the next Sarah J. Maas book to come out. So I waited until it went on deep sale, purchased it, and then stared at it sitting on my Kindle for a couple years. Until this summer when I finally picked it up and read it.

17332556
Retrieved from Goodreads
Iolanthe is the greatest elemental mage of her generation, prophesied to be the savior of The Realm. But that's only if she can survive. Guided by his mother's visions, Prince Titus swears to protect and train her so she can save his people. They hide out at his boarding school in England, where Iolanthe must pass as a boy to remain undetected.

I must admit, I didn't think I would enjoy this book as much as I did. It looked like yet another book with elemental magic and a Super Special Heroine who is destined to be a Savior. And yeah, there are elements of that, and I definitely could have done with some more internal dialogue from Iolanthe. But somewhere along the way, I started to enjoy Titus and Iolanthe. He's a prince committed to saving his people, even if it means tricking Iolanthe into doing what he wants. Her hiding as a boy at their boarding school turned out to be cooler than I anticipated. But the crowning achievement of this book? The book inside the book. In order to train Iolanthe in magic when they live in a world where it doesn't exist, they go inside his book and fight in fairy tales. It's very interesting, and leads to a very cool mirroring journey (I swear this phrase makes more sense when you read it) in the climax. The story wrapped up in a very Harry Potter way, with the Big Bad taking a seat for the summer so our characters can relax on their vacation (or so I assume. I haven't read the second book yet). I hope the main characters and villain get more fleshed out in the next book, and if they do, I'm sure I'll enjoy this story even more.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Crown's Game

It's pouring down rain and this is my first summer Friday that I'm not spending on a plane. So I thought I'd take some time and write down my thoughts on Evelyn Sky's YA fantasy novel, The Crown's Game. Here's something you probably didn't know about me--I wrote my senior thesis for my history degree on the city of St. Petersburg (also known at other times as Petrograd and Leningrad). So I'll admit that the big draw for me was to read about one of the cities I absolutely want to see in my lifetime. How did it stack up?

26156203
Retrieved from Goodreads
Vika Andreyeva is an enchanter. Every country has one person who is destined to wield the magic of the land. Except, she's not the only one in Russia. Nikolai Karamov also  has power, and tradition decrees that the two must compete for the title of Royal Enchanter. The winner will have power and influence beyond imagining. The loser will die. Vika and Nikolai have trained their entire lives to serve the tsar, but when they meet, the thought of the other dying quickly becomes repugnant.

Okay, things I liked: 1) The setting. Skye does manage to make St. Petersburg its own setting, describing the architecture and landmarks in ways that made me want to see them. It could have been more immersive, but perhaps that's because I really really want to visit the city. 2) The magic the two perform. It was a little weird to me that the magic wasn't more deadly toward the other contestant, but there were some cool little traps at the beginning there. I loved the water shows and the island with the magic benches that showed you other places. It was very different from the magic I've seen in other books, partially because its purpose was to aid Russia 3) Pasha. I honestly liked him more than Nikolai. He was born to privilege but attempted to understand his people. Does he always succeed? Absolutely not, because he's a bit clueless. But he's sweet and he tries and I liked how complex his family dynamic was. I want him and Vika to end up together rather than her and Nikolai. All right, on to the things I liked less: 1) How the romance took over what could have been an awesome story. One of these enchanters has to end up dead. But they look at each other all moon-eyed for a little bit and decide they can't live without the other person? Blech, they don't even know each other. Pasha's infatuation makes sense because he can afford to have silly dreams. He has power and money and he's not supposed to be the tsar for some time. But Nikolai's purpose is to kill Vika. And they barely try. 2) Nikolai's mom. So random. Just a way to get Pasha on the throne and cause more conflict. Strange zombie woman. Meh. 3) The ending. I do not believe for one second that Nikolai is gone. He'll be back to cause trouble in the next book, because we've gotta have that love V. Overall, I was very mixed on this book and I'm looking for the sequel to change my mind.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
Up Next: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Frost Like Night

I've had a fraught relationship with this book series. I want to love it so much, but it definitely suffered from Middle Book Syndrome, and then from a Super Special Heroine (something, unfortunately, that the book I'm currently reading also has). But I had already read the first two books and the novellas so I didn't really feel like I could leave the plot hanging out there. So I picked up Frost Like Night for one final foray into the world of the Rhythms and Seasons.

28798049
Retrieved from Goodreads
Angra is alive, and it's up to Meira to stop him. But first she has to learn to control her powers. As Meira and her people struggle to save people, Angra uses the Decay to turn more people against them.

Aaand that's all you really need to know about the plot. It's mostly people talking about how amazing Meira is and her feeling bad that she can't save everyone. There's some stuff about romance between Mather and Meira, and a nice romance for Ceridwen, but other than that this book was a snore. The magic never grabbed me, and the ending was sort of obvious. The fake-out of "is the main character dead?!" has never really worked for me. So, I'm sad to say, overall this book left me cold. I've read some really great fantasy books, and while I loved the concept of the different realms themed after seasons, it never really stuck the landing. Maybe if the story had centered on Ceridwen, who was fiery and had passion and didn't whine when things got tough for her. But sadly, she was relegated to the side to have her romance and kick some occasional butt. Luckily for those of you out there who like my more positive reviews, the next one will be a bit better.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars (more like 2.5)
Up Next: The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sabriel

Sabriel by Garth Nix has been on my radar for quite some time. It pops up on a bunch of lists for people who enjoy Tamora Pierce books, and if you are a fantasy lover and look at its Goodreads page, how could you not want to give it a go? When it went on sale on Amazon, I thought I had to read it. Tamora Pierce is the author that got me into reading and writing with earnest, so how could I not read Sabriel?

518848
Retrieved from Goodreads
Sabriel has been living at a boarding school in Ancelstierre since she was a child. Her father is the Abhorsen, a person for whom the line between life and death is pliable, but now he's gone missing. Sabriel goes on a journey to find him, and along the way discovers that not all those that are dead wish to stay that way, and they are not so easily vanquished.

Hm. What to say about this book. I think I'll go pros then cons, to try to keep my thoughts straight. Pros: Mogget the talking cat was probably my favorite part of the book. I'm a huge fan of Faithful/Pounce from the aforementioned Piercce's books, so seeing another similar creature was great fun. I also liked the conflict in the character who is charmed out of his wooden state (not a metaphor, and I'm sorry I can't remember his name at the moment). What else? Uhh there is some good banter between Sabriel and the soldiers at the border of Ancelstierre. Okay, now cons: Sabriel has basically no internal dialogue. We have no idea how she knows things, who trained her, what she's thinking or feeling. How can I become invested in a character if all I know about her is that she wants to find her father? Also, the entire book felt like a series of travelling between different experiences that are independent of each other rather than a quest to find her father. She takes the time to work a huge magic on someone when she has basically no magic and it would put her in danger because she's being tracked? I dunno, call me heartless, but I'd have left him and come back later. Overall, my biggest issue was that I didn't feel invested in the characters. When the whole plot is "find dad and hopefully this evil dude won't wake up," I need to care about who is doing the questing. I'm going to try out the second book because the climax was pretty cool, but I'm not holding my breath for this series to eclipse Tamora Pierce's place in my heart.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
Up Next: Frost Like Night by Sara Raasch

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Defy the Stars

Hey, remember that review of Hourglass not too many days ago? Well, I told you I read a lot of Claudia Gray books, and this one is unique in that I received an ARC for it through the Young to Publishing Group that has events and networking and booklists for those younger people who work in the publishing industry. It's pretty cool, and if you're someone who works in publishing who isn't signed up for the newsletter, I'd totally recommend it. Anywho, Defy the Stars is the latest Claudia Gray book I've read and, as a preview, it shot right up there to be one of my favorites of hers.

31423196
Retrieved from Goodrerads
Noemi is a pilot sworn to protect her planet Genesis. She will die to protect her people from the onslaught of mechs--robots who are sent to war in the place of people. Abel is the most advanced mech of all, but he's been stranded on an abandoned spacecraft for years, waiting for his creator to return to him. When the two meet, Noemi and Abel must put aside their prejudices to work together to get what they want.

Yay! A robot with suspicious levels of humanity? Earth as the bad planet? Planets with distinct cultures and some funny banter about humans? Yes please, sign me up! Abel's voice is hilarious, and I loved his burgeoning humanity and inability to understand sarcasm at first. Noemi is a bit more of a struggle, as she is the war-weary hero out to save her planet (why is it that these characters are inevitably less interesting?). But the two of them together become quite the team, and the slow build of the maybe possibly romance between the two is sweet. And when Abel does meet his creator, instantly every alarm started going off in my head, that's how sad and creepy it was. I had to dock the book a star because the cast of secondary characters didn't interest me all that much, and I guessed the twist from chapter two or something. Now, that's not to say it was poorly written. I think it was just a little obvious of a route to go. But I will absolutely be reading book two.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Morning Star

As you'll know if you've been reading this blog for a while, the genres I tend to read in are fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal. Of course, there's romance, dystopian, historical fiction, middle grade, and I've even dipped my toe in thrillers. But those are the three primary genres. So it should come as a surprise to no one that I picked up Red Rising back when it came out. Mythology combined with sci-fi competitions for supremacy? Sign me up. But I ended up feeling only lukewarm about the series. That is, until this final installment.

18966806
Retrieved from Goodreads
Darrow has fallen into the hands of his enemies. The rising of the low colors seems poised on the brink of collapse. It will take all of his Gold experience and Red instincts to maneuver through the rebellion. And even then, he knows he'll leave a path of corpses in his wake.

Oh man, it's really hard to write a description of this book. But really, that's what it is. Darrow, riding high on his own importance in Golden Son, is now laid low. There is so much death and destruction and subtle political manipulation that it's almost hard to keep track of. It's sad, and it's well written. But it's the secondary characters that sold this story for me. Specifically, Victra and Sevro. Previously I'd been meh about these characters. But oh ho ho, put the two together and who get some hilarity of the highest order. You get crushed ego on the part of Sevro, who had power thrust upon him when Darrow was taken and absolutely bungles it. You have loyal Victra who is torn apart for believing in Darrow. You have Mustang, cool and aloof and unbelievably smart. You have Kavax, who somehow reminds of a mix of Hagrid and a rabid bear. Honestly, this book somehow managed to make me laugh and break my heart. While it did get redundant with the violence, and Darrow's romance with Mustang frankly annoyed me half the time, I closed this book with that sigh you get when your body settles after a frantic pace. In the end, Darrow got to me, despite his Gary Sue-ness.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Friday, August 11, 2017

Hourglass

My last review was of a book by an author who I'm really familiar with. This review will be much the same! To date, I've read nine of Gray's books, and I've got at least three more on my shelves at this moment. Her books tend to be quick, romantic reads, which is right up my alley. I've been reading her first series for quite a while now, but I'm two books short of being done! To give a little preview, my favorite series by Gray so far has been her Spellcaster trilogy.

7886990
Retrieved from Goodreads
Bianca has fled Evernight Academy with Lucas, but they can't build a life together just yet. Bianca's urge to drink blood grows every day, and in the heart of the Black Cross, it's difficult to stay hidden. Bianca and Lucas hide the truth of their relationship from everyone, but it may not be enough to keep her alive. Her parents made a deal with ghosts to give birth to her, and now they've come of collect on that bargain.

This read is so quick that you might not even notice you've finished. Honestly, I wonder if this could have been packaged as three slightly beefier books. Bianca hides her vampirism which is growing stronger, and Lucas tries to get them out of there. This continues for the majority of the book until something quite spectacular happens (SPOILERS AHEAD): Bianca dies. Not only that, she becomes a ghost. Honestly, I was feeling pretty bored with the whole book until this happened. Bianca instantly became ten times more interesting as a ghost than she ever was as a vampire, and now I'm really looking forward to how this all plays out in the (technically) final book of the series. Bianca's parents don't know she's dead, and the Black Cross is still out for Lucas, and so is a ticked off vampire clan. Well done, Claudia Gray, I honestly didn't think you could surprise me with this series! Does that totally make up for the 3/4 of the book that came before it? Not entirely, but still, nice!

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
Up Next: Morning Star by Pierce Brown