Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sapphire Blue

In keeping with the last book I read, I just finished another book bedecked with a girl in a really big dress. Gwen's dress on Sapphire Blue is not as big as Elizabeth's on The Luxe, but I like it more because it's I love blue. Favorite color. Anyway, sorry, lost my train of thought for a second there. Sapphire Blue is the second book in the Precious Stone Trilogy by Kerstin Gier. For some reason I always have a hard time remembering that name. Night before last, I fell asleep at 5:30 because I was so exhausted, and in the end I slept for nearly 15 hours. As a result, I was exhausted the next day and had to struggle to keep awake by 3 o'clock. Hopefully today goes a bit better!

Retrieved from Goodreads
It's only been a few days since Gwen found out she was a time traveler, the last in a sequence of twelve foretold in a prophecy. But everyone seems to think Gwen's a traitor, for there is definitely someone throwing a wrench in the mix. As the Guardians rush to complete the circle in the prophecy, Gwen struggles with her lack of knowledge of the time periods and her feelings for fellow time traveler, Gideon. One minute he's kissing her and the next calling her a traitor. Gwen's not sure how she feels about him, the Guardians, or the circle, and despite being a time traveler, there doesn't seem to be enough time to figure it all out.

When I read the first book in this series, Ruby Red, I found it enjoyable except that Gwen's voice sounded rather young for the character. In this book, that is addressed a bit, and she sounds a bit more adult, and other characters comment on her childlike naivety so it felt a bit more like a character trait than an accident. Several times this book made me laugh out loud from the banter, and there are pleasantly tangled time lines that are delicious in time travel books. I was a bit surprised by where the book ended, to the point where I picked up my physical copy and thumbed through it just to make sure the audiobook hadn't skipped a bit. The multitude of characters get a bit more fleshed out in this book which was nice. Overall, a pleasant listening experience. It's not the meatiest of time travel books, but I still enjoyed it.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
Up Next: The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Luxe

Yup, definitely on a roll with the audiobooks. Night before last I relaxed and noodled around on the computer and listened to about half of The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, and then the other half yesterday. Now I'm nearly a third of the way through Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier. It's been lovely to be able to multitask with cleaning and cooking and reading. I've also been reading a manuscript for my current internship and enjoying the lovely weather we've been having the last few days in the Pacific Northwest.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Elizabeth and the Holland family are part of New York's royalty in 1899, with Elizabeth just returned from a year in Paris. There are fancy balls and afternoon callers and beautiful dresses. But the Holland family isn't as secure in their fortune as they thought. Now Elizabeth must marry the wealthy Henry Schoonmaker, the beau of her friend Penelope. And marry him she will, although there is no love between them. Will, the coachman, is the love of her life, but without the marriage the family will become destitute, and Elizabeth can't do that to them.

A lovely, light book full of the social intrigue I adore. This book kept reminding me of Eva Ibbotson's books, where there are a large variety of characters with an exotic setting as the backdrop. No one in this story gets really really deeply fleshed out, but the fun part is seeing how the social lives of the characters intertwine to result in scandal, love, and heartbreak. I listened to this as an audiobook and I must say, the narrator's voice was spot on. There was sass and vulnerability and it was much appreciated. I will say that the climax wasn't very climaxy, but honestly I was just having a good romp with the characters and didn't mind so much. I'll definitely read the sequels.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier

Friday, April 17, 2015

White Cat

So I'm definitely on a roll with audiobooks. It allows me to multitask which is awesome, even if it's just playing a game of Bejeweled. I finished off White Cat by Holly Black yesterday and now I'm about halfway done with The Luxe by Anna Godbersen. As an added bonus, White Cat was narrated by the guy who does the voice of Blu in the movie Rio, which I adore. Anyway, down to business!

Retrieved from Goodreads
All Cassel wants is to be normal. And by all rights, he is. He is the only non-worker in a curseworker family. He goes to school, he has sort of friends, and an ex-girlfriend. And he killed his best friend Lila three years ago but doesn't remember it. But now weirder shit is going on. He's waking up on school roofs after dreams of white cats, and his family is up to something. As Cassel tries to discover what's happening to him now, secrets about the past start to unravel that will change his life forever.

My first experience with Holly Black didn't end so well. Her Coldest Girl in Coldtown left me...well...cold. I loved loved loved all the details she put into her scenery and descriptions of characters, but the plot, or lack thereof, bothered me. Not so with White Cat. I've picked up this book a couple times but set it aside, but seriously, once you get into it, it's a fun book. Plenty of witty banter, which I always appreciate, and lovely descriptions of a world in which there are people with specific kinds of magic and some people want everyone to get tested to see if they have magic so they can have tabs kept on them. There are crime syndicates who enlist curseworkers as their minions and plenty of cool stuff like that. Black's world seemed real, which I always appreciate. And I loved the narrator of the audiobook. Unforunately, I guessed the twist long before it happened, but I honestly don't think this is because of anything lacking in the book. Sometimes my brain snags on one detail and it's like dominoes. I can't stop it, even though I hate when my brain guesses the big twist. Still, it's a good twist and well executed. Nice book, will definitely read the sequel, but I wouldn't stick it in my Favorites of All Time pile.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Winner's Curse

I've been laid up in bed for a couple days, so I decided to do something different. When I was a kid, and my parents would take me on long road trips, we'd often stick a couple of books on tape in the car. Harry Potter, the Hobbit, All Creatures Great and Small, etc. I adored them. And I've listened to Harry Potter many many times over the years. But I haven't branched out of the audiobooks that I heard as a kid with the exception of Oliver Twist which I can't honestly say I enjoyed. But I also want to be careful with my eyes and I love multitasking. So over the last couple days I listened to The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski and I am now a third of the way through White Cat by Holly Black.

It was on a whim that Kestrel, the General's daughter, bought Arin from the slave market. She's not even sure why she did it. It's made society talk about her, and her reputation isn't sterling as it is. But buying Arin might be an even bigger mistake than she realized. He is Herrani, part of the people her father brutally conquered for the Valorian emperor ten years ago, and he hasn't forgotten. Arin is part of the brewing rebellion against the Valorians. But as war edging nearer, he becomes conflicted. Kestrel must decide by spring whether to enlist in the military or marry, per a deal with her father. But she has no desire for war, and no one she loves. But as her friendship with Arin deepens, the latter might not be so true.

Retrieved from Goodreads
I have been seeing this book pop up over and over in Staff Favorites in book stores, and in my Goodreads feed. But when I read the description, it didn't wow me. Not even the blurb by Kristin Cashore, whose books I adore, could really get me to buy it. But I've been trying to get past this. After all, the same thing happened with Seraphina, and I loved that book. I think I got The Winner's Curse for Christmas, but it sat on my shelf for a while because there was a spurt of new releases I wanted to read first. And I picked it up and sat it down several times until this week. The Winner's Curse is beautifully written. While the first hundred pages are sort of slow, I must say the last half of the book packs a wallop of a punch. Kestrel is both vulnerable and strong, Arin is brusk and sweet and cunning, and Jess is so adorably sweet. I liked how the friendship between Arin and Kestrel bloomed before it became a romance, only to be snatched away. I can't say much about the last half of the book without revealing major spoilers, but there's a roll reversal that's quite well done and had me really invested. If I were to complain about one thing, it would be the voice of the narrator on the audiobook. Kestrel is supposed to be physically vulnerable, but mentally strong and capable of cold calculation. But the voice the narrator gave her made her seem very childlike and weak, which affected how I saw her character. I had to focus on the words and push away the narrator's reading of them to see how the author probably intended it to sound. Overall, would recommend!

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: White Cat by Holly Black

Friday, April 3, 2015

Shadow Scale

I bought this book way back in March, arriving on my door the day it was released. But it's taken me nearly a month to read it. Why, you ask? Because a lot of stuff has been happening lately. 1) Finals. Yeah, that's right, my last finals as an undergrad. 2) I graduated. I'm done with undergrad and received my BA. I still haven't really internalized this yet, but there was much celebration. 3) I moved. Once again I packed up my life and moved it somewhere else. It's crazy to think that in as short a time as a year I might be settling somewhere new and staying there for more than 9 months. So yeah, life's been hectic. But last night I curled up with Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman and finished off the last 200 pages.

Retrieved from Goodreads
The dragons are at war with each other, and the war is coming to Goredd soon. The only thing that might stop the destruction of the country is St. Abaster's Trap which is created through the mind-fire of the half-dragons. Seraphina sets out to find the other half-dragons and bring them back to Goredd before the war reaches the capital city. But it's nowhere near easy. She has little time and a continent to travel, and the half-dragons don't all welcome her. And, lurking in the shadows of her mind, is Jannoula, the manipulative half-dragon with her own mysterious agenda. Seraphina must learn about the powers of the half-dragons if she hopes to understand those around her, and the plan of Jannoula.

So different from the first book, Seraphina. Mostly a character study, I would say the best part of this book is experiencing the sprawling world Hartman introduced in the first book. Her prose is so beautiful and her descriptions of the different countries, cultures, and people so diverse, I just wanted to curl up in the pages and see it all. It was beautiful, intriguing, and realistic while still making me curious about the half-dragons. Seraphina's romance with Lucian takes not so much a backseat but a different car entirely in this story, which instead focuses much more on Seraphina's desperate desire to join the half-dragons together so she can have a family. This book is not fast paced by any means, but it's still enjoyable. The climax is interesting, and I sort of wish it had more tension in the build-up as the calmness seemed at odds with the stakes. I also wish there had been more of a denouement because I just wanted to know how the rest of their lives turned out since so much had changed and been revealed that had political importance. Here's hoping the other books set in this world hint at it. Oh, and that epilogue. You know how normally books end on sort of a sad note, and the epilogue picks you up and is happy? Yeah, no. Story ended happily and then the epilogue made me cry. I will happily curl up in any future book of Hartman's.

Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars Up Next: Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi