Monday, November 23, 2015

13 Little Blue Envelopes

It's November, so it's NaNoWriMo season! I've been working hard at my sixth book, a retelling of Cinderella with an assassination plot! It hasn't left me with much energy for reading, both with my brain and my eyes. So I haven't been reading much, even though I have a couple books I'm really hankering to read (Winter by Marissa Meyer!!!). I actually finished reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes like two weeks ago, but, you know...tired. But anyway, on to the review!

Retrieved from Goodreads
Seventeen-year-old Ginny Blackstone just got thirteen envelopes from her aunt who passed away. Inside the first envelope is a letter with $1000 telling her to fly to London. Each letter will have directions in what to do and where to go, all of them around Europe. So Ginny is off to discover Europe and herself, and maybe find out more about her elusive, wandering aunt.

Okay, pros and cons of this book. Pro: It takes place all over Europe, including three places I've personally been to. I spent three months in London a couple years ago and fell in love with the city. To seeing Ginny navigate the different customs and transportation and museums of London caused a very mushy wave of nostalgia in me. The same goes for Edinburgh and Paris. Pro: Aunt Peg was very very flawed, and it showed in her letters and in her life. Pro: What happens in Greece seemed very realistic at a point when I needed something to go wrong for Ginny. Con: I didn't know anything more about Ginny at the start of the book than the end. Con: Implausibility of overprotective parents to allow their daughter to go travelling Europe with no phone, no laptop, no communications, and no extra money., not going to happen. Con: The romance. Snooooooze. Con: Underdeveloped secondary characters, which is something that can really harm stories like this.So, overall, a quick, easy read that made me want to go back to Europe.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
Up Next: Winter by Marissa Meyer

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

If I Stay

I have been on a roll with audiobooks lately. They are perfect for when I'm washing dishes or working on a puzzle or anything else really that requires my hands. THey also help me keep my eyes in near-perfect condition. If I Stay by Gayle Forman has been on my radar for years, and I finally got around to reading it via audiobook last week. Here are my thoughts:

Retrieved from Goodreads
Mia is a rising cellist with dreams of going to Juliard. She has a loving, quirky family and a great boyfriend. But all that changes one morning when Mia and her family go for a drive. The car crash killed her parents at the scene, and Mia is evacuated to a hospital where she's in a coma. But she's also awake. Some bit of her that no one can see can walk around and think and see what is happening around her. And as the night lengthens she realizes it's her choice to wake up. She's just not sure she wants to.

I don't really understand why this book got all the hype. Sure, I enjoyed it, but it wasn't like WHOA, life changing. It reminded me a bit of Before I Fall, with the specter of death that's already happened and is to come, It also has an aspect of "don't know why ghost-Mia exists" which is similar to Lauren Oliver's "Don't know why Samantha is reliving the same day over and over." If I Stay hit me in a couple ways and fell flat in some others. The everyday tragedy of a car crash hurt me. Because a family was destroyed, one with history and a future and fights and love, due to an accident. It snowed, and cars don't do well on snow, and so a family was torn apart. Adam's final speech to Mia also jerked at my heart strings, I think in part because the narrator of the audiobook was very good and putting emotion into the words. The ways in which this fell flat include: 1) Family seemed stereotypically perfect 2) I didn't end up caring for Mia's parents like I should have, so their deaths didn't hit me very hard 3) I guessed the twist very early on, so it wasn't  a surprise when it happened and I wondered why Mia hadn't been worrying about it more 4) The ending. While the last few lines were nicely written and would make a great end to a movie I just....her choice whether or not to stay seemed like a no-brainer that wasn't addressed too much during the book. I wish it had been more prominent, with compelling reasons on both sides.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
Up Next: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Demon King

Man am I late in writing this review! I actually finished this book last week, but I had a very busy weekend dressing up as the 11th Doctor. I hope you all had a great Halloween as well! I spent my time baking with some great people and watching a baking show. But before that I read The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima over the course of a couple days. This is the second series of Chima's that I'm reading, the first one being The Heir Chronicles. And, since I'm feeling lazy, I'm just going to copy-paste the Goodreads description

Retrieved from Goodreads
"Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can't sell—the thick silver cuffs he's worn since birth. They're clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off. One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back. Meanwhile, Raisa ana'Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She's just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her..."

First off, this series feels very different to The Heir Chronicles, in a good way. It gets off to a slow start, but I became committed to the characters. I liked Raisa and how she wants to do good and is constrained by a mother who won't listen and her lack of real-world experience. I felt for Han, who just wanted to do right by his family but no one seems to let him. And I really liked Raisa's love interest whose name escapes me at the moment. For a while I was worried the story was going to devolve into a "princess learns what life is really like on the mean streets" story, and while there is an aspect of that, it doesn't last very long. Instead, it just adds flavor to Raisa's story. There's intrigue, which I always love, and a not-very-well-defined villain. But honestly I didn't mind that much, as this story felt like a really big set-up for the next book. The world is expansive and fleshed out, which I always adore in a high fantasy novel. To tell the truth, I'm more excited about reading The Exiled Queen than The Dragon Heir. While I can't give this book five stars because of the pacing, I'm excited to see where these characters take me.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising

Hello again! Yesterday I finished reading Red Rising by Pierce Brown. This book was a birthday present from a friend who really really enjoyed it. And since I trust his instinct on books, I wanted to give it a go.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Darrow is a Red. He is a pioneer, a miner preparing Mars for colonization. But then one simple act of defiance against his overseers changes everything. Sentenced to die, Darrow instead finds himself with a group of rebels who expose him to the truth: Mars has been colonized for generations. The Reds are slaves, their rulers are the Golds. In order to end the horror, Darrow must become a Gold and infiltrate them at the highest level possible. But first he has to get through the Institute's schooling which might just kill him first.

This book left me with one burning question: Do guys really talk about balls this much? It seemed a bit excessive. But on to other things. The story here is like Ender's Game meets The Hunger Games. Unlike lots of stories, I felt like enough time was spent developing Darrow's life as a Red and his marriage to Eo before he found out about the colonization. And the process that turned him into a Gold was truly horrific. I have more mixed feelings about the school where Golds are pitted against each other in teams until one dominates the rest. The idea of the teams being divided and represented by different Greek "gods" was interesting, and reminded me of Divergent. I did find myself losing a bit of interest in the middle where Darrow seems to forget his overall goal of succeeding so he can overthrow the Golds. I wish more time had been spent on the revelation about Titus too. He was an integral character in the first part of the games and the reveal needed a bit more pondering. Let's see, what else did I notice? There were times I worried that all the females in this book would be stereotyped (being either silly, flirty, or easily-captured), but the character of Mustang helped with that. In the end I wasn't positive why this story had to take place on Mars, but I hope it'll become more relevant in the next book, which I will be reading!

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars (more like 3.5)
Up Next: If I Stay by Gayle Forman