Friday, January 22, 2016

The Crimson Crown

And here we are, the last book in the Seven Realms series. I received the first book in this series two years ago for my birthday, and it sat on my shelf for over a year because I couldn't get into the first chapter. Eventually I pushed through because I'd heard such good things about the series, but that it started slowly. Then I binge-read the other three books in a matter of months. That should give you some indication of what I thought of them.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Raisa ana'Marianna has been crowned Queen of the Fells, much to the dismay of those who supported her sister Mellony, including people on the Wizard Council and those abroad who thought she would be easier to manipulate. Raisa has so many things to contend with: she's trying to replace the mercenary army with native-born peoples, there is always conflict between the wizards and the Clans, and of course everyone has an idea of who she should marry. Raisa has known for a long time she would make a political marriage rather than a love match. But she can't stop herself thinking about Han Alister, the street lord turned wizard and lord who is also her bodyguard. He has plans to marry her, though she doesn't know that. He's willing to do whatever it takes to prove he can be a part of her world. But he has no friends among the Wizard Council, and not even the Clans trust him anymore. With danger pressing in on every side, Raisa and Han don't know who to trust, or even if they can trust each other.

Oh. My. Word. How beautifully all the threads pull together in this final book. Things that were mentioned in the second book become important, minor characters get more fleshed out, the political debates are deliciously biased and evil, and there is a war and a strong female lead and some interesting magic. It's really well done. I applaud Raisa and Han for being separate, interesting characters, not needing to be in the same scene in order to be good, but when they are together it's electric. I honestly had no idea how the queendom was going to break the siege when it happened, and I hung on every debate in the Wizard Council and queen's meetings because they were so well written. I adored this book. If anything, I wish it had been longer because (spoiler) the war wasn't over when the book ended. However, I know Chima is writing a new series set in the same world, so maybe it'll come into play there. Loved this book, loved how fleshed out the world and the different peoples were, loved how everything slowly unraveled over four books that were each very important in their own way. Well done, Chima, well done.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars (more like 4.5)
Up Next: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Anything for You

Yep, another Kristan Higgins book! I know, so soon. But she had two out pretty close together and I couldn't resist. This is the fifth installment (and I think perhaps the last) in the Blue Heron series, which takes place in Manningsport, New York. Actually, I just looked it up, and it is the final book in the series. This makes me so sad, but I do hope she starts writing a new series about a quirky little town because she's awesome at it.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Conor O'Rourke has been in love with Jessica for most of his life. They've dated off an on for more than a decade, always in secret. So when he gets down on one knee, he expects the answer to be yes. When it's not, he's stunned. Jessica has always kept her heart closed off. Everyone in her life has let her down. Plus, she has her brother to look after now that mom's gone and dad's run off to who knows where. She doesn't need another complication in her life. but Conor has always been good at worming his way through her defenses.

I have always had a weird relationship with the back story that goes into this series. There is often about 100 pages of back story, and while I love it because it's well written, sometimes it's made me wonder if perhaps the story should have started back here instead of hopping back for a quarter of the book. This book deals with it in a different way, actually dividing it up and making a sort of timeline that seems less like a flashback. I liked it, although some of it seemed a little stilted and I could have used a bit more of their courting before present day. But as usual, Higgins won me over with her delightful secondary characters and the town of Manningsport. Also, Conor's a chef so I basically salivated my way through his chapters. And then there was the Big Problem. I saw what was going to happen, but not in the "Oh I guessed the twist it's no longer interesting" sort of way. More like the "oh god, he's trying to do the right thing and it's going to be a train wreck of good intentions" sort of way. It got my heart pumping, waiting for it to happen, and I was heartbroken when it did. There were a couple things that didn't seem right to me (spoiler alert), the biggest one being that Jess bought a house, a house that was perfect for her that she always wanted, and then sold it right away to move into Conor's place in the end. I thought the better compromise would be for him to move in with her. I dunno, it bugged me. But over all, loved it, can't wait for her next book!

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Gray Wolf Throne

I wasn't sure about this series when I started reading it, but I liked The Exiled Queen enough that I used some gift cards to get the other two books in the series. It's been really nice here. It's been raining, which makes for excellent reading weather. I'm currently curled up with both a Kristan Higgins book and the final book in the Seven Realms series. I'll try to keep it straight what happens in each book.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Raisa ana'Marianna has fled Oden's Ford, the school where she was hiding from an arranged marriage for nearly a year. After escaping her captors, she's now trying to find a way back to Fellsmarch that won't get her killed by all the political factions who would rather support a different queen, either her mother or her younger sister. Also looking for Raisa are Amon Byrne, captain of her guard, and Han Alister, who knows her as Rebecca and blames himself for her being kidnapped by the Bayars. Mage and princess are on a collision course, and the biggest secret of all is finally about to be revealed. But with the political turmoil in the Seven Realms, they might not live to find out.

This world just keeps getting more and more fleshed out. And I love it! I love well-developed fantasy worlds with realistic court intrigue and politics. My heart was beating so fast as Raisa and Han closed in on each other. It was a very slow reveal. I thought Han would discover who Rebecca really was at the end of the first book. Nope. Then I thought it would happen at the end of the second book. Nope. And with all the history between the two, I couldn't wait to see what would happen when Han finally found out Rebecca was actually the princess Raisa. I really liked the political intrigue. All the warring factions and side characters who think they have a bigger role than they do, and main characters who truly hold a lot of power made this a very interesting read. You can see all the sides tugging at what they want, and Raisa has to juggle all of them, from her Clan father, to the wizards who are oppressed by the Clans, to the other countries who want a piece of the Fells' pie. No one is completely right, and no one is completely wrong. I can't wait to finish The Crimson Crown!

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Anything for You by Kristan Higgins

Saturday, January 2, 2016

If You Only Knew

Here we are: the final review of the day. As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows of my adoration for Kristan Higgins. I read mostly young adult novels, but when I stray, it's to Higgins. Her romance books are chock-full of humor and cringe-inducing awkward interactions, and some very fun secondary characters. This book is slightly different from her other ones, in that it's more chick-lit than romance, focused less on romance than other things. Oh, right, I need some pith up here. Umm...actually, I've got nothing. Just pretend I said something funny or interesting. On with the review!

Retrieved from Goodreads
Jenny Tate designs wedding dresses in Manhattan, but she's moving to be closer to her sister soon. And after she delivers her ex-husband's new wife's baby at the baby shower, the move can't come soon enough. She needs space to detach from her ex and his perfect life and perfect new family. And the landlord who lives just below her with his angry old dog might be the perfect distraction. And if that doesn't work, she can look after her sister's adorable triplets. Rachel is the full-time mom of Charlotte, Grace, and Rose, and she loves every day of it. Sure, she may be exhausted, but she tries really hard to make sure her girls grow up in a loving, invigorating environment, and she makes an effort not to let herself go. Her husband certainly still seems interested. That is, until she catches him sexting, and her perfect life is shattered.

This book was so sad and so relatable. Jenny has a hard time distancing herself from her ex, and can't even bring herself to hate him and his new wife because they don't have the decency to be horrible people. She looks at every guy as a possible The One, to her detriment. And her mother is a real piece of work. But it was Rachel's struggle that really got me. It really highlighted the struggle of being a mom who devoted everything to her kids, still made an effort to be attractive to her husband, and then had her heart broken. But it's not so easy to walk away from someone when you have three kids who you want to know their dad and grow up in a two-parent household. Add to that, that she hasn't worked in years and it's hard to get a job after a long gap, and it's not a cut and dry situation. Her guilt at maybe being part of the reason her husband cheated, and her hope that they can work things out, is so so so sad. I really liked this book, even though it made me so sad. It had some really funny moments which lightened the sad, with Higgins' signature secondary characters and awkwardness. I really want to get her next installment in the Blue Heron series.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

The Exiled Queen

Review number three of the day! This book was read from the comfort of my family's house, where I'm spending the holidays. I must say, it is nice to have someone else doing the cooking, although after binge-watching The Great British Baking Show, I have a lot of things to try out at some point. Maybe that will be my reward for finishing writing Masque! I shall make tuile. The Exiled Queen is the second book in the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. I'm actually reading two of her series at the same time, and this is my favorite of the two.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Princess Raisa ana'Marianna is fleeing the Fells to Oden's Ford, a school in a neutral part of the seven realms where she hopes to hide as Rebecca Morley to avoid an arranged marriage to Micah Bayar. If she is discovered she could be dragged back home to make what she believes is a politically disadvantageous marriage. She might even be killed. At the same time, Han Allister and his friend Dancer travel to Oden's Ford to train as wizards. Han is to be a tool for the Clans when he is trained, but that's not his true interest. No, he wants revenge on the Bayar family for the deaths of his mother and sister. But when he arrives at the school, he learns there's much more at stake. Political intrigue, romance, and danger all collide as Raisa and Han meet, and their secrets turn deadly.

There is so much to like about this book. The world is expanded more in this book, which I adore, and there's political maneuvering and a war on the horizon. I do think too much of this book was spent on getting to Oden's Ford, but then I realized there are four books in this series instead of three, so that is more forgivable. I loved seeing Raisa and Han meet, since their interactions were some of my favorite in the last book. Of course, he doesn't know she's the princess, which makes every interaction even more interesting. I was so sad for Raisa and Amon and all that's keeping them apart. It's actually a love V I can get behind, because there are real obstacles between Raisa and both men. I did find Aediion to be weird and rather confusing, and hope that it is explained more thoroughly in the next book, which I'm currently reading. All in all though, I good second installment where plenty happened!

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins


Here we go! Review number two. I have actually had this collaboration on my shelf for a couple years. Other books kept getting in the way, and to be honest, as the Goodreads rating got lower, I became warier of reading. And, in some respects, I was right to. But we'll get to that. Hm, usually I try to add something interesting or pithy up in this bit...Oh! My SO gave me a ladle for Christmas. Before you raise your eyebrows at that, it is the most awesome ladle ever. It's shaped like the Loch Ness Monster, so when you put it in soup it looks like the iconic picture but more adorable! Anyway, on with the review!

Retrieved from Goodreads
Stephen has been invisible his entire life. His mom was the only person who knew him and stayed with him. But now she's gone, and he's left to deal with the curse that made it so no one can see him. Until the day that someone can. Elizabeth just moved into the apartment next door, and she can see him as if he were a regular boy. Why? The two work together to find that out. Maybe, just maybe, they can save Stephen from fading away completely.

Sigh. This book. It had such potential. And one of the saddest things for me is books that don't reach that potential. I expected this book to be something along the lines of Before I Fall or If I Stay. And it sort of started out that way. You get a really cool look at what it's like for Stephen to have no one see him, and how he has to change his behaviors once someone can see him. But that quickly fades into a sort of weird plot about people who can cast curses, and those that can detect them, and trying to find the big bad grandad who put the curse on Stephen. There's instalove and a not-so-scary villain who disappears as soon as he appears, and not very well fleshed out minor characters. But I might be able to forgive most of that, because of the beginning of the book, if not for the ending. The cop-out ending which might as well have ended in the middle of a sentence for how much is resolved the plot. Wow, I didn't realize I had such strong feelings about this. I've heard great things about David Levithan, so I'll probably try one of his books someday, but if there is ever a sequel to Invisibility, I don't think I'll read it.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars (more like 2.5)
Up Next: The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

Their Fractured Light

Wow, am I behind on my reviews. It's been nearly a month since I've posted, and I promise it's not for lack of reading. It's just an excess of stuff happening in my life and, well, a smidgen of laziness. You see, after I read two books and didn't get around to reviewing them, I kept reading. So the number of reviews piled up. But now I'm taking a short break from working on the final chapters of my 6th book, Masque, and I really should catch up. So here we go, starting off with a review of Their Fractured Light, the final book in the Starbound series by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner.

Retrieved from Goodreads
It's been a year since Flynn and Jubilee made the Avon Broadcast. Two years since Tarver and Lilac were rescued from a horrendous shipwreck on an abandoned planet. Now, on Corinth, hacker Gideon Marchant searches for a woman who led to the death of his brother, using everything at his disposal to ruin her and anyone who might have helped her. At the same time, Sofia Quinn has been on the run since her father died on Avon. She's a con artist who can tell the tiniest thought from the smallest expression. She wants Lilac's father to pay for her own father's death, and she'll stop at nothing. But there's something bigger at play: LaRoux Industries has another secret, one deadlier than anything seen before. Flynn, Jubilee, Tarver, Lilac, Sofia, and Gideon come together in this final installment to expose LRIs plans and save the universe.

Okay, that may be an insanely broad description of this book. But if you read the other two, you know what I'm talking about. Sofia and Gideon are awesome. They have similar slippery moral codes, and they can lie and cheat like nobodies business. And above all, they do not trust. So seeing these two have to work together in the really interesting setting of Corinth, was great. And the scenes where all six main characters are together are awesome. There were some heartbreaking bits, and some funny bits, and some incredibly sweet bits. If I were to complain about anything, it's that I felt like I wanted more Sofia and Gideon one on one after the other four showed up. While I loved seeing Tarver and Lilac and Jubilee and Flynn again, I wanted to know more about these new characters. The ending as well was a little neater than I would have liked considering the huge consequences of what happened in the climax (trying really hard not to be spoilery). But overall, I really enjoyed this book, and it's one of the best collaborations I've read to date. Would absolutely recommend this series.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan