Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Shorts: The Staff of Serapis

In this adventure, Annabeth encounters more oddities in the subway than usual, including a two-headed monster and a younger blond girl who reminds her a little of herself. This is the story fans have asked for, in which Annabeth Chase teams up with Sadie Kane. The demigod daughter of Athena and the young magician from Brooklyn House take on a larger-than-life foe from the ancient world. Perhaps even more disturbing than the power-hungry god they encounter is the revelation that he is being controlled by someone—someone all too familiar to Sadie.    Quoted from Goodreads


I'm so thoroughly enjoying this crossover series.  I mean, what isn't there to love.  We get our favorite characters from two Rick Riordan series thrown together.  We get the clash of mythology and magic, new threats, and another fun adventure.

Let's be honest, these novellas are for the fans. While they are a fun adventure in and of themselves, they're designed to be read by people who have read both the Percy Jackson books (at least the first series) and the Kane Chronicles.  If you haven't, this is still a fun adventure, but you're missing about half of what makes it so great.  

I loved seeing Percy and Carter work together in The Son of Sobek, so I was thrilled when I saw we get our own Annabeth and Sadie adventure.  The Staff of Serapis didn't disappoint.  I enjoyed seeing the two mythologies combined and the way Annabeth and Sadie relate to each other. It highlights how different the two characters are and their magic/mythology systems.

The adventure is, as always, quirky and fun, hinting at one more crossover book, at least. This series also helps tie up one small loose end from the Kane Chronicles, so you can tell the author's been planning this for a while.  All in all, I'm giving this book a strong 4 stars.  It's fun, full of adventure, and an excellent chance to see some of your favorite characters in new and different situations.  So, if you've read at least one of Rick Riordan's series, you really need to pick this up.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Film Friday: Mockingjay

I didn't like this book half as much as the first two, and to be honest, the fact that they're splitting it up into two movies is kind of ridiculous.  Still, I loved what they did with Catching Fire, so I'm intrigued.  I'm sort of hoping that because they're expanding the story, I'll like the movie version better than I did the book.  Regardless, this new Capitol broadcast is delightful, and I already can't wait for November.

Book Review: The Stepsister's Tale

What really happened after the clock struck midnight?

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire. 

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate...

From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett's stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.


If you're looking for a good twist on a classic fairytale or maybe a more realistic look at the Cinderella story, look no further.  This is an interesting retelling, and while I've read other books exploring the story from Cinderella's step-sister's POVs, this one may be my favorite.   It's not perfect, by any means, but it is a thoughtful twist and a fun play on POV and people's perceptions of different events. 

I should probably start with Jane, who is quite a good main character.  She's strong, interesting, and willing to try new things.  She's not overly proud, and her whole world is her family. Then Isabella, or Cinder Ella, if you prefer, shows up---beautiful, spoiled, and about to change everything.  Like I said before, probably my favorite part of this book is how the author plays with our perceptions.  Jane thinks Isabella is beautiful, but she doesn't know how to work like Jane and her sister and she's spoiled rotten.  But (and there are a few minor spoilers here, but nothing big) Isabella, for the most part, isn't really mean.  She's just been thrust into a new situation where she has to work for the first time in her life, her father just died, and she's stuck living with people she hardly knows.  So while Jane is our main character, you can see how Isabella, because of the way she grew up, could also see everything that happens to her in an entirely different light.  Jane could be seen as mean or ugly, just as Jane sees Isabella as spoiled and useless.

I also enjoyed watching all the characters grow.  All the characters are given flaws that they have to overcome over the course of the story.  I particularly liked Jane's mother, who despite living basically in poverty, still pretends and acts like they are the most noble family in the land.  Don't get me wrong, I wanted Jane to yell at her sometimes---okay, a lot---but it made her a very interesting character.  It also forces Jane into new situations because her mother really isn't completely aware of what's going on around her.

You can't really tell the Cinderella story without a little romance. This time, though, we get Jane's slightly less royal relationship.  Will is an interesting love interest because both he and Jane have so many misunderstandings.  It's a little bit like Jane's relationship with Isabella. Both Jane and Will think the other person thought they were better than she/he was. Then another misunderstanding. Then another.  It could have driven me crazy, but instead it made the characters seem more real. This is Jane's first relationship, her first friendship with a boy, and the same goes for Will, and I really liked watching them grow up and grow closer.

The setting is very realistic. Yes, we are told about the mystical fairies in the forest, and while one does come into play in getting Isabella/Cinderella to the ball, this isn't a magically saturated kingdom.  It reminds me a little bit of Melanie Dickerson's fairytale adaptions without the religion.

My one pet peeve was how the actual Cinderella story was handled. There's a twist in there somewhere that, while I understand why the author put it in there and it did make for a good twist, I didn't much care for.  I fell like if you're going to retell a story or tell if from a different character's POV, at least leave in certain key elements that makes it the immortal story that it's become.

All in all, this is an interesting adaption of the Cinderella story.  I loved Jane as a character and liked the twists the author threw into the story.  I'm giving it a solid 3.5 stars.  I love fairy-tale adaptions. This year is particularly good for that, and I'm glad to be able to add this one to my list.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Review: Ruin and Rising

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.  Quoted from Goodreads


This was the perfect end to a unique series.  If you haven't read the first two books, this may contain minor spoilers, but I'll try to keep them to a minimum.  Plus, if you haven't read this series, now is the perfect time.  It's complete.  Over. Finished. No more pesky waiting for the next book to come out. Really, if you're looking for a new series, you should check this out.

Okay, enough with the whole read this series propaganda.  To be honest, when I started this book, I wasn't sure I liked it all that much.  The beginning is slow and a bit uncomfortable.  Alina's trapped by the Apparat, and while I love multiple villains, especially those who aren't completely evil but shaded with gray, I didn't much care for her time in the caves.  Alina feels horrible, and it sort of put me off the book---just a smidgen.  But if you push past the first few chapters, we get back to the adventure of the previous books.  

This book is full of some great adventures, surprising twists, and fun reveals. Characters die.  We get betrayal. We even get some well deserved justice for a minor character I hated but sort of forgot between this book and the last.  Alina and Mal grow up a lot, and their relationship really reflects this instead of annoying me like it did in the second book.  

As for the Darkling and Nikolai (because everyone knows they are at least half the reason anyone reads these books), they were absolutely perfect.  I do wish they both had a little more page time, but I loved them every time we see them.  The Darkling is delightful because he's such a sympathetic bad guy.  You constantly want him to be redeemed. As for Nikolai, what can I say?  He's amazing.  I love his dedication to his country, Alina, and even the brief scene with his parents. 

As far as relationships go, I'm happy with who Alina got with. Of the three guys (yes, there are still three different men vying for Alina's affection) he wasn't my favorite, but he was probably the most perfect for her.  I won't say any more because of spoilers, but even if she didn't choose the guy I personally liked the best, I still like her choice.

The ending is bitter sweet, and I have really mixed feelings about it.  Part of me wanted the book to go another way, but part of me liked the way things ended up. Part of me liked all the sacrifice (what can I say? I'm a sucker for noble sacrifices) but part of me thought there should have been more.  Still, I really appreciate the story the author told.

All in all, if you're looking for a new fantasy series (maybe one with a Russian feel) you need to check this out.  I'm giving it a fantastic 4 stars, and I can't wait to see what the Leigh Bardugo writes next. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Trailer Tuesday: Sinful

So I'm never sure how I feel about adding companion books to trilogies.  Part of me loves it because I want more of that world, but part of me thinks a trilogy is  enough and anything after that final book is sort of anticlimactic. Still, since I just barely read The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves and absolutely loved them, I'm giving this book a chance. Check out the trailer below and let me know what you think.

If you're interested, here's the summary.  I think it looks pretty good.

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved?  Quoted from Goodreads

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturday Shorts: Tiger's Promise

Before the curse, there was a promise. A prequel to the bestselling Tiger’s Curse series, this much anticipated novella recalls the beginning of Ren and Kishan’s story. Before Kelsey there was a girl, raised by a villain, whose love for a hero changed the course of history.
Trapped under the thumb of her abusive and powerful father Lokesh, Yesubai struggles to keep her own magical abilities secret while evading his dark powers. When Lokesh promises Yesubai to the prince of a neighboring kingdom, she becomes the central pawn in his plot to destroy the ruling family and take power for himself. Yesubai is trapped by her father’s threats and desperate to protect the man she comes to love, but she knows that any decision she makes will have dire consequences. As dark forces gather around her, Yesubai must decide if she’s willing to reveal that somewhere deep within her she has the power to change everything.  Quoted from Goodreads


This was actually a bit of a surprise for me how much I liked it. Warning, I will be referencing a few things from the Tiger's Curse series, though I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum. If you've read the Tiger's Curse series, you know how this ends, so it was a bit like going into Titanic.  The ship sinks.  However, I found I really enjoyed learning more about Yesubai's character; plus, we get a few twists I didn't expect that helped keep the story fresh.

To be honest,  Yesubai isn't really a character I was all that interested in. She's sort of this tragic figure who betrays the two brothers, and while you know she's a victim of Lokesh, she still betrays the brothers.  You never know how much she really loves Kishan and how much she was playing him. This book does a lot for her character.  Sure, it doesn't excuse her faults, but it does explain why she did what she did and how she felt.  It also gives you a chance to fall in love with Kishan again, while not secretly cheering on team Ren.  It doesn't excuse what they do or what happens, but it's nice seeing it from a different POV.

It's also interesting to see early Lokesh before everything with the curse happens. He's the same evil person, but at this point he's still on his rise to power.  His evil is also more personal since it's his only daughter.  Plus there are a few extras at the end of the novella, and if you think he's bad to Yesubai, wait till you read her mom's story.

So, yeah, the extras.  Possibly my favorite part of the book. They were a wonderful little surprise. I loved seeing Ren's first thoughts upon meeting Yesubai and the extend of their relationship.  Like I said before, we also get a very sad story from her mom's POV.  Finally, my favorite, we get a teaser chapter from Kishan's POV thats a sneak peek into Tiger's Dream!  I'd kind of given up on that book, so it's fun to see concrete evidence that Coleen Houck still working on it.

This is an excellent novella for fans of the series, and if you haven't read any of the Tiger's Curse books yet, this serves as a decent introduction (though I would probably read at least the first book before reading this).  I'm going to give it a strong 3.5 stars.  It probably would be more, but since I already sort of knew the plot (though, again, a few twists I didn't see coming) and I'm opposed to sad endings and my favorite parts were actually the extras in the end, I'm not going to give it the stronger 4 stars.  Still, it's an excellent addition to the series, and I'm delighted we have it.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Theater Thursday: The Giver II

I'll be honest, I sort of hated the first Giver preview.  It didn't look anything like how I imagined the world or and seemed VERY loosely based on the book.  This new one looks so much better.  I'm still a little iffy about it, but things are looking up.  Check out this second trailer below and let me know what you think.  Right now it's scheduled to come out 13 August.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review: Rebel

After coming back from death as Reboots and being trained by HARC as soldiers, Wren and Callum have finally escaped north, where they hope to find a life of freedom. But when they arrive at the Reboot Reservation, it isn't what they expected. Under the rule of a bloodthirsty leader, Micah, the Reboots are about to wage an all-out war on the humans. Although Wren's instincts are telling her to set off into the wilderness on their own and leave the battle far behind, Callum is unwilling to let his human family be murdered. When Micah commits the ultimate betrayal, the choice is made for them. But Micah has also made a fatal mistake . . . he's underestimated Wren and Callum.  Quoted from Goodreads


I really enjoyed the first book in this series, but the second one was even better!  Plus, it's only a duology, which means the story is over for any of you who don't want to start an unfinished series. 

Biggest change between books one and two, single to dual POV, and it was perfect. Reboot was told completely from Wren's POV, but in Rebel we get both her and Callum.  I had mixed feelings about this. I didn't care for it at all in Allegiant because of what I felt it did for Four's character.  That's not the case here.  It actually made Callum a much stronger character in this case.  We get to see him grow into a real leader and someone who can make tough decisions instead of just being the guy who reminded Wren of her humanity.  It's also fun to see Wren from his POV because it shows how close they've grown and how well they know each other.

If you read the first book you know there's going to be action and romance, and Rebel continued that perfectly.  The romance is sweet but it never overtakes the plot.  It simply helps move things on a bit, not that the action really needs any help.  It's tense right from the beginning, with multiple villains and shades of gray. If it isn't one problem, it's something else.  I've said it before, but I love when no group is perfect.  I won't give too much away, but I really like the way the different groups Wren and Callum are portrayed.  A lot of them have great people, but there are always the corrupt or fanatical that keep our main characters on their toes and no place is safe. 

What's best about Amy Tintera's series is (maybe) that there are only two books.  Part of me really wanted more, and I'm excited to see what she does next, but there's a part of me that is relieved.  A lot of dystopia books have sort of meh endings (I'm looking at you Mockingjay and Allegiant). This one goes out with a bang, and while I love how it ends, full of realistic hope and change, I'm sort of glad there was no bad middle book or frustrating ending to taint the series for me.

So should you read this series?  Absolutely.  It's a fun, unique dystopia/zombie (sort of) idea, where everything begins horribly but ends with a sort of hope, which is just the way I like my dystopias.  I'm giving it a very strong 4 stars and would recommend it to anyone who wants an action-packed read with just the right amount of romance thrown in.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Anticipating June

I'll be honest, June is a pretty pathetic month for book releases. Sure there are some great ones here, but the quantity is way down from other months.  I shouldn't complain.  I mean, it's summer, so people should be spending time outside, swimming, and going on vacation.  Plus, I still have tons of books from previous months to catch up on.  Still, I think this is probably the worst month of the year after December, and after the amazingness that is May, it's kind of a small sad list.  Still, there are a few books I'm really looking forward to here, so check them out.

             1st: Tiger’s Promise (novella) – Coleen Houck

            10th: Born of Deception – Teri Brown
                     Hexed – Michelle Krys

            12th: Wings – Elizabeth Richards

            17thRuin and Rising – Leah Bardugo
                     #Scandal – Sarah Ockler

            24th: Rain – Amanda Sun
                    The Stepsister’s Tale – Tracy Barrett

Isn't that sad?  Oh well.  July is looking better, and like I said, there are so many other books out there.