Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review: A Wonderlandiful World

At Ever After High, everyone is expected to sign the Storybook of Legends, pledging to follow in their fairytale parent's footsteps. But when Raven Queen came along, things became fairy, fairy confusing. Now no one's destiny is certain, not even for the most royal of them all, Apple White.When a mysterious being from Wonderland begins to infect Ever After High with a strange magic, everything goes topsy-turvy. The students transform into animals and objects, palace mice talk, and the beautiful green grounds on campus fade to black-and-white. Lizzie Hearts, Wonderland's future queen, Cedar Wood, daughter of Pinocchio, and Madeline Hatter, heir to the Mad Hatter's Hat and Tea Shoppe, seem to be the only ones who haven't completely lost their heads. It's up to them to save their best friends forever after from a curse that threatens to give their school-and their lives-a very unhappy ending.   Quoted from Goodreads


Welcome to Middle Grade book day!  Sometimes I just love reading middle grade books.  The emphasis is different: more adventure, less romance, shorter, less blood, that sort of thing. This isn't to say that middle grade doesn't deal with hard, complex topics, but it's a different feel from books for older audiences and can be a refreshing change.  

This book is absolutely delightful.  Yep, that's the word I think of when I describe Shannon Hale's (so far, anyway) Ever After High series.  The books are fun, with quirky characters and tons of fairy tale references.  This time around, we get new characters.  It's not that we haven't seen Cedar Wood and Lizzie Hearts before, but this is the first time they take center stage.  I loved seeing the world through heir eyes.  It's so different from Raven and Apple.  Plus, we get to know a lot more about wonderland and how other people feel about their destinies. 

Because of the all the wonderland-like madness, this book is even more quirky that the previous two.  Personally, I really enjoyed it---especially the whole narrator twist, which I found really cleaver and fun---but I can see how it could frustrate some people. Plus, things happen with memories that really annoyed me. Still it expands the world perfectly and is a delightfully zany adventure.

My only complaint is that Shannon Hale isn't writing any more of these books.  I realize this is a TV show and there's a toy line so they don't want to end the conflict. I'm guessing there will now be other books in the series by different authors that will continue the story, but to be honest, I'm not sure if I'll read them. I picked up these because I love Shannon Hale and basically anything she writes.  However, I'm not convinced I'll continue with a series with no end in sight by dozens of authors I don't know.  That's just not where I personally am as a reader.  It's great for kids (clearly the target audience). I read tons of books like that when I was a kid. It's just not what I'm looking for now, so I'm sad book three was just another adventure instead of wrapping up the Raven/Apple conflict introduced in the first two books.

Still, if you're looking for a fun, delightful adventure, you really should check this out.  The writing is excellent, the world is inventive, and the characters fun and sympathetic. I'm giving it a lovely 3.5 stars.  It's a great story and absolutely worth checking out, especially if you like the first two.

Meme Monday

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review: The Infinite Sea

How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.
Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.  Quoted from Goodreads


I hardly know what to say about this book.  Did I enjoy it? Of course.  But it's in a hard position.  There was so much hype after the first one, that how could the second one live up to it?  Personally, I think it did a pretty good job. Did I have a few issues?  Sure.  Does it suffer a bit from second book syndrome? Yes. But it's still a well written, adventure filled book in a devastatingly tragic world.

This is a fast read.  Things happen and keep happening, breaking off at the worst possible moments so you have to keep reading or skip ahead, just to know if the characters you love survive . . . because some of them don't.

Just a heads up, the format in this book is a bit different.  The first two thirds is a nice rotation between the main characters we got in The 5th Wave, with the addition of Ringer (which, I'll be honest, kind of bugged me a bit. It's not that I didn't like her story or find it compelling because it was.  I just didn't care as much about her as I did Cassie, Ben, Sam, or Evan).  Then the last third is entirely Ringer, so while I came to care about her as a character and her story was interesting, I wanted to see more of the characters I loved so well from the first book.

Of course, loving characters is always a danger in this series.  People die.  It's sad.  It's shocking. and it tears your heart out just a little.  At the same time, there's just enough hope and mystery that you can't help but keep caring about the different characters in their struggle to survive. 

One of the things I enjoyed most was the mystery of why the aliens were destroying humanity the way they were. They talk about the dinosaurs being wiped out with one meteor, so why the different waves?  It's cruel, intended to destroy what makes people human, and I found it to be an interesting question I can't wait to explore in the next book.  

I read several reviews before reading the book, trying to gage how much I should lower my expectations, and one thing I found completely wrong was the repeated statement that there was basically no romance in this book. There is. In fact, it's the realistic, perfect amount for the situation. Sure, there's no great declarations of love or overly-detailed make-out scenes, but that would not have fit into the world that's created or the characters. 

I realize this book review is rather vague.  I just didn't want to give anything away and spoil the book for you. So, should you read this?  Absolutely---especially if you loved the first book. It's a nail-biting, heart-pounding adventure, full of betrayal, death, compassion, consequences, and promises.  I'm giving it a strong 4 stars. Now I'm forced to endure until the third book comes out, answers all the questions, and I know who survives this roller coaster.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: The Perilous Sea

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.
Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.  Quoted from Goodreads


I love this book.  There.  Enough said.

Okay, clearly I'll write more, but really, we could just leave it at that.  The best part about this series is I wasn't even afraid going into the second book that it would be bad (and, really, that's almost always my fear after an amazing first book).  Plus, you literally can't stop turning pages. 

So, what did I love?  Split timelines.  Did you ever watch Alias, where we start the show at some horrible moment, then go back three days to find out how our hero gets into the situation. This book is sort of like that, but instead of going completely back to the beginning and putting aside that horrible situation, the author goes back and forth from past to present (or present to future), every chapter.  It sounds confusing, but it worked amazingly well.  Each setting is so different, the adventure and danger so unique and setting specific, that you never get confused where or when you are (at least, not unless the author wants you to be as part of the mystery).  On top of that, it really ups the tension as you watch what happens to our main characters in two timelines and two settings.

Then there's Iolanthe and Titus.  I love them.  They're fun, well fleshed out characters that are good at what they do.  I love the banter back and forth between them, half as "boys" at Eaton Collage and half as two people who love each other and still have problems they have to work out. There's just he right amount of romance between all the adventure to keep it fresh but not overwhelm the very busy, page-turn inducing plot.

We get more of the secondary characters this book, and I love them.  Even tertiary characters have distinct personalities, and they're fun without being too quirky. Don't get me wrong, I love certain quirky characters, but sometimes authors put in too many to keep things from being cardboard and it comes off as an episode of Gilmore Girls instead of real life.  These characters are distinct and different while still being the sort of people you meet every day and could adopt as your friends (well, the good guys, anyway).

Basically this book is amazing.  It's full of action, twists, prophecies, mistaken identities, cliff-hangers, mysterious pasts, missing memories, survival, war, complex characters, romance, magic . . . the list is endless.  So if you're looking for an amazing fantasy series, you absolutely have to read this.  I'm giving it a strong 5 stars.  It's everything I could possibly want in a book.  Now I just have to suffer until the third one comes out.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meme Monday

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: Deluge

It's one thing to battle for life . . . but what do you do when death itself comes hunting? 

The Bettarinis and Forellis have found rich fulfillment together in medieval Italia. But after fighting off countless enemies, they now must face the worst foe of all. As the Black Death closes in upon them, threatening everything and everyone they hold dear, Lia and Gabi–and the knights they love–must dig deep within to decide how they might remain safe…and if they need to risk it all in order to truly live as they’re called.    Quoted from Goodreads


I'm one of those people who was satisfied with The River of Time series after the original three books.  Sure, the next two shorts were fun, but I really looked at them as extras, and I sort of went into this with the same idea.  I'm still standing by the trilogy here, but this book really can't be called a novella.  I mean, it's somewhere around 400 pages!

So if the first three books are Gabi's story, the last few (they keep changing it, putting two novella's into one and calling it a book, so last two?) are Lia's.  The story's really split into two sections.  The first half we get more Bettarini time travelers to save, plus Lia's wedding. It's not until the second half where you hit the plague.  The novel itself skips something like three years between the first and second half and could have easily been two novellas. I almost wish it would have been.  The first half is happy.  We get new locations and characters (they go to Venice!).  There's the aforementioned wedding, and a separate adventure that is reminiscent of the first few books.

The second half is completely different.  Half of me is glad the author explored the Black Plague. I enjoyed knowing who lived and who died, especially since it's been a point of worry in every preceding book.  But part of me hated it.  She killed of some people I was really sad to see go, so now I can't un-know exactly who died and who survived.  Even the survivors struggle with what's happening, so we get all their depression with watching so many die on top of our own.

At the end of the day, though, if you're a fan of the series, I would absolutely read this book. We get lots of adventure, romance, and all the great characters we've come to love.  I loved the new obstacles, villains, and locations.  We get alternating POV between Gabi and Lia, which means more Marcello and Luca, which is always a plus. 

Besides how sad part of the book is (and really, you can't complain, since you know what this is going into it), my only complaint is the epilogue.  It's told from Gabi and Lia's kids POV, without any reference to their parents at all.  Sure, it's great to know that their kids grew up in relative peace and are close to each other and brave and strong, but I wanted to see more of the characters I loved, and we didn't get any.  Even if Lisa T. Bergren wanted to keep it from the kid's POV (which I'm fine with) I at least wanted them to see their parents, sort of let us know what's been happing in the last 15 years or so, but we don't get any of that.

Still, this is a fun, tragic adventure for characters I've grown to love.  I'm giving it a high 3.5 stars (and rounding it up to 4 on Goodreads).  If you're a fan of the series, you really should read this.  Even if you're not, go check out the first book. Despite the horrible "teenage slang" the author throws in there, it's an exciting, breathtaking, romantic read.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: Illusions of Fate

“I did my best to keep you from crossing paths with this world. And I shall do my best to protect you now that you have.”Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.   Quoted from Goodreads


This very possibly my favorite Kiersten White book, and that's saying something.  I adored her Paranormalcy series and thoroughly enjoyed her Mind Game duology, but this one is better.  Maybe because it was only one book, but really I think I just loved the characters, setting, all of it.

Jessamin is a perfect main character.  She defies society's conventions, but instead of feeling forced or modern, like so many books, it works because she's foreign, and it makes a difference.  She's strong, independent, and determined to make her own choices (you can see one of the reasons the title works so well).  Because she's an outsider, we also get to see Albion through her eyes, introducing us to the country and the world of the book in an organic way.

It's not just Jessamin who is wonderful.  You can't help but love Finn, of course. He's gorgeous, smart, sweet, and mysterious.  He's the reason this story takes place, the single factor that starts everything, but the story ends with Jessamin. But the good characters don't end there.  Possibly my absolute favorite is the girl who becomes Jessamin's best friend, Eleanor.  She's bubbly, vivacious, and deceptively cunning in the best way possible.  She's one of those characters I would love to be best friends with, and she steals the spotlight whenever she enters the story.

As for the villains, they are horribly evil in the best way possible. Besides shadowing her with black birds (Hitchcock's The Birds, anyone---so creepy), he tortures Jessamin at their first meeting, threatens and attacks her friends, and constantly manipulates everything.  He's always one step ahead, brilliantly plotting war and destruction all for his own power.

As for the world, honestly, it reminded me of Victorian England with a sort of steampunk twist.  The enemy on the continent was France, and while I'm not sure exactly which colony Jessamin would have come from, it's easy to imagine. Really, it's the magic that's the world building draw to this book. Plus, the fast pace keeps the plot from ever bogging down. 

Basically, if you're looking for a wonderful stand-alone, historical fantasy type book, look no further.  This is a fun, romantic, action packed adventure I would recommend to just about everyone. It's a strong 4 stars for me, and honestly, I'm hoping Kiersten White decides to write more in this world . . . maybe a spin-off story from Eleanor's POV?  I'm keeping my finger's crossed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Trailer Tuesday: Black Ice

I'm not really the whole scary movie kind of person but I love a good mystery.  Plus, lets be honest, this is Becca Fitzpatrick, and from the blurb (which I included below) you know there's some romance going on here as well.  I actually think this book looks pretty intriguing  and I need to check it out. Plus, isn't this a great book trailer!  What do you think?  Are you sold? And who do you think the bad guy really is?  Is it bad that I've already got my suspicions from the blurb?

Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late. 

Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage. 

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target. 
But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?   Quoted from Goodreads

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Book Review: Trial by Fire

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.
What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.   Quoted from Goodreads


If you're looking for an original, unique book, look no further.  Trial by fire doesn't sound all that different from a lot of other books out there, but the world building is so unique, especially when you start off with the whole Salem witch thing (which has been done a lot) and see exactly where you end up and all the well thought out changes and adaptions of fairly common historical practices. I loved it.

First, world building. Honestly, like I said before, I love how absolutely unique the world building is.  I mean, we have witches and alternate worlds, which have all been done before, but the way she combines everything together.  How Lily becomes a crucible and how that relates to magic and the mechanics that she uses, the willstones, the burnings, etc. It was combined together in such a perfectly creative way, that I absolutely loved what Josephine Angelini did with the mythology.

The characters are also pretty great.  Lily, herself has to grow a lot, but I love who she becomes by the end.  She starts off as someone who physically can't do a lot, and becomes a girl who is sure of herself with the power to really make a difference. Plus, Lily is surrounded by a lot of great side characters, from Rowan, the complicated boy you can't help but fall in love with, to her sister Juliet, who loves Lily in each and every world.  Each character has depth and personality, and it's fun to see the different people in the different worlds.

As for action, this book is full of it, from monster attacks to mistrust, kidnappings to secret meetings, it's all there.  It really is one of those books you can't put down because there's almost never a good place.  Even when the action does pause a bit, it's filled with magic and more world building. 

Really, my only complaint for the book is how easily Lily does everything.  I understand that she's powerful, and sometimes she has problems with the simple stuff, but she gets the big stuff a little too quickly for my taste.  We are told over and over again that she is being introduced to magic that most crucibles never achieve, and she masters it on her first try.  I get the book really isn't about her learning magic, it's more about facing off with her alternate self, Lillian, and fighting for what she believes, but I wish she would have failed a few more times instead of mastering what no one else can every time.  I'm not disparaging Lily's character---I thought she was developed beautifully---just how easily everything came to her.  I wanted a bit more struggle. 

Despite that one small problem, this book is amazing.  I adore the world building, the way we start with things like burning witches, and how it is morphed into this complete, amazing mythology.  I love the characters and the adventures Lily is thrust into.  For me, this book is a strong 4 stars.  It's fun, unique, and fascinating.  The ending is a bit abrupt, but we have too more books to go, and I can't wait.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Book Review: Heir of Fire

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. 
While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?  Quoted from Goodreads


I'll be honest, when I started this series, I wasn't too impressed.  I'd heard so much about the first book, how amazing it was, how much I would love it, that really nothing could live up to the hype, and it sort of didn't.  It was a good book, but I never fell in love with it.  So when the second book came out, I didn't rush right out to read it, but I knew I would get to it some day, and I did.  And I loved it.  It was everything I wanted the series to be and more.  Maybe it was my lowered expectations or (and this is my personal opinion) it was just better and more complex, full of twists I didn't see coming.  So I tried to keep my expectations lower for this third one so it could possibly be as amazing as the second one, and it absolutely was.  I am totally and completely a huge fan of this series.  It's complex and amazing and everything I could have wished for and more.

Celaena grows so much in this book.  I love the person she is by the end, but it takes her a long time to get there.  She really grows up.  She's been so broken by the deaths of so many people she loved, she really has to work through all those emotional scars, and it's a fantastic journey.  We get a lot of new characters this book, and one of the best has to be Rowan.  He's basically the male version of Celaena plus a few hundred years, and he is awesome.  Sure, there were moments when I disliked him.  But then, there are moments (especially in the first book) when I disliked Celaena, and a lot of times for similar reasons.  Basically he is kick-butt awesome with his own set of scars to rival Celaena's and I adore how their friendship grows. 

In this third book, we finally get to leave the castle, so you see and experience so much more of the world Sarah J. Mass has created.  The world building is awesome.  Part of it is a few of those new characters.  We get Manon Blackbeak, a witch (like Baba Yellowlegs), and I love these witches.  They are delightfully evil, and yet you can't help cheering for Manon, dark as she is, and her own journey. Then there's Mab and the Fae.  The author takes so many similar elements and then twists them, making them her own, complex, and completely unique to this world, that I love it. 

Other new characters, we get the absolutely delightful Aedion Ashryver, who I thought I would hate at first, but has become one of my favorite characters in the series, and I will be so sad if he dies later (no one is safe in this series. NO ONE). Through him, (and Chaol and a little bit Dorian) we learn more about what the King did ten years before.  It's fascinating watching them solve one of the mysteries that ripped apart their world.

As for Dorian and Chaol, I have mixed feelings.  I feel like both of them are growing up, but I hate their relationship in this book.  Mostly, I'll admit, I'm frustrated with Chaol.  I feel like Dorian and Celaena grow up a lot (though they're not perfect) but it takes Chaol a little longer  to get where you know he can be.  He's good by the ending . . . mostly.  I won't go into it because he does something I love and absolutely hated him for at the same time, but I like the person he's starting to become.  

Aaaaaaagg, the ending!  It really just about killed me.  You might want to stop reading a few chapters before and then read the rest right before the fourth book because I guarantee it will kill you just a little bit.  It starts to wrap up nicely, and then . . . well you know there are some absolutely, perfect villains that you can't help but hate on multiple levels (the King of Adarlan, anyone?) and the things they do at the end to characters I absolutely love . . . well, death is only the beginning of the bad things that happen.

All in all, this is an amazing addition to an amazing series.  If you want something that's complex, full of action and character growth, world building and history, with characters you love and hate, you need to read this series.  My only stipulation is it isn't done yet (we get 3 more books!) and the ending will leave you dying to know what happens next.  I'm giving it a delightful 4.5 star.  It's wonderful, delightful, and one of those books I want to rush out and make everyone read.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Anticipating September

Well, September is looking amazing!  Sure, this year October is looking better, but there's so many great books coming out this month, it's going to be hard to choose what to read first. The sad thing is that despite how many book's I've listed below that I'm excited for, I know there are more coming out that I'm sure to read that haven't made my list. Still, this is a great beginning to an excellent month for books.

                   Trial by Fire – Josephine Angelini
                   Heir of Fire – Sarah J. Mass

                    The Jewel – Amy Ewing
                    A New Darkness – Joseph Delaney
                    Shattered – Mari Mancusi
                    The Winter People – Rebekah L. Purdy

            9th:  Illusions of Fate – Kiersten White
                    Crown of Ice – Vicki L. Weavil
                    Into the Fire – Ashelyn Drake
                    The Caller – Juliet Marillier

            16th: The Perilous Sea – Sherry Thomas

        Day 21 – Kass Morgan

         Firebug – Lish McBride

            30th: The Queen of Zombie Hearts – Gena Showalter
                     Winterspell – Claire LeGrand
                     Invisible (The Twixt) – Dawn Metcalf

                     Cinder and Ella – Kelly Oram

Well, that's it.  Isn't this month looking superb?  And these are just the books I know about that I'm looking forward to.  If I missed anything that I have to read, let me know and I'll check it out.  Have a great reading month.