ARC Review: “Crown of Midnight” by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of MidnightCrown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads | Amazon

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice. 

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA Children’s for this eARC! This title will be released on August 27th, 2013. 

WARNING: This review WILL have spoilers for the first book, Throne of Glass. Read my review HERE or watch my book club discuss this book with Crown of Midnight vague-spoilers HERE

It has taken me a week or so to write this review. Why? Because I CANNOT HANDLE ALL THE FEELS I AM FEELING. STILL. EVEN NOW. Sarah J. Maas, someday I will meet you and cry at your feet because alksfkasdjbfsdfb. Erm. Anyways…

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ARC Review: “Going Vintage” by Lindsey Leavitt

Going VintageGoing Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Goodreads | Amazon

When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars). The List:
1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous
But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far.

4 stars

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for this eARC! This title is now available.

Sometimes there are moments when a book turns out to be exactly what you need. This was one of those times.

The book begins with Mallory and Jeremy “studying” in his room. When they finally separate from their lip lock, they attempt to keep working on their school project together–or rather, Mallory keeps working on it. Jeremy is letting her do the whole thing. She logs onto this computer to find some sources, and instead finds that Jeremy has not only married a different girl on a Sims-like computer game, but has also been conversing with this girl on a far more personal level than he ever talked to her. Filled with hurt and betrayal, Mallory goes home and holes up in her basement, packing up her grandmother’s things to bring to her at her new retirement complex. In a box, she finds a notebook with a list of things her grandmother hoped to accomplish her junior year, and it seems absolutely perfect. If she’d lived in the 60s, there wouldn’t have been internet and Jeremy never could have cyber-cheated. Viva la Dark Ages!

This book has a super cute premise. I loved it from the second I heard it. It works really well for the book, too, with Mallory exploring both the pros and the cons of the whole thing. It causes self discovery, but it also causes conflict, which is nice. At the same time, though, there were times when I thought the characters were acting a little bit crazy. At times, multiple characters had overblown reactions that made me dislike them. This is especially true of Mallory’s sister, Ginnie, and sometimes of Mallory herself.

The plot seems pretty low key for most of the book. Mallory’s issue stem deeper than just her break up. Her mother isn’t being supportive and is too prying, her father isn’t making much money and her grandmother is trying to reinvent herself after the death of her husband. This interweave pretty well for most of the book. However, at the end they seem to blow up catastrophically into mountainous revelations in their own right, and each one is fighting for prominence rather than being given the space it deserves. Even Mallory can’t seem to find the time to explain them all, and she tells her sister so. In the end, I was a little unsure how her grandmother and then her mother’s revelations had to do with the plot at all.

The character of Oliver (Jeremey’s cousin) deserves his own paragraph, of course. I was a little affronted when he popped onto the scene so soon after Jeremy and Mallory’s breakup. I didn’t want this to be one of those books where the problem is instantly solved by another guy. I don’t want to spoil anything, but that isn’t what happens, and that made me extremely happy. Besides my worry that he was going to turn into Mallory’s knight in shining armor, he was a likable character who was a great friend and believable.

As always, the endings of these stories are always the make-it-or-break-it point for me. It’s important to me what the final message is. In the end, I was pleased and proud. Mallory becomes her own person in a believable way. She doesn’t need a man to save her. Jeremy, too, becomes a more fleshed out person throughout the story, so by the end you understand him, even if you still don’t like him. After too many books where we’re left just knowing the ex is a “bad guy,” this was refreshing.

If you’re looking for a good contemporary romance that’s really about the inner struggle with finding yourself after a break up, but don’t want the answer to be yet another guy, READ THIS BOOK!

ARC Review: “Velvet” by Mary Hooper

Velvet by Mary Hooper

Goodreads | Amazon

Velvet is a laundress in a Victorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry’s work is back-breaking and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Velvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come to work for her. Velvet is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not all that she says she is, and Velvet’s very life is in danger …A romantic and thrillingly exciting new novel from an acclaimed and much loved historical writer for teens.

2 1/2 stars

Thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for this eARC! This book will be released November 13th, 2012.

The blurb calls this book “romantic” and “thrilling.” The fact is, this book is neither.

Honestly, I was expecting so much more from this book. The premise was interesting, and Mary Hooper is an established historical fiction writer. Sadly, this book plays on too many historical fiction cliches that bother the heck out of me.

The first problem is the way the book was written. I have no idea why so many historical fiction books think they need to ramble on like historical pieces of the times. Yes, I understand there is certain language you can and cannot use when writing in historical periods, but we’ve cut out the rambling in modern day books for a reason. This is certainly a personal thing as well, since I prefer all unneccesary words to be cut, but still. It bothers me, and it made me iffy about the book from the get go.

The second was the characters. Apart from Madame Savoya, they were all pretty flat and generic. Velvet annoyed me especially, since she had the potential to be such a strong main character, but then fell into the utterly gullible and naive cliche. She toyed with Charlie (a boy from her past who is inexplicably smitten with her even though she brushes him off at every turn), with whom there was NO connection of any real kind, no matter how much they protested there was, and then she was completely taken in by both Madame Savoya and George, her assistant.

The kicker came with the ending–or rather, the lack thereof. I hit the button on my Kindle for the next slide and NOPE. Nothing. I literally couldn’t believe it. Looking back on those two pages or so, I guess they do suggest an ending, but it’s NOT a finished one. Not by a long shot. The climax is a brief and abrupt thing, then all of the sudden you have TWO pages of falling action and that’s just it. Note that when I say two pages, I’m talking for the screens of my small-as-possible Kindle. I’m not sure if this would even make two pages of book. Before this I was thinking of opimistically giving the book 3 stars, but this just killed the book for me.

I will say, however, that the idea continued to impress me all throughout the story. The intrigue that Hooper worked in was basic at times, but the entire setting–mediumship, etc–was really enjoyable and interesting. I learned a lot both about the real ideas of spiritualism and about how all the hoaxers got away with what they did. This is basically the thread that kept me reading.

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but I LOVE the genre. Maybe my standards for what I do read is a little too high, but this book just fell way short of all of them. I wanted so much more from the book, but I found the standard writing style, flat characters and an ending-that-wasn’t. Most of my frustration comes from the fact that I believed this book could be so much more. Hooper has a fantastic idea, but the execution just didn’t fit.