Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

You guys all know that I love Sarah J. Maas. Probably a bit too much. But I’ll admit that I was worried about her new series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, because it’s really had to do a Beauty and the Beast retelling well…

I should never have worried!

Betwixt the Books Reviews: “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki

GUYS! Michaela and I finally managed to do this joint review! By which I mean that I finally found the time to finish it so we could film this. Michaela was even able to participate in a buddy read for this book, though I was busy during that time. We’ve been excited for this video since before our hiatus, so we hope that you enjoy!

Michaela’s Review: 5 stars | Gretchen’s Review: 4 stars

Review: “Isla and the Happily Ever After” by Stephanie Perkins

IslaIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Goodreads Amazon

Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Five stars

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ARC Review: “Rose Under Fire” by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire

 Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein

Goodreads |  Amazon

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

Five Stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Disney Hyperion for this eARC.  This title will be released September 10th, 2013.

As of typing this paragraph, I finished Rose Under Fire about five hours ago and I still feel…humbled.  I’m not quite sure how to review this book.  How do you even begin to review something this important?

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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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Review: “Shadows in the Silence” by Courtney Allison Moulton

Shadows in the SilenceShadows in the Silence (Angelfire #3) by Courtney Allison Moulton

Goodreads | Amazon

Your strength in heart and hand will fall. . . .
Ellie knows that the darkest moments are still to come, and she has everything to fight for:

She must fight for Will.
The demonic have resorted to their cruelest weapons to put Will in mortal danger, and Ellie makes an unlikely alliance to save him and to stop Lilith and Sammael, who seek to drown the world in blood and tear a hole into Heaven.

She must fight for humanity.
As the armies of Hell rise and gather for the looming End of Days, Ellie and her band of allies travel to the world’s darkest and most ancient regions in her quest to come into her full glory as the archangel Gabriel.

And Ellie must save herself.
Her humanity withers beneath the weight of her cold archangel power, but Ellie must hold tight to who she is and who she loves as she prepares for the ultimate battle for Heaven and Earth.

In this final installment in the Angelfire trilogy, Courtney Allison Moulton brings her dark world of epic battles and blistering romance to a blazing bright conclusion.

5 stars

Warning: This review will contain spoilers of Angelfire and Wings of the Wicked. Don’t forget to check out my review of Wings of the Wicked!

Well. It’s finally here. It’s finally the end. I can’t believe it. I won’t believe it. Even though I must.

Shadows in the Silence picks up right where Wings of the Wicked left off. Ellie has a sword leveled at Cadan, demanding that he help her find someone who can help heal Will, who is slowly dying.

At this point, the book starts its favorite thing to do: travel. I have no idea how Ellie was able to get enough time off from school to travel around the world three times, but it happened. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but there was a LOT of travelling.) Usually I get annoyed when a book bops around like that, but for this one it worked. Ellie has a lot of history all over the place, and it makes sense that so is her legacy. I think there was only one trip where I felt like “Okay, this had no point but to further these characters’s relationship,” but it was Will and Ellie so that was totally okay. (Yes, Will ends up being fine. That’s not a huge spoiler, I’m sure.)

Guys. Will and Ellie. Guys. I love this couple so much. I love who dedicated they are to each other and just…all of the feelings. Those worrying that Will’s incapacitation will mean few Will and Ellie scenes can stop. The scenes that they do have are so powerful. I’m really going to miss these guys as a couple.

I also particularly enjoyed how, despite this being the last book, other characters got room to expand. I say this in terms of Cadan and Will especially. Even Marcus was given a little more meat. In a book that could have been completely about Ellie, these guys got some time to shine too, and it really made the whole book connect even better.

*MILD SPOILERS BELOW*

Ellie’s transformation was, of course, the focal point of this book, since this is the final book. One of my only problems in this book was that so much of it was spent trying to find a way to defeat all the demons without Ellie having to become Gabriel when it was so obvious that she was going to anyways. And then when she did, Ellie-as-Gabriel had this FANTASTIC moment where she forgot everything that made her Ellie and was entirely Gabriel, but it was over way too fast. I really wish that had been expanded upon, but I guess I can understand why it wasn’t.

*MILD SPOILERS END*

All in all, I thought the end of the book was really well done. The final battle was amazing. I did find the book’s epilogue to be a little corny, but honestly I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Courtney hasn’t disappointed with one second of these series and this was no different. My only real disappointment is that now we have to say goodbye to this universe once and for all. I’m looking forward ridiculously hard to what she’ll do next!

ARC Review: “Mind Games” by Kiersten White

Mind GamesMind Games (Mind Games #1) by Kiersten White

Goodreads | Amazon

Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

5 stars

Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this eARC! This title will be available February 19th, 2013.

This should not have worked. This should not have been good. Everything about this book was begging for me to hate it.

So why did I love it so much?

Here’s why I shouldn’t have loved Mind Games:

  1. It’s written by Kiersten White and it’s NOT about Evie and Lend, to which nothing was supposed to compare.
  2. The point of view is constantly switching between two sisters.
  3. The point of view not only switches between characters, but switches between the past and the present.
  4. There is a love triangle beginning for one of the sisters.
  5. I hate false advertising. This book isn’t really a “slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller” as descriped in the blurb. I wasn’t ever particularly scared or anything.

AND YET I LOVED IT.

All of my feels about this book are hard to explain. But hold on, let me back up a little. This book is about two sisters with psychic powers who have been orphaned and “taken in” by this school for girls with psychic powers. The problem is that this school is not a nice place, and they’re using these girls for evil purposes. The first sister’s name is Annie, and she’s blind—but a Seer. So her sight is really more useful in the long run. Her sister Fia is like nothing anyone has ever seen before, because she has these great instincts that tell her everything from the right stocks to pick to how to perfectly fight someone—and also keep her from being able to be seen by Seers. The school that’s taken them in is training Fia to be their killer while holding Annie for collateral. The book opens with Fia out on her first hit, which she is unable to carry out. And then it all goes downhill from there.

I was not amused with the book started going back and forth between Fia and Annie, and even less so when the book kept going into chapters of flashbacks. Usually, this DOES NOT WORK. But with this one … it did. It ACTUALLY WORKED and I don’t know how. The flashbacks actually did their job of making the story and the characters even deeper while never taking away from the flow and process of the present storyline. WITH FLASHBACKS, I felt like the plot never stopped moving forward, and fast. I’m still going gaga about that.

The characters of Fia and Annie were very different, and their voices really came through. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with Annie, but Fia entirely makes up for it. She is broken, she is battered, she is stubborn and she is a fighter. Living in Fia’s head is painful and terrible and breathtaking.

Usually I wouldn’t be a fan of the love triangle that was set up either, but here it totally made sense. The characters aren’t throwing themselves at each other, and they aren’t eternally in love with each other from the start either. There’s a mutual attraction that pulls one of the sisters in two ways that make utter and total sense.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but here it goes: I think that Mind Games is better than the Paranormalcy books. I mean, the two books are REALLY DIFFERENT, but I think as a crafted object Mind Games is actually better. There’s a less of White’s humor in here, but her story writing seems to have reached a new level with this one.

Blog Tour: “The Cadet of Tildor” by Alex Lidell – Review + Giveaway!

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Welcome to the blog tour for The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell! There’s a giveaway in here somewhere, but first! My GLOWING review!

Cover Final CadetofTildorThe Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

Amazon | Goodreads

There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown’s inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.

5 stars

This tour is hosted by A Tale of Many Reviews. Make sure you check out the rest of the tour HERE. Thanks to AToMR and Alex Lidell! This title will be available January 10th, 2013.

There are moments, when you finish a book, that you just go, “Yes.” You put down your book or ereader and just sit there for a few minutes because YES. Especially lately, for me, when all my blog reading has been rushed and not entirely enjoyable. THIS IS WHY I LOVE BLOGGING, books like this.

I will say right from the get-go that I am a HUGE Tamora Pierce fan. She basically structured my childhood. One of my favorites was her series The Protector of the Small. The main character, Kel, and Renee would be GREAT AND AWESOME FRIENDS. If you loved The Protector of the Small series, stop reading this review right here and just go pre-order this book. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

Renee de Winter is my kind of girl. When the book opens up, she is given an ultimatum by her father: either be a real girl, or she’s banished from the house. Like she should, Renee chooses to go back to the life of a soldier–even though she is falling behind the rest of her male peers. Renee is shorter and weaker then all her male peers, simply because she doesn’t have the body mass she does. She believes that her salvation will come when the legedary Commander Savoy comes to teach the cadets, thinking that his methods will help her learn how to be better than the boys. But then, of course, there is kidnapping and treason and her simple task of trying to stay in the cadets so she doesn’t get thrown out on the street with nowhere to go gets WORSE.

I am honestly shocked on how well this book handles a wide range of settings and characters. I usually don’t like large character casts, but somehow this manages to keep all the characters in my brain. Sure, plenty of them aren’t fleshed out too much, but unlike some other books this doesn’t bother me. Each character seems to have the perfect amount of focus for their role in the story. (Except for Alec. But I think I just don’t LIKE Alec.)  This book also definitely gets around, but I’m always really connected to where I am at the time. I usually jump on books for doing both these things poorly, but…I can’t believe I get to say someone’s done it well.

The plot is also very involved. It’s very political, and each action has a reaction on a very large scale. But, somehow, each action is also very personal, and each step makes sense. I wish I could expand on that, but then they’re would be spoilers and I can’t have that. Let me just say that Renee is affecting politics on a global scale while simply protecting her friends, and it’s amazing how it works out. Everything fits together seemlessly to create a personal story within a complicated political sphere–which, even better, always made sense to me.

As I said, more characters than not weren’t fleshed out, but the main characters–Renee, Savoy, Diam, for example–made me very happy. Obviously I’m predisposed to like Renee, but the character arc for Savoy also made me very happy. Once my intial dislike of a character is cemented, it takes very good reasons for me to like them again. Lidell gave me good reasons. For everything. Even the things I disliked in the beginning. One weird thing was that he had more flaws then it seemed Renee did, but I’ll let that slide. Romance was entirely NOT a factor of this novel, but I actually found myself wishing for it. Yes, me. Pretty sure pigs are about to fly. I’ll leave it at that.

It’s always harder to write a review on books you liked rather than the ones you disliked, but this is my attempt. My one most horrible thing to say is that Goodreads doesn’t have a series tag for this book and I just KNOW there has to be another one because OHMYGOD THERE HAS TO BE ANOTHER ONE. I will most certainly be owning it, and giving them the special place on my top shelf next to my Protector of the Small books.

AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

FOR OUR US FRIENDS: $20 Amazon Gift Card, PLUS a copy of THE CADET OF TILDOR with swag

FOR OUR INTERNATIONAL FRIENDS: $20 Book Depository Gift Card

Enter HERE if you’re interested!

AToMR 2

ARC Review: “Dear Teen Me” edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally

Dear Teen Me – An Anthology edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally

Goodreads | Amazon | Website

Dear Teen Me includes advice from over 70 YA authors (including Lauren Oliver, Ellen Hopkins, and Nancy Holder, to name a few) to their teenage selves. The letters cover a wide range of topics, including physical abuse, body issues, bullying, friendship, love, and enough insecurities to fill an auditorium. So pick a page, and find out which of your favorite authors had a really bad first kiss? Who found true love at 18? Who wishes he’d had more fun in high school instead of studying so hard? Some authors write diary entries, some write letters, and a few graphic novelists turn their stories into visual art. And whether you hang out with the theater kids, the band geeks, the bad boys, the loners, the class presidents, the delinquents, the jocks, or the nerds, you’ll find friends–and a lot of familiar faces–in the course of Dear Teen Me.

Thank you to Zest Books for this ARC! This book will be released October 30th, 2012

 

You may notice that this book has no rating. Certainly it will have to have one on Amazon, Goodreads and the like because they demand it, but Dear Teen Me is, to me, a book that transcends ratings.

What is a rating, anyways? It is a mark of sometimes good technical storytelling, other times it is because of a person’s simple like or dislike of a book. With Dear Teen Me, the former aspect especially holds no place.

Dear Teen Me is not a story. It is a conglomeration of personal, nonfiction stories about the teen years of dozens of YA authors. The concepts of “good technical storytelling” do not apply. The content is just not that kind.

I don’t know what I thought when I requested an ARC of this book. Whatever it was, I only know that the book exceeded my expectations. I was certainly expecting a great deal of “Were you an outsider in high school, because it’s okay to be weird!” and I got that, but not one of these stories was cheesy. Not one was a cliché of an adult trying to empower a teenager. The topics that these authors went over ranged from self-harm and eating disorders to coming out and dealing with abusive parents—and everything in between. Yes, every story had a happy ending and a moral, but you never felt like you were being told. All of the letters—though in some more than others—I felt as if I was intruding on someone’s most personal journal entry, and the that raw emotion on display was not for my eyes.

Dear Teen Me was not a book that I may have picked up of my own volition, simply because I am tired of books where “former teens” share their inspiring stories and tell you how to learn from them. I don’t want to hear inspirational “rah rah” stories meant to make me feel better about myself because it’s okay to be a broody teenager. The authors who contributed here seemed to understand that. No one is lecturing. No one is pretending that wounds leave no scars. No one is shying away from topics sometimes adults and teens alike are afraid of discussing. No one is censoring a thing.

And why would they? They’re writing these for themselves. For their mistakes. For their pain. They just happen to be gracious enough to allow them to be read by others.

ARC Review: “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Goodreads | Amazon

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

5 stars

Thank you to Scholastics and NetGalley for this ARC! You can get a copy for yourself on September 18th, 2012.

*Note from Gretchen: Before this review gets started, I would like to take a moment to welcome my first guest reviewer! As this blog gets bigger and bigger, I’ve found I can’t handle to review load on my own. Therefore, I turned to a longtime friend to help with the load, and this is her first review! So give a warm welcome to Marina, who also happens to be a HUGE DIEHARD Maggie Stiefvater fan.

I have a confession to make: I did not agree to guest-post here because I was doing a favor for Gretchen.  I agreed because she said “Raven Boys!” and I said “GIMME.”  Because I am very fond of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing.   I am not Gretchen, but I assure you I’m usually very picky, so all the gushing I’m about to do is completely out of character for me.

But with that out of the way, READ THIS BOOK.

There are complicated, damaged characters who behave like real people.  There’s magic just inaccessible and strange enough to be believed, and there are trees that speak Latin.  There are guns and helicopters and fancy cars that break down.  There’s even a raven named Chainsaw.  What’s not to love?

Read this book because it will surprise you.  I’m used to knowing vaguely what’s going to happen, because I read way too much and after a while there are patterns, but this one surprised me no less than three times (and possibly more, I wasn’t counting.)   It’s been a long time since I’ve been genuinely astonished, and it was immensely satisfying, even though I was left staring in horror at the words and saying “MAGGIE WHAT HAVE YOU DONE.”

Read this book because Blue is not a boring only-there-for-the-romance female protagonist.  She’s an actual, interesting character who is unusual and awesome in her own right.  When Gansey gets condescending, she doesn’t just get offended; she shames him and then shames him again and again until he behaves.   Love at first sight is not on Blue’s agenda.  Actually, relationships as a whole are not on Blue’s agenda, and when she does get into one it’s sweet and quiet and cautious—just like first relationships should be, particularly with the addition of Blue’s “If you kiss your true love he will die” curse.  Unlike a lot of the insta-love relationships that Gretchen’s always complaining about, this one felt real.  Because the characters are shy and careful, the relationship was too, and to me, at least, that made it all the sweeter.

Speaking of relationships, the relationship between the raven boys—Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Gansey—was brilliant.  They’re all damaged, they’re all struggling, and the group quietly makes adjustments for whoever needs it at the time.   When Ronan, who is definitely the most outwardly damaged, is discovered to be missing, the seamless way his friends come together to search for him is heartbreaking, because it’s so clear they’ve done this before.  They know where to look and how to look.   They’re not demonstrative; sometimes—often—they’re not even that much alike.  But they’re unflaggingly, ferociously loyal to each other, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

My only objection: this is the first book in a four-book series.  While it is a self-contained story, there are plot threads that I am dying to have resolved that just really aren’t.  The part of me that is a writer (I write stuff, by the way) accepts this and understands why it works.  The part of me that is a reader is dying to read more.  The last line is…not a cliffhanger, since cliffhangers imply unresolved action, but suffice to say that several of the raven boys are hiding things, and not all of them explain those things before the book is through.   Now I have to wait another year to find out and it’s KILLING ME.

This is a book about people who desperately want something—not always the same things—and the reasons why they want it, and what they’re willing to do to get it.  It’s a book about people who are trying very hard, despite a number of different things making life difficult, from abusive parents to prophecies to awesome sad things I can’t say due to spoilers (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, NOAH AND RONAN).  The characters are gorgeous, the relationships are delightfully, painfully real, and the plot…will definitely keep you on your toes.  I’m giving this four and a half stars because as a guest reviewer I don’t feel right giving five.  I assure you I’m normally quite picky, and if this was my blog it would be five, so don’t let the missing half star fool you; read this book! [Note from Gretchen: Don’t be silly, Marina. I finally got around to reading this, and we’re totally going with five stars. And that is my endorsement of this review.]

* P.S.   Gretchen has given me permission to translate the untranslated Latin in Chapter 12 (as a Classics major, I can do useless things like Latin but not useful things like cooking), so here goes: Ostendes tuum et ostendam meus means I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.  That seems out of the blue now, but it will all make sense when you meet Ronan Lynch.  And his Latin teacher.  You’re welcome.