Review: “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

I’M BACK! It literally took me three tries to edit this and get it to export, so the editing isn’t a shiny as it maybe could be because I was really getting tired of the exercise. Perhaps that is fitting, as this book isn’t quite as shiny as it looks either, but it does look VERY, VERY cool.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas Review + Controversy Discussion

I finished this book the day it came out and … I was broken. In shock. All my emotions were SHATTERED. However, I pulled it together enough to create this review. I always wanted to discuss a bit of the controversy that cropped up around Empire of Storms, and why Sarah did what she did (in my opinion). It’s all spoiler free! Either way, I wish that my shock had kept me knocked out until the next book appeared because I don’t know how I’m going to live until the next one!

Worth It Wednesday: “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

77493_originalTitle: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads Description: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Why it’s worth it: Alright, listen, I know you aren’t surprised to see this. My love of Sarah’s books is probably going full-on obsession at this point. However, the newest book in this series just came out yesterday, so I couldn’t NOT do it.

This is a pseudo-retelling of Beauty and the Beast plus faeries, so already this was–for me, at least–a rocky sell. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite childhood fairytale, but also one of the most problematic, and I’m not always great with faeries.

I can officially say that there is one version of the Beauty and the Beast that I don’t find extremely creepy. The whole kidnapping turned love thing is touchy, but Sarah makes it work. You really come to understand why Tamlin does what he does, and how much he wishes that he didn’t have to. Feyre is also not some helpless girl who can be swayed by a library. She is constantly searching and pressing buttons and trying to figure out what is going on around her. When they start falling in love, it’s in despite of themselves and what they think is their duty–but not in a bad way. They both get so focused on what they think is best for everybody else that they try to ignore the answer right in front of their faces.

My favorite twist on the tale is the ending, but of course I can’t say too much about that. Let me just say that this is no trifle where “true love’s kiss” can undo everything with a snap, and there is no last minute, too perfectly time save. There are mistakes made. There are battles fought. There are lives lost. It’s no Disney ending. That’s probably what makes this so worth it.

Read it if you’re looking for: fairytale retellings, faeries, magic, action, adventure, romance, strong female characters, strong supporting cast

Worth It Wednesday: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

81ep-ouzgalTitle: Vampire Academy

Author: Richelle Mead

Goodreads Description: Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies . . .

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever . . .

Why it’s worth it: In honor of the release of The Glittering Court, I wanted to feature the series that got me started on Richelle Mead. I picked up the first books in this series kind of on a whim, back when vampires when all the rage. The original covers weren’t all that great, but I did it anyways.

I’m so glad.

My favorite thing about these books is that they aren’t just another vampire novel. There are vampires in it, but there is a lot more focus on relationships and friendships than in a lot of other “vampire” books. The world is exciting and new, and the books are full of adventure.

Rose, the main character, is the kind of person I would love to be friends with. Without a doubt, she makes these books for me. Whether it is her constant sass, her unflinching loyalty or her realness as a person and not just another archetypal character, she is always the highlight of each of the six books. She makes as many mistakes as she fixes, but she always works through it in the end.

An extremely realistic and interesting love interest/story always helps as well. Yes, not realistic in the sense of VAMPIRES but realistic in the sense that it’s messy and fraught but in the end I’m convinced that it is worth fighting for. These books will amuse, hurt and excite you in all the right ways. Not just another vampire novel.

Read it if you’re looking for: vampires, strong female characters, strong female friendships, swoon worthy romance, not another love triangle, magic, humor, sass, action, adventure

Worth It Wednesday: “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

GracelingTitle: Graceling

Author: Kristin Cashore

Goodreads Description: Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight – she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…

Why it’s worth it: Honestly, I’ve been giving this book so much love lately … I thought I’d already done this. An exhaustive search of my own blog proved this to be untrue, so I KNEW it had to be this week’s pick.

I’ve just recently re-read this book, because I used it for my first thesis chapter. Out of the five books that I read, only this one and Throne of Glass stood up to the test. While it has it’s issues, it was easily leaps and bounds better in every category than any other book than Throne of Glass.

Katsa is not a shirking violet, afraid of herself and her powers. She also isn’t a bloodthirsty killer. She is, somehow, both, in a way that makes her more human than a lot of other stereotyped assassins. The world around her is rich and deep, as Cashore really thinks about her world as a true globe, not just a few places. It’s interesting and engaging, and it all makes me want to live there and be Katsa’s best friend.

Katsa, however, doesn’t have many friends, and that’s what makes Prince Po special. Yeah, you can tell from just the blurb that there is going to be a romance there, but GUESS WHAT! It is actually a friendship first. A real one, not a pretend friendship that was always a romance but tried to trick you into something otherwise. When the romance comes, it comes naturally. Even better, Katsa debates even taking their relationship in that way, because she doesn’t want to sacrifice who she is or what she wants to be the girlfriend of a prince. Po and Katsa meet in the middle to create a romance that is real and fantastic.

The plot itself is not the most shocking thing, but it is entertaining and you’re invested because you love all the characters. It is lots of action and adventure and struggle that is supported by the romantic story line, not smothered by it.

All in all, what’s clear is that Cashore REALLY thought about Katsa as a strong female character, and it works. I have a longer review for more, but … do you need it? READ THIS.

Read it if you’re looking for: strong female characters, romance, action, adventure, fantasy, friendship, strong world building, strong cast of characters

Betwixt the Books Discuss! Genre Hierarchy and Literary Snobbery

Technically, this livestream happened last night. Sorry guys! It ended up happening after my roommate went to sleep and I didn’t want to bother her anymore than I had to, so this is coming at you this morning. It happens! (This is why you should follow us on YouTube or Michaela’s Twitter. The links always go out automatically there.) Anyways, Michaela and I discussed the differing hierarchies of genres and literature and where certain kinds of genre snobbery come from. We were both so into this topic that it’ll probably spill out into my From the Notebook this Monday, at least, and probably beyond!

Review: The Blooming Goddess Trilogy by Tellulah Darling

Hey there guys! Today’s review is going to be a little bit different. I’m going to be doing quick reviews of the three books in the Blooming Goddess trilogy by Tellulah Darling, followed by a series overview. This series is a Hades and Persephone retelling with a twist and lots and lots and lots of swooning and sassing. This will all be spoiler free, even in the later reviews!

27348722My Ex from Hell (Book 1)

Goodreads | Amazon

Romeo and Juliet had it easy.

Prior to the Halloween dance, Sophie figures her worst problems involve adolescent theatrics, bitchy teen yoga girls, and being on probation at her boarding school for mouthy behaviour. Then she meets bad boy Kai and gets the kiss that rocks her world.

Literally.

This breath stealing lip lock reawakens Sophie’s true identity: Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She’s key to saving humanity in the war between the Underworld and Olympus, target numero uno of Hades and Zeus, and totally screwed. All she’s gotta do is master her powers, save the world…

…and stop kissing Kai, Prince of the Underworld.

My Ex From Hell is a YA romantic comedy, Greek mythology smackdown, perfect for everyone who loves sassy girls that kick butt and the bad boys who infuriate them.

I wrote a longer review of this book (linked above) when I participated in the blog tour for it’s initial release. Honestly, I’m not sure if I would have picked it up otherwise. It sounded a little corny to me–and I love me a sassy YA heroine.

It was pure joy to read. My original rating was 3 1/2 stars, and I totally stick to that. These aren’t the best books, writing wise, that I’ve ever read. I’ll be totally honest about that. However, in terms of shear reading enjoyment? They’re one of the best. The main character, Sophie, is the quintessential sassy main character on steroids, and there is no one getting in her way. The book reads hyper fast, with plenty of action, humor and romance to go around.

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Worth It Wednesday: The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

City of BonesTitle (of first book): City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Clare

Goodreads Description (of first book): When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

Why it’s worth it: IN HONOR OF THE LADY MIDNIGHT RELEASE, HERE’S THE SERIES THAT STARTED IT ALL. Ahem. Anyways.

I have a Cassandra Clare obsession. It’s bad. I once made my dad drive four hours to see her in person. I can’t help it if I just … love these books.

The original trilogy is fantastic. It’s great. I wrote in my joint review that you had to read them because they are the funniest, funnest things ever. I hold to that to this day. I love re-reading the books because I laugh every time. Clary is the kind of female protagonist who actually isn’t special (to begin with) but grows into her powers. Yes, some of it just kind of happens but other things do GROW. They are fun and fast adventures, and me and my brother both loved them. Everything about it was great.

The fourth book of the series–which was not always meant to exist–is probably my least favorite book that she’s ever written. It was this weird stop and start kind of thing that was forcibly kick starting the plot that had petered out at the end of the original trilogy. I got so upset.

When I reviewed book five, however, I learned to love the series again. The original trilogy had been focused on Clary and Jace, but in book five and six the world really expanded. We spent more time with more characters, and there was even more growth. I especially loved the romances that were given more time in the later books, because each one of them was so human in so many different ways. The plot, as well, once it got done clearing it’s throat, was really wonderful and well done. I was actually more interested in it than the original Big Bad.

All in all, The Mortal Instruments wasn’t the most cohesive thing. It has it’s issues, and it has it’s cliches. However, if you stick it out, you are in for one of the funniest, action-packed, human rides of your life. Even though this is a paranormal book, I return to the series again and again for the characters above all else. That’s a really high mark in a genre book for me.

Read it if you’re looking for: Paranormal, romance, strong female characters, large casts of good characters, humor, magic, action, adventure, series that aren’t trilogies, swoon-worthy male characters, strong world building

Worth It Wednesday: “Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

SeraphinaTitle: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Goodreads Description: In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, “Some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read in fantasy.”

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Why it’s worth it: This is not another basic dragon story–and trust me, I read EVERY dragon book I could get my hands on as a kid. When Seraphina came out, people upon people (including Tamora Pierce!) said I should read this book … and I didn’t. The blurb on the front from Christopher Paolini didn’t inspire me, since I’d long outgrown his books, and I was so … tired of dragons. I really thought there was nothing new in that trope for me.

BOY WAS I WRONG.

Again, I repeat, I’ve read A LOT of dragon stories. Most of them, really. This one, however, takes the lore and turns it on its head. These dragons can take human(ish) form, and are extremely mathematical and pragmatic. They’re kind of like the wise dragons we so often see, except for the fact that they can’t “human” very well and therefore their wisdom often comes across cold and alien. The set up of humans and dragons at tentative peace is also not new, but Hartman brings it into a whole new political and economic context that makes it interesting again.

Seraphina herself is a fun character. I loved getting to know her and watching her grow. The cast of characters around her is also pretty great, and I didn’t even hate the romance aspect. Actually, after reading Shadow Scale (the second book in the duology), I’m AMAZED at how Hartman has yet again taken something that I thought I’d seen before and turned in into something COMPLETELY unexpected. And I don’t say that often.

(Yes, I know that Shadow Scale also made my list of Top 5 Disappointing Books of 2015. IT WASN’T A BAD BOOK. It just wasn’t as good as Seraphina. Don’t let that stop you from reading this series.)

…I literally derailed myself WHILE WRITING THIS POST looking for information on when her next book is coming out. That’s how bad I want it. She’s writing another duology set in Seraphina’s world, and I NEED IT because I am so not over Seraphina’s story. So Shadow Scale wasn’t as good. It’s still a great book. READ THESE.

Read it if you’re looking for: dragons, a love story that won’t make you gag, interesting characters, fantasy, not another fantasy trilogy, excellent worldbuilding, strong female friendships

ARC Review: “Lions in the Garden” by Chelsea Luna

lions2bin2bthe2bgardenLions in the Garden (The Uprising #1) by Chelsea Luna

Goodreads | Amazon

Prague, 1610

Ludmila Novakova–Mila–has barely set foot outside Prague Castle in her seventeen years. But with the choice between braving the bandits and wolves of Bohemia’s uneasy roads or being married off to a disgusting old baron, she’s taken what she can carry and fled.

Escape won’t be easy. Even Mila has heard the rumors of a rebellion coming against the court. The peasants are hungry. The king hasn’t been seen in months. Mila’s father, the High Chancellor, is well known and well hated.

But Mila can’t sit behind a stone wall and let fear force her into a life of silk gowns and certain misery. Her mother’s death has taught her that much. She has one ally: Marc, the son of the blacksmith. A commoner, a Protestant–and perhaps a traitor, too. But the farther she gets from the castle, the more lies she uncovers, unraveling everything she thought she knew. And the harder it is to tell friend from enemy–and wrong from right…

Three stars

Thanks to NetGalley, Kensington Books and Lyrical Press for this eARC! This title will be published on March 1, 2016.

As a lover of anything vaguely historical fiction, I knew I had to request this from NetGalley. Luna tackles a period of history and a place that I had never read anything of before, and that alone hooked me. However, the first few chapters … well, they were really rough.

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