Friday, March 30, 2018

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard Review

Title: Glass Sword
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Red Queen, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Red Queen was a sleeper hit, a blockbuster that I was curious about since before it had come out. Unable to resist any longer, I checked it out from my local library, and I was captivated. As soon as I had an opening in my library stack, I checked out Glass Sword. It had one last renewal on it, so I pushed it to the top of the stack, excited and apprehensive all at once. As soon as I was finished with The Queen’s Rising, I picked this up and began, diving into Mare’s world once again. As far as sequels go, Glass Sword wasn’t a bad one; it tied up loose ends, introduced new characters and brought back familiar ones, was full of action, political intrigue, and rich, exciting character development. The ending was shocking and explosive, and I’m so upset that King’s Cage isn’t in at the library yet!

Glass Sword picks up where Red Queen left off, with Mare on the run from the queen and Maven, the crown prince who desires ultimate power and something else—Mare for his own, no matter the cost. Forced into the uncomfortable position of reluctant revolutionary, she sets forth across the countries to find people like her, people with Red and Silver blood both, in hopes of stopping the bloodshed and taking the crown from the man she once trusted most. With Cal, the misplaced prince, by her side, Mare must decide what more she is willing to sacrifice for justice and freedom, even if the price is her soul and sanity…

I really, really liked this book; I was having some serious sequel anxiety when I began. It took several minutes for me to figure out what was going on, because it had been some time since reading Red Queen, but once things got rolling, Glass Sword had me in its grip and didn’t let go, not even after the last, horrible moment. I just finished it yesterday, and I’m still reeling. The pacing was breakneck, and the prose spare but powerful. I was captivated by the second installment in this series; I’m absolutely invested now. There was a lot of continuity that I liked, there were a lot of topics that were explored more fully in this book. The character development, though, was the star of this novel; Mare’s transformation from a poor, nondescript Red to the head of a revolution, and Cal’s transition from the main heir to the crown to the runaway who must come to terms with the fact that he will have to fight for the crown, against a person who knows him so well that he can predict all of his moves. I also really enjoyed the new characters that were introduced; I’m both relieved and upset that King Cage isn’t here yet, because obviously I need a break after all of that intensity. All I know is, I’m in for the long haul now. I’m so excited for King’s Cage and War Storm; I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Mare Barrow! The bottom line: The second book in the bestseller Red Queen series, Glass Sword was a meaty, thrilling, satisfying sequel, and I can’t wait for King’s Cage! Next on deck: Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross Review

Title: The Queen’s Rising
Author: Rebecca Ross
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Untitled Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I found this book the way I usually find my library books; a recommendation from the newest books of January. I was intrigued by the plot, as well as the gorgeous, colorful cover. So as soon as I had an opening in my library stack, I ordered it, waiting impatiently. It got pushed to the top of my stack after another library overhaul, and I dove in, excited for this debut, rife with magic, mythology, political intrigue, forbidden love, and thrilling adventure—The Queen’s Rising is one of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for the sequel! It had almost everything I love in a debut novel, and I was so excited to find out that this book was the first in a projected trilogy! Newcomer Rebecca Ross has absolutely outdone herself with this new spin on a high fantasy novel!

Brienna is a fatherless child, sent to the passion academy in Magnalia to train in one of the noble arts: music, art, dramatics, wit, or knowledge. Seven years on, she has found her passion, after dabbling in each: knowledge. The goal of a passion is to attain a patron who can take them under their wing. Brienna is terrified that she will not find someone to properly nurture her talents, and when the solstice comes, her worst fear comes true. To add to her stress, she is plagued by mysterious visions, hailing back to a time before the country was even formed. When a disgraced, enigmatic man offers her patronage, she accepts, though suspicion is at the forefront of her mind. She is soon drawn into a dangerous, seductive web of political intrigue, personal secrets, magic, and war, and she must decide which side she’s on: passion or blood. The choice could turn the tide of her life and the war.

I really, really enjoyed this book! What a beautifully written, thrilling debut! I was absolutely entranced; the worldbuilding was excellent, the beautiful writing, the breakneck pacing, and the characters were memorable. Rebecca Ross has become one of my new favorite authors with this lovely book, and I can’t wait for the sequels! It wasn’t perfect; there were times when I was confused about the timelines lining up, and despite there being a dramatis personae, all of the characters and their aliases got confusing. But nonetheless, this debut was really solid! Brienna was my favorite character of the book, doubtful and unsure at first, growing into a powerful, driven and ambitious woman who isn’t afraid to stand for what she believes in and who she loves. I loved the world that she inhabited, where the arts were as highly valued as being a warrior, whether one was male or female. The pacing was insane; divided into different parts, going old school, even with a good old table of contents, I was absolutely spellbound, and there were times when I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even when I was in the middle of something else. The ending was heartbreaking, explosive, and satisfying; this book was very enjoyable! It had everything you’d expect in a great high fantasy and more, with feminist, powerful characters to boot! Highly recommended! The bottom line: A gorgeously written, beautifully wrought fantasy chock full of my favorite things, I loved The Queen’s Rising, and I can’t wait for more from this promising new author! Next on deck: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith Review

Title: The Way I Used to Be
Author: Amber Smith
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

The Way I Used to Be was the March pick for one of the book clubs I go to, and man, was this selection a doozy. It burrowed its way into my mind and heart, making me feel sick, enraged, and incredibly hopeful, all at once. A heartbreaking, realistic and all too timely depiction of a young woman dealing with a brutal rape at the hands of her brother’s best friend, The Way I Used to Be was a hard work to get through, but I’m so glad that I read it. Now more than ever do we need stories like Eden’s, and I will never forget it; I couldn’t, even if I’d tried. The book is divided into four parts, one for each of Edy’s years in high school. The rape occurs when she’s a freshman, and she spends the rest of her high school career angry, hurt, and afraid. This book cut me to the quick, especially since there are real life stories just like hers, every heartbreaking, excruciatingly painful moment of it.

Eden was raped by her brother’s best friend in the middle of the night when she was fourteen years old, by someone she loved, trusted, even idolized. Forced into silence by the boy’s violent, vicious threats, she deals with the trauma the only way she knows how: by taking control of her own body, having meaningless sex with near-strangers, and pushing everyone she loves away. Her friends and family don’t understand why she’s acting so unlike herself, but Eden just wants to forget. But when she discovers that Kevin has hurt another young woman, she must make the choice to stay silent or speak up, even if it means finally facing what happened four years ago.

This book—I’m not going to lie, it was really hard to get through, even though I finished it in two and a half days. It was painful, heartbreaking, and it cut me right down to the soul. It was timely, though, and absolutely unforgettable. I wept, I raged, I screamed. Eden wormed her way into my heart and will never leave; this book, to me, was as groundbreaking and truthful as Laurie Halsie Anderson’s classic, Speak, just in a different sort of vein. The pacing was breakneck, the prose spare but powerful, and my heart broke for Eden and her situation, partly because it was so true to life. I also really liked the supporting characters of the book, especially Mara, Cameron, Josh, and Caelin. But it was Eden who stole the show, for me: I liked the way she took control of her situation the only way she knew how, even as my heart broke for her. I liked the way the book was broken up into Edy’s four years of high school. This book—it hurt so much. It made me feel everything, but by the end of it all, I was ultimately hopeful. A searing, all too timely portrait of a young woman trying to deal with a life-changing trauma, The Way I Used to Be is an unforgettable, terrifying book that should be read by all—the only issue I had was that I had trouble with the fact that none of Edy’s friends and family seemed to know what was wrong with her, or even wanted to try. But nonetheless, this book was amazing, eye-opening, even though it was unbearable at times. The bottom line: A tender, sympathetic book that chronicles a young woman’s journey from victim to a person who accepts herself, The Way I Used to Be was amazing, an emotional journey that was like a punch to the gut. Required reading for all. Next on deck: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black Review

Title: The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Folk of the Air, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Holly Black and I… Honestly, we haven’t exactly been on the best of terms. I tried reading her debut novel, Tithe, in high school, and the writing style and plot were so weird to me that I ended up giving it to a friend. But when I read one of her more recent fairy books in 2015, The Darkest Part of the Forest, things changed for me. I was absolutely entranced, and when I found out that she was writing a brand new one, this one a trilogy opener, I put it on hold at my local library as soon as possible. I picked it up, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for a while, beckoning me with its stark white cover, adorned with dark branches and a glittering golden crown. I didn’t have any more renewals on it, so I pushed it to the top of the stack, partly out of necessity and partly out of killer anticipation. And this book is probably my favorite of Black’s—I can’t wait for the sequel!

Jude’s parents were brutally murdered by her sister’s redcap father, Madoc, when she was just seven years old. He spirits her, Vivi, and her twin sister Taryn to the High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, she longs for her own place in her father’s court, where she is respected and accepted by the faeries. Her sister, Taryn, wishes for love and romance at the hands of a handsome faerie noble, but Jude wishes fervently for something different: Her own place in Faerie as a Knight for the Court’s High King. But soon she finds herself wrapped up in a dark, vicious web of lies, secrets, and political intrigue, and she must reluctantly make an alliance with the faerie she hates most: Cardan, the King’s youngest son. Forced to use every bit of wit, cleverness, and knowledge she’s acquired since coming to Court, Jude must decide if she wants to fight for Faerie, even as she longs for a better life, and even if it means sacrificing everything…

This book was, in a word, absolutely fantastic. It’s probably my favorite Holly Black book to date, even better than The Darkest Part of the Forest. This book was similar to that, but better! The prose was gorgeous, hypnotic, even during some of the book’s most violent scenes. I was absolutely spellbound by Jude’s story, and by Jude herself. I loved how she wasn’t the typical main girl character; how she went after what and whom she wanted, and the consequences didn’t matter. I loved how she was totally ruthless in her ambition. Her sisters, too, were good foils for her: Taryn with her want of romance and excitement, and Vivi, the only true faerie of the girls, who longs to be free of a life of violence and intrigue and just be with her mortal girlfriend, and fights their father, Madoc, and their way of life. I was totally seduced by the gorgeous, mysterious Faerieland, where lies and promises are hidden inside honeyed words, one bite of sweet, golden fruit can send you spiraling into madness, and hiding skeletons in your closet can mean certain ruin—even death. I loved all of the characters, but especially Madoc, Locke, and Cardan. Especially Cardan. One of the things I loved most about this book was the constant romantic tension—I was dying. And that ending! Oh my gosh, Holly, how in the world am I supposed to wait until 2019 for The Wicked King?! How could you do this to me?! The Cruel Prince is one of my favorite books of 2018; the only problem is that I have to wait for the sequel! The bottom line: A darkly glittering fairy tale more Grimm than Disney, The Cruel Prince is one of the best books of 2018, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Talk about a major book hangover! Next on deck: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Renegades by Marissa Meyer Review

Title: Renegades
Author: Marissa Meyer
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Science Fiction
Series: Renegades, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I’ll be honest: I read Marissa Meyer’s debut novel, Cinder, and it was just okay. Wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t all out bad, either. I didn’t finish the series, mostly because the first book didn’t hold my attention. But when I found out that she was writing a new series debut, this time in a broken world ruled by prodigies (a.k.a., superheroes), I was excited. I reserved it at my library and it’s been sitting in my stack for a while now; I didn’t have any more renewals on it, and I was really looking forward to it, so I pushed it to the top of my stack. And honestly, I’m really glad I did. Marissa Meyer really won me over with this new series, full of characters that I was openly rooting for. I also really enjoyed the way that Meyer took a classic story trope—superheroes—and steered it toward the themes of justice, revenge, personal freedom, and good and evil, as well as the distinction between the two. Renegades has become of my favorite books of 2017, and I can’t wait to see what comes next in this hard-hitting, original new duology!

Nova Artino is a girl who was raised by The Anarchists, a powerful supervillain group back before the second ‘golden age’ of superheroes was ushered in by the death of the head of the group, Nova’s uncle. Heartbroken because The Renegades didn’t come and save her family when it mattered most, she vows for revenge, and when she sees an opportunity to infiltrate the organization from the inside, she seizes it, rechristening herself Insomnia and hiding her power to put people to sleep. But as sticky as things already are, they get even more complicated when she meets Adrian, a Renegade in training with more than a few secrets of his own. Drawn to one another in spite of their circumstances, Nova and Adrian must decide what sides of the prodigy war they are on, or risk losing everything they know and love, including each other…

I really, really liked this book, especially in comparison to Cinder! It wasn’t bad, but as far as her fairy tale retellings go, I much prefer her Alice in Wonderland retelling, Heartless. But Renegades has taken the spot of my favorite of her novels yet. First of all: superheroes. As someone who grew up on a steady diet of fairy tales, comics, and myths, it’s yet another form of literary crack for me. I also really liked the themes that went into this book: revenge, moral gray areas, first love, the meaning of good and evil, self-reliance and freedom. I couldn’t give this four stars, though, because at times the moral dilemmas of the characters tended to cloud the plot, and sometimes Nova came off as a little preachy. But even more than that, I loved the pacing, the writing style; I was immediately drawn into this futuristic world where prodigies rule, normal humans crushed beneath mighty fists, even benevolent ones. I couldn’t break away, not even mentally. I was absolutely enthralled, and the characters, Nova, in particular, were what made me really love the book. I also adored the chemistry between she and Adrian, as star-crossed as it all was. And that ending! Oh my gosh, how in the world am I supposed to make it to November to read the sequel! Ugh, I’m dying here! The bottom line: The best book from literary darling Marissa Meyer yet, I loved Renegades, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Next on deck: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black!