Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

4.5 Shining Stars. This is a spoiler free review.

Where do I even begin? I've heard nothing but great things about this book since I first came back to Goodreads, and even before that I'd wanted to get my hands on it every time I walked into the bookstore, but why did I wait? I guess it was for a couple of reasons, but when I finally found a copy at my local library, I knew that was going to be the first book I read.

And yet somehow it became the last from the six or so books I picked up.

It's taken me an entire month to read this book because I've been savouring it. When I started it at the beginning of the month, I'll admit it was really hard for me to get into it. I haven't read Leigh's Grisha trilogy, so this was all very new to me and also very hard to initially follow along, but I will say the map in the book helped ground everything, and then the rest of the vocabulary was easily picked up along the way. Maybe that's why it took me so long to push further into the book, but it was initially a slow start. The only other thing that threw me off was the very first chapter of the book. I know that it was important to the storyline and I appreciated it once I got further into the novel itself, but when I first read it and then hit the second chapter and everything was different, it made me a little bit confused as to whether or not I might have missed something I would've easily known if I'd read the Grisha trilogy first.

Now that that's out of the way, let me tell you exactly why I love this book to death.

First and foremost, it's the characters. The uniqueness of the characters' personalities, the diversity of their backgrounds and history, their determination and motives to break into the Ice Court; everything about them kept me coming back for more. From the very first time that we meet Inej, I knew that she was going to be one of my absolute favourite characters, and that was only confirmed with every page I turned. Honestly, I could spend hours raving about how much I fell in love with every single one of these characters, from Kaz's bold attitude to Jesper's sassy remarks and Nina's absolute heroic personality and Matthias's change in thinking and Wylan's surprising dedication... They all mean so much to me, and I found myself wanting to reach into the pages and protect them with all my might and fight alongside them. They're so dynamic and three-dimensional that I really felt that I was being introduced to a handful of people with rich life stories rather than being shown characters that exist to serve as a plot device.

Speaking of the plot, it's phenomenal. Let me just tell you that. Straight off the bat, we're thrown into a gang war which left me on edge as Kaz outsmarted his enemy without a care in the world, and that sold me immediately. I knew that this was going to be big in terms of the uniqueness of the plot and the way that it'd be accomplished, but I had no idea that I was going to step into an absolute page turner that had me hanging on with baited breath, hoping that no one was going to die and everyone would live happily ever after and rich beyond their wildest dreams. The best thing too is that the characters' backstories drove the plot. Sometimes the transitions between past and present were a little bit confusing, but they all had a reason to change the way that they did, and as the book progressed you slowly learn more and more about the characters in the same way that you would if you were meeting someone new.

Honestly, I could go on and on and on about how much I absolutely loved this book. The ending had me desperate for more, because I need to know what happens immediately! There's so many questions I have to have answered! Overall, if you're looking for a great fantasy novel with a life of crime and some awesome teenagers, this one's for you, and if it's not, you're truly missing out.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

2.5 stars. Basically a spoiler-free review.

This is probably going to be a very short review because I have a very limited amount of feelings towards this book that more or less start and end at No.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate the book overall. I didn't even dislike it. The main issue that I had with the book was the Clary/Jace desperate pining that made me want to claw my eyeballs out. It seemed that every time something actually started to happen with the plot, the entire book had to pause so that either Clary or Jace could try to bring up their feelings for each other, only for the other to counteract them and say that it's wrong. The worst part is that that's exactly how it happened Every. Single. Time. 

Now here's the thing, I don't have any feelings towards Clary being into Jace or vice-versa. They can go make out for hours if they want to, that's up to them, but what I do have a problem with is the overrunning theme that it's forbidden and wrong because they're siblings. Either let them be together or make them stop acting like star-crossed lovers, or just stop talking about it so that we can actually focus on the plot of the novel! That's actually something I care about because the rest of the characters in this series are actually kind of interesting!

 First off, the plot is pretty decent. The first half of of the book feels like it's constantly summarising the first book, which I found annoying, and by the 50% mark I felt like nothing really had happened other than Maryse and the Inquisitor were both terrible people and Clary was once again whining about her undying love for Jace despite knowing him all of a few weeks. The only thing that made this book alright for me was the whole spiel with Simon being turned into a vampire, Alec's declaration about seeing Magnus to his parents, and, well, Magnus Bane as a whole because he's the fabulous bisexual warlock that I constantly aspire to be.

Overall, the novel was okay. It's not something I'd ever reread, and the epilogue was terrible and really didn't need to be there at all, but it's okay. Two books down, four to go. Hopefully they start getting better at some point.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Review: The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic

4 Stars. Spoiler free review.

Okay listen, you know that feeling when you pick up a new book that you're not quite sure about? The summary sounds average, the reviews are all over the place and you have no idea how to feel, but then you start reading it and you're not really into it and you're wondering why you picked it up in the first place only to find that before you know it you're attached to all the characters and you want to protect them with your life? That's what The Foxhole Court is to me.

When I first picked up The Foxhole Court, I'll admit it was solely due to Tumblr. A couple of people I follow were posting about it, and I figured why not? It'll probably be an okay book, and if not, at least I'll get a chance to see what the hype's about. Now I'm not a sports fan at all; don't care about football or hockey or whatever other sport people seem to constantly be raising their blood pressure about when they sit down to watch a game, so I was wary about actually reading The Foxhole Court, but the more that I read, and once I got somewhat of an understanding of the confusing rules of Exy, I realised that there's so much more to it than that. If you're like me and you aren't a sports fan in the slightest, I'll be the first to admit that this book is kinda hard to get into, but give it a shot, stick around for just a little bit longer, because the way that the Palmetto State Foxes interact and look out for one another is more than worth the read, and you'll fall in love with each and every one of them for it.

The reason that the Foxes work so well together is that they're all dysfunctional, which somehow makes them more violent towards and also protective of each other than they need to be. The Foxes fight, they do stupid things, they mess with each other to the point of wondering where is the line between that's okay and that's not, but at the end of the day they look out for their own. I will admit that the first book doesn't show this as much as the others do, but you still do see pretty clear signs of it in TFC, which is part of the reason that I had to keep reading the series, because when you take ten dysfunctional players, a protective as heck coach, a caring nurse and a helpful psychiatrist, it normally wouldn't add up to a family, but it really does, and that's what won me over.

There is so much more that I could say about this book series and how much I love it, but hopefully I'll tackle that in future reviews for the rest of the series. The things I mostly want to point out is keep an eye on how Neil 'I'm Fine' Josten changes throughout the books, and how much becoming 'friends' with Andrew, Kevin and the others makes the PSU Foxes a much better team. Also, be warned, this is a very triggering book series, so if violence, abuse, drugs, and other things such as those aren't up your alley, I wouldn't recommend reading it, just to be safe.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review: The Crown by Kiera Cass

3 Stars. This is definitely NOT a spoiler-free review so you have been warned!

First and foremost, Eadlyn had such a personality change from The Heir to The Crown that it gave me whiplash. This spoiled, selfish, brat of a girl all of a sudden becomes a kind of decent person, and while I always appreciate some character development, that was a little too much of a change to happen all of a sudden. The Heir leaves off with her still having such an attitude, although she did change a little bit in the process of book four, but when I picked up The Crown, the first thing I noticed was that she was actually kind of decent? Why? What changed that suddenly made her so willing to be nice and generous and care about her country above all else? That left me frustrated during the beginning, but gradually throughout the book I started ignoring it and focusing on the plot which, trust me, had its fair share of plot holes but we'll get into that later.

 My main point of reading this book was for the boys, and let me tell you why. While we really don't get to experience much of them because 90% of the story is Eadlyn's internal monologue on what she's possibly going to do to maintain her position of princess without the people rioting (something that she constantly worries about but we never actually see in the book). They all had such potential to be unique and beautiful characters that I wanted to learn more. It's fair to note this first: Eadlyn drops the Selection down to a final six Elite in the beginning of the novel. Having said that, let's talk about the boys.

Hale is so sweet and kind and he develops so much throughout the book that I would gladly read a spinoff about him and the other remaining Selection candidates. Honestly, he does the bravest thing in the book when he shows Eadlyn his dedication to her but expresses his true feelings, and for me that was great. Also his relationship with Ean sounded so precious that I really, really wanted another novel just to learn about how they fell for each other. While Ean wasn't my favourite, I approved of him because he didn't have to say much for Eadlyn to know how he felt about her and the palace and the Selection process. Kile developed a lot in this book too. He went from being someone who really didn't care about Eadlyn and the castle and wanted to run away from it to actually wanting to do things to change the castle and better it. Finally, Henri is the cutest little human being in the world. I wanted to pull him from the pages of the book and tuck him in my pocket to protect him forever because he's too sweet for this world and deserves so much better than having to deal with Eadlyn in any context. He was the only one who seemed to do whatever he could to make sure that everything was so bright and cheery, and he tried so hard to learn English for Eadlyn!!! Little sweetheart! As for the others, they were all okay in their own ways.

Here's where the nonstop spoilers come in. 

Eadlyn falling for Eikko (Erik) was so...not well written? I have to admit when they first talked in The Heir I knew she was going to pick him or Kile, but there was little to no interaction between them that deserved this whole big romantic storyline that she seemed to narrate in The Crown. Having said that, their little romance was cute. I loved the way they exchanged rings in their own way because it showed that they had feelings for each other, but I thought it was downright stupid that Eadlyn kept insisting it'd never be because she was required to pick a boy from the Selection when she insisted in The Heir that she had the ability to call off the Selection at any time when she agreed to it. Also let's once again talk about Henri, because the ending scene where he grabbed their hands and told them both that he loved them and that they had to be together was SO CUTE. 

Speaking of that ending scene, the most ridiculous thing in this entire book was King Maxon's declaration about him committing treason. When Eadlyn ran up to him begging to marry Eikko I was expecting some hesitation but then an okay from him because he had his same spiel with America, but no off he goes into this story about how his dad beat him up as a kid and there was a mistress and half-sister drama with Lady Brice and NO. Just no. That was so unnecessary and immediately diverted my attention from an actually semi-decent ending for this overall average series. That was not necessary Kiera Cass, not in the slightest, and it jarred me out of actually caring about the book.

My overall feelings towards the book are basically summed up as cute, but will never read again. The Selection series was overall an average set of books that honestly should've stopped at book three, but that's fine. I didn't mind this book too much, the fourth I could've completely done without. Am I attached to Eadlyn? Absolutely not. I want to know more about the boys, though, but if anything else does come out attached to this series, I doubt I'll ever read it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

10/5 Stars, let's be honest. This is a spoiler-free review.

 I don't think I've ever been as satisfied with the ending of a book series as I am with The Lunar Chronicles. Everything about this massive, action filled, amazing book just leaves me feeling so pleased that it ended the way that it did. I want nothing more than to wrap myself up in this series and fall in love all over again.

I think I'm still crying happy tears.

For one, the characters just mean everything in the world to me. Since the very beginning, Cinder, Iko and Kai had my heart and that hasn't changed throughout the thousands of pages of their story that I've gotten to experience, but with every new character that was introduced along the way, I think I fell more and more in love with them because it allowed them to develop and expand as people. Introducing Throne and Scarlet and Wolf and Cress and Winter and Jacin helped develop these 'main' characters' personalities, alliances and most importantly, their feelings towards each other, and that's what makes storytelling amazing. Not only did these 'supporting' characters help make the main storyline so rich and vibrant, but they also had their own incredible stories behind them, and each one had their time in the spotlight to showcase their motives and reasons for tumbling their way into Cinder's life, which is really incredible to me.

The second thing though is the storyline. Every single page of Winter had something new to discover, something new to explore, and just when I thought I was getting to the point of immense action that would result in a winding down of the story (which happened so many times that it's not even funny), there was something new thrown into the mix that left me hanging on for more. Every single thing about this book just had me desperate to find time in my hectic life to read more of it so I could find out what was happening with Cinder's revolution, what these characters were dealing with, and ultimately what was going to happen between Levana and Kai. Even once the main action happened and the happily ever after seemed to creep up from the aftermath of the climax, I still found myself clinging desperately to the book, determined to find out what would happen next. There were no lulls, nothing that made me want to put the book down and leave it for a few days or weeks until I found myself thinking maybe now I should finally keep reading that darn book. Everything flowed so nicely that I actually have to stop and think about how many hours I've dedicated to awkward reading positions so I could get just a few pages further in this amazing novel.

Now I'll admit, characters and storylines are what hook me in and leave me attached to a novel, but the one other thing that really solidified my love for Winter, but the entire series overall, was the writing style. Marissa Meyer just knows how to write an amazing novel without putting too much flourish into the writing or making it feel too choppy. The flow of the words is just enough to keep you hooked into the storyline but also is well put together so that you don't find yourself turned off by the writing style. As someone who can be a bit nitpicky about the way a book is written, I can honestly admit that I appreciate this just as much as the concept and characterisation of a novel. 

There's so much more I could say to rave about Winter, but honestly, I think I can sum it up with this. The past couple of days have been really rough for me, and reading this book has given me the biggest sense of Okay that I've had in a long time. Today in particular, I've wanted to just curl back up in bed and flip off the world because it's dealt me a pretty rough hand, but instead I curled up in a not-so-comfortable chair and let myself have that little bit of time I needed to finish reading this novel, and I can honestly say that even though there's so much crap going on in my world, I don't feel stressed or upset or anything along those lines, because this book has soothed me, and honestly, that's a sign of a book that's going to stick with you for life.

Anyway, the moral of the book review is this: Is it too soon to start rereading this series because I just might have to, as I doubt many books are going to be able to compare to this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

3.5 Stars Spoiler Free Review

Okay here's the thing. I really liked this book, but I'm surprised that I didn't love it. I know that a lot of people are either 10000% for this book or are like bleh it was boring, but I didn't feel very strongly towards it either way. I thought that it had a pretty good story, but that it was overall lacking that spark that would've put it over the edge.

The story goes a little bit like this: Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever, a type of plague that hit her world and caused a lot of adults to die. Only children survived the fever and those who did were left with strange markings and called Malfettos. Now some of these Malfettos have special powers in addition to their markings, like the ability to control fire and wind or create illusions out of nothing, and Adelina is one of those marked. By discovering her powers, she joined the cast of Malfettos called the Young Elites and gets whisked away by a small group of them called the Dagger Society to learn how to control her powers. Additionally, the Malfettos are hated in the land and the royal family wants to get rid of them. It's a lot of drama to explain.

Here's the thing. I found Adelina a bit annoying. For a main character, she's a pretty decent one, but there was no spark about her that had me interested in wanting to learn all about her and see what made her tick and what motivated her. As for her story, it's interesting I'll admit, but the way that the novel was written made it feel a little bit choppy. The way that she spoke about her past didn't flow well enough for me to really care or understand the timeline of things, which left me confused when she'd start mentioning her past experiences with her father and her sister, Violettta.

Don't get me wrong though. I didn't hate Adelina but I did find her story confusing. What really kept me interested in this book was the characters in the Dagger Society. The second that we meet them in the book, I was curious about them and the one thing that I wish I'd gotten out of this book was that we'd get to know more about them. Sure, little bits are revealed along the way, but the novel spends so much of the time focused on Enzo and Raffaele (my baby!) that the others seem to fall by the wayside. By the time the novel's over, you don't know anything about Dante or Michel, and Lucent and Gemma just barely get hints of explanation behind their characters. I was craving so much more about this group of young elites that took Adelina in and it saddened me to not really learn about them, when they all could've been such well-developed characters.

As for the story itself, I will say that Marie Lu has a way of writing a good story. The actual happenings of the main plot kept me interested, mostly because I wanted to learn more about Teren and why he had such hatred for the Malfettos, but again there were things that could've been improved. A lot of the time was focused on Adelina worrying about Violetta and wondering when she'd be let in on the secrets of the Dagger Society and a good bit of it had to do with her battling her inner demons and past memories too, but if some of that time had been focused on other things to help further the plot, I think this could've been a stellar novel.

It's sad to me that with just a few small twists this could've easily been a 4.5-5 star rating, but overall I think it was a pretty good book. Will I read The Rose Society? I don't know just yet, but we'll see how it goes.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Stacking the Shelves: April 2016

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews! You can share books that you bought from the bookstore, ebooks/kindle, borrowed from the library or a friend, books you won through giveaways, and books for review purposes.

This month has been a pretty big month for me, and as much as I'd love to link to all of the books and show all of the covers, I think I have too many books to do that, so here's a fun little list and hopefully next month I'll get to doing covers and links!

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic
The Raven King by Nora Sakavic
The King's Men by Nora Sakavic
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamine Alire S√°enz
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

The Selection by Kiera Cass
The Elite by Kiera Cass
The One by Kiera Cass
The Heir by Kiera Cass

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Netgalley/Edelweiss/Review Copies:
The Mark of Noba by G.L. Tomas
How to Keep Rolling After a Fall by Karole Cozzo
The Way to Walk the Game of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen
Rikuso by David Kudler
A Million Times Goodnight by Kristina McBride
Life Before by Michele Bacon
Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca
Windcatcher by A.J. Norfield

It looks like I have my work cut out for me in terms of books to read this month! Have you guys read any of these books? Did you like them? Let me know!