Middle Book Awesome Syndrome: Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray

Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents’ invention, to cross into alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse—even hurting the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked and his consciousness scattered across multiple dimensions.

Marguerite has no choice but to search for each splinter of Paul’s soul. The hunt sends her racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each world brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with each trial she faces, she begins to question the destiny she thought they shared.

The second book in the Firebird trilogy, Ten Thousand Skies Above Youfeatures Claudia Gray’s lush, romantic language and smart, exciting action, and will have readers clamoring for the next book.

Source: GoodReads

A Thousand Pieces of You was one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads of 2014.  It’s sequel is just as good if not better.  While there are still visible faults, there was definite improvements in the second installment of this series.  Which actually sort of surprised me because usually in series-especially trilogies-the middle book is usually the weakest of the bunch.

Here though, great development is made with the characters and the plot.  I’m still not 100% sold with Paul and Marguerite, but I have a better understanding for the couple and can appreciate them.  And I have to praise and get annoyed at Gray for giving an awesome tease of what a relationship with Theo and Marguerite could’ve been-note to blog reader, I get bored with straight men (which is what Paul is) Theo is more my style.

The alternate dimensions for the most part weren’t as interesting as the previous installment, but there were some interesting aspects about some of them.  I also liked the fact that we did get to revisit one particular dimension (for spoiler purposes I won’t go into particulars here).

Like with the previous installment, there is a clear plot, but like with the previous installment not everything is what it seems.  There are so many ways that this book could’ve gone, and certain twists and turns surprised me.  At the same time though, there were a lot of suprises.

While there was a lot of development with the main cast, and some development on the motives behind the Triad.  I did think, for the most part, the villains in this book were still relatively flat.  Which is sad.  They really just make an appearance whenever it’s to escalate the plot.  Not so much with the main characters who are well formed .  I get that it’s in Marguerite’s point of view and of course it’s going to be limited to her thoughts, but I wish there would’ve been a little bit more interaction with the villains.  I am hopeful that that will be happening in the next book, but I really think there should’ve been more before the third book.

I know it sounds like I’m nitpicking a lot about this book, but truth was I really enjoyed it. It was fast paced, fun, and different.

Yes, I know, there are a lot of YA AU dimension books out there, but I really like the spin that Gray takes on it.  There’s always something so romantic about her books.  Yes, the romance can borderline on cheese and doesn’t always work-I was never a huge fan of her vampire series and I sort of gave up on her witch series as well-but when it does it’s really wow inducing.  And I think the Firebird series is where this quality shines.  You have two people who find each other in all these different worlds and it’s really interesting seeing how they interact with each other if circumstances were different.

Romance in a Claudia Gray book. Over the top, a little bit cheesy, but oh so good.

I am eagerly awaiting the next installment to this series.  It’s not perfect, but it is a fun read and has a lot to offer.

Overall Rating: I’m feeling generous so A- (it really should be a B+).  The villains are a little weak, but I think that’s going to be resolved in the next one.  But overall what a fun read.

 

A Reason to Use Anastasia Gifs: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

Source: GoodReads

I always have sort of a weird relationship with Claudia Gray books.  I’ll be honest, I only read the first book in her vampire and witch series and weren’t that impressed with them.  But her werewolf meets Titanic book, I liked it even though it was admittedly cheesy and borderline bad.  As for A Thousand Pieces of  You, I think it’s probably the best Gray book I’ve read as of yet.  Though, that doesn’t mean it’s exactly perfect.

I will say that up until about the last half of this book I was really enjoying it.  Oh yes, I saw the flaws, but it was really enjoyable.

And then…well, it took a not so pleasant turn for the worse.

Sigh…

Before I go into those unpleasant details I want to talk about what I really liked about this book: the concept.

While alternate worlds have sort of been a trend in YA as of recently, it’s something I really enjoy.  The problem is a lot of the time it doesn’t work out for me.  I think I really like the way Gray handled it and I like how she doesn’t stick to one particular dimensions.

My favorite dimension is obviously the Russian one.

Yes, there’s a reason why I’m using Anastasia gifs.

Seriously, authors you want me to to buy your book feature Russia in it. The history and culture is so vast and intricate adding alternate realities made the ride even more special.

So, the Russian dimension.

Totally worked.

And I liked the Ocean dimension as well.  Nice to look at the various possibilities choices in life can make…

So, the dimensions those were great.

What didn’t work for me were the leads.  Well, two of the leads.  I actually did like Theo.  This is a character I want explored more and honestly I felt bad that he was ditched for Paul (who is bland, bland, bland).  I think it’s the one time I want a triangle for my ship to possibly sail, but I sort of doubt it will happen (since I’ve seen in the past Gray usually has a thing for the bland guy).

Gray likes boring guys. I like guys who act more like Dimitri because they make for a better character and have (gasps) a personality.

Not that Paul is horrible.

Just bland.

And honestly, I should be glad that Theo is free of Marguerite she makes some choices that are less than savory and I really did get annoyed with her at times.  But as far as YA characters go, she’s alright.

I think when I did focus more on character that’s when I got annoyed.  When I focused more on the concept, that’s when I was loving this book.  The plot itself: was honestly a little predictable.

I even guessed the twist.

I guess what I’m trying to say is while A Thousand Pieces of You isn’t horrible, but focus on the details you’re going to get annoyed.  Gray is one of those writers whose work is fun, but at the end of the day it’s not awe inspiring.

I will be continuing with the next book, I’m interested in where this goes (even if the characters and the plot are a bit dull).  The world that Gray created is fascinating and I’m sort of interested in what other alternate realities she might come up with.

Overall Rating: A solid B.  Fun, but flawed.

Spellcaster: Claudia Gray

Nadia actually does wear a white dress in this book (well, sort of).

Claudia Gray books are like guilty pleasures for me.  I know they’re not the greatest, and God they use YA’s tropes like there’s no tomorrow.  But they’re enjoyable enough.  It’s like mind candy.  You know it’s bad for you, but somehow you can’t help but indulge.  Unfortunately though, I kind of got a brain belly ache from Spellcaster.

General Summary: After her mom ditches them Nadia’s dad decides to quit his job at a big fancy law firm, take the bar in another state (yeah….just go with it), and accept a pay cut so  his daughter can move cross country and have to deal with being the new girl for her senior year.  And oh yeah, she’s a witch too.

Review:

Okay, it’s not awful.  It’s actually quite enjoyable once you get past a few things.  Though not everyone’s going to get past these things especially Mateo.  God, I freaking hated Mateo.

Before I rant, I’ll talk about what’s good about this book.  It’s a pretty interesting set up.  Seemingly predictable, but it is enjoyable enough to read when you want an escape.  It’s nowhere near as romantic as Gray’s other books though.  Once again, I’m blaming Mateo for that.

Yeah, he’s sort of the elephant in the review.  Of course, you know the drill, more about him later but he really bogged down the book because we a good chunk of this story was told in his perspective and that’s another problem I had with the story.

This isn’t the first book I’ve read that’s been in multiple POV in third person, however its transitions sucked.  Often we’d go from paragraph to paragraph with little to no transitions at all.  It really would help Gray in future installments if she took a page form Melissa de la Cruz’s books and use chapters as divisions of perspectives if she can’t figure out how to transition.  God, it was so annoying trying to figure out who was who.  Almost as annoying as the cliches.

When I think of Gray’s writing, I always think cliches and she usually knows how to use them in that cheesy tolerable way.  But this book…I don’t know.  It just seemed a little cheese-tastic, predictable, and convenient.  Seriously, I figured out what was going on right away and the insta love did not help me like an already unlikeable character.

Finally, I’m going to pick on the info dumps that went on in this book.  God were there lots of them.  Once again, they were used purely for convenience just like the other tropes were used here.

Best Feature: Magic.  I like witch books. I can’t help it.  So that’s a plus.  I also think Gray can write cliches better than a lot of people.  Come on, most people wouldn’t be able to pull off a book about werewolves on the Titanic but she did (sort of).

Worst Feature: Mateo.  God, I can not stand this guy.  And it’s not because he’s an abusive ass hat.  To put it bluntly, this guy is a pussy.  Whining and moping basically describe his character, and I wanted to skim every time I saw that it was in his POV.  Honestly, I had a hard time imaging him as hot.  He’s just not.  Look, I get he’s scared he’s being overcome by the curse and how he’d want to friend his friend who’s really the empress of evil, but dude grow some freaking…you know what you can fill in that part.  I don’t want to get explicit, though that’s exactly what I was thinking throughout anytime this sorry excuse of a character appeared.  It also doesn’t help at one point he compares his teenage angst to having AIDS (yeah…not even going to go into how insensitive that remark is).

Appropriateness: Pretty clean.  Some violence and a couple of curse words here and there.  But for the most part, ti was pretty PG-13.

Blockbuster Worthy: Sure, why not.  I could actually see this being picked up by ABC Family or whatever.  It  kind of has a Charmed vibe to it.  And God knows, the networks are really looking for the next Charmed.  Here’s who I’d cast:

Nadia: Selena Gomez.  I sort of see this having a Disney Channel charm if it was ever produced.  Selena would do nicely.

Mateo: I don’t know.  The lack of young actors of Latin descent other than Taylor Lautner makes it puzzling enough.  But I don’t like Mateo, so I really couldn’t subject anyone to that role.

Overall Rating: Four out of ten spells.  I definitely didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did Fateful, but it’s not a bad library read. If your looking for a time waster and can’t finding anything that’s a must read, this might be one to pick up.

Fateful: Claudia Gray

Big props to the cover editor on this one.  It’s really gorgeous in real life. 

I really like it when history is bastardize*.  I don’t know about you, but I would really like a book such as:

A mermaid romance set to the backdrop of the Columbus’s so called “discovery” of America.  As one of Columbus’s sailors must make the ultimate choice betray his crew or leave his mer love to face instant death.

Or

A love triangle between an angel, and knight, and a Turkish prince  taking place during the crusades.  Note, there will be no motorcycles taking the angel to hell since motorcycles weren’t invented during the ninth century.

Or

Werewolves on the Titanic.  Can true love defeat the moonlight or for that matter icebergs?

 

Believe it or not there is actually a book that is about werewolves on the Titanic.  And yep, that book is Fateful by Claudia Gray.

General Summary: So yes, this book could essentially be summed up as being like the James Cameron movie with the roles reversed-and-yeah,  there’s werewolves on board the unsinkable ship.

Review: As far as books go this one was a surprise to me.  Honestly, I bought the book as sort of a joke.  The summary seems ludicrous and I’m just not a big fan of Claudia Gray’s writing-I only got through the second book of the Evernight series before I gave up.  Despite some eye rolling cliches and purple prose, I kept reading Fateful. Perhaps it was because everything was so wrong it was right.  I guess I could say that about a lot of books, Halo, is one that I can think of on the top of my head.  But I enjoyed Fateful  a lot more than Halo.  Probably because Fateful had likable enough characters and despite the fact it employs a lot of annoying cliches it had some things going for it (a.k.a. the Titanic).

The Titanic has so much history.  And I am a history buff.  So it was interesting to me that Gray chose to tie in history to the paranormal…the only thing was it sort of failed.  It wasn’t near as big as an epic fail as I thought it was going to be, but it still sucked.  And not because she decided to have a big pink octopus sink the boat-no, she kept to the actual history of the tragedy.  My problem was that  The Titanic was essentially irrelevant to the overall story.
It’s just that you really didn’t feel like the characters were on the Titanic until Tess mentioned it.  They could’ve been really anywhere.  And that to me seemed  cheap. Come to think about it, lots of things about this book seemed cheap.  I might be a twenty-first century American girl, but I’ve read lots of novels written in the twentieth century and for that matter have some UK pals and watch perfuse amounts of British television and Tess doesn’t sound British.  She just sounds like a modern American girl who happens to be in a book that takes place in the early twentieth century.  I feel like the novel could’ve been much better told had it been in third person.
Likewise, I was sort of upset with how Gray would use quick fixes to get around history.  Like for instance, Tess is granted a special key to allow her to go from first to third class with some shoddy explanation–essentially her employer’s pay off the ship’s crew.  And then there’s how the plot handled itself. Pacing in this book does not exist.  Tess comes to realization with little to no explanation about several things in the novel.  And when Gray does slow down there’s no purpose.  For instance, twenty pages were spent on this golden pin.  And while it did make Tess think about her sister, it served no other purpose to the novel.  While I did think the characters were nice enough, like the plot I think there was really little development.  Tess was your standard heroine, she was likable enough but I didn’t feel like I got to know her enough to like her.  That there was anything really unique about her.  But she was definitely more developed than Alec who was  mind candy at best.

Best Feature: Cult potential.  You know how some awful movies become cult classics because how ridiculous they are.  Well, this is how this book was to me.  The writing wasn’t terrible and it was an easy enough to read despite it’s eye rolling moments.  And I have to admit I sort of have a thing for period pieces.  Plus, the summary looks so horrifying it makes this book look interesting.

Worst Feature: Cliches: Although, I found this book to be occasionally amusing, the cliches could be a tad bit too much.  There was insta love.  And Mr. Insta Love just happens to be  rich and you guessed it he’s some sort of paranormal creature.  Oh, and he tells Tess all his dirty little secrets right after meeting her.  Grant it, he was sort of in a predicament where he had to-but still.    Add in some ridiculously purple writing and what do you have.  One big cliche.

Appropriateness:  There is a sex scene in this novel.  And there is death, lots of death.  Unplanned pregnancies and abusive situations are also talked about.  Honestly, I would say that the novel would almost qualify as adult fiction except a lot of these scenes are fluffed over and the tone of the novel is YA.

With this cover though it does look a little more like a bodice ripper and perhaps that would’ve been more appropriate.

Blockbuster Worthy:  Hmm, it might be interesting.  Though it might be a bit of a Titanic  rip off—oh,  wait there are plenty of movies that ripped off the James Cameron’s Titanic.  Perhaps you’ve seen this one.

Anyway, if Fateful ever got turned into a movie here’s who I’d cast:
Tess: Dianna Agron.  Somehow I can picture her playing Tess.  She’d have to gain an accent and wear a scullery maid’s hat throughout most of the film.

Alec: Usually I don’t advocate casting animated characters but I couldn’t help but think Alec would look a lot like Dimitri from Anastasia except-well, not animated. And if that didn’t work you could always get Leonardo dicaprio circa 1998.

Overall Rating: Five out of ten wolves.  It was a fast read.  Even enjoyable.  However, this book had it’s flaws and while I would recommend it if you like all things Titanic and want some cheese.  Overall, I would say stick to the very original material.  At least with it you get this obnoxious song.  Oh, and Leo who will never let you go while Alec will just throw you (or should I say Tess) overboard.

* Note, the above statement was said in total sarcasm