Nothing Special But OK: The Wish Granter by CJ Redwine

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An epic, romantic, and action-packed fantasy inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about a bastard princess who must take on an evil fae to save her brother’s soul, from C. J. Redwine, the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow Queen. Perfect for fans of Graceling and the Lunar Chronicles.

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.

Source: GoodReads

I think a part of my reading experience was ruined by Robert Carlyle’s portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon Time.  While the writing of the show has gone down the tubes a la Charmed by having black and white morality on the show Carlyle can still make his now demonized character seem complex.  And to be fair, the writing in the first two seasons and half made the character complex before they decided to give everyone on the show 1D morality .  I think it’s why I expected more from the Rumpelstiltskin character than I got.  To be fair, the book description made it seem more interesting to than it really was.

Which was really more or less a Rumpelstiltskin retelling where we get a bland peasant helping a princess who likes to eat pie.

We’re reminded that Ari likes to eat pie every other page of the book which is why I even bring that up.

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It’s really annoying since I just read about another pie loving princess a few months ago in Heartless.

To be fair though, I give props to Redwine for having a full figured MC it’s just that it annoyed me how we reminded of the fact she wasn’t the size of a twig every other page.  In fact, the villain states she’s fat at one point of the book and I just…I don’t know, I just wish that there wasn’t so much emphasis on her size.  Though, on a positive note Ari seems comfortable with her body so the fact that everyone is talking about the size of her butt isn’t really bothering her.

Then again, she has her mind on a lot of other things. So there’s really no time to focus on hateful vitriol.

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was eerily similar to Shadow Queen in its set up.  Two kids on the run from their stepmother, but then it changes.  The thing is like Shadow Queen it never reaches its fullest potential and never veered far enough from the source material to make it original.

The Rumpelstiltskin character, for instance, was as evil as they come.  About three quarters of the way through the novel, after he has done despicable after despicable thing Redwine tries to give him some backstory to humanize him BUT it doesn’t really work.  Maybe it would’ve been if it was a TV show (maybe).  But as it was, there just seemed no evolution for this character or his motives.

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The reason the Rumple character works on Once Upon a Time in the early seasons  is that they had spent time developing him throughout the series.  Here, the Rumpelstiltskin character is pretty much the stereotypical evil character.   Much like everyone else in this book is stereotyped to their specific role.

Aria besides liking pie is the princess who gets things done.

Sebastian is the handsome noble peasant with a sad backstory that helped her.

Thad is the douche brother who gets them in the bad situation from the get go, because his name is Thad and he’s an idiot.

Most of the world building here is loosely done.  Sure, there’s some stuff about fae but nothing out of the ordinary or interesting enough to keep you really that engaged.  And some of the stuff, about how the magic worked (specifically with the souls) was never really fully explained.  Like, can anyone remove someone soul?  Becuase it only seemed like a fae thing at first and then…

Yeah, complication not explained.  Just like the whole servant’s backstory.  The stupid brother who still gets to be king even though his sister and her peasant hero boyfriend save the day.

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It’s just a little ridiculous.

I think if you can look past the faults, this one is okay.  Great no, but okay.    Harmless would probably be the perfect word to describe it.  I mean, I don’t think it’s one I’m  really going to remember one way or the other.

Overall Rating: C+

 

Eh: Rook by Sharon Cameron

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Source: GoodReads

As regular blog readers know, lately I’ve been binging on a lot adult romances.  One of the tropes that I have been seeking is the hero in disguise trope.  I’m always a sucker for this trope because I think it really shows that the characters a capable of loving each other no matter what form.   Plus, it’s a little nod to The Scarlet Pimpernel which is always good fun.  Rook, is a YA book that is said to be a loose retelling of the story, but man does it not live up to what I wanted and because I wasn’t in the mood to waste time I DNF’d the book after like 120 pages-meaning, long enough of a read to get enough to write a decent size review.

My main problem with Rook was the world building.  While I don’t like info dumps, I want at least some explanation.  Other than having machines blamed for everything, we get no explanation to why we’re suddenly thrown back to the dark ages-or really Georgian period, since they’re not exactly praying all the time and all the stuff they did in the middle ages and are instead having balls and wearing wigs.  Other than I guess, Cameron wanted a reason to have the two characters betrothed and wear wigs.

Yay!?!?!?!?

The book opens up interesting enough.  Or it held my interest.  The main character rescues some aristocrat’s brats.  It’s an exciting enough beginning but it goes downhill after that.  I just had a hard time making connections with any of the characters and I didn’t feel any of their motivations or anything.

That’s one thing that can never hold my interest, if I can’t make any connection to the characters.  Had I liked or cared about Sophia or Rene or anyone, I might’ve held out and ignored the shoddy world building as it stood I could care less.

This might be a matter of taste though.  I know that a lot of people like more action oriented books than character oriented books, and to be fair there seemed to be “some” action going on in this book.  Some being the operative word because it was sort of hit and mess and filled with dialogue and confusion at best.  But there were things happening…so there was that.

Like I said earlier, I ended up DNF-ing the sucker.  It really just wasn’t holding my interest.

A Tale of Two DNF’d Fantasies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A double review, yay?

No, it’s not a yay guys because I think at this point I am totally burned out of YA fantasy and these two books exemplify why this popular genre annoys the shit out of me.

To be fair, there are still some good YA fantasies out there.  I adore The Winner’s Curse, for example.  I know, I know, haven’t read the last book but I just don’t want it to end (yes, I know I sound like a whiney fan, but still).

I was feeling fantasy this weekend after reading a shit load of contemporaries the past week.  To be honest, I think I’ll be returning to my contemporaries after these two burn outs because really, really, publishers is it really that difficult to purchase the rights to more original YA fantasies?

I get that the same thing happened to paranormal books, dystopia books, BUT BUT it’s fantasy there are lots of ways you can explore said YA universe.

Deep breaths.

Before I proceed with my mini-reviews because combined I probably only read about 150 pages of these books, I’ll discuss why YA fantasy has been boring the hell out of me.  Because they usually follow one of two formulas or a combination of formulas:

  1. The Long Lost Princes: MC is a long lost princess/queen and doesn’t know it.  This of course leads to a trilogy where she must get her kingdom back.  Or is a peasant impersonating a royal that’s really a royal but doesn’t know it or something to that degree and is trying to either ruin a kingdom and ultimately ending up reforming it.  Insert random bad assery, that more often than not does not come off as bad ass but allows them to reclaim their kingdom even though they should get stabbed with a sword or whatever.
  2. The Secret Special Power: MC is an impoverished ill educated chit who lives in a dysopian fantasy world where there’s some sort of magic.  Magic plays an important role into how the society works, may it be enslaving those who has magic or making them super royals.  Of course, MC has secret power.  Also, note this trope also sometimes relies on giiving one gender-especially females-a power that is often tailored agianst them and then the author of said trilogy can claim it’s either a retelling of The Handmiden’s Tale or at least do a blurb comparison.

And now it’s time for my mini-DNF reviews.

1) Burning Glass

Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, and she can’t always decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the charming-yet-volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

Source: GoodReads

This one was really more or less a longer and painful version of Shadow and Bone complete with the Russian inspired world.

I think publishers know that if you put Russia in the middle of the blurb, some people are bound to buy it.  The thing is I felt like I was reading slightly heated leftovers and it made me sad.

Maybe part of it is the fact I read a lot of these books. But I really feel, especially with YA fantasy, the story is often pigeon holed and that’s what this one was.  There was nothing really usual about it.  Even the set up was similar to Shadow and Bone.  Okay, there was no annoying Solider Boy best friend, but still super secret powers hidden for a long time and the MC then has to report to the government.

Snooze fest.

Overall Rating: Didn’t read enough to really rate but DNF. I gave it a one star on GoodReads rather than the two stars that I sometimes give to DNF books because I think for anyone who reads a lot of these books wouldn’t be impressed.

2) Ruined

A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

Soruce: GoodReads

This one follows the Princess trope to a T.  Though to be fair, one goes more of the route of Red Queen than Throne of Glass.

Like with Burning Glass, I was completely bored with this one and by about page 100 with very little interaction between the two main view points-and a sneak peak at the end of the book confirming my fears.  I DNF’d it.

I want to yell at these YA fantasy writers to stop being so bloody predictable, to try to have a bit of originality but it would be useless because the same crap keeps getting published and sold.  Popularity in other popular series makes the newer series want to immolate it and it just comes off as being poor and sucky.

To be honest, I actually liked the beginning of Ruined.

I liked how the MC was a merciless killer within six pages, but then the plot just got stupid.  She doesn’t even look remotely like the princess she’s impersonating save for the fact they have dark hair.  I really don’t even know how the family she’s marrying into wouldn’t realize this save for the fact  that they might’ve gotten an Anne of Cleves portrait but whatever.

The point is this one didn’t work for me it was a logic fail and then when the MC got to the palace you knew she was going to get moony eyes over her new hubby and ruin the whole thing.  Or at least moony eyed over a pretty dress once it fit.

Overall Rating: DNF

 

 

Should be the Idiot Court: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…

Source:GoodReads

Anytime I see a comparison to The Selection in a blurb I usually run away, unless it’s written by Richelle Mead and then I torture myself and try to rid the feeling of having all my dreams crushed by starting my binge watch of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

So yeah, this book didn’t turn out to be good.  It’s books like this that really get me fuming as a feminist.

And really make me wonder what publishers thing about their readers.

And this is by Richelle Mead who has created some fantastic lead female characters-I like both Rose and Sydney.  I forgot the main character’s name from Soundless which I’m pretty sure is going to happen to Adelaide after I detox from this book.

I am really sad about Richelle Mead, I loved her Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series and I’ve read Succubus Blues and enjoyed it too, but I did not enjoy this much like I didn’t enjoy Soundless.  It lacked the trademark Mead voice and instead was something dull and about four years too late in the genre and just bad.

Really bad.

I even think if this book was written four years ago it would’ve been terrible.

I think a lot of the problems are a result of the fact that Mead isn’t embracing her strengths and is more or less trying to recreate other really bad YA novels (cough, The Selection, cough).  It was almost as if she had writer’s block and the the publishing company just gave her a loose outline of a book so that she could finish out her contract with or whatever.

Note, I doubt this is what actually happened, but this book lacked heart.  It read like mindless other books trying to pimp itself to a female audience who likes pretty dresses and romance, and forgot substance.

Which is a shame.

I am a fan of a dress porn as much as anyone can, but I think anyone can see that dress porn and a cute romance* isn’t going to make a book for me.  It needs good character development and a plot would be nice too.

The Glittering Court has neither.

First, the set up is a little fucked up.  A girl runs away from an arranged marriage with a distant relative who while banal doesn’t seem horrible (as far as arranged marriages are concerned) for an arranged marriage to a complete stranger done by an organization that is basically a glorified brothel but without the sex because this isn’t adult fiction but young adult-but still sex is going to come in play after marriage, so it is a brothel sort of.

I mean, how fucking stupid is that?  I could understand Adelaide using The Glittering Court as an excuse to get to the new land and then bailing on it, but she is totally down on the idea.

I’d like to say that the rest of the book is not near as stupid, but that wouldn’t make me an honest review.

It’s even dumber.

Need a drink?

I do.

I’m glad it’s Friday, let me tell you.

Well, it was Friday when I first started drafting it.  By the time I finished and edited this review it was Sunday and I’m coming off of a stiff hangover because of this book.

I still can’t get over the fact that this book was by Richelle Mead.

It’s not just because the book is just so different in subject matter, but because the writing itself was just so bland.  Even though I had problems with the later Vampire Diaries and to  a lesser degree the last Bloodlines book (which was cheesy as hell, but entertaining like a bad Lifetime movie, there was still something interesting about them.  They were interesting.  There was action.   For the dignity of Mead I won’t mention how boring Soundless was (okay, I sort of did).  And sadly, The Glittering Court though was just boring and filled with dress porn-Soundless lacked dress porn.

Le sigh.

Throughout the reading process, I tried to think  objectively.  Look at the book as though it was written by someone else and see if I thought it was better.  After all, there are lots of books out there in the YA fantasy sphere that shared a similar premises-the aforementioned abomination, The SelectionThe Jewel and countless others..

A premises like this is fatally flawed.

I really hate how one dimensional this book and other’s seem to think their intended audience is.  I know I discussed the dress porn phenomena in my review of The Jewel but it still annoys me that publishers think this sort of thing can pass it’s audience.

Pretty dresses are nice and all, but teenage girls and women in general are not so entrapped by them that we can look past some pretty insulting things which was The Glittering Court.

Seriously, how the fuck is one ot make sense of this plot?  Escape an arrange  marriage by basically selling yourself into another worse situation.

It’s just asking your audience to be stupid.

Which is pretty insulting, Richelle Mead.

I’m hoping your publishers forced you to write this shit.

At this point, I don’t know if I’m going to read another Mead book unless the premises truly intrigues me.  This has happened to me before with an I used to read all the time, and unfortunately, it looks like it has happened again.

Overall Rating: A DNF a little bit over the 200 page mark.  More on the side of F than a subjective it wasn’t for me book.

*Note, I wasn’t a fan of the romance which I really didn’t talk a lot about in this review because I was entrapped with the publisher’s stupidity that I overlook a fatal plot fail because of pretty dresses.

Interesting World Building But Meh On Characters: The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

Source: GoodReads

I was sort of scared about reading this one.  Oh, don’t get me wrong I’m always game for a Snow White retelling,but after seeing some of my friends reviews for this one I figured it was going to be a disappointed.  It was…sort of…but I didn’t exactly hate Shadow Queen.  There were parts of it, that I really enjoyed.

I was actually surprised with how much I didn’t find this to be offensive, because usually I find myself to be on the harsher side when it comes to books.

I’ll talk about what really worked for me in this one the world building.  Particularly I liked the use of magic and the dragon shifting thing did not bother me as much as it could’ve.  Sure, the thing with heart magic was a slight rift off of Once Upon a Time, but I thought Redwine made it enough of her own where it wasn’t a complete ripoff.  In fact, I liked the nuances that were involved in casting spells and such.  Of course, Redwine used faux fantasy language which is always a pet peeve of mine, but it’s not enough to completely derail my feelings of a book.  Rather, it’s just something I roll my eyes at (sorry, high fantasy authors I do it anytime I read high fantasy).

As far as retellings go, it is does rely on the source material.  Snow White, Evil Queen, Huntsman/Prince (which is becoming a bit of a retelling cliche to combine them),  though there are no seven dwarfs, and no suffocating corsets.  The thing with the apples is also handled differently, but at its core (ha, ha, bad pun) this is a Snow White story and if anything is really different it is more or less that Redwine made Snow White a sort of Robin Hood figure-but again, this was already sort of seen already on Once Upon a Time (I’m sure it’s in some other Snow White retelling as well, this is just the first one on top of my head because of the heart magic thing).  It’s not bad per say, and it was an interesting quick read (and I’m pretty sure a standalone, which is something I haven’t seen in awhile in YA)  it’s just not that gripping of a read.

And I blame it partially on the characters.  The two main leads were nice…but I didn’t feel any romantic tension between them and throughout the story I just felt distant from them.  I didn’t even really feel for one character when she had to deal with a death.  Maybe it’s because the character that died barely had any impact on the story, but I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass and it seemed like she got over the death sort of quickly.

The Evil Queen character was interesting enough, but I thought that she could’ve been more formed especially her relationship with her henchman.  That plot twist came a little bit out of nowhere to me.  And I wish that her health and its condition were explained as well.  I think I sort of have an idea of why she was in the condition she was, but it was one of those things I would’ve liked a better explanation for.

So, I did end up liking Shadow Queen.  It was a decent retelling, but it had it’s issues and it’s probably a book I’m not going to be prone to remembering in the long run.

Overall Rating: A B-.

This Book is Awesome: A Court of Thorns and Roses Sarah J Mass

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Timesbestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

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.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

Source: GoodReads

Probably one of my favorites so far this year.

beauty

Well, that’s a way to start a review.

But this book…

I will be fangilring a lot in this review and that’s not like me, but this book was just so wonderful.  Yes, it had some faults.  But I think the faults worked with the book and it really was so magical, wonderful, sensual, and ridiculously sexy and…

Belle

I’m in love.

Which surprised me since I wasn’t a huge fan of Throne of Glass.  I never got the hype of that series (I’ve only read one book), but it really is wonderful.

I know, that I said that Cruel Beauty is probably my favorite YA retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but this book beats it.  And it involves fae and I’m normally not a fae person.  But the way that Mass immerses the reader slowly into the fae world, it really works.

To where I dare say it, I sort of want to give fae in general another chance.

I’ll probably be taking things slow.

But I will definitely be reading this book’s sequel.

Yes, sequel.

It has a sequel.

Or will.  And I oddly want one, even though you’d think that a Beauty and the Beast retelling would be squeezed into one book.

And well, yeah, the fairytale aspect sort of was done in this installment but there’s so much more to explore.

I think one of my favorite things about this book was its characters.  I loved almost all of the characters in this book.  The leads were developed.  Even though Feyre got on my nerves at times, Mass at least addressed the fact that she was annoying.

And the men in this book.

Fans self.

I want them all.

Give them to me.

Tamlin was the perfect dark mysterious lord of the manor-or high lord if you want to get techical.  The character sort of has that whole Darcy growing effect on you.

And then there’s Lucien who is just downright delicious, especially since he’s firmly in non-romantic zone.  And I really liked that in the book.

And then there’s Rhys.

I am surprised with how much I like Rhys in the dark and creepy type of way.  He’s a character I really can’t wait to see what Mass does in future installments.

The villainess in this installment was positively bat shit insane evil and I loved her because she was just so evil.  Really, the last third of the book is such a departure from the first two thirds.  While the first two thirds of the novel works on relationship building and character building, things totally pick up towards the end.  The book went from feeling seductive and sensual, to being over the top filled with intense action.

It has a little bit of everything in it.

As I said before, if I had to pick on anything if would be Feyre’s sometime stupidity.  I like the fact it’s addressed though, rather than pushed under the rug.  And she’s not stating to be the world’s greatest assassin  so there’s a plus for her there.

The action, again is somewhat similar to Throne of Glass too, but there’s enough differences there where Crown of Thorns and Roses is truly its own.

Overall Rating: An A. Very, very, enjoyable.

The One My Spell Check Keeps Changing to Magnolia: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

 

Neil Gaiman’s Stardust meets John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars in this fantasy about a girl caught between two worlds… two races…and two destinies.

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

Source: GoodReads

I had mixed feelings about reading this one, but when Kara from Great Imaginations read it and loved it, I thought I needed to give it a try.  Her tastes usually align to be pretty similar to me, and I was already intrigued….

So yeah.

I read it.

Thoughts:

Ummmm

This one really surprised me.  It wasn’t something that I normally would’ve read, but oddly it worked for me.  The sick lit part was handled quite well.  And I don’t get sick lit.  It usually seems really gimmicky to me.  But it wasn’t that gimmicky here.

Yes, the disease was Aza’s life and in a way it’s about her dying, but it wasn’t a stereotypical.  OMG she’s dying book.  Well, for the most part.  I mean, Aza kept living even though technically she was dying.  I feel like a lot of times with sick lit books the book becomes overwhelmed with the disease.  Not so much here.  The Sick Lit part really focused on relationship and they weren’t cringe worthy like Nicholas Sparks books or John Green books*

Once the fantasy comes to play (yes, I said fantasy because this book is half sick lit half fantasy) things get insane.

And even as I’m writing this, I’m not sure how I feel about it.

The world building is completely unique AND bizarre.  I would almost say there’s a magical realism vibe about it (especially with those bird scenes at the end of part one), BUT it’s not magical realism.  It’s more or less if Ancient Aliens meet Thunder Cats but instead of  being cat anamorphic people the Thunder Cats were bird people.  Oh, and add some pirates and cloud whales while you’re at it.

Yeah, that insane.

And hard to comprehend, but it sort of works.

Sort of.

It’s like a really good first attempt at an insanely hard dessert to make and there’s just one little thing or two that are off with said dessert.

And I just don’t know if I’m going to give the book praise for trying or scorn for messing up.

I’m being generous and giving praise though, because what Headley was trying to do was extremely difficult to do.

While parts of the world building were half baked, the book was grounded in it’s dual narration.  By having a world not collected to the crazy bird alien world, the book still was grounded in reality.

I also really liked how different the two narrators were.  Jason truly has his own voice as well as Azra.

I do think Magonia was good with faults.  If you want a genre bending story, or a story that’s something original give it a try.

Overall Rating: A solid B+..

 

*This is taken from word of mouth.  I refuse to read Green’s books based on the fact he has a foot eating habit.  You’d think he’d learn by now that putting your foot in your mouth makes for some nasty digestion but whatevs.

There’s Something There: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Source: GoodReads

There are things about this book that should really bother me, but there is something that is utterly compelling about this book.

And I couldn’t keep it down.

Likewise, there was something about this ship.  I shouldn’t have liked it.  It is the antithesis of what I like in ships.  But it’s a bonafide ick ship-a ship that even though it make my nose wrinkle I can’t help but be like I want them together.

I think the closest thing I can compare it to is like Rumbelle on Once Upon a Time or St. Clair and Anna in Anna and the French Kiss.  It is so messed up in this book, because dude has killed so many women-never mind, that he may or may not have a quasi legit reason for doing so-and he’s planning on killing her.  And said chick wants to kill him to avenge her best friend, even though she sort of acted like an idiot about it throughout the entire book by doing nothing but mooning over how he’s not so kissible.  And I will remind you that, dude has homicidal tendencies.

Seriously, who’d want to be with someone like this?  People in Ick Ships that’s who.

Yet somehow,  Ahdieh’s writing make me want to root for these two.  There was something about the way that these two interacted that you were able to see beyond the monster that Khalid is.  He’s still a monster though, even if he might have a semi valid excuse.

Much like this episode wanted me to root for this toxic couple.

I think the strongest thing this book had going for it was the writing.  The descriptions are just so luscious.  Usually I sort of get annoyed when author’s go into details about what so and so is wearing or eating, but here I loved absorbing myself in the world.

I also liked that this was slow on the world building, we are given pieces of the world, but it’s not all given out to the reader on a plater.  The magic aspects of the book are only hinted at which I liked because it allowed the reader to get a view of the non-magic world of this book.

In addition to the ship being an ick ship, there is also a love triangle in this book.  Though it is a light love triangle at book, more or less a past relationship.  It actually didn’t bother me as much as I thought.  It actually added to the book showing that Shazi had other relationships before Khalid and adds dimension to the ick ship.

Though, the other guy is a bit of an idiot.

A brave idiot, but an idiot.  Much like Gaston on Once Upon a Time.

Seriously, I keep comparing this ship to Rumbelle.  There is something wrong with that

Another, Rumbelle gif for the win. See they can (sort of) be healthy.

Ships aside, the two leads are done well enough.  I sort of wanted more character development, but since it’s an intro to a series I’m giving it some slack.  However, I do think character development would’ve given the ick ship less ickness.  There were just some things like Shazi’s marrying Khalid without a plan to how to kill him to Khalid not even trying to get out of his awful situation that just had me baffled a bit.

If this book would’ve caught me on a bad day….

It should just be glad that it’s use of language and quick dialogue made up for it.

I am recommending this one.  If you’re extremely picky it might grate on you, but as a debut it is lovely. I have lots of hope for it’s sequel.

Overall Rating: A B+  I thought about giving it an A- but as I reflect on it the writing itself hid a lot of problems.

This Book Has DID:The StorySpinner by Becky Wallace

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

Source: GoodReads

This book has made me realize that I’m going to take a sabbatical from high fantasies for awhile.  It’s  not that I don’t like fantasies, it’s that I truly believe the market is becoming overly saturated with them and I really just need a breather.

The Storyspinner wasn’t a terrible book, but it was just so cliche.  And it didn’t help that it had five million points of view.  So, yeah, I DNF’d it.  And here are my top ten reasons why I DNF’d it and I guess why I’m taking a sabbatical from all the YA fantasy books for now.

10)A Lost Princess: Really, why must there always be a lost princess?  Why is it such a necessity?  Never mind that monarchies have had multiple problems throughout the years, and have caused their countries severe problems.  The long lost princess will fix everything (snark).  Whenever I see the Long Lost Princess cliche, like in Storyspinner, I start to feel my eyes twitch.  And I usually need to make myself a stiff drink to get through the reading process.

9) Snail Pace: Often fantasies move at a snail’s pace.  This is no exception.

8) The Poverty Cliche: One of our main characters has be dirt poor.  Bottom of the totem pool and of course they come in contact with the wealthy class.  Usually because of quest of that person in extreme poverty is the Chosen One or something else mundane.  Here the Poor Character is caught trying to hunt on Rich Character’s property.  It’s enough where they can come together and I’m sure serve some purpose in three books.

7) The World Is Different Than It Used to Be: We hear this vaguely, in some POVs, in others it just seems like life has been this way forever.  So, I’m even confused about how the utopia turned to shit when some character are acting like everything is a-okay.

6) Unpronounceable Names: At least The Storyspinner tries to route it’s own language in Portuguese, the book is a Brazilian inspired fantasy, but still I don’t like having to try to figure out how to say a characters name.

5) Girls in Drag for No Reason: I like the Mulan trope more than anyone, but when it serves no purpose I get annoyed.  Plus,I get annoyed that short hair and pants are enough to convince a guy that the girl in front of him is a guy.  Short hair and pants.  SMH.

4) Mysterious Prologue IS Important You MUST Read It, Even Though You Won’t Understand It: The prologue was obviously very important to the world building for this book.  And as usual, the prologue read like a cliche.  Parental/Close Relative/Close Friend tells MC something important and then croaks.  Sometimes there’s variants on this prologue. Like maybe the parents dies when the Important Character isn’t cognitive and leaves something behind, but not the case here.

3) Mysterious Group You Could Care Less About But Will Be the Info Dump Group: I really could care less about the Keepers.  I don’t know what they really were, other than trying to find a long lost princess.

2) Romantic Cliches that Make You Think This Romance is So Forced: The love/hate relationship is very common in fantasy,it doesn’t help when you’ve read five thousand of these.  And I really couldn’t care for Rafael at all.

1) Five Million Billion Points of View: I like multiple points of view, but the various view points in The Storyspinner was excessive and it ultimately was what lead me to DNF it.  Some people might like this element of the story more than I did.  For me though, it left me feeling a huge disconnect with the characters.  I couldn’t even pinpoint most of the characters.  It was as if this book wasn’t even sure of itself.

Overall Rating: I DNF’d it.  On the DNF end of books I’m giving it a more it’s me than you rating for why I DNF’d it.  Other people will like this book a LOT better than me.

The Crime of Not Shipping the Ship: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Source: GoodReads

Ah, The Winner’s Curse probably one of the most over hyped books in 2014 and I’ll admit it was good.

In the world of cliche high fantasy, it stood out.  The world building was fantastic and the ship was palatable and longing worthy.

The world building was still fantastic in the sequel, but did not like the ship as much.  It wasn’t horrible, per say  But it played on the misunderstanding cliche a bit for me to like.  Plus, Arin needs to get off his high horse.

I think a lot of issues I have with the romance is that both leads are such strong characters.  And this is a good thing to a degree.  Strong characters mean stronger story lines.  The thing is, strong characters sometimes don’t work that well together especially when they’re both very stubborn strong characters.  I feel like one of the characters has to give up part of themselves so that they can be together and I feel that’s what is ultimately going to happen to the ship here.

But it doesn’t mean I outright hate Arin and Kestrel, I just don’t ship them the way others do.

The world building in this installment, was enough for me not to really give a flip about how I no longer get the ship.  More dimensions were given to the characters and the world they live in.  I like how side characters in this installment embellished the world building.

There was also many parts of the world shown in this installment, unlike the first installment.

One of my favorite aspects of this installment was how Kestrel met her match with the emperor.  The character was complex on so many levels.  I’m not sure you’d call him so much of a villain or really just a politician.  Sure, his actions weren’t the kindest, but I don’t think he’s exactly a typical Big Bad.

Then there was the relationship that Kestrel had with her father and her future husband (the emperor’s son).  Both of them were complex and well done too.

Rare I can ever use a parent fluff gif.

Parent fluff in YA books is always good when you can get it (it rarely happens), so to see a father daughter relationship here was refreshing.  The same goes for the relationship between Kestrel and the emperor’s son.  This is NOT a love triangle, guys.  It’s an alliance turned friendship, which I find refreshing.

While developing side relationships, the political aspects of the novel (aka the plot) also developed as well.  You could see that the politics of the novel were effected by the character’s relationships and vice versa.

The thing about this series is that it somehow stands out amongst the various high fantasies out there in YA.  It’s true it shares several similar attributes, but there’s something about it the cream of the crop.  I think it’s in part because the setting in this story isn’t a quasi dystopia.  The Ancient Rome inspired world that Kestrel lives in is at its height of power.  There’s no lost queen and magic too, which helps immensely as well.

If you are into high fantasy in YA, you should give this trilogy a try. It’s not exactly the most unique trilogy out there, but there are enough parts in there to grab your attention.

Overall Rating: A-.  While I didn’t feel the ship, the other relationships and world building were quite excellent.  And.  That. Cliffie.