Strange the Dreamer 4.5 Stars

Title: Strange the Dreamer Author: Laini Taylor Published: March 28, 2017 Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Synopsis: Lazlo Strange has spent his life recording the mystery that is the unseen city of Weep. Even its name is lost. Lazlo heard the name stolen from his … Continue reading

The Diabolic 4.5 Stars

Title: The Diabolic Author: S.J. Kincaid Publication Date: November 1st 2016 Note: I was provided an advanced copy by the publisher, but opinions are my own. Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction Synopsis: Nemesis was engineered for one purpose: to keep Sedonia, the daughter of a … Continue reading

A Torch Against the Night 4 Stars

Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes book 2) Author: Sabaa Tahir Publication Date: August 30, 2016 Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher, but opinions are my own. Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Synopsis: *This is the second book in … Continue reading

An Ember in the Ashes 4 Stars

Since I’ve read an ARC of the sequel, to be released in August, I’ve decided it’s about time I sort out my confused feelings towards this book so I can move on to writing an advanced review of the sequel. Continue reading

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 4.5 Stars

IlumimiaeTitle: Illuminae

Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Published: October 20, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis: Just hours after their recent break-up, exes Kady and Ezra find their home planet in the middle of a war between intergalactic corporations. In the evacuation the two find themselves on separate space ships.

If they want to survive Kady, Ezra, and the other refugees need to reach the nearest jump station, through which they can reach a more densely inhabited region of space, before those who invaded their planet catches up with the refugees.

Review: At first I had a hard time getting into this book. Adjusting to the formatting was a bit of a challenge, and months at a time passed in a matter of pages.

When I was on page 366 of 599 I noted in a Goodreads update:
“At first I was having trouble getting used to the constantly changing formatting, it can be jarring at times, but now I’m really starting to get into the story and the pace has really sped up.
— Dec 15, 2015 07:42AM”

However, I think the pacing picked up for me at an earlier point than I noted in that update. It was likely around page 250 or so. With the formatting the way the novel built to a climax was necessary to give the reader time to adjust to the formatting before everything started happening at once.

For those who think that this book is long with its length of nearly 600 pages I would like to remind them of the formatting. Had this book been written in the standard form of a novel there would likely have been much shorter.

I had a slight problem with some of the times technology was mentioned in this book. The characters had cars, a subway system, and tablets. It seemed as if at times the only technology that had progressed were weaponry  and spaceships that allowed for long distance space travel.

Considering that this book is supposed to take place in 2575, or over five hundred years in the future, this threw me out of the story a little. This is, however, a minor concern. Due to the way the story was narrated these objects were not described in detail and may have born little resemblance to their 2016 equivalents.

As this story takes place almost entirely on space ships in an isolated part of this fictional future, the reader isn’t told as much about the way the government functions  and other habitable planets. I think this was a good choice on the part of the authors as it allows the reader to become slowly immersed in the world-building as opposed to having the need to learn everything all at once. I hope to see more world building in the sequel.

I ended up reading this book twice. Once in physical form and then again in audiobook format not long after. This is unusual for me.

What Readers Should Know: This book contains many character deaths and zombie like individuals. All of the cursing in the physical version of the book is censored, but in the audio book the first and last letters of most of the curse words is not censored making it easy to tell what all of the censored words are.

Rating: This book started out a little hard to get into, but the second half made up for this.

4.5 blue jays

Series Review: The Lunar Chronicles

Lunar ChroniclesTitles: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter

Author: Marissa Meyer

Published: 2012-2015

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy

Synopsis: A series of fairy tale retelling that take place in the future. The first is a retelling of Cinderella with her as a cyborg.

Review: It is hard to put my thoughts about this series into words. On one hand, I really loved the first three books which I read one after the other. On the other, I wasn’t a fan of the novella, Fairest, and my opinion of Winter is a conflicting mess.

All four of these books are very fast paced. I read them in a short span of time because they’re the type of books that have one thing happen directly after another. That said, I think I would have enjoyed Winter much more if I had read it long after the other three books.

I read Cinder and Scarlet one after another about a month before the release of Cress. I read Cress within days of its release. This means that I had over a year to wait between the release of Cress and Winter.

This series is character driven. The readers’ enjoyment depends very much on how much they care about the characters. I’m not going to go into details because I don’t want to spoil anything, but each book in this series adds a new main character as its focus while continuing the ongoing plot line from the previous books.

By the time the story gets to Winter there are a lot of narrators. This isn’t necessarily a problem as Marissa Meyer is good at jumping between narrators and story-lines. The way the multiple perspectives were handled especially well in Cress where I really enjoyed the characters’ various story-arcs.

In Winter I still never felt the urge to skip any character’s perspectives. Everything included still seemed interesting and relevant, but I felt like because there were so many characters there wasn’t much time to focus on any one. Because of the time I spent between reading Cress and Winter I feel as if I lost connection to the characters and was never able to entirely regain it.

One of my favorite parts of the Lunar Chronicles is how the retelling aspect is executed. While the story is technically a retelling with several callbacks to the original story woven throughout, it also has an ongoing original story-arc connecting all of the books together. This ongoing original story helps to keep the book from being too predictable.

That said, I felt the world-building could have been better executed. Often while reading I had trouble understanding what was being described, and how the world had gotten to be how it was in the Lunar Chronicles from how it was now. This is especially true of the governments in the story. I have a hard time seeing how so many large countries would revert to being ruled by monarchies in which the emperor/king/queen had such a significant amount of power, and how said countries came to have the boarders that they did.

The Lunar’s essentially magical “gift” was especially difficult for me to understand. I didn’t see what the limits of using it were, and was confused about how certain people came to have so much more control than others.

Rating: I’m giving the series a 4.5/5 overall because of the amount of time I’ve spent obsessed with it.

4.5 blue jays

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

23437156Title: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 29, 2015

Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: When a substance is developed that turns magic users known as Grisha into mindless slaves of great power the world is put at risk. A crew of six thieves are hired to pull off the heist that could save the world.

Review: 

Six of Crows is a great book, and so much fun to read. It was very reminiscent of some of my favorite fantasy novels, but at the same time stood apart from others in this category.

Six of Crows Crew

The strongest aspect of Six of Crows is the characters. In spite of the fact that there are so many narrators, each one comes across as distinct. I especially appreciate the fact that the characters actually acted like thieves.

In many books the character will go around saying that they’re known as an assassin, an experienced solider, or have a lot of experience stealing from important people, but then when it comes down to the act of either murdering or stealing something they hesitate.

This has never come across as realistic to me. At the same time, however, I recognize why many authors chose to portray their “ruthless” characters in this manor. It is difficult to sympathize with a person who can harm or steal from innocent people and feel no remorse, but Bardugo managed to pull it off. 

The relatively small number of characters with magical abilities made them all the more impressive. The main characters in Six of Crows are highly skilled individuals, yet for many of them these skills are natural in origin (ie intelligence), but the characters use them in such a way that seems almost supernatural.

Six of Crows Map

That said, the magic that we did get to see was a great addition to the story. My favorite aspects of the first book and a half that I read of the Grisha Trilogy was the world-building, so I was more than happy to reenter that world in Six of Crows.

Bardugo has created a very complex magic system different from what I’ve seen in many fantasy novels (especially YA) where the magic is often glossed over. Though this novel has much less focus on the magic system than the Grisha Trilogy, it managed to further expand upon it by showing what a Grisha’s power can do when pushed to extremes.

The world itself was expanded upon as well. I really liked how many of the characters in this novel were from very different parts of this world as this isn’t something we often get to see in fantasy, which often focus on one region of the world the writer has created.

The only negative criticism I have to offer is related to the reason I did not finish the Grisha Trilogy. That is to say that a significant portion of this novel was spent on build up. This is not to say that nothing happens, quite to the contrary, things seem to go wrong quite often. What I mean is that I spent most of the book anticipating the climax of the actual theft as opposed to anything the characters were trying to overcome at that particular moment.

I really wanted to love the Grisha Trilogy because I have a signed copy (see the image below), but am so glad that I can now consider myself a fan of Bardugo thanks to this book. I was hesitant to read this one because I thought I might need to finish the Grisha Trilogy first, but was pleased to find that this duology stands on its own.

Siege and Storm

In any case, I managed to get a hold of a signed bookplate. Used as a book mark, really like the way my copy of Six of Crows looks:

Be Dangerous

What readers should know: Though this book keeps everything very vague, one of the narrators was forced to work in a brothel against her will. She has since left this profession behind, but still bares negative effects of her time there.

As stated in this review the thieves in this book truly act as thieves. This means that some of the narrators steal and kill people throughout the story. There is also some language.

Rating: This is a really great book. I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy and people trying to get into fantasy.

4.5 blue jays

The Heart of Betrayal 4 Stars

21569527Title: The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)

Author: Mary E. Pearson

Publication date: July 7, 2015

Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: When Princess Lia flees the palace on her wedding day she thinks she is done with royal life. She should have known it wouldn’t be that simple. She is pursued by the prince she was supposed to marry and an assassin sent to kill her. Lia must keep her wits about her if she wants to survive.

Review: This book was a pleasant surprise after the first one. I had a huge problem in book one with both the pacing and Princess Lia herself who annoyed me because she didn’t once even stop to consider that by running away from a marriage that was a political alliance she is risking starting a war between her people and Dalbreck.

The twist everyone talks about in this book was something I figured out fairly early on, and it wasn’t until the last twenty-five pages or so that I actually started to get interested in the story-line. It’s because of the way book one ended that I decided to pick up this book, and in the end I’m glad I did.

The writing in this book is very good. It’s almost poetic, but does not feel at all like purple prose.

Pearson’s portrayal of Vendan culture in this book is excellent. In book one we’re shown how the people of Morrighan view the people of Venda as “savages” because their cultures are so different from one another. In this book we learn how many of these “savage” cultural aspects actually made sense when taking into account the circumstances the people lived under. So many authors write about fictional cultures the main character’s culture views in a negative way and make some of the characters’ from said other culture not evil, but never explain the logic behind the other cultures seemingly “savage” rituals. I loved that Pearson didn’t fall into this trap.

The pacing in this book was much better than that of The Kiss of Deception, but it still lagged towards the middle. I ended up skimming through several sections around that point. Most epic fantasy books have the characters moving frequently from place to place even if the story happens entirely in a single city. I think the fact that the setting was the Sanctum for almost the entire book may have contributed to this fact. Pauline’s perspective also felt a bit unnecessary to me and I skimmed though most of her sections.

The Komizar was a complex and well developed antagonist. From the Komizar’s point of view he is doing what is best for his country and his actions are not evil. Despite this I did have a slight issue with some of the side characters’ believabiliy and this is the same issue I had with the first book. I had particular trouble with the Assassin. He just showed too much sympathy to those he was tasked to kill for me to believe he was the most accomplished assassin in Venda who had been training for this since childhood.

I was really hoping the magic system would be expanded upon in this book, but although we got to see a little more of it the magic remained in the background. I’ve noticed a lot of young adult high fantasy novels hardly mention the magic system at all. I love innovative magic systems so this is not a trend I like, but I think it might have something to do with the fact that young adult books are expected to be shorter so there is less time to expand upon one.

What readers should know: This book does contain some language and some character deaths occur. If this were a movie I think it would be rated PG.

Rating: I enjoyed this book, but I had several issues as listed in this review that kept me from absolutely loving it so this book is getting a four out of five.

4 blue jays

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh 4 Stars

18798983Title: The Wrath and the Dawn

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Publication date: May 12, 2015

Genres: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Retelling, Romance

Synopsis:.Everyday a brings new bride and every dawn brings their death. For unknown reasons, Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, marries a new woman each day before having her executed at dawn and repeating the cycle a new. Among the victims was Shahrahzad’s best friend and she is determined to avenge her death.

Shahrahzad has volunteered to marry the Caliph for the opportunity to get close to the Caliph. It was Shahrahzad’s plan to kill the Caliph, but as she speaks with him Shahrazad realizes the Caliph is not who she thought he was. All the same, Shahrahzad is determined to put an end to the murders. She will survive the dawn.

Review: I read this book directly after finishing The Hero of Ages (The conclusion to Brandon Sanderson’s original Mistborn Trilogy). After enjoying that book so thoroughly and knowing this one was high fantasy, I went into this expecting to be disappointed. Fortunately,  I instead found this to be an engaging, interesting read.

This book is a retelling of 1001 Nights. I was not very familiar with the story line of 1001 Nights, so I can’t judge the quality of the adaptation, but this story made me interested in reading the original work. This retelling focuses on the ongoing plot linking the many stories within 1001 Nights together.

Our main character, Shahrzad, is a very determined young woman and remained so throughout. I liked that she never let Khalid, the Caliph, scare her into submission although she was scared at times for good reason. She also never forgot what Khalid had done or entirely forgave him even as she started spending more time with him. This is something I can’t say about a lot of YA characters and it makes me appreciate Shahrzad even more for it. The retelling didn’t put much emphasis on the stories Shahrazad told during the night, and I’ll admit I found myself skimming through them when they were incorporated as the contents of the stories told didn’t hold much influence in this particular retelling as a whole besides distracting Khalid and making him think.

Although I really enjoyed this, there were some elements that kept me from rating it higher. Every character in this book seems to have their own unique eye color. While the author may have intended to use this as a way for the reader to better differentiate between characters, and this fixation on eye colors is fairly common in novels, I found it extremely annoying. Overall, however, the writing was very good: just the right balance of poetic but not too poetic.

Shahrzad gave the impression that she had planned and expected to distract the Caliph. Much of what she did seemed improvised and I’m surprised she didn’t know more about the Caliph before going in. This made the story a little unbelievable for me, but I guess the author was trying to use the fact that desperation can make people act irrationally as justification.

The love triangle is something else I could have done without. It’s clear who Shahrzed is going to end up with, and so I view it as rather pointless. However, I can see that the author added it to create tension, and it doesn’t bother me as much as it does in many other books. The magic system was also barely touched on. I would have liked to see more of it.

While I was reading this I was trying to place it in history due to references of a few real world countries/cultural elements. The religious references in particular left me confused as the characters would appear to worship the Greek gods but the story seems to take place in the Middle East. Though I think the author might have simply had Shahrzad pick up on terms that implied she worshiped the Greek gods as she grew into a friendship with a Greek serving girl.

What Readers Should Know: Sex is mentioned and there scenes where sex was implied, but this wasn’t explicit or frequent. The characters involved were married. There was the use of the occasional curse word, but it was not frequent. There was no gory violence, but there were mentions of the Caliphs past murders, attempts at murders, and practice with weapons.

Rating: The pacing and overall writing of this book was well done, and I liked that it was set in a fantasy world that did not resemble Medieval Europe as I haven’t read nearly enough fantasy novels where the setting didn’t, but there were too many minor issues I had with it for me to give it higher than a four.

4 blue jays