Review: Grisha Trilogy

shadowandboneSeries: Grisha Trilogy

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Read via: Purchased, Purchased, and Library

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Shadow and Bone

I had purchased this and the second book ages ago, but it was Lauren DeStefano’s tweets about Ruin and Rising that finally convinced me to start reading the series. This book was a fantastic start. I loved the mythology and the world that Leigh Bardugo has created. It felt very fresh and different. I enjoyed Alina from the start, and I think her development throughout the book is wonderful. She definitely displays a great mix of strength and vulnerability. The Darkling was probably my favorite character. I loved him, and I was just as intrigued with him as Alina was. Mal is the only character I was not sure about. I liked the back story especially the childhood friendship between him and Alina, but I was not a big fan of him otherwise. He lacked spark for me. However, all the secondary characters were excellent. Genya was especially brilliant, and she quickly became a favorite. While all of the characters were fabulous, I also absolutely adored the ending of this book. It was completely unexpected, and it changed all of my expectations for the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Siege and Storm

Once again I quickly found myself surprised. I expected the “on the run” plot to last longer. However, I loved the introduction of Sturmhond, and while I was not surprised by the reveal, I enjoyed it immensely. In addition to Sturmhond, we meet Tamar and Tolya. Both of them are fun and truly add to the series. I continue to not be Mal’s biggest fan, and again I found myself rather entranced by the Darkling (wrong of me, I know), but he definitely makes some disastrous choices which affect his likability. Overall, I thought this book was much faster paced than Shadow and Bone. Plus, it incorporates a variety of great settings and some fantastic new characters. Often castle politics/political intrigue can become tedious or frustrating, however, I thought such scenes were addressed really well here and kept me interested.  The climax at the end was shattering. My heart was broken completely as everything fell apart.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Ruin and Rising

Despite all of the horrors they are facing as the series comes to an end, the characters truly shined here. Everyone grows and shows such depth, and I greatly appreciated the beautiful friendship that the group shares. After being somewhat less present in Siege and Storm, Genya plays a larger role here which I loved. Nikolai remains hilarious and charming, but he also experiences some truly life-changing moments. Even Zoya has grown on me, and I found her to be marvelous throughout this book. Also, I came to like Mal particularly during the last half of the book. Harshaw and Misha were certainly my favorite new characters. Poor Alina faces impossible choice after impossible choice, but somehow she becomes an even stronger, more beautiful character.

Like with Siege and Storm, this book is fast paced and often seems to take the unexpected route. I especially appreciated the fact that nothing was black or white. This idea is evident throughout the series, but it is definitely more noticeable here. Alina may be the “hero” of the story, however, even she cannot be classified consistently as good. Similarly, the Darkling has made undeniably evil decisions, but he is not all bad. Books that allow their characters to operate in shades of gray are infinitely better for it as it is a more accurate representation of real life.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Grisha trilogy is one of the best fantasy series I have read in some time. Leigh Bardugo has created a fascinating, original world populated by an incredibly diverse, intelligent group of characters. While I was not always a fan of the romance, I immensely enjoyed all of the other elements. Happily, I found Ruin and Rising to be a well planned, strong conclusion, and, in the end, I would highly recommend this series.

Reread Lately #2

Just brief thoughts on books I’ve read for the second (or third or fourth…) time.

forgetyouForget You

Jennifer Echols

“Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her.”

Although I still enjoyed this the second time around, I found it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. I was frustrated by Zoey through a lot of the story, and I felt that some of Doug’s actions bordered on controlling.

Originally read: 2011/2012(?) – 4 stars
Reread: 4/29/14 – 3/3.5 stars

The Girl of Fire and Thorns girlfirethorns

Rae Carson

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. 

I enjoyed this about as much as I did the first time. There were points when the pacing was slow, but the characters were able to capture and hold my interest. Once again I fell in love with Cosme (she’s brilliant!), and generally liked a lot of the secondary characters. Definitely was worth a reread (and I’m so glad I did before reading the second book).

Originally read: 8/20/11 – 3 stars – Original Review
Reread: 6/30/14 – 3 stars

pushingthelimitsPushing the Limits

Katie McGarry

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Yes, so this book is still just bursting with passion, heartache, and beautifully flawed characters. I remembered loving this story the first time I read it, and nothing has changed. Definitely would recommend this, and I plan to hopefully finally read Katie McGarry’s other books!

Originally read: 8/28/12 – 4 stars – Original Review
Reread: 7/7/14 – 4 stars

Possible Upcoming Rereads

Sarah Dessen books
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Review: Ignite Me

ignitemeTitle: Ignite Me

Series: Shatter Me #3

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Read via: Library

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

I’m always very wary when it comes to the last book in a series. Usually, a final book is either awesome or disappointing, and I’m heartbroken to say that, for me, this falls into the latter category. I really wanted to love this book. I think Tahereh Mafi’s writing is absolutely gorgeous, and I immensely enjoyed the first two books (especially, Unravel Me). However, this book just didn’t work for me.

The plot remains interesting, but I also found it underwhelming. This was particularly true of the ending. The majority of this book is building up to this final fight, but then it’s over in just a few pages. There was no real struggle and it was kind of a letdown. There was also little emotional fallout or impact from the major events that occur throughout the book. Obviously, I do not think characters should just be killed off randomly, but I also find it unbelievable that given the stakes so many people lived. Also, it seemed like there were repeated near or fake deaths, but nothing ever actually seemed to stick.

Warner’s storyline was probably the most frustrating part of Ignite Me. My reaction can be summed up by one word – WHY? By the end of Unravel Me I was already starting to sympathize with and like Warner, and I felt like trying to undo all of the bad things he’d done wasn’t necessary. People – right or wrong – can still care about “evil” character and I felt changing him so much just was not needed. Similarly, Adam’s changes didn’t ring true. I was frustrated with him in Unravel Me, and I still felt that his development and actions weren’t believable. He repeatedly behaved irrationally and childishly. I really like the idea of people changing and growing apart, so I found that to ring true, but he doesn’t seem to in any way be the character we met in Shatter Me.

Overall, there were some elements of Ignite Me that I enjoyed, but the character development did not feel natural and I found the climax to be underwhelming. For me, I would still say the series was worth reading for Unravel Me if nothing else. Also, I am still in love with Tahereh Mafi’s beautiful, lyrical writing, so I will be checking out whatever she does next.

Cover: 4
Plot: 2.5
Writing: 3.5
Personally: 3

Overall: 3.2 out of 5

Review: Sinner

sinnerTitle: Sinner

Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls 3.5

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Read via: ARC received at Book Con (thanks!)

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret — his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved?

If there was one thing that would have made the chaos of Book Con worth it, it was receiving an advanced copy of Sinner. Cole and Isabel were my favorite characters in Linger and Forever, and I was disappointed with the ending they had in Forever. Therefore, you can imagine how I thrilled I was when plans for Sinner were announced, and I’m happy to say that it was so worth the wait. I am utterly in love with this book, and it completely killed me.

Cole and Isabel are just as broken, raw, and amazing as they were before. Cole, especially, repeatedly broke my heart. His emotional struggles felt so incredibly real, and I empathized with him immensely. However, Isabel remains my favorite character. She’s rough, brutal at times, but her tough exterior hides so much pain and heart. The relationship between the two of them is complicated if nothing else, but for some reason these two seem to make each other better. It’s a messy road they travel though. In addition to Isabel and Cole, Sinner is filled with a marvelous cast of characters. Leon, Jeremy, and Sofia were amazing. All of them provided brilliant moments of humor, but also heartbreaking and fun glimpses into their own lives.

From the moment I began reading, Sinner was impossible to put down. It has Maggie Stiefvater’s usual gorgeous writing full of dramatic storytelling and lyrical prose. While this may classify as fantasy (there are werewolves after all), honestly, there were moments when I forgot about this because these characters and their struggles could easily exist in the “real world.” There may be wolves, but Sinner is truly an in-depth look at addiction, fame, relationships, and pain in so many forms.

In the end, Sinner may be my new favorite of The Wolves of Mercy Falls. I cannot explain how brutally intense and emotional this book was, and I would highly recommend it. Occasionally, when authors decide to continue on a completed series it doesn’t work, but Sinner only improves upon the books that came before. However, I would warn that some moments could be triggering.

Cover: 3.5
Plot: 4
Writing: 4.5
Personally: 4.5

Overall: 4.1 out of 5

Review: We Were Liars

wewereliarsTitle: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Read via: Library

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

If you haven’t heard of this book yet, I would be immensely shocked. It is everywhere. This is pretty much why I ended up reading it. Several bloggers I follow on Twitter were raving about this book, and I was convinced I had to check it out. Honestly though , If I were to sum up my feelings for this in one word, it would be “disappointing.”

The premise is quite fascinating, and the author does a marvelous job of keeping the reader in suspense. The questions and secrets were definitely what kept me reading. I’m infinitely curious, and I hate not knowing the answers. I had to finish the book so I’d know what crazy twist everyone’s been going on about. In the end, I don’t know how I feel about the twist. It was not one of my initial theories, so I liked the fact that I was surprised. However, I felt that the ending was wrapped up too neatly after everything that happens.

Okay, so the characters were what really did not work for me. I am a character-driven reader in general, and this truly came into play here. I understand having unlikable, difficult characters, but these characters just came across as flat, lifeless. I didn’t even hate them as much as I felt they were apathetic. I did not care if a single one lived or died. I need an emotional connection with at least one character, and this book did not offer that at all.

Overall, I found We Were Liars to be an immense letdown especially after all the hype surrounding it. I did enjoy the aura of mystery that inhabits the story, but without an emotional connection with the characters, I couldn’t like this one. Obviously, some people have truly loved this book, but it was not for me and I couldn’t recommend it.

Cover: 3
Plot: 3
Writing: 2.5
Personally: 2.5

Overall: 2.7 out of 5

Reread Lately #1

Just brief thoughts on books I’ve read for the second (or third or fourth…) time.

meanttobeMeant to Be

Lauren Morrill

“Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.

It’s one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy…” 

This was the second time I’ve read Meant to Be, and I found it to be just as funny and heartwarming as I remembered. The romance is adorable and I love the setting!

Originally read: 8/31/12 – 4 stars – Original Review
Reread: 6/11/14 – 4 stars

 

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour amyrogerepicdetour

Morgan Matson

“The road home may be unfamiliar – especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory – but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.”

I thought I’d read this at least one other time, but if I did I forgot to change it on Goodreads. Either way, I fell in love with this book all over again, and possibly, even more than the last time. I especially appreciated all of the supporting characters so much more this time around, and apparently, I loved Roger more (did not remember this but I guess we had a rough start).

Originally read: 4/21/11 – 4 stars – Original Review
Reread: 5/28/14 – 4.5 stars

breakingbeautifulBreaking Beautiful

Jennifer Shaw Wolf

As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.” 

This is the only book I reread recently that I feel like I didn’t love quite as much. I remembered loving this book when I read it, but it didn’t quite capture me so much this time. It was still good, but maybe I’d built it up too much in my memory.

Originally read: 11/11/11 – 4 stars – Original Review
Reread: 5/13/14 – 3.5 stars

Possible Upcoming Rereads

Perfect Chaos by Linea & Cinda Johnson
The O’Malley series by Dee Henderson
Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Review: Since You’ve Been Gone

sinceyouvebeengoneTitle: Since You’ve Been Gone

Author: Morgan Matson

Read via: E-copy received at Book Con (thanks!)

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough. Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Morgan Matson has definitely proven to be one of my must-read authors, and this book only makes me even more excited for her next. Also, she has an endless ability to elicit an emotional response from her reader (at least in my case). I think she’s one of the only authors who has made me tear up in every book, and while I wasn’t sobbing during this book like I did in Second Chance Summer, there were certainly a few tears.

Since You’ve Been Gone did start a bit slow for me. It took me a few chapters to get completely hooked, but once I did, it was very hard to put down. One of the things that I struggled with at the beginning was that I had no idea where the story was going or even what kind of story this was. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (and looking back I appreciate it), but it did have an effect on me. Honestly, I still do not know how I would classify this book which is pretty awesome. This is a romance but also a story of friendship. It’s a story about family but also coming-of-age.

I just want to keep these characters with me! I related to Emily in so many ways, and even when her decisions drove me crazy, I could understand and empathize with her and her choices. The growth she shows over the course of the novel was beautiful. Sloane was also a favorite which is somewhat amusing considering she appears in flashbacks. However, I loved the relationship between her and Emily. They start as the classic shy girl/popular girl combination, but slowly the layers are peeled back and it goes much deeper. Having just this friendship would have been enough for me, but there are also some incredible other friendships throughout the novel. Frank and Emily share a great bond that grows very organically and develops into this fantastic friendship and I loved the dynamic between Frank and Collins. Of the great supporting characters, my favorites were Collins (I LOVE HIM!), Beckett, and Dawn. Although Dawn’s storyline is the  one issue I had with this book as I felt her and Emily’s story was never fully resolved; I found this a little disappointing.

Overall, Since You’ve Been Gone is another Morgan Matson book to add to the favorites shelf. I was impressed by her complex and raw characters, her suspenseful and natural storytelling, and her ability to make me feel something for each character involved. I would highly recommend this book (and her others) especially to fans of Lauren Morrill and Sarah Dessen. Also, if at all possible go for a hard copy as there are lots of great inclusions (mainly playlists) that aren’t as well formatted in an e-copy.

Cover: 5
Plot: 5
Writing: 4.5
Personally: 5

Overall: 4.8 out of 5

Review: Fangirl

fangirlcoverTitle: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Read via: Purchased (Kindle edition)

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

More info @Goodreads

 

I will admit I had my doubts about Fangirl. I read Eleanor & Park a while back, and I was not wildly impressed. At the start of Fangirl, I was worried that it would disappoint as it started a little slow for me. However, I am happy to report that this book lived up to the hype. Fangirl was not only an adorable romance and a quirky coming-of-age story but it was also the best representation of fandom I’ve seen yet.

So the characters in Fangirl are brilliant. Cath is completely me when I was a freshman in college. I was definitely that anxiety-ridden, timid girl who was afraid to leave her dorm and found great comfort in fandom. Cath messes up and makes mistakes and frustrates you, but she just feels utterly real. However, my heart was definitely stolen by Levi. I am in love. If you read this and do not fall for Levi’s smiles, his humor, and his mistakes, I will worry about you. Also, the relationship between Levi and Cath develops fantastically. It felt very organic, and I loved the banter between them. Other standout characters for me were Reagan and Cath’s dad. Not even sure what it was about those two, but I absolutely adored them. The complicated relationship Cath and Wren had was also a big highlight.

As I mentioned above, I felt that Fangirl started off a bit slow, but once I got into it I had trouble putting it down. I found myself totally swept up in Cath’s struggles and in not only her world but that of Simon and Baz (yes, there were definitely echoes of Harry Potter which did pull me out of the story initially). I was also ecstatically happy with the way Rainbow Rowell addresses fandom. She never makes it out to be a joke or something childish as so many other people do. I would definitely recommend Fangirl especially if you’ve ever been involved in fandom, but also if you love a great coming-of-age story with an adorable romance full of complex characters.

Cover: 4
Plot: 4
Characters: 4.5
Writing: 4

Overall: 4.1 out of 5

 

Review: This is W.A.R.

thisisWARTitle: This is W.A.R.

Author: Lisa & Laura Roecker

Read via: Library

This is W.A.R. begins with a victim who can no longer speak for herself, and whose murder blossoms into a call-to-arms. Enter four very different girls, four very different motives to avenge Willa Ames-Rowan, and only one rule to start: Destroy James Gregory and his family at any cost. Willa’s initials spell the secret rallying cry that spurs the foursome to pool their considerable resources and deliver their particular brand of vigilante justice. Innocence is lost, battles are won—and the pursuit of the truth ultimately threatens to destroy them all.

This review contains spoilers.

So, I loved Lisa & Laura Roecker’s two previous books (The Liar Society & The Lies That Bind), and I really wanted to love this book. It was interesting, and the setup for the story was intriguing. However, I just couldn’t connect to any of the characters, and while the ending might be realistic, I will admit to feeling rather letdown by it.

The plot of This is W.A.R. revolves around five very different girls. Willa Ames-Rowan was the core of the group, and her death initiates the action of the story. At first, it is just her two closest friends (Lina, Sloane) and her step-sister (Madge) who begin a war against the Gregory family, but shortly thereafter Rose joins the group. I will say that I liked the friendship elements of the story, and I thought it blossomed quite naturally. The other major characters in the story are James and Trip Gregory. They were strange. It seemed as if their personalities were always in flux to suit the needs of the story rather than the characters themselves.

The revenge/murder mystery idea is awesome, but I felt as if it wasn’t always executed well. The motivations of the characters were never completely clear to me, and I do not understand why Madge kept wanting to go after James when she knew that Trip was the one responsible. Also, did Trip sleep with pretty much everyone?! It was like he was everywhere, and committed every crime possible. I don’t know, but it was just awkward. Also, the entire book the girls are attempting to destroy the Gregory empire, but in the end, they just are paid off as well. I do understand that Trip was being punished, but I still felt disappointed by this ending.

Overall, I thought this story was a clever idea, but it did not live up to its potential. The characters were at times compelling, and I did enjoy the friendship between the girls. However, I thought the plot could be frustrating, and that the girls sold out at the end. While I would highly recommend The Liar Society series, I was not a fan of This is W.A.R. and I would be hesitant to pass it on.

This review contains spoilers.

Cover: 3
Plot: 2.5
Writing: 3
Personally: 3

Overall: 2.8 out of 5

Review: Dirty Little Secret

dirtylittlesecretTitle: Dirty Little Secret

Author: Jennifer Echols

Read via: Library

Bailey wasn’t always a wild child and the black sheep of her family. She used to play fiddle and tour the music circuit with her sister, Julie, who sang and played guitar. That ended when country music execs swooped in and signed Julie to a solo deal. Never mind that Julie and Bailey were a duet, or that Bailey was their songwriter. The music scouts wanted only Julie, and their parents were content to sit by and let her fulfill her dreams while Bailey’s were hushed away.

Bailey has tried to numb the pain and disappointment over what could have been. And as Julie’s debut album is set to hit the charts, her parents get fed up with Bailey’s antics and ship her off to granddad’s house in Nashville. Playing fiddle in washed-up tribute groups at the mall, Bailey meets Sam, a handsome and oh-so-persuasive guitarist with his own band. He knows Bailey’s fiddle playing is just the thing his band needs to break into the industry. But this life has broken Bailey’s heart once before. She isn’t sure she’s ready to let Sam take her there again…

I’ve had a rather hit-and-miss relationship with Jennifer Echols’ books. Forget You and Such a Rush were definitely my favorites, and I also enjoyed Going Too Far. However, I really disliked Love Story, and I thought it was quite disappointing. So, I approach her books rather cautiously now, but this did have a violin on the cover (this pretty much guarantees I’ll pick it up). I think this story was full of potential, and I did enjoy it, but I do think it could have been better.

Bailey was a character that I sympathized with. It was impossible to not feel sorry for her after how her family basically cut her off. Like Bailey, Sam also has had some tough breaks. However, he could be much harder to like. I adored Sam half of the time, but the rest I thought he was a complete jerk which I could never completely forget. Therefore, the relationship between him and Bailey was not completely satisfying. I will definitely say that they had fabulous chemistry and tons of passion, but in the end, I still worried that Sam might suddenly dump her for the good of the band or something crazy.

I loved the integration of music in this story. It was perfectly handled, and the music scene provides a great backdrop to the story. The pacing and timing of the story was a bit awkward though. I felt that everything happened too fast. I could buy Bailey and Sam’s relationship at times, but adding in the events with her ex and her family, it was just too much. Then there was the ending. I appreciate a happy ending, but for some reason this just felt too neat. It was all tied up with a pretty bow which discredited the emotions of the rest of the book.

Overall, there were parts of this story that I enjoyed, but some of the structural elements frustrated me. I am not sure I would recommend this one, and it is not my favorite of her stories. I guess it is just something to check out if you’re interested, but otherwise try Forget You or Such a Rush first.

Title: 3.5
Plot: 2.5
Writing: 3
Personally: 3

Overall: 3 out of 5