Fairytale Retelling, romance, science fiction, young adult

Book Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles Book 4)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 832 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, Fairytale Retelling
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

See my review for the first 3 books in The Lunar Chronicles here.
Warning: This may contain spoilers for the first 3 books.

Blurb:
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

Review:
This was probably my most anticipated book of 2015. Unfortunately it came out during my great November/December reading slump so I didn’t get to it until this month. Mostly because the book was on hold for forever at my library.

This book is massive. The paper is just slightly thicker than bible paper and I think how big it is lends itself to why I found the book very stop and go with action. I found some parts weren’t actiony enough and other parts were almost too actiony.

The book is still a super satisfying ending to an amazing series but I almost wish it was split into two books and the action bits more detailed to help offset some of the slowness.

I both liked and disliked Winter. Some parts with her were very annoying but in others she was endearing. I don’t think she stands up well to the other characters in the series though. She falls kind of flat compared to Cress, Cinder, and Scarlet. Jason also seems very two dimensional.

I don’t want to give much away so that’s all I’ll say on the matter. I think Cinder is still my favorite book in the series and while this ending is satisfying I feel like it was missing something in the writing and I wish it would have had steadier pacing.

contemporary, romance, young adult

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

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Title: Since You’ve Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Length: 464 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Emily is about to take some risks and have the most unexpected summer ever in this new novel from the bestselling author of Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.

Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone 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 with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Wait…what?

Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

Review:
I read this as a break between all the heavy fantasy and science fiction books I was reading (basically after Days of Blood and Starlight and before Winter). It was perfect to mellow out with before reading Winter. I finished it in a day because I just couldn’t put it down.

I really, really loved Emily. Seriously, you guys have no idea how much I love her. She’s just like me if I’m being honest. Super shy and kind of awkward. Unable to easily make friends. Paralyzed but doing things outside of her comfort zone. Where was this book when I was teenager to help me discover myself? I’m a little biased I realized. Emily did get on my nerves sometimes like her indecisiveness and another bit that I won’t spoil because it’s a big part of the book.

But still, even at 22, I find the message this book sends great and helpful. I found myself thinking if Emily can go outside her comfort zone so can I.
Sloane reminds me of a friend I had in middle school and most of high school and it made me really reflect on that friendship as well. I love when books and characters make me think and challenge my views and this book definitely did that. I found myself hating Sloane in some parts and loving her in others.

The friend group Emily falls in with is pretty great as well. I love how the relationships feel like the happen organically. They aren’t forced and I can see most of them occurring in real life. It was very fulfilling to read.

This is the best contemporary novel I’ve read in a while and it’s definitely making me rethink my choice to not read Second Chance Summer.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

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Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 528 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

See my review of the first book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, here.
Warning: Possible spoilers for book 1 in the series.

Blurb:
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is–and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Review:
So I actually listened to first 200 pages or so on Audiobook but it was too boring that way and switched to hardback. I think that kind of sets the tone for how I feel about the book.

I was super excited to see what happened next between Karou and Akiva and all their friends and the two worlds but this book was SO SLOW. Both on Audiobook and paper book. Some parts were lightning quick and others just dragged and dragged and dragged. I spent the first half of the book wondering when something would happen and when the point of view (POV) would stop changing.

The first book didn’t feel so jumpy when there were POV changes but I think Taylor went a little crazy in the second book with unnecessary character jumps and it made the book feel that much slower.

Eventually, around the 250 page mark, it really picked up and I wasn’t able to put it down. Still, the first 250 pages shouldn’t be that slow in the second book of a fantasy series. This book could have gotten a solid 4.5 folded pages if it wasn’t so excruciatingly slow in the beginning.

However, it’s definitely worth reading once the plot picks up. Also, the book ends with a massive cliffhanger so I’m eagerly awaiting my hold on the third book. Overall, I think it was good but it could have been so much better and I’m disappointed Taylor didn’t manage to do it because her writing is beautiful.

chicklit, contemporary, romance

Book vs Movie: Austenland

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Ask and ye shall receive zainabshykh. Here is the (spoiler free) comparison of Austenland!

Overall, I enjoyed both the movie and the book even though the movie definitely took liberties. I understand why they had to but I do think it took a bit of the fun and quirkiness out of the whole thing. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Book

You can see my full review of Austenland here, but a quick summary of what I like and didn’t like about the book will follow if you don’t feel like reading it.

I definitely enjoyed the book. It was basically well written Jane Austen fanfiction and I will always love a good fanfiction. I do think aspects of it were completely unbelievable but they lended to the quirkiness and fanfiction-y feel of the book. Jane was relatable albeit a little silly and the other characters added nicely to the quirky, fun feel. It was enjoyable and light and just what I needed at the moment.

Movie

The movie didn’t quite hang on to the cute, quirkiness the book had. It was there sometimes but other times it definitely fell flat. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the movie, I definitely did, but I do think it could have stood by sticking to the novel a little more closely.

Comparison

My least favorite aspect change was how they completely changed Lady Amelia Heartwright’s character. She was definitely not nearly as annoying in the book. I preferred the version where Jane was cautious but eventually they became “friends” as much as anyone can in that environment. It also made the small twist at the end much more enjoyable. I knew it was coming while watching the movie but I know I would have more satisfaction from it if the relationship between Jane and Amelia wasn’t turned into a typical Hollywood girl relationship of competition.

One thing they absolutely got right was the casting for Miss Elizabeth Charming. I hadn’t mentally casted anyone for that role but as soon as I saw Jennifer Coolidge I died laughing and also knew it was absolutely perfect. She’s so good at being ridiculous and she definitely brought Miss Charming to life.

I also wish there was more obvious development between Jane and her love interests. I feel like they didn’t focus enough on it. I also didn’t like how they changed the ending. I definitely think the ending of the novel is much more convincing.

Verdict

I think it’s safe to say, that for me at least, I definitely preferred the novel to the movie. I don’t think this should surprise anyone since it’s incredibly hard to convert a book to a movie. You just can’t get all the details the book does and it generally leaves the viewer feeling like something is missing if they’ve read the book.

Either way, I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It was a good adaption for sure and I understand why there are differences. I just wish the changes didn’t make it have less impact. But that could just be me.

What are your thoughts? They might be different if you watched the movie first or haven’t read both. I’d love to hear what you thought.

 

 

Fantasy, paranormal, romance

Series Review: Southern Witch Series by Kimberly Frost

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Title: Would Be Witch, Barely Bewitched, and Halfway Hexed
Author: Kimberly Frost
Publisher: Berkley
Length: 308 Pages, 322 Pages, 339 Pages, Ebook
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal
Rating: 4 Folded Pages, 3 Folded Pages, DNF’d

Would Be Witch Blurb:
In the small town of Duvall, Texas, the only thing that causes more trouble than gossip is magic.

The family magic seems to have skipped over Tammy Jo Trask. All she gets in the way of the supernatural are a few untimely visits from the long-dead, smart-mouthed family ghost Edie. But when her locket—an heirloom that happens to hold Edie’s soul—is stolen in the midst of a town-wide crime spree, it’s time for Tammy to find her inner witch.

After a few bad experiences with her magic, Tammy turns to the only one who can help: the very rich and highly magical Bryn Lyons. He might have all the answers, but the locket isn’t the only thing passed down in Tammy’s family. She also inherited a warning…to stay away from anyone named Lyons…

Review:
I picked these books up on the ebook system my library offers. I was craving a romance heavy fantasy and these books looked perfect. There’s five books in the series so far and I fully read the first two but I couldn’t get through the third unfortunately.

Tammy Jo has endearing moments especially in the first book. I liked her character. She was flawed and fun and a little bit stupid but I could handle it. The second book her character ebbed more on the stupid and in the third book I couldn’t handle it as it just got worse and put the book down forever.

I’m not sure how but as she learned more about her powers she lost intellect. Maybe this has a plot point somewhere, but for me, I can only take so many stupid actions by characters before I get completely fed up and put the book down.

I’m sad because I really loved the first book. It was fast paced and funny. Even with the not so great love interests (one a controlling asshole and the other a manipulative asshole) I enjoyed the storyline and even the over the top tropes of the guys in her love triangle.

Speaking of the love triangle, by the end of book 2 it was very obvious which of the assholes was better. She had more chemistry and dependence on the less assholely of the two and yet she still wavers between them and was still doing so in the beginning of the third book. One of the guys wasn’t even in the picture at that time because he left on some soul searching journey or something.
I’m angry that these books got progressively worse because the first one was SO good. I really liked it and I wish Tammy Jo had progressed forward instead of backward. That would have saved this series from ending up on my “never finish” list. There’s 5 books in the series so far and I’m not sure if she plans to write more but I know I’m never going further than this with the series.

chicklit, contemporary, romance

Audiobook Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

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Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
Narrator: Katharine Kellgren
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Length: 6 hours, 20 minutes
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Chicklit
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Jane is a young New York woman who never seems to find the right man-perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Review:
I’ve been meaning to read this for a while and after listening to Daughter of Smoke and Bone I needed something light and this was perfect! I actually finished listening to it in about 4 hours because I sped up the audiobook and I really enjoyed it.

Jane was both endearing and annoying but I tend to like my heroines with flaws so it worked for her. She was naive and a bit silly for a woman in her 30s but very believable. I enjoyed her character over all and thought she was really funny.

The beginning of the story was kind of hard to get into though. Her aunt understanding her just from seeing the DVDs and gifting her the vacation made it hard to suspend my disbelief but once I got passed it I was in the story just like any other contemporary.

I didn’t see the plot twist coming actually which is honestly such a good thing. Normally I can spot contemporary plot twists a mile away. There were two actually, but the one I did see coming.

I can’t really talk about the other characters without spoiling anything but most of them felt really 2D, which I found okay for a story like this. Because almost all the other characters were supposed to be actors I think it’s better that they didn’t feel real. I think it made the plot twist a lot harder to see actually.

 

The narrator did a great job as well. She had an American accent for Jane but was able to do the British accents for the other characters very convincingly. She read a bit slower than I normally like but thank goodness you can speed up an audiobook for things like that.

I definitely recommend giving this book a try if you’re on the edge about it. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because the book I read before it was so heavy but it’s definitely a perfect light read. I almost wish I had read it at the beach over the summer.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Audiobook Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Length: 12 hours, 33 minutes
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Karou leads two lives. One is in the tangled streets of Prague, as an orphan and art student; the other in a clandestine workshop, overflowing with jars of teeth and wishes, run by the ram-horned magician, Brimstone—the closest thing to family Karou has ever known. She doesn’t know where she came from, but she’s about to find out. When Karou meets stunning, haunted Akiva, she finds a love whose roots drink deep of a violent past, and an ancient war that is far from over. Master storyteller Laini Taylor imagines a wholly unique fantasy about a forbidden love, an epic battle, and hope for a world remade.

Review:
Honestly, I had absolutely no idea what this book was about going into it. I just knew that I’d seen it all over book blogs and booktube and the cover was pretty. I was looking for an audiobook on my library website and it was available instantly so it worked. I’d never read the blurb until I had to find it to write this review.

I was very pleasantly surprised by it! It’s very interesting and the story feels fresh. Even the insta-love feels fresh because of how Taylor built the story around it. It’s still insta-love and kind of gets so cheesy I found myself thinking oh get a room while listening to it but I still enjoyed the romance aspect.

The book itself felt like three separate books. I’m not sure if I would have felt the same if I wasn’t listening to the audiobook version but I didn’t mind that it felt kind of separate. It’s quite a long book to listen to so I think the feeling of 3 books in one made the pacing feel faster.

I really love Karou. She’s bad ass but isn’t afraid to feel her emotions (most times). There were times where I was annoyed with her actions/decisions but that happens with every character. I do think her personality changed it bit drastically in certain parts but circumstances in the book may be able to account for that.

My favorite character is by far Zuzana, she’s feisty and definitely the voice of reason in the story. I’m not sure how I feel about Akiva. Sometimes I think he has a personality and other times he feels as flat as a sheet of paper. I hope he’s fleshed out more in future books.

The narration for this audiobook was amazing. Hvam uses different accents and tones for different characters and it totally immersed me in the story. She’s very good at various accents as well. Her pacing was perfect as well.

I really enjoyed this book and I’ve already started Days of Blood and Starlight. I really enjoy the titles in this series, too. They feel majestic.

classic, romance

Audiobook Review: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

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Title: Mansfield Park
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Karen Savage
Publisher: Librivox
Length: 14 hours-ish
Genre: Romance, Classic,
Rating: 3 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle’s absence in Antigua, the Crawford’s arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation. Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen’s first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Review:
I think of all the Jane Austen novels I’ve read/listened to, this one is the most boring. If I’m being for real. There was a lot of nothing happening a lot. But once things picked up I found myself enjoying it.

Fanny Price does not have a personality and I think that’s kind of the point Jane Austen was trying to make. She was seen by Henry Crawford as the perfect wife because she was agreeable and quiet and unable to speak out even when she was wronged. I like the point Austen was trying to make even if I think she took a little too long to make it.

Edmund Bertram also didn’t have a personality but in a different way. I’m not quite sure how to explain it but nothing particular stands out about him aside from him being nice to Fanny and wanting to be a clergymen.

I zoned out a lot listening to this novel and couldn’t be bothered to backtrack when I realized I did this. I enjoyed it but I definitely don’t think it should have taken over 14 hours to listen.

I listened to the Librivox free recording of the novel on Youtube. Karen Savage was a great narrator and I really enjoyed how she read it. I was worried because it’s a public space Audiobook that the quality would be sacrificed but it definitely wasn’t.

chicklit, contemporary, romance

Book Review: Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid

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Title: Neanderthal Seeks Human
Author: Penny Reid
Publisher: Caped Publishing
Length: 401 Pages, Kindle Ebook
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Chicklit
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
From the USA Today Bestselling author of ‘Truth or Beard’, this is a full-length, 110k word novel is the first book in the Knitting in the City series.

There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris: 1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and 3) She doesn’t know how to knit.

After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job in the same day, Janie Morris can’t help wondering what new torment fate has in store. To her utter mortification, Quinn Sullivan- aka Sir McHotpants- witnesses it all then keeps turning up like a pair of shoes you lust after but can’t afford. The last thing she expects is for Quinn- the focus of her slightly, albeit harmless, stalkerish tendencies- to make her an offer she can’t refuse.

Review:
This was another book I started pre-slump and just now finished. In my defense, I read maybe half of the first chapter pre-slump so I feel like I can safely say I read the majority of this in less than 12 hours. I’m not sure if it was a right book, at the right time kind of deal but I really enjoyed this book.

Janie is a hard-to-reach-emotionally woman and finds herself somehow supremely attracted to a maybe criminal. It was too hard to resist. Janie actually reminds me a lot of Lucy London from Imperfect Chemistry and I think that’s part of why I loved it so much. I like it when female characters are the ones who are emotionally distant because typically that’s a male troupe.

Quinn was an okay sexy, leading man. I did find his controlling, jealous ways a little off putting but it made sense sort of with Janie since she was kind of oblivious and needed to be taken care of a lot because of it. I wouldn’t put him at the top of a list of fictional males I want to marry but their romance was cute and sizzlely.

I liked the way the characters and their relationships were built as well. Each relationship unfolded bit by bit in a really interesting way. I appreciated that.

I probably won’t be reading any of the sequels in this “Knitting in the City” series but I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first one. Considering this is a free Kindle book, I think I’m really happy with how much I enjoyed it versus the time invested. Which I can’t say has happened with a free Kindle book before.

contemporary, romance

Book Review: Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

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Title: Bella’s Christmas Bake Off
Author: Sue Watson
Publisher: Bookouture
Length: 316 Pages, Kindle Ebook
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 2.5

Blurb:
Two best friends. One big lie. The best bake off EVER.

Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.

But this year things are going to be different.

For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.

Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…

After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember…

Review:
I finished this novel a few days after Christmas just because Christmas was so busy and it was cute. Honestly, I can’t say much more about it than that. It was cute and Christmasy.

There were some glaring flaws for me. The first being how childish sound the main characters all sounded considering they were supposed to be around 38. I swore half the time they were 16 instead. I understand that maturity is different for everyone but this was rather annoying.

The plot was also kind of haphazard but cute. I like what Watson was trying to do even if execution wasn’t very good.

I do have to say that Watson did the character development and relationships between characters pretty well. The characters and their relationship to each other were complex and changed as the novel progressed.

Overall, I’d recommend it as a Christmas read if you can’t find much else. It read like a hallmark movie and that was A-Okay in my book.