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.

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.

Fantasy, middle grade, young adult

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: JK Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Length: 320 pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Rating: 5 folded Pages

Blurb:
Harry Potter, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermione, is about to start his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry can’t wait to get back to school after the summer holidays (who wouldn’t if they lived with the horrible Dursleys?) But when Harry gets to Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There’s an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school . . .

Review:
I’m finally reaching the point in my Harry Potter reread where it doesn’t feel like Harry is a little too young for me to relate to. The first two books Harry is 11 and 12 and now he’s finally reaching his teen years and matured a bit more reading is going a lot faster. Which is evident in the fact that it took me two days to finish the book.

I’m also enjoying seeing the differences in the book versus the movie. The first two movies are extremely accurate to the book and it’s only in Prisoner of Azkaban that they began having to cut thing to make it more adaptable to the movie format. There were so many things I had forgotten! It’s kind of crazy.

I’m excited to continue my Harry Potter reread and I think it will only get better from here. In my editions of Harry Potter Goblet of Fire is almost exactly double the amount of pages of Prisoner of Azkaban so I think it might take me a little longer to get through but none the less my Harry Potter reread is finally moving along.

Fantasy, middle grade, young adult

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Length: 256 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
The Dursleys were so mean that hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone–or something–starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself?

Review:
I know, it took me FOREVER to reread this one. I think it was partly my slump and partly because it’s a little hard for me to read middle grade novels these days even if it’s a novel I love. Pre-reading slump, every word of every novel felt really difficult. Especially of novels that felt too young for me like Harry Potter sometimes does.

However, continuing the Chamber of Secrets after my reading slump was absolutely delightful. I had a hard time putting it down. I forgot how quickly Harry Potter novels progress once you get passed the beginning.

I’m not really sure what else to say. I had a great time rereading this (once I got over my slump) and I’ve already started The Prisoner of Azkaban. I can’t wait to continue rereading this series. I think as I get further into my reread of the series the books will be easier for me to digest because as Harry ages you can see the maturity and character development. I love that about these books.

 

contemporary, romance, short story, young adult

Book Review: My True Love Gave to Me Edited by Stephanie Perkins

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Title: My True Love Gave to Me
Edited by: Stephanie Perkins
Author(s): Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de La Peña, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Tayler, and Kiersten White
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Length: 12 Short Stories, 336 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

Review:
Originally I was going to write this review like I wrote my review for Let It Snow, going story by story. However, I think with 12 stories that would make this review a little too long. So I’m going to talk about the anthology as a whole.

I am a hardcore sucker for Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Most of these stories felt like those movies but for a younger audience. I really enjoyed this anthology and it put me in the Christmas spirit for sure.

I do think some stories were better than others and there was a story or two that I didn’t like in the least but you’ll get that when you have a bunch of short stories in one volume. I think my favorite story in the anthology is “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor. I like the way she writes and the story made me wonder why I’ve never read anything by her before. The imagery is amazing and it feels like it’s own story that could stand on it’s outside of this anthology unlike a lot of the stories.

My second favorite is definitely “Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell. I generally like her writing as well. Her story held good emotion and also felt like it could stand outside of the anthology. I actually wished it was a little longer so we could get more details but I understand the need of keeping short stories short.

I think my least favorites are “The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link and “Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan. “The Lady and the Fox” felt very all over the place. It didn’t seem to have a clear plot and in a short story that just doesn’t work. The ending was satisfying-ish but I generally found myself just waiting for the story to end as I was reading it.

I generally don’t like David Levithan’s writing. It’s just not for me I think. I’m not sure why but everytime I try to read something he’s written I find myself just not liking it. I think part of it is how he words things and shapes his characters. It just doesn’t pull me into the story. That was no different with “Your Temporary Santa.” I also found the plot of the story boring.

Sorry this Christmas review is definitely late, but better late than never. 🙂

Fairytale Retelling, Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

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Title: Beastly
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 336 pages, Paperback
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Fairytale retelling
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
I am a beast. A beast! Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright. I am a monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll,stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

Review:
This is another reread for me. As I’ve said many times on this blog, 2015 has been all about rereading. I definitely enjoyed this reread almost as much as reading it the first time around. Almost. I think I’m starting to get too old for YA because I find the characters more annoying than I used to.

Anyway, Kyle was very annoying at the beginning of the book and his annoyingness went up and down as the book continued. I suppose part of that is the point but I still felt like he didn’t change much. He was still very selfish even if he learned how to be kind of not selfish.

I also found aspects of this story entirely too creepy. I understand that Flinn had to find a way for Lindy to stay with him but the watching thing was super weird. Maybe it was just me but it wigged me out a bit.

As always, Flinn’s writing is great. It has great flow and enough challenge to keep me interested without getting boring. I like the way she words her sentences.

I can’t help but compare it to the movie. I watched it a while ago on Netflix and I cringe at how much they changed. Like the Beast wasn’t actually a Beast but just deformed. They definitely took a liberty there. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a different version aside from the movie cover book so that’s what I’m stuck with for the time being.
Either way, as far as retellings go this is a solid, modern version that I really enjoyed. Nothing will stand up to Beauty by Robin McKinley for me but this is still pretty high on the list of Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve read.

contemporary, romance, young adult

Book Review: Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

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Title: Let it Snow
Author(s): John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Speak
Length: 352 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Review:
This book is composed of three short stories each written by a different author. Maureen Johnson starts it off in her amazing way. I loved her short story from beginning to end and I feel like she kept throwing curveballs. It was super cute.

John Green’s story was kind of meh. It felt very like all of the other stories I’ve read from him. Even his characters felt very samey. I still really enjoyed the story though it was cute.

Lauren Myrcle’s story was less than ideal. I kept getting super annoyed with the writing and I feel like it could have been several pages shorter. The plot also didn’t make much sense. I liked that she ended it with all the characters from the previous stories meeting. That was cute but I skimmed the majority of this story.

To get further into detail, Johnson’s story had great characters. I truly felt for Jubilee and her situation. I wanted her to find a better boyfriend and make Christmas her own. I also really liked the guy she ended up with. He’s super sweet.

I found Tobin, Green’s MC, very the same as his other male characters along with the side characters he made. They were all snarky males, except the Duke, who were very wittier than thou. The Duke was a good character who found ways to point this fact out to the other characters but ultimately that was just a plot point for the love story. I would have liked this better if it veered from Green’s typical way of writing teenagers.

As for Myrcle, I found Addie to be the most annoying character I’ve read in awhile. I found myself skimming the paragraphs of dialogue and inner thoughts because I just couldn’t deal. I did appreciate that she had the biggest character development. But the way her character was written just annoyed me to no end. I think it may have been better for me if I were younger and still identified with the feelings she was going through but the me of right now just had a constant eye roll going.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book though. It was cute and fluffy, just what I want at this time of year.

PS I am back!!! I’m super excited to be back. Hopefully, this wasn’t a fluke and I’m finally out of my reading slump. We shall see. 🙂

contemporary, young adult

Book Review: Diva by Alex Flinn

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Title: Diva
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 304 pages, Paperback
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 2.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In Diva, the companion to Alex Flinn’s YA novel Breathing Under Water, Caitlin is dealing with a lot. She’s living through the aftermath of an abusive relationship, she has a youth-obsessed mother who just doesn’t understand her, and she’s on a constant yo-yo diet to live up the standards of her nitpicking friends.

All Caitlin wants is to escape her not-so-glamorous life and pursue her dream of becoming a singer, but when she’s accepted into the Miami High School of the Arts, her life doesn’t magically become perfect. Yet despite some struggles to keep up with her competitive classmates and the distraction of cute new crush, Caitlin never loses her sense of humor and eventually gains the confidence to achieve her goals.

Review:
This was a disappointing reread for me. I remember loving this novel and connecting with Caitlin so much. I love to sing and I’m super shy especially when I was in high school. So I really related to her. But now, I don’t connect with her as much as I wish.

Now Caitlin annoys me. She’s childish. I feel like she acts like she’s 12 not 16. I think this might just be my age talking though. At 22, it’s a lot harder for me to connect with teenage characters. I almost wish I hadn’t reread it so it still held a good memory for me. This is a companion to Breathing Underwater (click to see my review of it), but Diva doesn’t hold the same depth or statement as that novel does and it’s saddening to see.

I can’t say much else. When the main character annoys me there’s almost nothing that can save the novel in my book. The writing was nice. I enjoy the way Alex Flinn writes and I love a lot of her books.

The side characters were interesting but because I saw them through Caitlin’s eyes I’m not sure I really understand or saw any of their real character. She has some moments of realization about them that are nice but a lot of the time the other characters are just flat because Caitlin can’t imagine more dimensions to them. Especially her mother and father.

This novel was a quick read at least which was nice. It has good memories from when I was in high school and for high schoolers I think I would recommend it but I’m not sure it’s a YA that translate well for older people.