Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

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Title: Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 624 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 2.5 Folded Pages

Review of Book 1 and Book 2.
Warning: Possible spoilers for books 1 and 2 of this trilogy.

Blurb:
What power can bruise the sky?

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited–not in love, but in tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

Review:
I have to be real here. I was super disappointed by this book. I was SO bored while reading, especially during the first 300 pages or so. I’m pretty sure I skimmed at least 50% of it, if not more. According to my status updates on Goodreads, I didn’t start to get interested in it until about page 464. For a 600 pages novel, that’s pretty bad.

For me, I think the novel had too much exposition. Taylor could have cut out a lot of Akiva’s and Karou’s point of view and still got the point across. She didn’t need pages and pages dedicated to how they were pining for each other. It was so annoying.

I usually hate when new characters are added in the last novel of the series but for this, I found myself enjoying the new characters POV more than the main protagonists. Of course, I have to say Zuzana’s POV was still my favorite and she’s still my favorite character. But you didn’t get much of her or Mik.

The action packed scenes were really good and I was thoroughly invested in those which saved this book from being a 1 folded page review. Honestly, I think the only reason I didn’t DNF this book is because it was the last in this series and I wanted to finish the series since I had already invested so much time in it.

I hate how disappointed I was by this novel because I LOVED the first book and the second book I thought was good. It wasn’t great but I still enjoyed it. This one, however, was so hard for me to read. I found my mind wandering a lot because it wasn’t engaging.

I really do like Taylor’s writing style, but I think she needs to cut down on the exposition and maybe stop repeating the same idea over and over, IE how much Akiva and Karou want to be together but can’t.

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science fiction, scifi, short story, young adult

Book Review: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Stars Above
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 400 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Short Stories
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
The enchantment continues. . . .
The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories – and secrets – that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?
With nine stories – five of which have never before been published – and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

Review:
As with Fairest I found these short stories to be nice but unnecessary. I could have done with or without them. Of the 9 short stories I only really enjoyed three of them. The rest were kind of boring and I was pretty bored reading them.

Honestly, the only short stories I thought to be worth while to the series was “The Mechanic” the scene where Kai met Cinder but from Kai’s point of view and “Something Old, Something New” the only story about after the series.

I also enjoyed “The Little Android” which was a short story retelling of The Little Mermaid but I liked it as it’s own separate short story not necessarily as something connected to The Lunar Chronicles as a whole.

I would have given this a 2.5 if not for “Something Old, Something New.” This last short story had me smiling like a fool one minute and tearing up the next.

I will say that reading these short stories made me really miss the series. I almost stopped reading these short stories and picked up Cinder to reread.

I like that Marissa Meyer has been fleshing out the series but I wish the stories were more relevant or added more to the world. These almost felt like fanfiction for the series, not official stories from the author.

Horror, romance, science fiction, young adult

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Title: Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Length: 608 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, Horror (kinda)
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Review:
I’m like 95% sure this book almost pushed me into a book slump and not in the bad way. This book was so good it had me contemplating what I would do with life while I wait for the sequel. I was a little unsure going into this book. I’d heard great things but typically I don’t do well with weird formats. I was extremely surprised by just how much I loved the unusual way of storytelling in this.

Even though the book was not told through normal conventions, the characters were SO well developed. Kady was sassy and fun even when facing big issues. Her character shined even when she was nervous or scared. Ezra was confident and it was obvious with how quickly he took to being a pilot.

I won’t go further into characters to avoid spoilers, but I generally loved how each character was built and shown. With how the story was told, it would have been very easy to tell and not show but Kaufman and Kristoff managed to do more showing with their unconventional point of views than a lot of the novels I’ve read.

I do have to give a warning for some pretty hardcore gore. The novel isn’t technically labeled as Horror but for me it definitely reads like it. I haven’t read any horror but parts of it felt like I was watching a horror movie so I wanted to add that warning to any who might be squeamish.

The plot was super interesting. Again, I won’t be detailed about it to avoid spoilers but I felt like plot twists just kept coming at me and almost none of them were expected. On a side note, homosexual relationships were thrown in very nonchalantly and treated as normal. I appreciated this. As always, it would have been nice to have LGBTQ+ stuff at the forefront. I’m still glad that this kind of thing was included and that they didn’t make a big deal of it.

This book was such a breath of fresh air. I’ve been struggling to find books to read since finishing this because it was so good. It also took me much too long to write this review. I don’t think words could justify just how much I loved this book. If I can convince you to read one book, it’d be this one. It’s the best book I’ve read in a very long time.

Biography, nonfiction

Book Review: The Amazing Book is Not on Fire by Dan Howell and Phil Lester

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Title: The Amazing Book is Not on Fire
Author: Dan Howell and Phil Lester
Publisher: Ebury Press
Length: 224 pages, Hardback
Genre: Non-fiction, Humor, Autobiography
Rating: 3 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Hello reader,

In this book is a world. A world created by two awkward guys who share their lives on the internet!

We are Dan and Phil and we invite you on a journey inside our minds! From the stories of our actual births, to exploring Phil’s teenage diary and all the reasons why Dan’s a fail.

Learn how to draw the perfect cat whiskers, get advice on what to do in an awkward situation and discover which of our dining chairs represents you emotionally. With everything from what we text each other, to the time we met One Direction and what really happened in Vegas…

Review:
As usual I am bearing my soul for this blog. I’ll just come out and say it, I am a Youtube Junkie. Seriously. I’m so glad Youtube got rid of the thing on the original profiles that told people how many youtube videos a person has watched because mine would be embarassingly high. That being said, a lot of Youtubers are coming out with books (I reviewed Zoella’s young adult novel here) and I couldn’t resist picking this one up when I saw considering how much I love Danisnotonfire and AmazingPhil. They are so funny and relatable. Their youtube videos almost always pull me out of a bad mood.

My love for them is why it pains me to say what I’m about to say. It wasn’t that great.

Hear me out. I did really enjoy reading this. It was like their Youtube videos in book format and why wouldn’t a certified Youtube addict and bibliophile love a mash up of her two favorite things. However, this book was a little bit too much of their Youtube content.

I feel like several pieces of the book were just their videos converted to text format and given cute typography and graphic design. It definitely doesn’t help that to advertise said book they made Youtube videos of the pages that weren’t already Youtube videos.

Before reading this, I had hoped to learn more about them as people. Granted there was some of that, there wasn’t nearly as much as I wanted. If I wasn’t already a fan of them, I wouldn’t have read past the first 20 pages.

My conclusion, in all honesty, is that only people who already like them should get the book and I’d suggest not trying to read it cover to cover like I did.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Length: 464 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Review:
I’m not sure if something’s wrong with me or not but I think this book may have been overhyped. I definitely didn’t love it as much as others seem to. That’s not to say I didn’t like it but I’m not sure it deserves all of the glorifying it’s received since it came out.

I like Laia. She seems very real. She’s destined to save the world or something but she still has doubts about herself and her skills. I like that. I’ve had enough of the heroines who just decide they no longer have fear and suddenly have skills. It’s a breath of fresh air.

I also like Elias. He just wants to escape the hell he’s been forced into. He’s not really out to save the world or anything. He’s sweet but doesn’t know where he stands and I like that about him.

Honestly I love all the characters. From Cook to Izzi, to Keenan and even the Commandment because she’s evil but that kind of person exists in the real world and we even get to see bits of other sides of her.

Tahir does an amazing job with her characters honestly. I really enjoyed them all. Her writing is also beautiful.

So why don’t I love this?

I found it incredibly boring at some parts. I’m not exactly sure why either. The book was mostly action packed and yet there were certain parts where I was like oh my god is anything different going to happen.

As I write this, I’m realizing it might have to do with lengthy exposition. As much as I like Laia and Elias, I think Tahir may have spent too much time writing out their inner monologues that say the same things about the character over and over in different words. It was boring. There’s a reason one of the biggest pieces of writing advice is “show, don’t tell” and I think Tahir did a little too much telling sometimes.

Aside from this, I absolutely loved the book. I’m looking forward to the sequel. I’m also hoping it will be better. This was Tahir’s debut novel after all so I’m hoping she grows from book to book.

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.

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. 🙂

contemporary, romance, young adult

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Length: 448 pages, Special Edition Hardback
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
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?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Review:
This was a reread for me. I originally read it in January of 2014. I had some spare time while driving from Illinois to Minnesota to visit my Grandma on winter vacation. I read it basically in a day then and I did this same this time around as well. I just can’t ever seem to put it down once I start. When I did have to put it down, I was thinking about when I could start reading it again.

Cath isn’t my favorite character but I also love her for that. She kind of annoys me and I feel like she needs to grow up but that’s part of what makes this novel so good because she does grow up and you get to watch it happen.

The side characters are amazing even when annoying. Levi is sweet but a bit naive and kind dense. I love the relationship between Cath and her roommate and I love seeing how Cath’s relationship with Wren has shifted over the years.
I think the book also holds a lot of good lessons about growing up, love, fandom, and thoughts about shunning those who “don’t” read. Things that a lot of people should read about and try to understand more of.

I love this story as much as the first time I read it and I’m glad I got the chance to reread it.