Fantasy, romance, young adult

Audiobook Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

daughter of smoke and bone

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 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

diva by alex flinn

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.

contemporary, young adult

Book Review: Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn

breathing underwater by alex flinn

Title: Breathing Underwater
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 304 pages, Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
To his friends, popular and handsome sixteen-year-old Nick Andreas has led a charmed life. But the guys in Nick’s anger management class know differently. So does his ex-girlfriend Caitlin. Now it looks like the only person who doesn’t realize how far from perfect Nick’s life has become is Nick himself.

Review:
This book is scary. Not in a thriller, horror movie kind of way but in a real life, this could happen to me kind of way. I originally read this in some life course everyone at my high school was forced to take. The class was supposed to give you morals and lessons for life. Honestly I hated the class and thought it was a waste of time which means I totally dismissed this book. Oh, how I regret that.

This is a book I think everyone needs to read in high school and I’m sad it’s not apart of every high school curriculum. Despite dismissing the book, I still carried the lessons with me through school and learned to recognize when guys were being abusive to me.

This book is also scary because it puts you in the shoes of an abuser and makes you see his side of things. Makes you sympathize with Nick. I understand where he’s coming from even if he’s wrong and in the end I like Nick. He realizes he’s wrong and what he’s done.

I can’t really say more than this on the book. It was such an emotional read. This time around I read it in on 4 hour sitting, tearing through page after page. By all means, if you have abuse triggers don’t read this. But I think everyone should at least try. To learn the signs of an abusive relationship and be able to recognize if you or a friend is in one.

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.

picture of the last little blue envelope
contemporary, young adult

Book Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

picture of the last little blue envelope

Title: The Last Little Envelope
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 288 pages, Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rating: 4.5 Folded Pages

Note: Haven’t read the first book in this duology? Here’s my review of 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

Warning: Blurb and review may contain spoilers for the first novel in the series!!

Blurb:
Ginny Blackstone spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny’s backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how the adventure was supposed to end.

Now a mysterious boy has contacted Ginny from London, saying he’s found her bag. Finally she can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a whole new one, and Ginny must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.

Review:
I loved this book almost as much as the first book. There were a few things that I was kinda eh about but the adventure and emotion was just as present. I actually read the 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope back to back I took a break in between to write the review for 13 Little Blue Envelopes and I didn’t want to change it to make it a series review.

Moving on, I loved the new character introduced. He was mysterious but sweet. I hated watching how he was treated. I’m glad Johnson did what she did but some parts were very hard to wach and it made me absolutely hate characters I had liked in the first book. I won’t go further than that.

I do think this book could have had a little more depth. I wanted to see more of the new character and I wanted more interaction between Ginny and new character. I think the book could have done well to be a little longer. I think more depth would have made the ending more plausible and satisfying.

However, other than wanting more depth, I have no complaints. I read this book, like the first, in three hours and loved every second of it.

contemporary, young adult

Book Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnsono

Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 368, Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke–about–town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous–though utterly romantic–results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.

Review:
I loved this book so much that I read it in one 3 hour sitting. It was amazing. It made me tear up and it was just what I needed to read I guess because it pulled me out of the slump I’ve been in for the past month. At least, I hope it has.

Ginny is a very endearing character. She’s trying to be bold and interesting despite how uncomfortable and not like her the tasks in the envelopes are. I also enjoyed watching her growth in the novel.

The vast array of side characters are interesting and surprisingly 3 dimensional for the very little amount of time each is given. Most characters don’t last more than a few chapters at best and yet I still felt like I could see different sides to most of them.

The romance was awkward and weird but I feel like it fit with the tone of the novel because the main character is like that and the adventure she goes on is like that.

Long story short, the novel was cute and easy to read. It made me laugh out loud and cry. It made me think for hours after I was finished with it. And it made me thirst for the sequel (that I thankfully already bought). Honestly, I don’t want much more from any novel that I read.