30 June 2016

The Last Star

Author: Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave #3
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

And so we've reached the end.  It's been an interesting ride, my friends.  The ending felt true enough to the series, even if I still feel there is a fundamental flaw in the fact that it still makes no sense whatsoever on why the aliens decided they needed to waste their time killing off humans, and thus so many of themselves, in the first place.  If anyone has a theory or explanation or if it perhaps was explained in the book and I somehow completely overlooked it, please, please, please share it with me.  I still don't get it.  I just don't.

If there was only one thing I was allowed to say about this conclusion to the series, I would have to stay that it is pretty quickly paced.  Yancey tries to cram a lot of different plot lines and tie up a lot of continuing points from the previous novels in this final installment.  I'm still on the fence, however, as to if that's necessarily a good thing or not.  For one, the writing is so fast paced in sections that I got a little lost in the plot.  There were a few sections where I'm not entirely positive I knew exactly what was going on.  I think the biggest culprit of this is Ringer's plot.  Was she a double agent?  Did she want to kill Evan or did she want to kill Vosch?  Or both?  Reading this book felt like drinking a BIG glass of wine too quickly.  I liked it, but it left my brain fuzzy and I'm not entirely sure I remembered everything the next morning.

The fundamental problem with this novel is the narrative style.  In the previous installments in the series, the book was broken out into sections and each section was narrated by a specific character.  In The Last Star, this changes.  The sections are broken out by time frame, and the POV switches between characters in the chapters.  The narration jumps so many times from narrator to narrator so quickly that it was hard to remember who the heck was talking in the first person POV at any given time, especially when I would read only a chapter or two at a time when my schedule permitted.

Even with its style flaws and plot falls, The Last Star is still entertaining.  Cassie is a little less annoying in her weird relationship with Evan, but the "love triangle" with her and Evan and Ben is a little less predominant.  I like the evolution of her brother's character, even if Ringer's character wasn't as interesting this time around.  I think was really salvaged this novel for me were the eloquent lines that Yancey just tosses out there haphazardly.  I'd be reading along and BAM!  I'd hit a profound sentence or two right in the middle of muddled internal dialogue.  The Last Star definitely has some beautiful prose in it, even if you have to muck through some other stuff to get to it.

While the conclusion to the series wasn't entirely satisfying, I didn't feel like tossing the book out the window and cursing all the time I spent reading the series either (I'm looking at you, Divergent series).  In the end, it's probably not going to be a series I buy and read again, and the first movie was so terrible I doubt they make the other two, but it's still a fun read for an alien invasion apocalypse.

26 June 2016

The Sleeping Prince

Author: Melinda Salisbury
Series: The Sin Eater’s Daughter #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

"What would you do to save your family, Errin?  How far would you go?"

It's been over a year since I read The Sin Eater's Daughter, and I am notoriously bad at reading synopsis of previous books in series before diving into the latest installment.  So was the case with The Sleeping Prince.  I thought I recalled the main character from the first novel going off to live in seclusion at the end, but I couldn't remember her name, so I wondered for a good while if Errin was the main character.  It didn't make much sense in the context of the few things I could remember (I was pretty sure the mother in the first novel wasn't completely bat crazy, and there wasn't much about a brother), but it went to prove that The Sin Eater's Daughter was not one of those books where the novel is so amazing that the details stick with you long after you're gone.

If they had, I would have remembered Errin's brother, Lief, from the first novel, and it would have lessened some of the confusion right off the bat.  The good news is that you don't really need to remember much of The Sin Eater's Daughter to enjoy The Sleeping Prince (although, to be fair, the whole concept of the Sleeping Prince confused me since I didn't remember anything of the mention from the first novel).  The Sleeping Prince feels more like a companion novel than a sequel, at least until the final chapters as the plots of the two different stories finally start to weave together.

The main character, Errin, is likable enough.  She's struggling to survive and to keep her mother's condition hidden.  In order to help pay rent, she makes and sells potions.  When she finds out that there is a potion that might be able to help or even cure her mother's condition, it sets Errin on a mission that slowly helps the plot unfold.  While nothing earth shattering or memorable, The Sleeping Prince is entertaining enough.  And the ending leaves readers wanting more.  I feel like to appreciate the final installment of this proposed trilogy when it comes out, I'll need to reread the first two novels to understand what the heck is going on.  But that's at least a year out into the future =)

19 June 2016

The Rose & The Dagger

Author: Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Saga of Shahrzad and Khalid #2
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

"You're better than beautiful."  Rahim took a careful breath.  "You're interesting.  Never forget that."

This line is now, of course, a bit ironic as it's the opposite of my take away from this novel.  I want to say I liked this book.  I really, really want to.  I just can't.  My final reaction at the conclusion was, "Meh".  It was okay, and nothing more.

The vast majority of this novel finds Shahrzad and Khalid separated, in order to protect Shahrzad from Khalid's curse that will kill her and make him very, very uncomfortable and unable to sleep if he doesn't.  While I liked the short burst of training with Artan, that's about the only exciting thing that happens in this novel, and it occurs over a very short time span.

The rest is just a tale of love, without much magic or suspense or intrigue to help carry it along for people who don't immediately buy into the romance.  And for me, the romance isn't that great.  Especially since they aren't even around each other for most of the novel.  While Ahdieh may have been able to string the story along better with some political intrigue, it's mostly just people standing around talking, with an occasional arrow shot here or there.  And when Khalid and Shahrzad are together, it feels like Ahdieh never got a handle on who her target audience is supposed to be.  They are married and both apparently madly in love, which leads to some scenes that ought to be at a new adult level, but then the dialogue and the prose write feel more like middle grade fiction.  It's disconcerting and a bit unnerving, and throws the balance of the story off.

Lines like 'Had he always been so... tall?' and '"I'm sorry!" She wrinkled her nose.' feel well below par for what should be expected from a novel of this type.  And the seemingly endless use of dot dot dot '...' and italicized words got increasingly annoying throughout the novel.  While the writing feels a bit juvenile, the plot feels at times almost above the YA range, leaving a very disjointed novel in the wake.  About halfway through this novel, it began to feel like an assigned book for a school class I had to wade through to finish.

All that being said, it isn't terribly... bad (see what I did there?).  It's just not something I would ever subject myself to sit down and read again.  I think maybe fans of pure, romance driven plot might still like it, just because they'll want to know what happens in the end with Khalid's curse.  But after the first novel, I thought this second story in the duology could have been much, much better.  By the time I reached it end, it felt like, "Eh? Who even cares anymore?"  None of the characters really imprinted on me, and so the ending just felt anti-climatic.

18 June 2016

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #3
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Maybe it was good that the world forgot every lesson, every good and bad memory, every triumph and failure, all of it dying with each generation.  Perhaps this cultural amnesia spared them all.  Perhaps if they remembered everything, hope would die instead.

While not exactly a paragraph that sums up the novel completely, with everything going on in the world these days I found this quote from the novel particularly insightful.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (still not entirely sure what it means, even though it's sung in this novel more than enough times) picks up with The Dream Thieves left off.  Blue and gang are worried about her mother, who has yet to return from his trip "underground" to find her father.  Mr. Gray has his hands full when a new Latin teacher shows up for the Raven boys.  Gansey gets a visit from his older, British partner in crime (who I think is vastly under used in this novel).  And Adam and Ronan continue to be completed, complex characters.  Though there is finally a scene in here where Adam realizes that maybe it isn't weakness to let your friends help you out, and I finally see some true character growth for him.

And while I'm not a big fan of YA romance and love triangles, can I just say that Gansey and Blue are about the most adorkable thing ever in this story?  I feel like this is what teenage "love" actually is, if you take out the curse of if she kisses him, it will kill him.  I'm more interested in how they continue to be awkward around each other, especially with the Adam element, and how they both have secrets and how much should they really reveal to each other and what do they really feel for each other and will their different backgrounds break them apart before the prophecy will even matter?  Fun stuff.

We get the introduction of two new characters - Piper and Colin.  I didn't really like either of them at all, but I think that's more by design than anything else.  Unlike Dream Thieves that was definitely Ronan centered, Blue Lily, Lily Blue branches out for more equality with the story lines.  We have the underlying search for the King, we have Blue and the psychics' search for Maura (aided by Maura), we have the fallout of Mr. Gray's deception from the last novel, we have Ronan dealing with trying to keep his family from completely falling apart, and we have Adam struggling to figure out who he is while coming to terms with his decision to move away from his abusive father.

The characters in this series are complex, and their stories run deep.  While the plot may have felt a little convoluted at times, and while Stiefvater's tendency to make like of her prose to offer comic relief might feel a bit out of place at times with all the different suspenseful aspects of different plot lines falling into place, this series continues to be wholly original and entertaining.  While I've heard the final installment is a bit of a disappointment compared to the rest of the series, I'm still excited for the conclusion.

16 June 2016

The Long Game

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Fixer #2
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

"Tell, he'd wheezed.  Didn't.  And then: Tell."

Life for Tess has not been easy as of late.  She got torn away from her grandfather to go live with her sister (who, it turns out, is not actually her sister).  She found herself knee deep in political messes in the first novel in the series, and this time around is no different.  If anything, it's even more tangled.

Not only does Tess have to deal with half the kids at school wanting her assistance in "fixing" their problems, but she now also has to deal with Grandpa Keyes.  And, as if things in her personal life aren't enough, there's a terrorist plot she gets sucked into as well.

The Long Game is non stop action.  I found myself staying up far too late, reading until I literally could not keep my eyes open any longer.  While the plot and some of the characters can be a bit predictable at times, some plot twists are genuine shockers I would not have seen coming from a mile a way.  Others I felt like Tess should have caught on to long before she did, as even I figured it out before her.  Still, it's an entertaining read from start to finish that will keep you guessing from start to end.

I'm glad that all the original characters came back, though I think that Henry's character takes a sharp left and veers completely off course from the way Barnes set him up in the first novel.  The way his character develops in this novel just doesn't seem genuine to me, and I have a hard time believing it, even if it suits the story well.  I will say, however, that I like the development in Emilia's character.

I also found it a little underwhelming for the underlying plot of the conspiracy from the first novel to still be wholly unresolved at the end of this one.  Granted, it sets Barnes up perfectly for at least one more novel in the series - which I will gladly devour.  It just unfortunately got lost in all the drama that this novel has on its own - which is a LOT.

13 June 2016

The Dream Thieves

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #2
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

It's not often when a sequel surpasses its predecessor, but here you have it.  Not that there was anything wrong with The Raven Boys, because I enjoyed it as well.  But The Dream Thieves held my attention pretty much from the get go, and kept it to the end with revelations, plot twists, and character study galore.

While The Raven Boys focused primarily on Blue's relationships with the Raven boys, The Dream Thieves branches out.  In fact, Blue is really just a secondary character this time around.  Instead, we focus mainly on Ronan, whose ability to pull items from his dreams into real life becomes core to the plot in this second installment to the series.  While Ronan's broody attitude and propensity to snap into some serious anger management issues prevent him from being my favorite character, the insight into his backstory we get in this novel is definitely key to the plot.  The character study into his relationship with his two brothers is also a fascinating read.  Ronan's story arc is definitely my favorite, even if he isn't, although I thought the addition of Kavinsky's character to help along the plot could have been done a little better, but he is definitely a piece of work as well.

Then we have Adam, who is dealing with the aftermath of sacrificing himself over to the Cabeswater at the end of the previous novel.  Adam is struggling to come to terms with what that even means, and we get a further look into his character as well.  While I like how self sufficient Adam is, he's a little hard to like at times as well because of how he insists on doing everything himself.  Sure, there is something to be said about being a self made man.  And perhaps I cannot understand, and I haven't had the same kind of socioeconomic upbringing as he has.  But man, sometimes I wish he would stop being so pigheaded and just let the people he cares about help him.  Also, I'm not the biggest fan of the "romance" between him and Blue.  While it's kind of sweet, it also feels forced from the start, since we know right off the bat at the beginning of the series that Gansey is apparently her first love.

And Gansey.  He may just be my favorite.  Spoiled, rich, too smart to have good social skills.  I can related to one of those.  All of them make him endearing, as does his fierce devotion to his friends and his obsession with his quest.  I wish I could care about anything as much as Gansey cares about Glendower (which also takes a back seat in this novel, though it was the foundation for the first).

The introduction of the Gray Man was an interesting choice.  I'm still not sure how I feel about that, especially after the ending.  If feels like a plot ploy by Stiefvater, and he certainly has a primary focus in this novel and no doubt in the next.  But whether I like him or not, there's something to be said for the fact that he's just as dynamic and dimensional as the rest of the characters Stiefvater creates in this series.

While I'm unsure of how this book ends, I'll definitely interested in stinking my eyes into the next one.

11 June 2016

And I Darken

Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

I received a free advanced reader's copy of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.

"She would stay for the way she felt when his mouth or eyes were on her.  And she would stay for the power it gave her."

Even from birth, Lada is unlike the other girls her age.  She is not content to simply follow the status quo.  She doesn't bow down blindly to authority.  In fact, she hardly bows down at all - a fact that often finds her in trouble.  And she and her childhood friend, Bogdan, take almost a twisted pleasure in tormenting her younger brother, Radu.

This novel jumps very quickly through time between chapters in several places, leaving me feeling a bit disjointed at times.  And though we move quickly through time, the pacing of the plot seems to drag its feet in other areas, especially when romance gets involved.  To give White credit, however, the romance in this novel doesn't completely overpower the plot.  And I have to admit that this is the most unique, and perhaps dysfunctional, love triangle I think I've read lately.  It's not even just a love triangle, though it certainly has its root primarily in one.  While there is a love entanglement between three of the main characters, there is also a harem of women - which I guess what customary at the time period - to contend with as well, which puts a lot of resentment into the plot, even if there is no love involved.  Feelings of love and friendship are tested time and time again in this story.  This aspect feels interesting and tense at times and a bit tedious in others, as it seems to be a bit of a revolving door.

I seem to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Lada throughout this story.  At times, she just seems too callous and too mean to relate to.  White also pushes the limits of realism with some of Lada's stronger moments in the story.  Then again, I will fully admit that I am not a scholar of the Ottoman empire, or of that time frame in general.  So perhaps men really were that cruel back then, which would make Lada's actions more realistic.  Though I love the power and strength that Lada often shows, she can grind on my nerves at times.  For instance, she claims to want to protect Radu, and yet she definitely doesn't have the best way of showing it, a byproduct of these extreme characteristics.  She's almost two sides of a coin when it comes to her brother - fiercely protective but indifferent to him personally as well.  It's an odd dynamic.  The same goes with Mehmed.

But I have to tip my hat to White for the ending.  The ending feels true to Lada's character and is a natural progression, though I do question a few of the plot points added to push her to her decision.  While it feels like it took a while to get there, she holds my attention for most of the novel.  It certainly isn't a novel I found myself skimming through at length.  And while Lada might be a bit extreme when it comes to some of her characteristics, I will take her over most of the other YA "heroines" we're given these days.  The book is even interesting enough to make me want to do a little research into the history of this time period to see what actually happened.

04 June 2016

Sealed with a Lie

Author: Kat Carlton
Series: Two Lies and a Spy #2
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Truth be told, I skim read through this novel.  While there is some witty narrative and banter, it's a bit sparse.  And the plot just isn't there.  I wasn't uber impressed with Two Lies and a Spy, but I'm a sucker for a teenage spy novel, so I wanted to get the series a second chance.

Again, the plot - her brother getting kidnapped by terrorists this time, instead of her parents going missing - is put on the back-burner in favor of teenage drama of the male persuasion.  After finding out the truth about her parents at the end of the last novel, Kari and her brother move to France with Evan to join G.I. to be trained after school as spies.  Stuck in France, her just budding relationship with her boyfriend she spent the entire first novel crushing on starts to fall apart, and she finds herself spending more and more time with Evan, the guy she claims she hates.

While all the original characters from the first novel make appearances, there just isn't much to write home about.  It isn't bad, per se, but there's nothing special about it, and it certainly didn't suck my attention in with pulse pounding drama, espionage, and intrigue.

In the End

Author: Demitria Lunetta
Series: In the After #2
Rating: 1.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

"You have to.  It's not safe," I plead.
"It's not safe anywhere."

In a lot of ways, especially for the first 75% of this novel, In the End is a lesson in futility.  After having escaped New Hope (which I only vaguely remember from the first novel), Amy runs off to Fort Black in search of Ken, Kay's brother, in hopes that he will be able to help save Baby from Dr. Reynolds and keep Baby safe?  As the novel continued to play out, I'm not entirely sure why Ken was important to this novel at all, because I don't think we ever got to the point where Ken's expertise to "fix" or "protect" Baby come into play.  The most frustrating part about that?  This is the end of the series!  Which makes this entire novel seems pointless to me.

You get no absolution with the end of this duology.  You get no real answers, and the dystopian is still left standing.  Amy makes it to Fort Black, has to "belong" to Jacks, goes around in circles trying to find Ken while also trying not to get raped.  And in the end (heh)?  She ends up going back to New Hope?  Ahhh, what?

Yes, we do get an end to the Baby plot.  But I'm not entirely sure Ken was ever ended for that.  Ken certainly doesn't seem to make a difference in the end.  When it comes down to it, Kay, Amy's mother, and Rice - who were already all at New Hope - are really the biggest factors.  So why did Amy have to go to Fort Black in the first place?  Why didn't she simply turn around, go back to New Hope, help Baby escape, and then maybe take Baby to Fort Black to Ken to see if Ken could protect her?

I guess when it comes down to it, the entire plot of this novel makes little sense to me, and it doesn't feel like it did much to add anything to the first novel.  Plus, it leaves a lot of things still unresolved.  So I wouldn't bother, and now that I've finished the duology, I'd say pass on the first one as well.

02 June 2016

The Crown's Game

Author: Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

There's no escaping death.  Either I'll be defeated and therefore die, or I'll triumph but live with the guilt of sentencing the girl to her end.  There is no such thing as a winner in the game.

In another world, The Crown's Game could have been a classic story of star crossed lovers.  After all, Nikolai and Vika are doomed from birth when they are both born with magical powers in Russia.  Only one enchanter can live, and when one than one exists as once, The Crown's Game is played to determine who will become the Imperial Enchanter and who will die.

The problem inherit to this plot is that there is absolutely no chemistry between Vika and Nikolai to speak of.  As Nikolai points out, yes they may understand each other because they are both enchanters... but that's about it.  We don't get enough depth into their characters to find any other traits that make them the ideal couple.  To add insult to injury, there is a love triangle to be reckoned with as well, when Nikolai's best friend - who happens to be the crown prince - falls in love with Vika at first sight.  That's right, even the other side of the love triangle doesn't have a leg to stand on either.  Pasha spends his time trying to win over Vika unconvincingly, and Vika plays cold with both of them.

The world is such an awesome one full of magic and potential - the colored river, the painted streets, the magical box, the dress, the island, THE BENCHES.  But the plot of the actual Crown's Game gets so convoluted in the love drama that the pace is too slow to really grasp readers.  Instead of mercilessly trying to kill each other, they take weak-hearted stabs aimed to miss, while doing a little dance that isn't at all convincing.  Maybe I'm missing the point and tone of this novel, but The Crown's Game disappointingly missed the mark for me.