Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 3.5 stars
Goodreads Rating4.6 stars
Source: Library
Buy the BookAmazon
Summary: "Kingdoms will collide.

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear."

ReviewFor the love, will everyone in this book PLEASE STOP SMIRKING?!?!

While I really (really really) liked Manon and Elide, I felt like the other chapters weren't focused enough. They seemed to switch perspectives mid-chapter (sometimes even mid-paragraph) and it was confusing and irritating.

Maas went for a pop-goes-the-weasel approach to her plotting. She held all the cards close to her chest and refused to let the reader see the whole picture (or even most of the picture) for nearly the whole book until POP here's a twist that changes everything! I found this approach, in this particular story, to be more abrupt and jarring than welcoming. I would have much preferred to be just a little more involved in the plotting. And I thought this book relied a bit too heavily on the momentum from the previous books in the series.

Perhaps that's why I felt so disconnected from Aelin. Much of the book is from someone else's perspective, but even when we're in her head I never really saw her. I think Maas had some great ideas in this story. I'm just kind of bitter that I wasn't included in them for 95% of the book. (Me and Aedion, amirite?)

I would strongly encourage you to read the novellas before starting this book. Luckily I did, or else I would have been really confused. The novellas are not optional reading for this series. They introduce characters and set things in motion that you really should know about, and wouldn't know about if you skip them. Definitely read them, and do so before reading this installment.

I'm still very invested in these characters though. Well, at least I'm invested in the living characters. I have never once in this whole series really understood who the heck Mala is, or what she brings to this story. Or Mab, or Elena, or Anieth, or any of those other ancient/dead/"legendary" beings. I swear Gavin and Brannon are the same irrelevant person, and I wish they'd all been cut from the story. (I know, I know, It would change things if they were cut. But I still think the cast of dead characters is bloated.)

But the current characters rock. I'm team Lysandra all the way, and I'll be rooting for Manon and Dorian until my dying day. I'm really looking forward to the final installment, and hope Maas can close a series as well as she can open one. This was probably my least favorite book in the series. But there's one more book to go, and I am majorly crossing my fingers that Maas can pull off a conclusion worthy of Aelin.
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Bottom Line: Not as irresistible as I know Maas is capable of, but this book still has me DYING for the final book in the series.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mini-reviews: The Throne of Glass Novellas by Sarah J. Maas

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord (Throne of Glass #0.1) by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 4 stars 
Goodreads Rating: 4.22 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "On a remote island in a tropical sea, Celaena Sardothien, feared assassin, has come for retribution. She’s been sent by the Assassin’s Guild to collect on a debt they are owed by the Lord of the Pirates. But when Celaena learns that the agreed payment is not in money, but in slaves, her mission suddenly changes—and she will risk everything to right the wrong she’s been sent to bring about. "

ReviewI'm decided to get myself back in the groove with this series before starting Empire of Storms by reading the ToG novellas. I never know how to rate novellas. They're not beefy enough to merit a rating, by definition too short to really develop an entire story. That being said, it was a fun to be back in Celaena's head.

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The Assassin and the Healer (Throne of Glass #0.2) by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.2 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Meet the Assassin: beautiful, defiant, destined for greatness. Celaena Sardothien has challenged her master. Now she must pay the price. Her journey to the Red Desert will be an arduous one, but it may change the fate of her cursed world forever..."

ReviewProbably the shortest of the ToG novellas. In this one we're introduced to someone who will probably become important later, but but who I don't recall having met in the first four books. Seeing as I'm already struggling to remember her name that's not a good sign. However, I like how Celaena and what's-her-name interacted, and how, despite her own stubborn insistence on being selfish, Celaena actually has quite a big heart. It's almost like she cares against her will. And, though it was short, this novella left me wanting a follow-up more than any of the others.

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The Assassin and the Desert (Throne of Glass #0.3) by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.39 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "The Silent Assassins of the Red Desert aren’t much for conversation, and Celaena Sardothien wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s not there to chatter, she’s there to hone her craft as the world’s most feared killer for hire. When the quiet is shattered by forces who want to destroy the Silent Assassins, Celaena must find a way to stop them, or she’ll be lucky to leave the desert alive."

ReviewProbably my favorite of the ToG novellas. I loved the setting, the characters, the intrigue, the twists, and, most of all, I loved Celaena's growth.  There are people who we meet in this novella who are important to know about, and who you wouldn't know if you skipped the novellas, so definitely read this if you plan on reading the series.  I also just really liked this story for itself.  A part of me wishes the books were set here instead of in Aderlan.

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The Assassin and the Underworld (Throne of Glass #0.4) by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.37 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "When the King of the Assassins gives Celaena Sardothien a special assignment that will help fight slavery in the kingdom, she jumps at the chance to strike a blow against an evil practice. The misson is a dark and deadly affair which takes Celaena from the rooftops of the city to the bottom of the sewer--and she doesn't like what she finds there."

ReviewProbably my least favorite of the ToG novellas. While I love Maas for a million reasons, chiefly because her fearlessness, depth, and heart know no bounds... her ruthlessness knows no bounds either. This one had some perfect moments, but I couldn't shake the premonition of dread I felt the whole time.  It wasn't the good dread either - the kind where your heart races and you can't stop reading.  This was more the inevitable doom kind of dread, when you stand staring at a sand cloud that you know is coming and will probably ruin things but you can't do anything about it.  It was well written, but I didn't particularly enjoy reading this one.

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The Assassin and the Empire (Throne of Glass #0.5) by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 3.75 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.42 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Celaena Sardothien is the assassin with everything: a place to call her own, the love of handsome Sam, and, best of all, freedom. Yet, she won’t be truly free until she is far away from her old master, Arobynn Hamel; Celaena must take one last daring assignment that will liberate her forever. But having it all, means you have a lot to lose . . . "

ReviewIf you've read the books you know how this one ends. I really liked getting to know Sam.  This novella really helps explain Celaena's actions in the full length novels.  Though it's brutal, I loved hearing Celaena's final thoughts: "I am Celaena Sardothian and I will not be afraid."  I think that is going to be my war cry next time I'm faced with a demon I don't know how to beat. 

PS, Arobynn is the living worst.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads Rating4.11 stars
Source: Library
Buy the BookAmazon
Summary"After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family... 

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages."

ReviewGaiman is so innovative and interesting. There's something refined about his writing that turns his (admittedly bizarre) ideas into something elegant and memorable. I love how he combines the macabre with just the right amount of humor and heart. I thought this particular story was a little slow between the 25%-50% range, but I could not put it down for the entire last half.  A little dark, but not too scary.  Fantastic mystery, lots of endearing characters, and a wonderfully imaginative world. I doubt I'll forget this one.

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Bottom Line: Probably my favorite of Gaiman's work.  It's an elegantly written book about a really bizarre story that is touching without trying to be.  Recommended!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.06 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "'I made the wrong choice.'

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more."

Review: Well wasn't that a lovely potato chip of a book.

More than anything, this book made me HUNGRY. GIVE ME ALL THE PIZZA.

Anyway. A really delightful Italian setting takes this story from fun to enchanting. It wasn't especially deep, though it did try to appropriately deal with Lina's grief.  The characters are fun to read about, and I was adequately happy with the story.  It didn't change my life, but it made me smile and made me hungry.  This would be a good vacation read.
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Bottom Line: A cute story that will make you want to eat alllllllllllll the food.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Fate of the Tearling (Tearling #3) by Erika Johansen
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads Rating: 3.82 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close."

ReviewI seriously loved the first 90% of this book. This book had a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of characters fates to wrap up, but Johansen did it spectacularly. The pacing was spot on. There was tension, action, suspense, horror, triumph, loss, and victory, and every scene was masterful. 

Kelsea was such a powerful heroine, and she really came into her own here. I also loved Ewen, Father Tyler, Aisa, and the Mace. I loved where the author went with Kelsea and the Red Queen's relationship. There were a few major surprises too that I didn't see coming.

I also really loved the discussion around history, religion, corruption, power, sacrifice, and greed.

Until the end. I think a bittersweet ending is fitting for this story, so I wasn't expecting a cherry-on-top happy ending for everyone. But I left the final page feeling disgruntled. I wanted more satisfaction than I got. This isn't just personal preference either- there were some plot holes and unanswered questions that bothered me. There was plenty of foreshadowing for this kind of ending, so it didn't completely come out of left field. But the way it was written was so... sorrowful. And that sense of sorrow stayed with me more than anything else.

I really wish this book had an epilogue with a little more closure. Or a different final chapter. It's a small change that would make all the difference.
  As it stands, that final bitter taste left me feeling really conflicted about this series.  I'm glad I read it, and I appreciate its originality, but I wish it hadn't ended quite so bitterly.

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Bottom Line: A great read to a great series... until the end.