Title : Bitterblue
Author : Kristin Cashore
Publisher : Dial
Publication Date : May 1st, 2012
Pages : 563
Stand Alone or Series : #3 in the Graceling Realm series
Three Words : fantasy, mystery, royalty
Red Flags : violence including sexual in nature, psychological trauma, some language…(definitely for older adolescents or young adult)
******WARNING: This review contains unavoidable spoilers for the first and second books of this series – Graceling and Fire (click for review). YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!! *******************************************************
Summary : It is eight years after the events in Graceling during which King Leck was finally killed. The country of Monsea is still reeling from thirty-five years of horrific acts of physical, mental and sexual depravity that in some cases they have committed themselves. Queen Bitterblue is attempting to heal her country while still trying to learn what it means to become a queen. Under advice from her council, she has pardoned all crimes committed during Leck’s reign and is attempting to forget everything that happened. However, Bitterblue notices that people are acting strangely (including her main advisers) and that maybe revisiting the past is the only way to heal the pain. She decides to sneak out of the castle at night and in disguise. While out and about, she meets two young thieves who only steal what was previously stolen and return it to their rightful owners. They open her eyes to what is really going on in her country. Will Bitterblue be able to help her country become prosperous and move on from their painful past? Can SHE move past what her father did?
My Take : So if you did read my other two reviews for the books in this series, you know that I LOVE these books. I was so excited about Bitterblue that I rushed to the library to pick up my precious copy. And maybe I was so excited that my expectations were slightly over the top….but Bitterblue did NOT live up to it. ( A tear is dropping from my eye right now….) I spent much of the first two-thirds of this book in a state of confusion. Yes, people were acting strangely and that was mysterious and all but mostly it just didn’t make ANY sense. Bitterblue was just annoying me because she seemed so flighty and unsure of herself ALL the time. Weird things would happen (that didn’t connect to anything else mind you) and she would be all ” Woe is me….I just don’t know what to do.” I spent a lot of time feeling like shaking her and saying (in my head) ” WAKE UP! Do something for the love of Christ.” Also, the romance with one of the thieves was not what I would call awesome. I just didn’t really like him all that much (not in the way I loved Brigan from Fire or Po from Graceling). All that being said, the last third of the book finally brought things together and was a satisfying ending to the trilogy. So while I was in a perpetual state of confusion and anxiety for the first part of the book, I ended feeling ok about the whole thing in the end. In the end, I wouldn’t give up reading two FANTASTIC books for a less than awesome ending. This makes the whole rating thing hard…..
My Rating : Seven shoes (I averaged a five for the beginning and a nine for the end )
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Title : Fire
Author : Kristin Cashore
Publisher : Dial Books
Publication Date : October 5th, 2009
Pages : 461
Stand Alone or Series : #2 in the Graceling series BUT this is a companion novel rather than a sequel so you could read it without reading the other books.
How obtained : ebook from the library
Three Words : fantasy world, character driven, intrigue
Red Flags : frank depiction of sex, violence and gore, no language
Summary (from Goodreads): It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men. This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own. Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.
If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.
My Take : Can I just say that I love Kristin Cashore! I love her so much I want to marry her and have her babies or possibly just lock her up in a basement forcing her to write fantasy novels forevermore ( I’m kidding!) This book was so fantastic, I love, love, loved it. Okay, I’ll stop gushing and actually tell you why I loved it. First, this is NOT a sequel to the Graceling (click for my review) which I also very much enjoyed. That threw me off at first but then I started to enjoy the story so much I didn’t care. Fire is an interesting, flawed character. I enjoyed the concept that she was so beautiful that people were basically bewitched by her monster abilities but that this actually was a problem rather than an asset for her. Her father had these same powers but used them for the most evil depraved things so she is fraught with anxiety that she is going to turn out just like him. Then we meet Prince Brigan, who hates her instantly but also must admit that her powers are useful to the kingdom. He is stubborn and prideful but also kind, interesting, intelligent, and a fierce warrior. This is very much a character study that studies what it means to overcome your past, including having a crazy evil parent. Unlike many other fantasy novels, the romance isn’t necessarily central to the whole story but they actually spend some time on it and make it more than just instant attraction = love. I really cannot say enough about how much I liked this book and I can’t think of one bad thing to say about it.
Rating : 10 SHOES! (It happened again……)
Title : The Last Dragonslayer
Author : Jasper Fforde
Publisher : Harcourt Children’s Books
Publish Date : October 2nd, 2012
Pages : 296
Stand Alone or Series : #1 in the The Last Dragonslayer Series (however each book is a stand alone story)
How Obtained : from the library
Three Words : witty, fantasy, YA
Red Flags : none really, small amounts of violence – I would recommend for older adolescent but only because many of the jokes, etc.. is intended for a more educated audience.
Summary : Jennifer Strange is a foundling working as an indentured servant for the Kazam Employment agency for magicians where she runs the every day business. Back in the day, magic was strong and magicians were well respected. Nowadays magic is disappearing and magicians are only hired for things like rewiring houses and unclogging drains. Suddenly, magicians everywhere are having visions that the LAST dragon will die at the hands of an unknown dragonslayer. Big Magic is coming and it will mean big changes for Kazam and Jennifer.
My Take : I love Jasper Fforde – every time I read one of his books I feel a little bit smarter. If you aren’t familiar with his writing style it is full of puns, literary references and whimsicality. He really is an author after my own heart- he loves fantasy and he loves books- what could be better. If you ARE familiar with Jasper Fforde, then go out and get this book. You will get your usual dose of interesting and fascinating new world, witty repartee and a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at the foibles of humans especially bureaucracy. This is a solid fantasy world complete with magicians, war, corporations, kings, a reluctant hero and a stalwart (although somewhat scary) sidekick. I loved Jennifer Strange, she is old beyond her years. She’s seen it all at Kazam and can be a little blase. Even though she has plenty of reason to want to better her situation she won’t do at the expense of anyone or anything. She does what is right. Plus she drives a Volkswagen Bug. It’s one of those books where you keep wondering “how is the hero going to get out this??” but when the ending does come you are like “Oh of course, how silly of me….” I highly recommend this book and if you haven’t had a chance – please go out and read Fforde’s awesome book The Eyre Affair. It is wonderful beyond words (plus it has Jane Eyre in it and we all know how much I love that book.)
Rating : Nine Shoes – Practically perfect.
Title : The Runaway King
Author : Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Date Published : March 1st, 2013
Pages : 352
Stand Alone or Series : #2 in the Ascendance Trilogy
How Obtained : e-ARC courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!!)
Three Words : adventurous, exciting, coming-of-age
Red Flags : none (appropriate for young to older adolescents)
***************WARNING!!!!!! This review contains unavoidable spoilers for the first book – The False Prince (click for my review). You have been warned!!
Summary : When last we saw Sage, he had just revealed that he was in fact the actual missing Prince Jaron, living in disguise and estrangement from his family. He has now divulged the secret to the kingdom and plans to take his rightful place on the throne. But it is never that simple, is it? First, there is an assassination attempt within the castle walls. It becomes abundantly clear that rumors of a neighboring country (one that is in allegiance with the PIRATES) getting ready for war may be more than rumors. Their country is woefully underprepared for war leaving Jaron with many hard decisions. And now, Jaron’s council of regents don’t seem to believe that he is fit to be the king. What is the young king to do?? Jaron concocts a daring plan to rescue his kingdom that involves fleeing in disguise, joining the pirates and besting their king….easy, right??
My Take : Yeah!! I loved the False Prince so much so when I saw that this was available on NetGalley I jumped at the chance to read it before it was published. I am so glad that I did. What a fun and wonderful addition to the series!! First of all, the story was action-packed and full of adventure. Jaron is always getting into scrapes that he seemingly has no way out of but somehow he always manages to come out on top. Which brings me to the next thing that I loved about this book – Jaron!! I defy you to read this book and not fall a little bit in love with this reckless, daring, bold, adventurous, stubborn, intelligent, cunning man-child. We all know that I love a bad boy (with a heart of gold of course). He often does things that seem crazy and selfish and ridiculous but somehow it all turns out right in the end and that’s kinda the point, right? My only real issue with this book was the ending seemed a little bit too unrealistic….I won’t spoil it for you but it stretches the bounds of imagination. But honestly, the book is so much fun I find myself not caring that much….I honestly could not put it down. Great sequel and I can’t wait to read #3.
My Rating : eight and a half shoes – half shoe deduction for somewhat unrealistic ending.
Title : Dead Time
Author : Anne Cassidy
Publisher : Walker & Company
Publish Date : May 22nd, 2012
Pages : 344
Stand Alone or Series : #1 in the Murder Notebooks Series
How Obtained : from the library
Three Words : mystery, YA, thriller
Summary : Five years ago, Rose’s mother and stepfather went out to dinner and never returned. Since that time, Rose has been either at boarding school or living with her strict, somewhat uptight grandmother in London. While trying to deal with the fact that her mom is GONE, she has also been unable to forget about the stepbrother that she lived with briefly – Joshua. On the night they decide to meet up again, Rose witnesses one of her classmates being murdered. She is completely shaken by the experience and meeting with Joshua only brings to the forefront, her desire to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. Then she witnesses ANOTHER classmate getting murdered and she is determined to solve this mystery as well. When she and Joshua start investigating they realize that all of these things may be connected to their parents. Is there a conspiracy? Who is committing these heinous murders?
My Take : I enjoyed this book – sort of. It was fast-paced and exciting. I was interested in the mystery and I couldn’t figure out who had done it till the end. I liked Rose. Many people criticized her for being a recluse and somewhat prickly in manner but I thought it fit in well with the character. She lost her mother and the man she looked to as a father figure, then she is torn away from the step-brother that she got attached to. That sort of thing has a tendency to make you not want to trust people. However, I had a couple of issues with the book. There were a couple of times that my head said something to the effect of “Huh??” Occasionally she made choices that made me want to scream at the book ” CALL THE POLICE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” The whole witnessing two murders thing without being able to tell who did it was somewhat crazy but ok – I’m able to suspend disbelief somewhat. My big issue with the book was the other “main” character – Joshua. I didn’t really like him all that much and not only that but I didn’t believe his character either. He was extremely nice and caring but then doesn’t want to include her in some things but then when she is upset gets even more upset with her and then back to being nice again. Who is like that? I’m all for conflicted characters but you have to give him some more personality then just swinging wildly from nice to upset. Then, despite having lived together (albeit briefly) as brother and sister, towards the end of the book they try to throw in this whole romance thing with Joshua. For me, it just didn’t work. It felt very forced and added on ( I have this image of an old, fat publisher with a cigar behind a desk yelling at the author “we gotta have a romance- the kids these days like romance” which I’m sure is how it really goes based on TV and movies). I’m interested enough to want to read the upcoming books and find out what the heck happened to her parents – I’m just maybe not desperately waiting.
My Rating : Six Shoes
Anyone else read this book?? Any thoughts?
I sincerely appreciate every single comment AND will answer every single one of them.
Well it has happened everybody…I have finally joined other book bloggers out there and received my first ARC (for those of you who don’t know that is an Advanced Reader Copy….) to review. I officially feel like a REAL book blogger now 🙂
Title : Rapunzel Untangled
Author : Cindy C. Bennett
Publication Date : 2/12/2013
Pages : 304
Stand Alone or Series : Stand Alone
How Received : ARC courtesy of NetGalley on behalf of Cedar Fort, Inc.
Three Words : fairy tale, YA, romance
Red Flags : none really (appropriate for middle to older adolescents)
Rapunzel is seventeen years old but she is far from average. For one, she has never been outside her apartment due to her disease which could kill her if she comes in contact with germs. Second, she has golden hair fifteen feet long. She lives in a mansion and sees her mother twice a day. When her mother gets a computer for her to complete her homework, she never dreams that it would change her life completely. Rapunzel has just discovered this wondrous thing called Facebook…..where she “friends” Fane. Soon they start chatting and Rapunzel can’t stop thinking about him. Then she starts wondering what it would be like to meet him. That’s when things get complicated.
My Take :
As you can probably tell from the summary, this is a modern retelling of Rapunzel. When I first read the description of the book, I was intrigued by her using Facebook as a means of the “princess” escaping her tower. I thought it was a really clever way to retell this fairy tale. The plot moves along at a quick pace and there is a LOT of romance. Talking between Fane and Rapunzel, cute little conversations, many of which have to do with Rapunzel knowing nothing about the outside world and Fane finding this adorable. The ending was also interesting and satisfying and I liked the turn she took with why Mother Gothel took Rapunzel and kept her in a tower. My biggest problem with this book though was Rapunzel herself. For a modern retelling, I was hoping for a more modern take on the feminine character. Rapunzel is mostly just kind of fragile and full of naivete, totally unable to help herself in most situations. She basically constantly relies on Fane to come and rescue her. Everybody needs help once in a while but come on sister friend! Use your brain and help yourself out once in a while. Also, I had kind of a big issue with the whole meet a guy on Facebook, invite him over and fall in love thing…as far as I know friending some random person on Facebook is NOT the best way of finding true love – (trust me – watch Catfish if you don’t believe me!). Also possibly not the best message for young girls out there – “don’t trust your parents, trust that boy you met online.” I enjoyed the book overall but I had some big issues with the underlying message. I give it six shoes – I liked it but I think it could’ve been better.
Title : This Is Not a Test
Author : Courtney Summers
Publisher : St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date : June 19th, 2012
Red Flags : some violence, some sexual situations and language (older adolescent appropriate)
Three Words : character driven, zombies, slower paced
How Obtained : from the library!
Summary : Sloane Price has decided to kill herself. Six months ago her world ended when her sister left her alone in their father’s house. Now it is time to get out as well. The day she decides to do it just happens to be the day that the zombie apocalypse happens. So her plans to kill herself are put on hold as she actually fights for her survival. Sloane and five other teenagers have managed to make it to the high school and hole up there in hopes that they will be rescued or at least don’t get eaten. They seem to have found a perfect place, the high school has food, water and few windows for the zombies to get inside through. As the days slowly crawl by, the teenagers must struggle with their own issues and with each other. Sloane finds herself seeing the apocalypse through the eyes of those who still want to live. Soon the group dynamic will change drastically and they will have choices to make….who will survive? Will Sloane even want to?
My Take : First I have to say if you are a big fan of zombie books then this will probably NOT be your cup of tea. This is not a zombie book, it is a book that happens to have zombies in it. This is a character study where the circumstances of the zombie apocalypse provide the background for seeing what the heck these people are going to do.
Wow! I really enjoyed this book. I can see why it made YALSA’s list of Best Fiction for YA readers in 2013. The characters were so interestingly developed, the story was slow-paced but that actually was fantastic for this book. These teens are trapped in the school for days with nothing to do except deal with each other and the things they have done. It was super interesting and while you don’t fall in love with any of the characters per se, you certainly can relate to their feelings. In the quest for survival you would have to do things that may haunt you – is it worth surviving if you have to deal with all of that?
Although this is mainly a character piece, there are still plenty of events that happen to move the story along. It is a slow pace but not in a boring way. I would say that my only issue with this book is that I wasn’t all that jazzed about Sloane herself. She didn’t exactly endear herself to me in that she didn’t have that much of a personality outside of her deep depression and issues with her father. That being said, it may just be the point of the whole book. We are all made up of our pasts and the things we have done to get to our present. Some of it may not be so great. (oooh I’m getting all philosophical here).
My Rating : Nine shoes – Excellent
Title : The Pledge
Author : Kimberly Derting
Publisher : Margaret K. McElderry
Published : November 15th, 2011
Pages : 323
Stand Alone or Series : #1 in the Pledge series
Three Words : dystopian, YA, romance
Red Flags : violence, drug use
Summary : So there’s this lady assassin …. HA fooled you. Finally a non-lady assassin book. But it is a dystopian YA romantic trilogy (which seems to be about the only books I read these days.)
Charlaina (known as Charlie to friends and family) lives in the violent country of Ludania. From the context of the book, it is obvious that this is some future America dystopia where rule by the people has been a dismal failure and they are now under the rule of an all-powerful queen. This matriarchy has been set up with a extremely distinct class system where each class has their own special language that only they can understand. It is punishable by death to speak another language or to even look someone in the eye who is from a better class than you. So Charlie is in the merchant class and she has a BIG secret. She can understand ALL the languages. In a county where you are encouraged to “watch” each other and report on your neighbors this is a big problem. Her parents do everything they can to keep it a secret. To keep themselves from going crazy, the teenagers decide to go to secret underground clubs where they are given drugs and allowed to interact with all the classes. There she meets Max, brooding, dangerous, mysterious, hot, etc… Also, he speaks a language that she has never heard before and can still understand. Can Charlie trust Max? As the violence escalates in the city and danger is everywhere, Charlie must protect her secret and her family in a ever more dangerous world.
My Take : One of the great things about this book is the atmosphere and the world that Derting has built. Ludania reeks of distrust, violence and a general atmosphere of nervously awaiting possible detention and death. In the foreword, Derting explains that she used some conversations with a woman who lived through Nazi Germany to inform her writing and you can really tell. Ludania is definitely a dystopia, fraught with danger and fear. I loved the idea of these different languages separating the classes and that Charlie’s big secret was the ability to understand them all. Charlie is an interesting character in that she is fiercely loyal but actually questions everything around her. When her friend treats her badly, she decides that maybe she isn’t that good a friend at all. I feel like this is something that doesn’t seem to happen often enough in books. She is also brave and resourceful, intelligent and kind. All of which I like. My biggest issues with this book were the predictability of the story and her relationship with Max. I pretty much knew where this story was going from the get-go but I’m even willing to deal with that. Some of my favorite books are predictable but they create such a wonderful world around the story that I just don’t care. I did enjoy this world but I have to say occasionally I got bored. My biggest issue was the whole Max relationship. I’m not really sure why she was even interested in Max….there really wasn’t much going on there. She even says she is intrigued and frightened by him…frightened??? Can we please stop putting fear into the equation and pretend like that is a healthy relationship?
All in all, I really enjoyed this book on the whole I just felt that the relationship could have been written a little bit better. I give this book seven shoes – I’m definitely interested enough to continue to read the series.
Title : Jane
Author : April Lindner
Publisher : Poppy
Date Published : October 11th, 2010
Pages : 373
Stand Alone or Series : Stand Alone
Three Words : Classic retelling, romance, mystery
Red Flags : some sexual situations, some language and drug use
Summary : Jane Moore has not had a happy couple months. Her parents died in a car crash, she is forced to drop out of college and her siblings don’t seem to care too much about her circumstances. She is forced to sign up for a job with Discriminating Nannies, Inc. Her serious demeanor wins her points with the interviewer who is looking for somebody for a special job – working for the uber famous rock star, Nico Rathburn. Although initially turned off by his arrogant demeanor, she can’t help but be fascinated by him. She starts to realize that beneath his brooding exterior lies a magnetic personality and a kind heart. But Jane must contend with more than just this forbidden romance, there is a mystery at Thornfield Park. Something is going on, but you don’t know what is….do you Miss Jane?
My Take : If the plot seems extremely familiar to you….congratulate yourself dear Reader, it IS a retelling of Jane Eyre. If you read my previous post then you know that Jane Eyre is my top favorite book OF ALL TIME….so the stakes were high for this one. I actually ended up really liking this one. Now, if you are expecting something that is as good as Bronte’s version, then you should probably not read this. Come on, we are dealing with one of the classics here… but if you are looking for something fun, something romantic, something interesting and new, then please read this book. I enjoyed Linder’s writing, it was quick paced, didn’t drag at parts and meshed the old time themes with modern vernacular. I thought it was a stroke of genius to make Rochester a rock star, because truly what could give you both money and fame in this world, making you attractive to the wrong kinds of women. Jane is her usual recalcitrant, serious but deeply passionate self. My only real issue with the book was that it seemed to almost follow Jane Eyre too closely (which I know doesn’t make complete sense). I found myself occasionally wondering why I was reading this book if it was basically the same thing as the original just in a modern setting. But this was only occasionally and I found myself wanting to finish it. I give this one eight shoes.
Anybody else read this? Did you enjoy it or did it just make you long for the original?
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Title : Graceling
Author : Kristin Cashore
Publisher : Harcourt
Pages : 471
Publication Date : October 1st, 2008
Stand Alone or Series : #1 in the Graceling Realm series
Three Words : fantasy, YA, lady assassin
Red Flags : some violence, mild sexuality (appropriate for older adolescents)
Summary : Katsa is Graced. In her world, some people are born with special abilities (called Graces) The Grace gives them special powers – the ability to read minds, to swim like a fish or the ability to make beautiful music. Katsa hates her Grace – the Grace of killing. She is under the command of her uncle, King Randa and he expects her to do his dirty work – threatening wayward subjects with torture or death. Katsa has decided to use her powers for good when possible but it must be done behind her uncle’s back. While out on a mission to rescue a stolen royal, she meets a young Graced prince. Prince Po is Graced with fighting skills. When he shows up at the court of King Randa they decide to train together in order to become better fighters. But something unexpected and new happens to Katsa; she makes a friend. Together they will try to figure out the secret of why somebody has kidnapped Po’s grandfather – it is a dangerous secret that affects all the seven kingdoms.
My Take : Love, Love, Love!! This was such a fun book and I was kinda disappointed that I hadn’t heard of it before. Katsa is such an interesting character. She actually reminds me a little bit of Katniss Everdeen – hardboiled, practical but somewhat naive in relationships. She relies on herself and she is a strong woman…so delightful. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have doubts or bad moments. But it is the tension between your good and bad self that makes for an interesting character.
The relationship between Po and Katsa is believable and interesting. They are friends – they talk about their lives, have fun together, etc… I really liked seeing a man and woman have a great friendship. It is obvious to me that Cashore has respect for the many sides of both genders.
Cashore is just a beautiful writer. She brought this new world to life for me. I loved the characters both on the bad and good side. I cannot wait to find out how this all ends up. I give this book nine shoes!
Has anybody else read this series? What did you think?
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