Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reviewing: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

How do I review this book without flailing everywhere? Oh, that's right. I DON'T. *flails everywhere*

Let's just start with the main character, Nyx. Okay, so I didn't love her. I knew why she was doing the things she was doing and even though I didn't always agree with that, I did understand where she was coming from. She was tough. Strong. And a little bit cruel. But she ached for love. To be honest, I didn't really see a lot of Belle (seeing as this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling...) in her. But that's okay! In fact, I'm glad Nyx wasn't entirely like Belle. She probably would have died within the first ten pages if she was. 

Ignifex and Shade, well...

I'm not entirely sure what I can say that won't be spoilery considering these two, but I'll try my best. And basically what it comes down to is IGNIFEX. I am pretty much a goner around villains that act like villains while simultaneously being sarcastic and just really sort of weird. I'm not sure if "weird" is the right word (I almost want to use adorable instead), but just to tell you why I chose weird-- he is constantly poking Nyx in the forehead and on her nose and he basically uses her as a pillow 24/7. He is like a cat.

I spent most of the book mad at Shade. Well, okay, not most. More like... half. He felt sort of bland to me at first. But WAIT. After a little bit he becomes anything but bland. NO ONE IS BLAND IN THIS BOOK. But everyone is also a little bit (or a lot) evil.

Which brings me to Nyx's little sister, Astraia. She was supposed to be the nice one. I was supposed to like her, and feel bad for her. And I did, at first. But then... THE INCIDENT. She almost felt more cruel and manipulative than Nyx and I was just staring at the book with a repulsed expression on my face thinking about how much I really wished Nyx would walk away from her very bad, very mean family forever.

The world was absolutely brilliant. A sky made out parchment paper?? YES PLEASE. Also, I absolutely love Greek mythology. Maybe it's because I've studied it and written essays on it and read an abundance of stuff about it (all of that, not counting the essays, for pleasure) but I never really got confused about who was who and all the ranks and all the mythical places. But my brain almost died when the complexity of how the house worked was brought up.

And let me just take a moment to talk about the ending. Talk about heartbreak. I'm pretty sure I was sitting there in a bubble of depression for hours after I finished the book.

Spoiler (highlight to read): [And let's not even get started on how much I missed Ignifex after him and Shade came together as the two halves of the former prince. That being said-- I totally had thought that Ignifex had possessed Shade's body or something and that Shade was the actual prince while Ignifex had nothing to do with all that except for the itty-bitty detail of him being the demon prince.]

All in all, I absolutely loved this book. There are hints of Beauty & the Beast everywhere, but unless you're paying close attention you'll definitely miss a couple of them. They weren't at all obvious, and this book is, well... nothing like the Disney movie except for the those small details. But I absolutely loved how much Rosamund Hodge twisted the fairytale into this awesome-ness.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reviewing: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

It's Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives.

But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As Anna sets out to find her friend's killer, she discovers harsh revelations about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

Awaiting the judge's decree, it becomes clear to Anna that everyone around her thinks she is not only guilty, but also dangerous. And when the whole story comes out, reality is more shocking than anyone could ever imagine...

Let me just tell you something before I get into the review. Before I started reading, I had heard all about the shocking twist. About how horrifying the ending was, and how they hadn't seen it coming. So I decided to make a list about who I suspected, why, and, when I crossed some of them out, why I crossed them out.

Spoilers are between these: [   ]. You'll have to highlight to read them. And, because I don't want to spoil anything, all of what I say about each person on the list counts as a spoiler. You have been warned.

  1. Melanie 
  2. Juan [This guy is just... creepy. I'm still creeped out by him.]
  3. Tate  [I changed my mind because I decided that he was too weak to actually kill her. He just seemed so drained and shakey and downright vulnerable that I put him aside soon after I put him on the list.]
  4. Dekker [I decided that he was just obsessed with Anna being the killer than WHY Elise had actually been killed]
  5. AK
  6. Niklas
  7. Elise [the reason why Elise was on this list is because when she was talking about how she would kill herself, she mentioned that she would slit her wrists and bleed out all over the carpet. Also, she was reckless. Someone that reckless, someone that just... treated people so harshly and spoke behind their backs like she did... She was so drunk on life. Someone like that doesn't kill themselves.]
  8. Anna [the reason is because the entire time everything just felt so wrong. About Anna. About how obsessed she was with Tate. When she became extremely possessive, I heard warning bells go. I didn't think she was the killer until nearing the end of the book. Everything just felt so wrong that I couldn't help but think that maybe the killer was her. She was just so very, very damaged.]
With my ginormous list of suspects, I don't think I would have fared too well with finding out who was the actual killer if I was put in a situation where I needed to. I'm usually not so great at finding out things anyways. I'm usually in a constant state of shock after reading books like these.

The reason I'm not flailing and screeching and typing in all caps is because this book just... just...

It did blow my mind. In fact, my mind is still a jumbled mess. Everyone in this book is messed up. EVERYONE. (except the rare gem. And even then, you can't be sure if they're actually rare gems.)

Pardon my language.

This book has given me trust issues.

So while I'm re-reading the last sentence (which is seriously so disturbing and haunting and CREEPY) while my heart pounds and I'm trying not to freak out too obviously, I'll just say that I have never ever read a book like this.

I like to stay away from horrifying books about murders (I have a very, very wild imagination that sometimes likes to make sure I don't sleep). Because of that, I haven't read any up til now. I'm not sure I'll keep reading them. (I also like to stay away from heart problems, and I'm pretty sure this book has also amped those up quite a bit.)

You start the book thinking Anna is innocent and that this book is a story of her proving that she didn't do it while simultaneously proving who DID. You think, or at least I did, "oh maybe this is one of those books that's creepy while also being sort've lighthearted." Either way, I thought that at least the killer would be brought to justice.

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO THINK ANYMORE. (oh, look, there's my usual caps-locks-screeching)

But if I say anything more there's sure to be spoilers.

Also, I get the feeling that this book was aimed for an age group slightly higher than my own. It's got sex and drugs and drinking and ALL THAT. (my use of caps also shows how unprepared I was for "all that")

But, hey. If you think you want to read this book (and you're pretty sure you won't die of shock) then good Lord READ IT

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reviewing: The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer wants to believe there's more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

I wanted to write this review before I forgot everything, because this book was jam-packed with information. Super surprisingly (and super awesomely) that information never got overwhelming to me. Maybe it would with some people, but I just loved the info dump. I felt pretty much like Mara did-- except less homicidal-- because, YES. ANSWERS.

Before I talk about how sad I am about the series ending (very sad) let me talk about how downright fabulous Michelle Hodkin is. Her writing skills are insane. You will question everything. You will wonder if Mara really is insane. If she really is the villain.

Reading from the point of view of such an unstable character kind of left me unsure of who to believe-- Mara, or the people around her. And by kind of, I mean absolutely. 

Mara is such a complex character. I was constantly wondering how she could live with the weight of all she had done and all she was capable of on her shoulders.

Pretty much everyone is beautifully broken in this book. AND I LOVE JAMIE'S SENSE OF HUMOR. I love how he keeps Mara laughing even when she's falling apart. 
“We’re mutants now?”
“Don’t tell Marvel. They’ll sue us.”
I could barely look away while reading. Until I got closer to the ending. I was starting to feel slightly disappointed, like... is this the fabulous ending? I just couldn't accept it. [I couldn't accept it because I felt like it was too easy. After what they'd been through, could anything really be okay ever again?]. But the actual ending, once I got to it, blew my mind. I could not process what had just happened until a while after I was done reading.

My rating is : 

There is so much more I could blab about, but honestly what it comes down to is that this book is awesome, Michelle Hodkin did an amazing job with making everything come together, with the characters, with EVERYTHING. So, basically, go. Read. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Reviewing: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

About the Characters

I felt like the characters in Shadow and Bone really hit home. Alina was a strong character even with her faults and insecurities. She's filled with insults and sass and is incredibly stubborn-- and you'd think that those traits would make her unlikable, but she's also loyal and compassionate. There were times when I thought a change in her character came too suddenly and wasn't realistic, or that she would do something entirely out of character for seemingly no reason, but none of these really made me dislike her or feel bothered about her.

Mal, her childhood best friend, started out as pretty bland for me. I didn't really start to like him until at least halfway through the book, since he isn't present for a huge chunk. One of the big things that I disliked was that although he was missing for so much of the book, I barely noted his absence. Yeah, Alina was always talking about him and how much she missed him, but we don't really get to know him at all until near the end of the book. Once I started to learn more about him, I found him a lot more likable, but it kind of felt like he didn't have enough layers to his character. Like... "what you see is what you get". In a word, Mal was sweet.

The Darkling was, well... have you heard "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift? Yeah. I've got a quote from there that describes him perfectly.

I've noticed that a lot of people found him the main attraction in Shadow and Bone, and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't wanted him and Alina together at first. It was kind of hard to root for Mal, who was never there. (I did like Mal towards the end, though.)

I'm not entirely sure how to describe the Darkling without giving away spoilers. Yes, he is powerful. Yes, he has magic. Yes, he could be classified as the "bad boy" -- but there is a ton more to him.

He was incredibly well written and fantastic in the role he played. That is all.

Of course, I can't forget about Genya. She was awesome. Sassy and brilliant.

About the Setting & World-Building

(This includes the food. I liked the food.)

Okay, so, the names really confused me. I got the part that Grisha's can use magic but, um... how many different types of Grisha are there??? And do they all have confusing names? (Tailor & Summoner = the two simplest Grisha-Group names you will find in this book. It felt like there were at least ten but I have no idea. There might be only three.)

I wanted to know more about how the Grisha's magic worked. I didn't want to listen to Alina feel bad. I wanted to know why only certain people were born with magic, why it came along late for others, what made the Darkling so much more powerful, etc. In short, I just wanted to know more about the magic.

And what is the Shadow Fold? This big area of total blackness with lots of monsters flying around?

I did like how things were described in Alina's daily life. I got the whole "Russian" feel with some of the names. I feel like the author did an awesome job with the food. (I just can't get over the food, sorry.)