Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas -- Book Review

Second in the series, Crown of Midnight blows its slightly-better-than-average preceding novel out of the water.


Celeana Sardothian is now the King’s Champion but her problems are far from over as she must do the heart-of-stone King’s bidding, killing men he claims are traitors. When the King tasks Celeana to kill a familiar face right in their own backyard of Riftfold, she realizes that being the King’s Champion has thrown her deeper into the tumultuous kingdom. In the midst of traitors, death, and sleeping magic Celeana must sort through her ever complicating feelings between the Captain of the Guard and the Crown Prince.


Last week I spoke about Throne of Glass, Maas’s debut. All the concerns I had about that that novel are non-existent here and all the things I loved are amped up. Celeana continues to be a dynamic, developing, head-strong character. Readers will fall even further in love with her sassiness, if that’s even possible.

Maas has a very magical sleeve full of an infinite amount of secrets and plot twists. I have high expectations for the rest of the series. I was pleasantly surprised at many points in the novel.

The romance is also amped up a bit in Crown of Midnight. Maas creates the perfect amount of angst and swooning without turning the story sappy or undermining Celeana’s independence.

Overall, Maas perfectly executes the adage it gets better with practice. Her first novel was that practice and I can only see things getting better from there, starting with Crown of Midnight.

The next book in the series, Heir of Fire, comes out September 2. In the meantime you can check out the published collection of novellas that take place pre-Throne of Glass and two unpublished stories from between Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight (beginning here and here).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas -- Book Review

In Sarah J. Maasdebut novel, she creates a unique fantasy world and a snarky but lovable protagonist but lacks page-turning action.


Adarlan’s most notorious assassin has just been released from the slave mines after getting caught doing what she does best: killing. But her freedom won’t come easy. Celaena is to be the Crown Prince’s champion in a competition to become the nefarious King of Adarlan’s Champion. Fighting alongside the continents most dangerous criminals and mercenaries, she must put her training to the test if she ever wants to be free again. Soon proving her skills becomes the least of her worries as danger and death stalk about the castle.

From the very first page, readers are dumped into the exciting world of Erilea, where Adarlan’s King is slowly conquering countries and throwing rebels into slave camps. Maas builds a world that rings true high fantasy lovers. With kings and court politics, eligible and handsome princes, and assassin protagonists that know how to talk back, Erilea is intriguing and well thought out. I am so glad that Throne of Glass is the first in a series because I can’t wait to spend more time in this world.

Celaena is one of my favorite type of character to read: sassy, strong, and knows how to kill things. Celaena develops nicely throughout the story and her emotions ring true. She is headstrong and tends to keep to herself. It will be interesting to see how she continues to grow in the series because there are certainly opportunities that will arise.

So as much as I’ve raved about this book, there was one big issue: Throne of Glass lacks action-packed momentum to drive the novel. There were several spots in the book where action was slow and I just wanted to skip ahead to a more exciting part. I think this issue really stemmed from knowing the trajectory of the book from the beginning. We know the story will end at the conclusion of the King’s Champion Competition. Though there are surprises, though there are action-y scenes along the way, readers know a bit about how the story is going to end and therefore lose some motivation to turn the pages.

All that being said there are several reasons why you should push through, if you too find the pace a bit slow: First, you will be surprised by how things turn out. Second, Celaena continues to be a really awesome heroine. Third, the second book, Crown of Midnight, is absolute worth pushing through. I am already halfway in (look for a rave session review next week) and I cannot put it down.

Overall, as a debut, Throne of Glass has some kinks. But as the beginning of a series it has serious potential and is well worth the time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han -- Book Review

It’s Not Summer Without You is a quick summer/beach read with a young voice but an ending and point-of-view issues that left me feeling unsatisfied. 

For as long as Belly can remember summer has always been about Cousins Beach with the boys — Jeremiah and Conrad. But when her mother’s best friend and the boys’ mother dies summer will never be the same. Ever since Susannah’s death Belly’s relationship with the Jeremiah and Conrad has been in shambles. Then Conrad goes missing and Jeremiah asks for Belly’s help in finding him. So together they take one last trip to Cousins and battle through grief and love and all the complications that come with it.

The beach and summer setting make this book a perfect summer read. It’s quick and is filled with intense emotions and unanswered questions that will keep you reading as you lounge at the beach or pool. Though this is the second book in the series, after The Summer I Turned Pretty, I think the story stands well on its own.

Belly as a character and narrator has a good voice that is nice to read. Her narration feels genuine for a 17-year-old girl dealing with lost love and grief. For me, this novel falls on the lower end of the maturity scale when compared to other Young Adult novels. The emotional complications will ring true for an early teen reader more so then with a mature teen or adult reader.

While the story really only takes place over about a week it also tells the story of an entire lifetime through sporadically placed flashbacks. This construction bothered me not because the time was hard to follow (Han makes it very clear when this is a scene from the past) but because it seemed like a cop-out for constructing a story in the present that builds a world in the here and now. I wish the information the reader learns from these flashbacks was more eloquently interspersed in the main story line.

Additionally, the narrative is limited by Belly’s first-person point of view, sort of. Jeremiah serves as a part-time narrator but only to fill in the gaps that readers can’t see through Belly. This flip in narration wouldn’t have bothered me if Jeremiah developed as a character in more ways than to just fill in the back-story between the threesome and as a way to build romantic tension.

The ending of this book is one of the most disappointing I have read in a long time. Personality quirks are explained away by saying, “that’s just the way things have always been.” And things are left too-widely open so that none of the characters get any closure in a way that leaves the story feeling very incomplete. The trilogy continues with We’ll Always Have Summer, but I feel that the ending should stand alone as much as the rest of the story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater -- Book Review

Maggie Stiefvater does it again in the spin-off of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy, keeping true to character and providing promised heart-wrenching angst between the tumultuous duo of Cole and Isabel.

Impulsive and recalcitrant Cole St. Clair is in Los Angeles for Isabel, the girl who lost her brother to the toxins Cole willingly pumps through his veins, wolf toxins. But L.A. also brings Cole a new album and a reality TV show deal that make being with Isabel and staying human, as opposed to wolf, very difficult. Cole and Isabel had a past back in Minnesota but a lot has changed since then. He wants to make things right but will his destructive nature be too much for Isabel?

Cole and Isabel have always been known for their very distinctive characteristics that are almost impossible to describe in just a few words. They are really better described in actions. Take Cole for instance, who would rather walk several miles to L.A. than sit in traffic in his limo. Cole and Isabel's character quirks only escalate from there. Stiefvater keeps true to the characters quirks all throughout the book and the duo really drive the novel. Both of the characters are also dealing with a lot and the emotions ring true through the writing. The minor characters are also fully fleshed out and bring another level to the story. Fans of the Mercy Falls Trilogy will enjoy a bunch of fresh faces that interact with Cole and Isabel nicely.

Stiefvater never fails to create a story that feels genuine and is consistent throughout and Sinner is no exception.

The writing style can be a little jumpy and leave the reader hanging at the end of emotional scenes but the story as a whole is worth pushing through.

The perpetually sunny L.A. plays nicely into the story and as someone who hated the snow and freezing climate of Mercy Falls in the trilogy, this was a nice change for me. The setting is also an ironic back drop to the emotional rollercoaster ride in Sinner.

Overall, Sinner is steamy and unpredictable and everything I could have asked for in a spin-off with two of the most frustratingly lovable characters in fiction.