Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Words of Radiance

It's rare that I review an adult book on this blog. Usually it's an honor reserved for Kristan Higgins books because they're so funny. But now I've got a book that is just so amazing it needs to be reviewed. Plus, the author also writes YA so I'm calling it close enough. Words of Radiance, the second book in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. And since I've already sort of given away my opinion, on with the review!

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With her powers revealed to Jasnah, Shallan and her mentor are headed to the Shattered Plains to alert Jasnah's uncle Dalinar to the potential threat of the Parshmen. But when tragedy strikes at sea, Shallan must make her way alone while grappling with her burgeoning powers of illusion. Meanwhile, Kaladin has been put in charge of the king's personal guard, a position never held by a darkeyes. With the Assassin in White killing leaders around the world and political machinations in the war camps, he struggles with keeping his charges safe. As these characters come to terms with their powers and try to stay alive, the Everstorm approaches, threatening to send the world into a Desolation from which it may not survive.

This series. I mean, talk about a slow burn. Each book clocks in at over a thousand pages with interludes between the parts and a wide range of fleshed out characters and a skillfully crafted, incredibly vast and complex world. The magic reveals itself slowly. Scholarship is not always correct. There are splinter groups within religions and different cultures within those. There is science and gender roles and magic and highstorms and spren and love and deceit and I could go on and on and on. You're really just in it for the ride. Because despite its massive length, there are many twists and turns, many of which surprised me. I cannot wait to sink my teeth into Oathbringer when it comes out in the fall. Because this is a world I think will stick with me. The characters are so real, and their struggles manage to be personal and impact the world on a grander scale. Bravo, Sanderson, bravo. (Also, Kaladin meeting Shallan is possibly my favorite meet-cute in the history of ever)

Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
Up Next: Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Crooked Kingdom

My roommate and I are both severe bookworms. Like, we dream of sharing a three-bedroom apartment one day where the third bedroom can be the library. So it should come as no surprise that we sometimes read together. Separate books, but in the same room and we often stop reading to exclaim/complain about whatever is happening in that book. Most recently for me, that book was Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. It had been sitting on my shelf for many months because I was afraid of the story ending and being sad. Needless to say, I exclaimed a lot while reading this book.

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There are more troubles for Kaz Brekker and the team he took with him to break into the Ice Court in an impossible heist. Inej has been captured, and after being double crossed the team is looking for their money, and their revenge against Wylan's father. They have one last con to pull off, and it might be the craziest of them all.

This book...where to start. I adored every single page of it. The world is so rich and well thought out. The characters are all distinct with their own lives, worries, beliefs, and desires. There's a con kept me guessing, heartbreak, costumes, and kissing (squee!) There's magic and lore and Ketterdam is such a horrible, awesome city. I won't go on for too long because it would probably come across as sycophantic. If you have ever enjoyed reading fantasy, you NEED to pick up this series straight away. It is so good it's not even funny. The banter between all of the characters is sublime. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me cringe. Leigh Bardugo is now firmly in the camp of "I will read any napkin she ever writes on." This is a camp formerly only occupied by Maggie Stiefvater, so it's an exclusive club. Seriously....just read it.

Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
Up Next: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Chaos of Stars

I've probably mentioned this before, but I read Kiersten White's blog for several years before picking up her books. Why would I be so committed to a blog about books when I hadn't read any of them? Because she was so freaking funny. And when I picked up the Paranormalcy series, I found myself chuckle-snorting through them, even if they didn't become some of my favorite books in the world. And that was okay. It is really freaking hard to write humor, and I love any book that can make me laugh. Her Mind Games series was darker, more complex, and less polished in my opinion. But I still picked up The Chaos of Stars because I adore mythology, particularly Egyptian mythology and...well, that cover is gorgeous.

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Isadora's family is majorly screwed up, as you'd expect when your mother is Isis and your father the king of the underworld and you're just the latest in a long line of human children born to two gods. But Isadora is sick of it. So as soon as she can, she flees to San Diego to live with her brother and his wife. But she quickly finds out that it's harder to escape family than you'd expect, and conflicts are brewing between the gods back in Egypt.

This book got a lot of hate, and honestly I can see why. It is really short, Isadora is written as being sort of perfect, the plot is simple, and if you didn't read the little short stories about the Gods (written from Isadora's POV), you would have no idea what the conflict was when the climax arrives. And honestly, it was that last part that bothered me the most. The cycle of gods repeating the same mistakes over and over again, and having your parents be part of it is enough to traumatize a kid and be very confusing. But I wanted to see that more in the active story, not the passive pre-chapter snippets. But, that being said, this was a quick, fun read in my book because I went in knowing that White wrote this book over a weekend. It's very short so how much can you really get in there? There's a lot of stuff that made me laugh (yay!) and some descriptions of food that had me reaching for a takeaway menu. Is it the best book of all time? No. But I still had a fun time reading it.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars (Probably more like 3.5)
Up Next: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spinning Starlight

I love retellings. One of my favorites is Sarah J. Maas's ACOTAR series. The first book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, the second a loose retelling of the myth of Hades and Persephone. I loved Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles and their sci-fi take on classic tales. So when I saw R. C. Lewis's Stitching Snow a while back, I was excited to see what other ways these stories could change with a sci-fi lens.

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Liddi Jantzen is set to inherit an tech empire spearheaded by her eight brothers. Her parents died years ago, so it's just been the nine of them. Liddi hates all the attention and hides from media grubs on their family's estate, not understanding why she can't invent the way her brothers do. But then her brothers disappear, and Liddi will do anything to get them back. When she stumbles upon the secret of their disappearance, she finds her voice hobbled so she can't tell the secret, and narrowly escapes to another planet where humans are not the only species and the portals between worlds are thought to be alive. She must work quickly to save her brothers. But without her voice, how can she make people understand what she needs?

I'll say this--interesting premise. I liked the idea of tech being the reason this Little Mermaid lost her voice. And she's certainly a fish out of water on the new planet. She makes lots of cultural mistakes and nearly gets thrown in jail. There are warring factions and some cool science around the portals. And I liked the notion that her planet didn't have a written language anymore. As someone who has a degree in history and works with history books, it was a fun nod to the many cultures with oral rather than written traditions, particularly since Liddi's planet is advanced rather than the usual way of portraying these kinds of cultures as primitive. But. Where I got to know Marissa Meyer's characters very intimately, and the world was very fleshed out, I don't feel like I got to know much about Liddi beyond her love for her brothers and her inferiority complex. There's instalove which always makes me roll my eyes. And it was all resolved so quickly. I guess I had the same problem with this book as I did with Stitching Snow--I wanted it to be longer. When you have these amazing sci-fi worlds you owe it to them to give a ton of detail. So while I really enjoy the spin on classic stories that Lewis does, I want there to be more meat to each of her books.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
Up Next: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Monday, February 20, 2017

On Second Thought

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a review of a romance book by one of my favorite authors. I've been reading Kristan Higgins books since high school and if there's one thing I can say about each and every one of them, it's this: they are hilarious. They may have their sad points and their awkward points, but all of them make me laugh out loud at least once or twice. And that is amazing. So many of the books I read are depressing, even if they're really good. It is hard to write humor, and Higgins succeeds every time.


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96 days ago, Kate got married. 96 days of marriage before she became a widow. Now she's living in a new town trying to work through her grief for a husband she'd known less than a year. Meanwhile, her half sister Ainsley has been with her boyfriend since college. Over ten years of the perfect relationship. And then he was diagnosed with cancer, and everything changed. He became insufferable. All she wants is to marry him and continue their perfect life. But then he dumps her. And blogs about it. And it goes viral. These sisters come together to figure out what to do with their lives and become closer in their shared pain, laughs, and wine.

I binge-read this 500-page book in two days by reading on the train, on my lunch breaks, and settling down with it as soon as I got home from work. There's something about Higgins' books that just flow so easily. The characters are vivid and funny, and there's always a spectacular secondary cast. Her last two books have fallen more in the chick-lit category than straight romance, but it's there in the background as these characters deal with their grief in different ways. And it's so realistic. They go through the stages without seeming to just be checking off the boxes. There are revelations and a scene in a douchey bar that is so satisfying I actually fist pumped while at my desk when it happened. There's hilarity and sadness and everything that is good about Higgins' books. It made me tear up, it made me laugh, it made me care for the characters. And there's delicious food and a cute puppy. I can't sing the praises of this book loud enough. Read it. Seriously. While you do that I'll be sitting in the corner rocking back and forth while waiting for her next book to come out.

Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
Up Next: Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Lucky Ones

The Lucky Ones by Anna Godbersen is the final book in her Bright Young Things series set in the roaring 20s. Being the history nerd that I am, I always enjoy Godbersen's focus on slang and fashion and how different social customs were between eras. Flappers wore long straight dresses with fringe and glitter, and their hair was short and wavy and might be dyed blond. It's these kinds of details that I really enjoy in my historical fiction, things that remind me of how much the world has changed and will change again. I doubt anyone in the 20s would have foreseen the rise of skinny jeans. But enough of that. On with the review! [Also, of course, beware of spoilers]


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Astrid is married, Cordelia is in love with Max, and Lettie is now apprenticed to two of the biggest names in the movies. But beneath all the glitz and glamour, things are not perfect. If people find out the truth about Max, he could lose his career. Astrid's marriage is already fraying at the edges with Charlie becoming more and more erratic. And Lettie would never do anything to hurt the couple she's living with. But she finds herself more and more drawn to the husband. And it seems he might be drawn to her as well. As the summer of 1929 comes to a close, these three girls have to decide what they want with their lives and what they're willing to do to get it.

I think my favorite book in this series is the first one. While I still really enjoyed the threads coming together in this book, and it even got my heart pumping a couple times, some of the threads were sloppier than others. First and foremost: what happened to Good Egg on the night of the party!? And after all the decades of animosity, I couldn't believe that the Hales and the Grays put their feud aside just like that. It seemed too convenient in order to sweep in the new, more violent gang that Charlie was going up against. I think the fact that the Hales and the Grays had more of a gentleman's feud increased the shock to Cordelia and Astrid when the new bad guys turned up meaning business. I loved Max and Cordelia together, but was completely thrown by how that story ended up. Astrid's was better, I think. She was always more airy fairy, but the climax from the last book made her realize more how surface-level her life was. So when her story evolved into the romance I saw coming from book one, I was happy for her. She really matured and came to realize it's not money that makes happiness, but the people you spend your life with. And Lettie...poor Lettie. I wish there had been a scene with her confronting yet another man who used her to his own ends. I really was devastated for her. But luckily she was able to walk away with a promising career. All in all, a satisfying series that couldn't quite pull together everything in the end, but what an enjoyable ride getting there.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Beautiful Days

This Christmas I received the full Bright Young Things series by Anna Godbersen and I finished them off in quick succession. So I'll apologize right off if I can't quite remember exactly where one book left off and the other began. As soon as I finished off Beautiful Days I picked up The Lucky Ones, so the lines are a little blurry.


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Cordelia's father is dead and Lettie has been reunited with her friend after her disastrous attempts at love and making it big on the stage. Astrid is engaged to Charlie and moving in with him and her two best friends. And while they lounge by the pool and drink mimosas, it's easy to ignore all the bad things happening around them. Like Cordelia not knowing if Max the pilot ever wants to see her again. Or if Lettie will ever have the courage to audition again. Or if Charlie cheating on Astrid was a one-time thing. But in the meantime, Cordelia is put in charge of opening a new club in the city and the music and booze is always flowing. It's the summer of 1929 in New York City, and you never know what could happen.

Poor Astrid. Seriously. She lived such a privileged life and it made her so entitled and naive. But at the same time she's so loyal to Lettie and Cordelia and she doesn't deserve what happens to her in this book. Talk about shattering a world view. As for Lettie, she becomes a rising star and meets people she's only ever heard about in the papers and movies. She can be a bit insufferable, letting herself wallow in misery over the smallest things that could be fixed easily if she just expressed herself a little bit. That wore on my nerves a bit. As for Cordelia, her and Max were so sweet, and I liked how he mellowed her and gave her a different perspective on the life she had always dreamed of in NYC. Her competing loyalties between Charlie and Astrid really start to show in this book, and her thoughtlessness hurts people she cares about. I enjoyed this book a great deal, even though sometimes the naivete of the main characters was so acute it was rather painful. Still, an excellent segue into The Lucky Ones!

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: The Lucky Ones by Anna Godbersen