Thursday, September 25, 2014

Blythewood, by Carol Goodman

(2.5-3/5 stars)

At seventeen, Avaline Hall has already buried her mother, survived a horrific factory fire, and escaped from an insane asylum. Now she’s on her way to Blythewood Academy, the elite boarding school in New York’s mist-shrouded Hudson Valley that her mother attended—and was expelled from. Though she’s afraid her high society classmates won’t accept a factory girl in their midst, Ava is desperate to unravel her family’s murky past, discover the identity of the father she’s never known, and perhaps finally understand her mother’s abrupt suicide. She’s also on the hunt for the identity of the mysterious boy who rescued her from the fire. And she suspects the answers she seeks lie at Blythewood.    

But nothing could have prepared her for the dark secret of what Blythewood is, and what its students are being trained to do. Haunted by dreams of a winged boy and pursued by visions of a sinister man who breathes smoke, Ava isn’t sure if she’s losing her mind or getting closer to the truth. And the more rigorously Ava digs into the past, the more dangerous her present becomes.    

Vivid and atmospheric, full of mystery and magic, this romantic page-turner by bestselling author Carol Goodman tells the story of a world on the brink of change and the girl who is the catalyst for it all.

So this book has been on my 'to be read' list for a very long time--I think it was recommended to me by somebody but I can't remember who. The cover is gorgeous. It has that creepy, magical, intriguing look to it that I love. But, I'm teetering between 2.5 and 3 stars for this one, and here's why.

What I liked: At times, I felt like this book was written for me. It has all my favorite things: the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, New York City, insane asylum, fancy schmancy boarding school that actually teaches magic, and dun dun dun the Titanic. Woah. Ava is an interesting character, and the mystery that surrounds her makes you think she might actually be going mad. The mythology (especially how the whole school was built around the Bells) and the creatures are great--they're diverse and complicated... yay! And the crows were creepy as hell, just the way I like them. I couldn't put this book down, and when I was into the story, the rest of the world around me seemed to vanish. Yes, it has that kind of affect. 

What I didn't like: Other times, I felt like it was too much. Even with all those great situations (great as in interesting and plot-driving), I felt like the author just kept adding more and more unnecessary tropes. You can't please everybody, so stop going overboard. Also, the dialogue was for the most part, consistently stiff. There were paragraphs of dialogue that were so incredibly info-dumpy and unrealistic. Nobody talks like that, not even in that time period. I also had some issues on following who the villain was. He seemed to jump around and by the end of the book, I couldn't place who/where he was and it rattled my brain.

Even though I gave this book a kinda low rating, I'm still going to read the sequel. I want to see where the story goes and since I'm emotionally invested in the characters, I can't completely abandon them. I guess we shall just have to wait and see how that goes. 


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spellcaster, by Claudia Gray

(3/5 stars)

When Nadia’s family moves to Captive’s Sound, she instantly realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye. Descended from witches, Nadia senses a dark and powerful magic at work in her new town. Mateo has lived in Captive’s Sound his entire life, trying to dodge the local legend that his family is cursed - and that curse will cause him to believe he’s seeing the future … until it drives him mad. When the strange dreams Mateo has been having of rescuing a beautiful girl—Nadia—from a car accident come true, he knows he’s doomed. 

Despite the forces pulling them apart, Nadia and Mateo must work together to break the chains of his family’s terrible curse, and to prevent a disaster that threatens the lives of everyone around them. Shimmering with magic and mystery, New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray’s new novel is sure to draw fans of the Hex Hall and Caster Chronicles series, and fans of the hit CW TV show The Secret Circle.

I've always been a big fan of Claudia Gray's ever since I first read the Evernight series, so when I found out she was writing a series about witches, the books instantly went on my 'to be read' list. And I was not disappointed; for the few problems I had with this book, there was a lot about it that I thoroughly enjoyed.

What I liked: Really, anything with witches and magic. I loved the witch mythology and history in this book. I also liked the fact that curses were involved--curses that drove people to insanity. Yes, please. The small town feel only added to the mysticism and conflict of the book which I appreciated. So besides the plot and subject matter, I really liked the characters. Mateo and Nadia are precious, but my all time favorite was Verlaine. She was just weird enough, but desperately wanted to fit in, to steal my heart. And she has a mysterious backstory that I am desperately curious about.

What I didn't like: Nobody gives Verlaine the credit she deserves, and if there's a reason for that (which I highly suspect there is) I wanted to know by the end of this book at least. I also didn't like all the point of views jumping from one person to another. Mostly, it was the random time when the POV was from the perspective of a crow and from Nadia's father. They lasted two or so pages and broke the flow of the story in my opinion. I also found myself a little befuddled at the end, the final climax was kind of jumbled and I didn't have a clear picture of what actually went down.

All that being said, I'll definitely read the rest of the series. I have a lot of unsolved questions (in a good way) and I've become emotionally invested in what happens to the characters and town.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas

(5/5 stars)

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. 

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

Like, I really don't know what to say about this one; it was just so ugh!! So instead of doing a normal review, I thought I'd include the thoughts that I had recorded on GoodReads while reading the book:

As per usual when it comes to Sarah's books, I absolutely loved it. At first, I was feeling like the book was going to be very filler and not move the overall plot along, but then I was hooked. As you can see, my heart was pounding all over the place--for good and bad reasons. And that end, dear Lord, that end. 

I loved how character driven this installment was. We learned so much more about everyone, and they're all going through a big change right now that we're slowly getting to watch. Also, I didn't think it was possible, but the world got even bigger. This is THE world-building book. If you ever need to want to know how to world-build, follow the example set by this series. The details are exquisite and I love the way it's all weaved together. 

My only complaint is that there was no Chaol/Celaena interaction (I still love them as a couple, regardless of any new characters *clears throat* that might also be perfect for her but we'll see how that plays out), but it's okay because there are going to be 3 MORE BOOKS! Oh, and yeah, I'm not happy about my broken heart at the end...but time heals all wounds?


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George

(3.5/5 stars)

A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn… 

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above. 

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.

Growing up, my favorite story to read was The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Ruth Sanderson. It was a beautiful story, and the illustrations were to die for. I lived in those illustrations, seeing the beauty of them like it was the first time every time I opened the pages. So when I found this retelling at the library, I knew I had to read it. 

What I liked: The story was very reminiscent to my favorite childhood book. It had all the magic, beauty, and romance that I wanted from it and then some. There was also an added layer of depth to it-the major conflict was darker and imminent, and there was an interesting mythology weaved through the pages. The characters were obviously more flushed out seeing as this one is a bit more intricate than the children's book, but they still had that feel to it--that magic--and I found myself getting emotionally attached to the twelve sisters (I especially loved Poppy). Galen was everything you wanted in a fantastical love interest-he was like the knight in shining armor without the knight part. 

What I didn't like: A lot of things were presented quite conveniently and without question. I also feel like the story could have gone deeper into the myth with more action and intense moments. There were also times, especially at the beginning, when the writing was stiff and bland, but it got better as the story progressed. 

This was a fast, light, but beautifully magical read that I'm so glad I picked up! This story came to life far more than it ever had for me, bringing me individual characters that I could connect with this time around.