Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's Top Ten theme is:

Top Ten books I have recently added to my TBR list

I have a rather large TBR list.  And as I play around on goodreads, it just keeps getting larger since I can't seem to read fast enough.  Here are some of my recent additions.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Title: Of Beast and Beauty
Author: Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: July 23, 2013

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Of Beast and Beauty is a really cute retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast.  Princess Isra has been blind since she was four years old.  She only knows three people in the world: her father, his adviser, and her maid.  Being locked in a tower for years, she yearns to be free.  She knows how people act around her and think she is tainted.  She thinks she is ugly and that she has scales beneath her skin.

Gem is a warrior of the Desert People.  He enters Yuan one night with his brother and father in a desperate act to steal the magical roses of the royal garden and save his people.  Soon Isra's and Gem's paths collide.

The world that Jay created was wonderfully magical.  People have mutated to survive extremely harsh deserts.  Many others have mutated to be missing body parts from birth.  The Smooth Skins and the Monstrous are at war with each other.  It's almost like Romeo and Juliet.  Except no one kills themselves at the end.

The story follows the classic fairy tale pretty well (just adapted to the city of Yuan with now Queen Isra and Gem as the stars).  The two work in the gardens every day to make a new garden that will supposedly stop mutations.  But not everyone wants Isra working with Gem.  Queue the villains: Junjie - the king's, and now Isra's chief adviser - and his son Bo.  Junjie is a wonderful villain.  He's mean and conniving.  He uses his power more than he should.  And he constantly grasps for more.

Bo, however, is not mean or evil.  He just always does what he seems to think is best.  I had a lot of trouble disliking him.  In fact, I kind of liked him.  I was a little sad when he eventually died.  I guess that is Jay's way of letting us know that most people are not just innately good or evil.  They do what they think is best with the given information.

So what did I think? Overall, I think it was a little fast paced.  I would have loved to see more of the relationship between Isra and Gem develop.  I do, however, love likable villains.  I didn't love Of Beast and Beauty, but I enjoyed it.  It's recommended to fantasy and fairy tale fans. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Review: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns, #3)Title: The Bitter Kingdom
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: August 27, 2013

In the deeply satisfying conclusion to the bestselling Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen Elisa travels into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion—a champion to those who have hated her most. Riveting, surprising, and achingly romantic, Rae Carson has spun a bold and powerful conclusion to her extraordinary trilogy.

I will start by saying I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy.  I didn't quite love it, but it was still very entertaining.  The Crown of Embers was amazing.  I absolutely loved it.  And Carson ended it on such a mean cliffhanger (I had to get the third book right away).  I'm so glad I wasn't reading this series when it first was published.  I would have been going crazy with anticipation.

The Bitter Kingdom is divided into four parts, or the four basic plotlines in the book.  This review is full of spoilers.  Readers beware!

Part 1
Elisa, BelĂ©n, Mara, and Storm leave Selvarica to rescue Hector.  I was slightly shocked when I saw the first "Hector" chapter.  While it makes sense for the reader to know what is going on with him (and his own chapter would be the only way for that to happen, him being kidnapped and all), the only narrator up until that point was Elisa.  It was surprising to see.

Part 2
Now a party of six, they enter Invierne.  I have an issue with Part 2.  Plotwise, it is pretty much not needed.  If I were making a movie out of this book, I would completely cut it out.  It would likely be costly to produce, and almost nothing happened that actually moved the plot forward.  For example (and again I warn about spoilers), if they hadn't gone to Invierne, they never would have killed Lucero.  Okay no big deal.  The Inviernos were always trying to find a way to the zafira anyway.  So the negotiations between Elisa and the Inviernos would still work exactly the same way.  The only thing that can't be done without going to Invierne is Storm's honor being restored and being made the heir of Crooked Sequoia house.  But that is honestly just ignorable.  Basically, while I enjoyed Part 2, it was a waste of story.

Part 3
Okay so if we skip Part 2, we would have a much smaller Part 3 since the group (add on yet another person) is leaving Invierne and eventually travelling under the mountains in old mine shafts.  I loved how Elisa took complete charge once they got to Basajuan.  

Part 4
This consists of the group retaking Bresadulce.  Not much to add here.  It's a very necessary and action-packed section.  

I liked the introduction of Mula/Red.  And I loved the character development of Storm.  He was still grumpy, but he was lovable.  I'm not sure what to think about Elisa completing her service.  It was so insignificant to the story.  

So what do I love about this book?  Well, even though I think it's obsolete when it comes to the story, I loved that we got to see Invierne.  And I really loved that we were able to see Inviernos in their homes and just acting normally.

What did I not like so much?  The flow in this book could have been a little better from one section to the next.  And while I enjoyed the "Hector" chapters, a slightly more distinct "Hector" voice would have been preferable.  

So what did I think?
I really enjoyed this book.  It was not my favorite in the series, but it was a good ending to a wonderfully magical series.  Recommended to fantasy fans, especially those that enjoy the religious aspect of fantasy.  And definitely recommended to fans of Rae Carson.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (5) End of Days

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine to highlight new releases we're anxiously awaiting.

This week I am very anxiously awaiting:

Title: End of Days
Author: Susan Ee
Pages: 344
Publisher: Skyscape
Release Date: May 12, 2015

End of Days is the explosive conclusion to Susan Ee’s bestselling Penryn & the End of Days trilogy. After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

Okay, it's pretty well known that I am very anxious for this to come out.  And yet I haven't pre-ordered it yet.  I don't know, I guess I'm waiting to see if the price drops.  The pre-order price isn't that great of a deal.  Anyway, I really have to read the last book in this trilogy.