Book Review – Quest of the Kings

img_20170226_180847_901Quest of the Kings by Robert Evert had so much potential, but it lacked the depth needed to make it a great novel. The world-building was limited, the writing was overly simple (for my taste), and the main character grated on my nerves from the first page until pretty much the last. However, the plot was intriguing, and some of the supporting characters had compelling stories, enough to keep me reading until I had finished the book.

In this novel, we follow Natalie, a headstrong, stubborn teenage girl, living in a medieval-esque society that treats women as lesser beings, especially if they aren’t nobility. And Natalie, a peasant, isn’t a fan of this social hierarchy, a fact she makes perfectly clear throughout the entire novel, complaining every chance she has about how awful her life is in comparison to everyone else around her. And since this book was written from a limited third person point of view, Natalie’s whining is front and center for a majority of the novel.

The main reason I wanted to read Quest of the Kings was because the summary boasted a tale of adventure and intrigue, as a teenage girl takes control of her life and uses her strength and wit to prove that women can be adventurers too. That’s not the book I read. I think it was there, hidden beneath all the whining and not-so-subtle sexism, but you really have to be looking for it.

I will say this, Natalie started to show improvement in the last few chapters of the book, and I know this is supposed to be the first book in a trilogy, so maybe Natalie’s character growth was meant to be extremely slow in the beginning so that it could stretch across the entire series.

I think I would’ve enjoyed this book more if Natalie’s point of view wasn’t the only lens through which the story was told. Because, again, the plot had potential. And I know there will be readers out there who absolutely love this story because they aren’t as concerned with world-building or the holes easily poked into the plot. If you’re the type of person who can read a book without questioning everything, than you’ll probably find this book enjoyable.

Overall, I give it 2.5 out of 5 flowers.

Quest of the Kings will be released on March 14, 2017. You can read the summary on Goodreads, where you can also find links to pre-order the book!

I received a free advanced reader copy (ARC) of this e-book from the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration.

 

 

 

Book Review – Crooked Kingdom

img_20170219_165954_399Leigh Bardugo has done it again. Actually, she outdid herself with this one. Sequels always make me nervous when the first book was so masterfully executed. But I shouldn’t have worried. This book was too good to put down! Somehow, my love for the characters Bardugo introduced in Six of Crows became even stronger whilst reading Crooked Kingdom, and by the end of the book, I’m pretty sure I would’ve killed for any one of them. And to make me that attached to any character, let alone six, is remarkable.

The complexity with which Bardugo crafted her main characters and their relationships with one another is probably Crooked Kingdom‘s pièce de résistance. I mean, seriously, I can count on one hand the number of books where the characters were this fleshed out, diverse, and compelling. And to give all of them a unique voice as each narrates their piece of the story? Beyond amazing!

Crooked Kingdom basically picks up where the story left off at the end of Six of Crows (a week later), and, from there, the action never stops. Kaz and his crew are back at it with the scheming, fighting, and conning, and a bit of revenge is thrown in for good measure. And during all of this, relationships are pushed to their limits, but end up even stronger than they were before.

I laughed; I cried; I even wanted to throw my book at the wall during certain points of the story. And any book that can evoke such a visceral response from me is definitely a 5-star read. Crooked Kingdom has everything I could ever hope for in a fantasy novel: an intricately built world; diverse, complex characters; thought-provoking commentary on human nature and society; a well-written and well-executed plot; adventure with a hint of romance…I could go on, but you get the point! This book is brilliant.

As the second, and final book, in this duology, Bardugo does a great job at tying up all the loose ends and giving each character’s story the ending it needs (but not necessarily the one you might be hoping for)! That’s not to say there aren’t a hundred more stories and perspectives I would like to explore, but I did feel a sense of closure at the end of this novel. However, I will be thinking about this duology and the characters for a long time, and these are definitely books that I will read again and again.

It’s easy to tell that I more than love this book, so I think you’ll understand when I say it would be impossible to choose my favorite moment…but this one is pretty high on the list:

“Where do you think the money went?” he repeated.
“Guns?” asked Jesper.
“Ships?” queried Inej.
“Bombs?” suggested Wylan.
“Political bribes?” offered Nina. They all looked at Matthias. “This is where you tell us how awful we are,” she whispered.

Because, if you’ll remember, in Six of Crows

Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.

Leigh Bardugo is a genius. Seriously.

Highly recommended to everyone who enjoys fantasy novels!!!

5 out of 5 flowers! (I wish I could give it more!)

 

 

Book Review – Ensnared

img_20170218_195734_273Ensnared by Rita Stradling tells the story of Alainn Murphy, an inventor’s daughter who is willing to sacrifice her freedom in order to keep her father out of prison. If the premise seems familiar, it’s because it is. Ensnared is a futuristic retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which the “Beast” is a wealthy recluse, Lorccan, who suffers from a severe case of mysophobia and “Beauty” pretends to be a humanoid robot in his service since the one he commissioned from her father wasn’t ready on the day it was meant to be delivered.

The plot had potential, but it left me somewhat disappointed. The world-building was sparse at best, and many of the characters felt rather one-note. The lack of world-building doesn’t necessarily take away from the heart of the story, which is essentially a romantic tale, but it did leave me with more questions than it answered. And a definite suspension of disbelief is necessary when it comes to Lorccan believing Alainn is a robot, especially as their interactions increase.

While I wasn’t particularly fond of the pacing of this novel, it was a quick read, and the surprise twist was interesting enough to keep me reading until the story was finished. And there were definitely moments I enjoyed…no spoilers, but the monkey robots were adorable!

Fairy tale retellings are very trendy at the moment, and I think that might be part of the problem I had while reading this story. There are so many retellings to choose from that it takes a real masterpiece to stand out from the crowd. And it’s easier to nitpick when you have so much material to compare it to. That being said, I didn’t think Ensnared was bad, I just think that there’s room for improvement.

3 out of 5 flowers!

***I received a free advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration.

Bookworm Problems: Traveling with Books

20170217_200513On Tuesday, I drove eight hours to see my younger brother swim at his last collegiate swim meet, a championship meet that runs Tuesday through Saturday. And since I’m only in town for the swim meet, I knew I would be spending most of my off hours in the hotel, with nothing to keep me busy except for the television in my room and whatever I brought with me as entertainment.

So, when packing for this trip, I knew that I’d need at least a few books to make the trip with me. But, with so many books to choose from, I was left with an almost impossible task. Thankfully, there were still two books left on my February TBR list, so those automatically made it into my suitcase. But I wasn’t sure two would be enough. And that’s when the tough decisions had to be made.

For those people who aren’t avid readers, it probably seems like I’m exaggerating, but a true bookworm will understand the conundrum I faced. There are so many different questions that need to be answered when deciding which books to take and which to leave behind. I had to consider how much space I had in my luggage, whether the books needed an extra layer of protection to keep from being bent or ripped (especially important for paperback books!), what type of book I might be in the mood to read (my book choices are very mood specific!), if taking an e-reader was feasible (i.e., would there be adequate access to electricity and WiFi) and how much time I thought I would spend reading (over-packing books isn’t quite as bad as under-packing, but it still isn’t optimal!).

With so many things to consider and not enough time do so, I took the easy way out and packed an e-reader. Two actually (one back-lit and the other not). Thankfully, this trip was one in which I would have constant access to electricity (to recharge my e-readers if needed) and WiFi (to download whatever book tickled my fancy). But I don’t always enjoy using my e-reader. I often prefer the feel of a real book in my hands when I escape into the world of fiction. Which is why I still brought physical books, as well. It’s nice to have the option to pick up a real book every once in a while. And one of the books I brought was actually a library book that I’d already finished, but I lent it to my mom so she could read it this week instead of waiting for a copy to be available from her local library!

Now, I did spend the first two days I was in town exploring the local university and downtown area, and I get to spend an hour at lunch with my brother each day (visitation hours are limited because the swimmers are supposed to be focused on the meet, and they have other obligations like schoolwork!). So, I did spend a good part of my “down time” not reading in my hotel room. But, this week, I have managed to finish two books, and I’m halfway done with a third…and my mom already finished her book and returned it to me!

As such, it seems like this trip was a success when it comes to the books I brought! But that hasn’t always been the case. Especially when bringing an e-reader isn’t an option!

Question(s) of the week: Do you prefer to take physical books or an e-reader with you when traveling? Does the length of the trip make a difference (e.g., day trip, weekend getaway, two-week vacation, etc.)?

 

***I would like to end this post by saying that I recognize and acknowledge my privilege in this situation.  I know not everyone has the same opportunities, and I am lucky to live a life where these are the “problems” I am facing.

My “Most Hated” Literary Characters

I recently finished reading Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, which is a psychological thriller that examines the darkest side of human nature. And my extreme hate for the antagonist got me thinking about all of the other literary characters that I completely despise.* Most were intentionally written to be vile and get under your skin, but I know there will probably be a few unpopular opinions on this list! So, here are ten of my “most hated” literary characters!

  1. Miss Trunchbull (Matilda) – A sadistic headmistress who takes immense joy in finding ways to torture the children left in her care, Miss Trunchbull might have been the first literary character I truly despised.
  2. The White Witch (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) – Winter without Christmas? What an absolute witch. And don’t forget she also took away all happiness and hope and turns her enemies to stone.
  3. Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter series) – Utter revulsion is the phrase that comes to mind when I think of the immensely insufferable toad that is Dolores Umbridge. The pure evil that runs through her veins is hardly masked by her perfectly pink wardrobe and terrifyingly girlish voice.
  4. Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights) – Manipulative and abusive, I like to describe Heathcliff as a tyrannical jerk. And his mutually destructive relationship with Catherine reflects a kind of obsessive love that really gets under my skin.
  5. Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby) – I wouldn’t consider any of the characters in The Great Gatsby to be a shining example of humanity, but Daisy Buchanan is ahead of the pack when it comes to being the worst. She’s the epitome of shallowness, and every time I read a bit of her dialogue, it was like nails on a chalkboard.
  6. Bob Ewell (To Kill A Mockingbird) – I think we can all agree that Bob Ewell is a racist asshole: it’s heavily implied he sexually abuses his daughter; he spends all of his government relief money on alcohol…not on his 8 children who need to be taken care of; he falsely accuses Tom Robinson of raping his daughter simply because he is black; and, he gloats about Tom’s death.
  7. Bella Swan (Twilight series) – My first big issue is that Bella is so whiny! It’s ridiculous. The second (bigger) issue is her relationship with Edward. It’s a terribly unhealthy, co-dependent, emotionally abusive relationship covered in glitter and sold as romantic.
  8. William Hamleigh (Pillars of the Earth) – William Hamleigh is an arrogant, selfish creep with an unnatural relationship with his mother. But that’s not all! He’s also a rapist and an attempted murderer .
  9. President Coin (The Hunger Games series) – It takes a truly evil person to give someone hope and then tear it away. By hiding her true intentions, President Coin hid her true nature, but she proves to be just a merciless and power hungry as her counterpart (President Snow).
  10. Jack Angel (Behind Closed Doors) –  the newest addition to my list, Jack Angel is a monster. And he’s the most terrifying kind of monster, the kind that no one ever suspects. His wife describes him best when she says “it’s a shame he’s such a sadistic bastard, because he has wonderful manners.”

Question of the Week: Which literary characters would you add to this list?

*Just because I hate a character doesn’t mean I didn’t love the book. Sometimes the truly evil characters are what makes a book so great!

Book Review – History is All You Left Me

img_20170209_174708_185History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera is a compelling narrative of love and loss in which the reader follows Griffin, a high school senior, as he struggles to face his new reality, a reality in which Theo – his best friend, first love, and ex-boyfriend – has tragically died. And the only person who could truly understand Griffin’s pain is the one person Griffin never wanted to befriend: Jackson, Theo’s college boyfriend. But grief has a strange way of bringing people together…just as easily as it can tear people apart.

Silvera’s almost lyrical prose drew me in from the beginning, taking me on a wild ride as my heart broke and pieced itself back together chapter after chapter. The story alternates between past and present as Griffin holds a very one-sided conversation with Theo, both reminding Theo of their history together and letting him know what’s happened since his death.

All of the central characters are uniquely flawed, in a very real way. And as the story unfolds, mistakes are made, feelings are hurt, and it becomes clear that history often reflects a revised truth. But, I think the true brilliance of Silvera’s sophomore novel is that there is no true villain. There isn’t one character you can point to and label as the “bad guy.” It’s just a group of boys doing what they think is best given their situation. However, sometimes the best intentions have tragic consequences.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, History Is All You Left Me is not an emotionally easy read. There were actually moments when I had to put the book down and walk away for a few minutes. So, if you’re looking for a story full of rainbows and unicorns, this is not the book for you. But if you want to read a well-written story that brilliantly captures the imperfections of human nature, I would highly recommend this book.

4.5 out of 5 flowers!

 

 

Reading Goals – February 2017

I read 11 books in January, which might be my record as an adult! The month of February is a bit busier for me (and it’s a shorter month!), so my goal for this month is to read eight books, hopefully in the order listed below!

Book #1 – The Judas Strain by James Rollins (the 4th book in the Sigma Force series)

Book #2 – Crooked Kingdom by  Leigh Bardugo (sequel to Six of Crows)

Book #3 – Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Book #4 – Drop Shot by Harlan Coben (the 2nd book in the Myron Bolitar series)

Book #5 – Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Book #6 – Extracted by RR Haywood (my February Kindle First selection)

Book #7 – The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

Book #8 – The Sun is Also A Star by Nicole Yoon

Question of the Week: Do you set reading goals (yearly, monthly, weekly, etc.)? If so, what is your current goal?

Book Review – Six of Crows

img_20170201_173722_549I’ll admit, I was hesitant to start reading Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I’d heard such rave reviews about this book that my expectations were extremely high, and I did not want to be disappointed. But sometimes a book is worthy of all the hype, and this book is definitely one of them!

This paragon of prose follows Kaz and his crew as they plan and execute a heist few would willingly attempt and even fewer could successfully complete. Along the way, enemies become allies, allies become friends, and friends become family. And, of course, there’s no shortage of witty one-liners, intense fight scenes, and “will they/won’t they” relationships.

Basically, Six of Crows is an epic tale of adventure and ruthless determination that haunted my thoughts long after I read the last page. Bardugo managed to craft a beautifully complex and detailed world to act as host for her cast of perfectly flawed characters. Each of the central figures in the story is well-developed and unique, acting as an integral player in this dark and somewhat twisted fantasy novel.

While the first several chapters are a bit of an info dump, the pacing of the story quickly picks up, and I became so engrossed that I couldn’t put it down. And the subsequent day spent sleep-deprived was well worth it!

This was the first novel written by Leigh Bardugo that I’ve read, but I can guarantee it won’t be my last!

5 out of 5 flowers (because I’ve decided to stick with flowers instead of stars!)