Monday, March 31, 2014

Pick Your Thon

Join me over at The Book Monsters to Pick Your Thon. You can either review or read or do both on as many days as you like. I have a stack of books I've read waiting to be reviewed and my TBR pile is always threatening to tip over and crush me, so I'll be doing both on all the days! Sign up and join in on the fun!

I plan to review at least 6 books and read at least 4 books. I'll be keeping track of books and reviews completed below.

1) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
2) Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell
3) Cows by Matthew Stokoe
4) Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet
5) Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

1) Innocents by Cathy Coote
2) Expiration Date by William Campbell Powell
3) Looking for Alaska by John Green

Friday, March 28, 2014


Rose Hathaway is trying to move on. The events of the last few months were draining and Rose is trying to get on track, move forward with her training, and forget about Dmitri, who has obviously moved on. A high profile and uncommonly bold strigoi attack has everyone on edge and guardians flood St. Vladimir's, including Rose's mother. The school isn't taking any chances and makes the skiing trip to Idaho mandatory to keep the students together while allowing their parents to come visit them. Lissa is very busy with her new boyfriend and Dmitri is also busy with Tasha, so Rose decides to have some fun and ignore them. After yet another strigoi attack happens that directly affects one of the students, leading three of Rose's classmates going on a crusade after the strigoi. Feeling responsible because she told them the location, Rose follows them to get them to come home. Hopefully Rose will get there before they've gotten themselves into bigger trouble than they can handle.

Frostbite is steeped in a lot of teen drama, but Rose rises above it and develops so much since the first book. Instead of stupidly running to fight a whole gang of Strigoi, she's the voice of reason, trying to get her foolish friends to wake up and come home. After her up close and personal experience with a Strigoi, it has put her abilities and skills into perspective. Just because they are exceptional for guardian students doesn't mean they are any match for superpowered evil vampires. Rose is less of a daredevil, but her personality is as fiery as ever. She's the same Rose with a little more sense and caution. Rose tries to move on and forget about Dmitri because their relationship goes against both of their goals as guardians. She tries to make it work with Mason, which is nice, but ultimately unsatisfying. She deals with a lot of stresses: jealousy over Dmitri and Tasha, jealousy over Lissa and Christian, and anger at her mom. Although there are some missteps, Rose deals with all of these impressively.

The relationship between Rose and Lissa is strong, but changing. Lissa has a new boyfriend and platonic relationships change and adjust to accommodate in the face of new love. I experienced this as a teen and it can be hard, so Rose's feelings rang true to me. My friendship at the time didn't survive that change, but I'm glad Rose and Lissa's did. Rose gives the lovebirds some space and tries to amuse herself, but it's difficult when strong emotions can cause her to see through Lissa's eyes. Awkward! Unfortunately, to distract herself she befriends drunkard and playboy Adrian, making others judge her harshly as slutty or stupid. Of course Adrian isn't judged as harshly and his behavior is expected for a rich Moroi young man. Frostbite only marginally explores the sexist double standards in vampire society, but I'm glad it continued at all.

Frostbite is awesome. It develops the characters and relationships while amping up the volume on the suspense and horror. The ending is heartbreaking and extremely memorable. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Glass Casket

Five soldiers and their horses go through Nag's End and the forest into the hills, searching for something. All of the men are found dead with the cause of death a mystery. The villagers dismiss it as a wolf attack (even though it clearly isn't) and go on with their lives until the attacks continue in the village. Rowan Rose is a girl with big dreams about doing scholarly work in the palace, translating texts. Her best friend Tom starts to act strangely, giving rise to rumors that he is at fault. Rowan knows it isn't true and vows to discover who is manipulating Tom and who is behind the savage murders.

The Glass Casket seems like a book I would completely enjoy with its fairy tale allusions mixed with gore, horror, and mystery. These parts are excellent. The story isn't a straight retelling of a specific fairy tale, but an amalgamation of many. So many little allusions and references pepper the text and I enjoyed those small moments of recognition. The horror is well done and much more bloody than usually seen in young adult novels. The monster when revealed is amazingly grotesque and his dark mistress is both frightening and sympathetic when she is revealed. The plot has some great twists and turns that I never saw coming.

However, after the first set of murders, nothing happens for about a hundred pages. I completely lost interest in the story at that point and I probably should have just not finished it. Even though the story after that is interesting, I just couldn't bring myself to care that much. The momentum was completely gone and Rowan and her boy problems were boring after the bloody, dark beginning. I liked Rowan late into the novel, but during that crucial hundred pages, she could have died for all I cared. The rest of the characters aren't very interesting and I didn't connect to any of them. They all had something about them that I didn't like and it was frustrating.

The Glass Casket is a good novel with some serious pacing issues and a lot of unlikeable characters. I am glad I finished it because I enjoyed the last half of the book. It was a bit of a frustrating read because it had the potential to be amazing.

My rating: 2.5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Winner's Curse

Kestrel is a privileged Valorian general's daughter and lives in a large estate with Herrani slaves to wait on her. Her life may seem charmed, but she only has two choices in her life: to join the military or get married. Her real passion is music, but it's considered a lowly occupation reserved for slaves. The only marketable skill she has is strategizing and planning. Then her life completely changes after she impulsively overpays for a slave named Arin in the marketplace. Arin is a blacksmith with a fiery temper and a defiant streak, but a kind heart underneath it all. Kestrel and Arin grow closer and closer over time, giving rise to ugly rumors. Will Arin let his feelings for Kestrel interfere with his plans? Will Kestrel defy society and its constructs to be with Arin?

The Winner's Curse caught my interest with the gorgeous cover with the beautiful color scheme, design, font, and the model actually interacting with the title. The interior definitely matches the cover with its fully realized fantasy world, lush descriptions, varied characters, and unpredictable plot. The first half of the story sets up the world and Kestrel and Arin's relationship development. I found the world fascinating. The Valorians have conquered and enslaved the Herrani and consider them inferior in every way. The Herrani were not only enslaved but forced to work in the city they used to live in. Day in and out, they see the homes that were theirs inhabited by the enemy while they are abused and used by them. Marie Rutotski makes both groups sympathetic, which makes later events complicated to process. In too many YA books, one side is simply not written well to garner all the sympathy to the intended target and it's nice to see authors breaking out of that trend.

Kestrel and Arin are both not what they seem. Kestrel is privileged and rich. The stereotype would be for her to be vapid and dumb, but she's quite clever. She isn't suited for hand to hand combat at all and excels at strategizing and out-thinking her opponent. I love that she recognizes her shortcomings and uses her strengths to compensate. Her love for music isn't valued by her society, but doesn't let that stop her from using it as an emotional outlet and playing the piano as often as she dares. To truly fit into her society, Kestrel must turn her back and all the things she values: her music, her independence, her sense of self. Her only choices for the future are to get married or join the military. Marriage would force her into a relationship with a random person who would have a lot of power over her, possibly forcing her to abandon the things she loves. In the military, she would have to focus on her physical abilities, an are of weakness for her, and she would also have to give up the things she values. Either way, she has to compromise herself and force herself into an ill fitting mold.

Arin is a surly, defiant slave who could be easily stereotyped as an impulsive brute. However, he bides his time, watches, and waits for the right moment to act. He's the only person in the novel who challenges Kestrel in many ways, including wit, strategy, music, among others. His tragedy is in his enslavement and the loss of his family. Unlike Kestrel, he has lost everything and is striving to prove himself and gain back all he has lost. I like that their relationship starts as an awkward. tenuous friendship and then grows into feelings of romance over time. The pace of the novel is fairly slow and sets up everything beautifully. Not all books need to be super fast paced keep interest. The relationship along with the individual characters were believably established before all hell breaks loose in the second half of the story.

I was sad to finish The Winner's Curse because I didn't want to leave that world. I savored the book as I read it instead of devouring it and I can't wait to dive into the second book when it comes out. The writing is fluid and beautiful and I just can't get enough of it. The plot twists and turns and had me guessing what would happen. The story has a great mix of fantasy, romance, political intrigue, You need to go out and get this novel and read it. Period.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Long Live the Queen

Xandra Vardan has finally accepted the goblin crown and sits as their official matriarch. Life has never been more complicated since the factions are all vying for the goblins to be on their side (except the humans). Things are even further complicated when a creature created by the nefarious labs experimenting on halvies is going around killing people with the ability to shapeshift to look like anyone. The already strained relationship between aristocrats and humans is pushed to the breaking point, which will possibly lead up to another uprising. Xandra has to figure out a way to unite against all the factions against whoever is behind the mad scientist labs in order to keep everything from descending into chaos.

I've been eagerly waiting for the last installment of the Immortal Empire series. I love the world it's set in and each book reveals more and more about it. It's not the typical steampunk and is set in modern times with modified Victorian sensibilities and fashions because she still holds the throne. Technology and society have still progressed, but are all colored with a Victorian lens. The glimpses of the other countries are also intriguing. Since the United States don't have the aristocracy, vampires and werewolves are revered actors, performers, and inhabit popular culture. Also, seeing people from history in much different roles than what they were remembered for is fun to read and hard to predict. The world is a unique mishmash of the two time periods and it's addictive. I think this is the last Xandra's story, but I hope other stories are told within this awesome world.

The plot takes off at breakneck speed and doesn't stop. It had so many crazy twists and turns that I couldn't guess what would happen next. Ali, the young girl made from Xandra's DNA, is the most volatile and mysterious character. I thought Xandra's reactions to her would become cringe inducting and horrible, but she kept her head. Characters tend to lose their brains when children get involved. However, when Ali proved to be too dangerous, Xandra valued her existing relationships over a monster she had never met before who she happened to share genetic material with. Xandra grows a lot within the novel. She absolutely accepts the goblins  and her own goblin nature despite their gruesome habits. Her relationship with Vex is refreshing because they are truly equals. So many paranormal romances feature these horrible, domineering alpha male types that I simply don't find attractive. Vex is strong, but doesn't put down Xandra or push her around to show it. I also found their love story quite sweet, which is hard to do when carnage and plots to overthrow the queen are happening all over the place.

Long Live the Queen is a satisfying ending to Xandra's story. It was an exciting story with unpredictable twists and turns along the way. The characters are all interesting or infuriating in their own ways. I will definitely be reading more of Kate Locke and I also recommend her teen series written as Kady Cross.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins