Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: The Crown of Embers

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2), by Rae Carson. The Goodreads summary:
Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.
I probably wouldn’t have read this second book if it wasn’t for Kathy’s championing of this series. Because although I liked “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” well enough, and despite the fact that I told myself I’d read the other books in the series, they were so far down my TBR list that I knew I’d probably never actually get to them. But, well, this is where it pays off to have bookish friends to recommend books to you, because this second book was worth the read in a way that few YA trilogies are for me.

Elisa is just so likeable in this book. In the first book, she had a loooong way to go in terms of character growth, but in this book, while she’s still learning and getting more confident, she’s strong and smart and kind in a way that I really admired. It honestly surprised me how much more I liked Elisa in this book. Usually the second book is where I get annoyed with the main character, but not in “The Crown of Embers.”

I also liked that the plot for the second book is well-developed and well-paced in its own right. So many second books in YA trilogies are overly dependent on the third book—like, the first book is where the bulk of the story is, and the third is where the resolution is, but the second tends to just be filler, biding time until the third book. But “The Crown of Embers,” while still continuing the plot from the first book and setting up for events in the third, manages to have its own unique and satisfying plot.

Also, Hector shaves off the creepy mustache! I cannot even begin to tell you how relieved I was. And the romance plotline develops at a believable but gratifying pace, without having to resort to a love triangle. This makes me very happy.

Overall, a strong second book that pushed the overarching trilogy storyline forward while still managing to have a plot of its own. I’ve already picked up the third book, “The Bitter Kingdom,” so I’m looking forward to finding out how it all wraps up.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Dare You To

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2), by Katie McGarry. The Goodreads summary:
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....
So. I liked the book, but I don’t think I have that much to say about it actually. Basically, I’d say if you liked “Pushing the Limits,” you’ll like this companion book too. It’s about Beth, Noah’s friend from “Pushing the Limits.” I like Beth—she’s got emotional walls so thick and high that it’s anyone’s guess whether she’ll finally let them down or not. But Beth deserves those walls. As frustrating as they are, her life is tough, and I can understand why she clings so hard to them. Ryan . . . I wasn’t that fond of. I mean, he was alright, but not swoony at all for me. I think it was partly because it felt like the author was trying too hard with him. She had to keep reminding us over and over that yes he’s an over-competitive jock, but hey, he’s also a super sensitive, romantic guy at heart. So really, the effect on me was that I pretty much thought he was a douche the whole book.

Overall, I liked the bits about Beth but the bits about Ryan not so much. Still, I enjoyed the book for the most part, and I’m sure I’ll be reading Isaiah’s book, “Crash into You,” eventually. Recommended for fans of Simone Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry series.

Review: 3.5 / 5

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2), by Laini Taylor. The Goodreads summary:
Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?
You guys. I loved this book. A lot. And that was totally unexpected. I mean, I liked the first book, “Daughter of Smoke and Bone,” well enough. Enough to want to read the next in the series, at least. But I mean, it took me two years to get around to actually reading “Days of Blood and Starlight,” if that tells you anything. And I almost never like the second book in YA trilogies. But this one . . . this one I adored.

It was just so dang good, you know? In the first book I learned that Laini Taylor has a way with words that never ceases to amaze, but in this book I learned she has a way of creating characters that I really care about. Because I cared about so many of the characters. Karou and Akiva, yes, but also Ziri, Hazael, Liraz, Zuzana, Mik, and so many others. And you know you’ve found a talented author when they make you care about the secondary characters as much as the primary ones.

I think another reason I liked this book more than the first was that I knew what to expect. In the first book, I thought that it was just going to be about Karou and Akiva and angels and romance, and then BAM it hit me with all the Madrigal and chimera stuff and I wasn’t quite sure what to think. But this book starts firmly with both angels and chimera, and there weren’t the long flashbacks to distract from what’s happening in the present.

Because SO much is happening in the present. The fate of Eretz and the human world are both hanging in the balance, for pete’s sake, as is the existence of the chimera, and I just wanted Karou and Akiva to, you know, survive first of all, and then to succeed in their plans. And to actually talk to each other, because while I understand Karou’s mixed feelings about Akiva, at the same time I just wanted them to hurry up and reconcile so they could start making out. Because those two have got some great chemistry going on. For reals.

Overall, I adored this second book. It's pretty dark, but the characters were amazing, the world building was solid, and it left me really glad that I only have to wait until April for the third book. I think while I’m waiting I’ll go back and reread the first book, because I need some more of these characters to tide me over.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Wild Cards

Wild Cards, by Simone Ekeles. The Goodreads summary:
After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?
Huh. Well. This book. I can’t deny I enjoyed it. Or that I basically read it all in one sitting. But I can’t necessarily claim that it has very many redeeming qualities either. Or that I didn’t roll my eyes through most of it. It was a bit like watching a soap opera, I think. You can get sucked into the relationships and storyline, but there’s no denying that it’s rather overdone and ridiculous.

The two main characters were meh—I didn’t particularly like or dislike them. And their relationship is one of those where they claim they hate each other for no reason, despite their obvious attraction. It tried my patience a bit, but I thought it managed to hold itself together relatively well until the end, when all the sudden realizations of love and uncalled-for personality shifts started cropping up at a rather alarming rate. The side characters are flat, though I think the storyline with the sister moving back home could’ve been interesting if it had gone anywhere, as could the one with the grandmother if she hadn’t had a completely random personality transplant.

Overall, I’ll admit I had fun, but it was the kind of enjoyment that comes from reading something on just the wrong side of ridiculous. It wasn’t as bad as the third Perfect Chemistry book, though, so I’ll definitely give it that.

Rating: 2.5 / 5
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