Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer; narrated by Rebecca Soler

22489107 I’m on a roll of reviewing books with amazing covers! This one is just as stunning, I love the mirror and the image in it – I think the entire thing is gorgeous. The Lunar Chronicles are an amazing young adult series that is part fairy tale retelling, part dystopian and part romance. I’ve listened to them on audio since the beginning and I would highly recommend listening to them because Rebecca Soler is a wonderful narrator. She makes the characters come alive and makes the different characters very distinct – both of which are key factors to enjoys an audio book for me. I’m a big fan of audiobooks in general because it’s so easy to listen while you’re doing tasks that aren’t so pleasant like housekeeping!

Each book in this series is based on a fairy tale and retells it with a compelling new twist and one that has a science fiction flair to it as well. This one tells the back story of the evil Queen Levana which reminded me of Gregory Maguire’s The Life and Time of The Wicked Witch in that the point of the story is to tell the evil Queen’s side of the story for once. In the previous books Levana has tormented Cinder, Scarlet and Cress and she’s used her glamour to gain more and more power. But we’ve never known a thing about what made Levana Levana.

I went into this thinking I would feel sorry for Levana, and much needed compassion for the crazy acting queen. Within about 5 minutes that was definitely the case.

She was suddenly angry. Angry that this woman was so effortlessly pretty. Angry that tonight she would sleep beside her doting husband. That soon she would hold a wrinkled, wailing baby in her arms and that child would never question whether it was loved, or whether its parents loved each other.

Nothing Levana wanted had ever come that easily.

However, not that long after that Levana slowly began to transform into the Queen we know and Marissa Meyer does this transformation so well that at first I found myself being sympathetic to her situation. But then she truly becomes more and more horrific to the point of no return and the sympathy turned into loathing.

Levana had not seen the bodies, but she had seen the bedrooms the next morning, and her first thought was that all that blood would make a very pretty rouge on her lips.

This book was just as well done as the other ones, which was no surprise. The romance in this was so well done because it was easy to see both sides of what was going on. It was like the entire book – completely disturbing but in a ridiculously great way. I highly recommend this book but would definitely start at the beginning of the series and go in publication order.

5 Stars

~Melinda

Amazon

B&N

Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

17331828 I’ve been missing in action for quite a while but I’ve been reading a ton so I have a lot of reviews to catch up on! I haven’t read anything else by Julie Kagawa and had heard good things about this author so when I heard her newest YA series was about dragons I had to pick it up. I just have a thing about dragons, in general I think they’re pretty awesome so I was looking forward to this series. Also – how gorgeous is this cover!?

Ember and Dante Hill are the only siblings to have ever been born to dragons so some think they’re pretty important. These dragons are the shape shifting type and they’re required to spend the summer blending in with humans over the summer. This is a huge undertaking and one they’ve been trained on and Ember has been looking forward to. Talon itself is a secret dragon society, one every dragon belongs to, or so the brother and sister thinks. Ember finds herself being drawn to a Rogue dragon – one that has escaped from under Talons watchful eye, and also comes to meet to meet a human that she can’t resist. Both of these things are huge no-no’s for fledgling dragons.

This book has changing POV’s which can be tricky and oftentimes doesn’t work for me but I found that the author used it very well here. I find that alternating POV’s can be very jarring for me, taking me abruptly from one character’s head to another without any buffer. But with this book the changes were much more smoothly done and the scenes glided from one to the other, regardless of which character I was reading. The pacing and plot also worked very well for me in this book. The pacing was just right – not too fast but not too slow, both of which can be major detractors from a book.

Ember was the protaganoist and such a naive one, but believably so. She was meant to be sheltered throughout her life until she came to live with humans over this summer so I found her journey to be one that I bought into without hesitation. Garrett, the hero in the book – one of two actually – was less believable to me in his naivete. He would waffle from one belief to another and that was the part that I struggled with the most. I really liked him and his relationship with Ember but some of his actions didn’t ring true with me. Another part of the book I struggled with, yet liked was the love triangle that is barely fleshed out but seems to be forming. Triangles are ever present in YA and that taints my view of them because there are so many of them! I couldn’t quite tell if this was going to turn into an actual love triangle or not but I have sequel to read and review next so I’ll let you know…

3.5 Stars

~ Melinda

Amazon

B&N

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

15757486

17-year-old Zac is in isolation when he hears the familiar patter of nurse Nina going through the routine of the hospital ward with the newest patient. Mia, who is placed in room 2 right next to Zac, is the latest addition to the cancer ward. Zac has undergone bone marrow transplant and can’t leave his room but is curious about the angry young woman in the room behind him. They communicate through notes, tapping on the wall and via Facebook. Mia is very angry at the hand life dealt her and lashes out at everyone and lies about her illness to her friends. She has localised bone cancer in her leg and while Zac tells her she is the luckiest of them all on the ward, as her cancer is 90% survivable, she doesn’t feel lucky. She spends a lot of her time running away and eventually she runs to Zac, whether by choice or subconsciously she ends up on his doorstep. They embark on a friendship that is rather one sided to begin with and over time grows in mutuality.

I really liked the first part of this book along with the last 10%, everything in between is…. Meh.

I do like Zac’s character, he is a bit more rounded of the two not by much, but he is more enjoyable. He quotes stats and while he knows he has a 55% chance of remission he knows that odds have a way of coming back to bite you, and Zac is all about odds and stats.

Mia on the other hand, I just didn’t like her at all. I know that she is angry and lashes out but she is not only mean to Zac, who is nothing but nice to her and God only knows why, but to those around her. She does eventually see the light of her actions but for me it was too little to late. The characters have their moments but not enough to make you really care about them. They just fell flat, they brought out no emotions for me, nothing at all.

I had high hopes for this book when I read the blurb and the sample of it but it just didn’t deliver for me.

2 and ½ stars

Crash

 

Buy: Amazon

Buy: B&N

Buy: Amazon UK

Book Review: Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood

16101026 This is the second book in The Cahill Witch Chronicles and one I literally finished just last night. When I was done at 2 in the morning I was ready to start writing right that second because the last 3 pages brought different threads of the plot together but also left some major aspects hanging. The Cahill witches are three young sisters who are being raised by their father after their mother died. The setting is an alternate New England with The Brotherhood in control and accusing young women of being witches for everything from disobeying their parents to actually being witches and using mind magic. They then whisk the girls away and no one sees them again, most are locked up and the families are too scared to really inquire about them.

The story is told from Cate’s point of view – the oldest of the Cahill sisters. She had been trying her best to protect her sisters, Maura and Tessa, from The Brotherhood as they’ve been hiding their magic from everyone since their mother’s death. But at the end of the first book Cate had to give up her love, Finn and go with the Sisterhood to protect her true sisters from being discovered. The Sisterhood is made up of actual witches but everyone thinks they are Sisters in the faith and support the Brotherhood. I was disappointed in the separation of Finn and Cate at the end of the first book because the romance between the two was really great against the dreary backdrop of the Brotherhood controlled city.

I’m not sure what it is about this second book but I liked this one slightly more than the first. I think the setting being moved from mainly the family home to the Sisterhood in the city made the danger more immediate. Cate’s sister’s and Finn all appear in the city not long after the book opens and with the reuniting the story becomes more complete again. Maura is mainly obsessed with discovering who the Oracle is – the prophesied witch that would change everything while her sisters are more concerned with the welfare of all of the girls in the city. The Brotherhood’s reach is become more and more weighty and controlling with no one to fight it. When they ban all girls from learning how to read Cate and Finn are stunned.

I cannot imagine a life without books. Without Father’s stories of the ancient Greek gods and goddesses, without pirate stories and fairy tales and poems. Without the hope of another way, of freedom and adventure beyond what we have here and now. How dark life would be.

I can’t remember hating another character as much as I hated Maura. Every time she spoke or even appeared on the page I wanted to reach through the book and slap her. The author did an amazing job at creating such a realist dynamic between all three sisters. Just like with the first book, the relationships are what shine through. Seeing Cate interact with Finn and her friends shape and create her and help her evolve throughout. And holy crap – I can’t wait to read the last book!!

5 Stars

~Melinda

Amazon

Amazon UK

B&N

Book Review: Rebel by Amy Tintera

15769788 Rebel is the sequel to Reboot, a great different take on a kind of zombie book. The first book is told completely from Wren’s point of view. In this world HARC – Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation- takes people who have died and bring them back to life. These Reboots became soldiers and did pretty much whatever and killed whoever HARC told them to. Wren was the perfect little soldier until Callum came along and woke her up. At the end of Reboot the two had escaped the HARC facility with the other Reboots.

In the beginning of Rebel Wren and Callum find a Reboot Reservation led by Micah outside HARC territory. While there Wren is stunned to find that he has plans to kill the humans and take back the city where they all had escaped from. Callum cannot stomach the idea of killing all of the humans and while Wren wants to look away and try to live her life she chooses to stick with Callum.

The dual perspective of this book really worked for me which is surprising as those perspectives have to be done well for me to be able to get into a book written like that. But this flowed very well and getting Callum’s point of view in this book after having it missing in Rebel made this plot even better than the previous one. Wren’s evolution was really highlighted by this dual point of view. In Reboot she was merely a soldier and in Rebel it’s obvious she begins as more and as it ends the evolution to much more is complete.

The romance piece of the book is balanced evenly with the action which is great as it doesn’t overtake the rest of the book which I think is a problem for many YA dytopian type books. Wren and Callum’s relationship develops throughout but it’s natural and is done very well. Tintera does all of the relationships naturally with the secondary characters as well. Addie and David in particular were favorites of mine.

I would definitely recommend reading both of these books as not your typical dystopian book and an unusual zombie one as well.

4 Stars

~Melinda

Amazon

Amazon UK

B&N

Book Review: Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead; Narrated by Emily Shaffer & Alden Ford

8709524 Maybe it’s just me but I think it’s pretty rare that a spin off series – whether it’s television or books – is better or even just as good as the original. But in this case I think without a doubt it is! Bloodlines is a series that spun off of the Vampire Academy series, which I also read, and liked. Richelle Mead created a very interesting and unusual world of vampires that I hadn’t come across before with different rules and classes of people within in this world that I found fascinating. A specific class of people called the Alchemists ended up being so fascinating that the author created a spin-off series called The Bloodlines and Silver Shadows is book #5 in the series.

I’ve been listening to this series because I really love the narrators. Both Emily Shaffer and Alden Ford do an amazing job so I haven’t even bothered to switch back and forth like I do sometimes. There are few books that I pre-order with an Audible credit and these are definitely on the list. Emily Shaffer captures the main character – Sydney’s intense love of all things knowledge related and everything that is orderly. I wouldn’t have thought you could capture that in just a voice but she does so in clipped tones and at the same time she’s managed to express the confusion the people in her world had caused Sidney to feel. Alden Ford does a wonderful Adrian who has evolved from a lazy royal (and can slip easily back into that role) into a college student who cares about others. It’s great to hear that laziness dripping from his voice at times.

This book picks up where the last one left off – with Sidney and Adrian apart and Sidney in the hands of the Alchemists. This was a pretty dark plot for most of it as Sydney was in their hands and they are attempting to brainwash her, or worse, for the majority of the book. I was already a Sydney fan before this but her character development has just gotten better and better as the series continues. In this one she comes across as confident and able to deal with anything that’s thrown at her, which is a crazy amount here.

Adrian on the other hand doesn’t come across as quite as strong for a while. He is a spirit user and that cause him to be more temperamental and more prone to emotional outbreaks. When he can’t find Sydney right away Adrian returns to the royal court and does slide into a bit of a depression which can be hard to watch. When he does come to his senses some time has past and he has to figure out if he can finally rescue Sydney from the Alchemist’s clutches.

There’s a dual POV that the books have that I love and the romance continues to blossom here even though they’re apart for a significant portion of the book. This is the best one yet and I have high hopes for the next -and last- one to come out in this series next year!

5 Stars

~Melinda

Amazon

Amazon UK

B&N

Book Review: The Stepsister’s Tale by Tracy Barrett

18722882 I have been such a bad reviewer lately and I don’t even have the fun excuse of the World Cup as an excuse like Eddie does! Just work and life getting in the way of doing the actual reviewing. However, I have been reading so I’m jumping back in.

I love fairy tales and getting a retelling of Cinderella is always exciting to me. In this version we follow Jane and her sister’s noble family who is basically struggling to make it. Jane is responsible for almost all of the household chores and feels like she is what is keeping the house from falling down around them. Then suddenly their mother comes home married to a rich man and toting his spoiled daughter, Ella, to the house.

Ella’s been spoiled by her father and has no idea how to do any work which rub sisters Jane and Maude the wrong way. At the same time the sisters have always been criticized for their lack of polish and looked down on by their noble peers. So without fail the three girls do not get along which causes much chaos in the newly joined households. When Ella’s father dies suddenly things only get worse all around and Jane doesn’t know how they will survive it all, especially when it appears he wasn’t exactly telling the truth.

What I liked the most about this book was the way the author painted each character. In fairy tales most characters are black and white and in this the author did a great job of making them not nearly so straight forward. Even Ella who could easily have one very clear and spoiled side has multiple facets and throughout this book we get to see many of them. Jane is definitely my favorite character in this retelling though. She was a sensible and clear headed YA character and those are few and far between.

There is also a kind of side story that happens a little later in the book with the forest people who have been displaced from their homes. This part of the story did have a direct tie in to Jane’s story and brought some romance elements to the story. It just didn’t jive with the rest of the pieces of the book as well to me. But overall this was a good retelling with the characters shining as the best part.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

3.5 Stars

~Melinda

Amazon

Amazon UK

B&N