The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N. K. Jemisin

 

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The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin is an epic fantasy worthy of the name. N. K. Jemisin introduces the reader to a world where Father Earth hates His people to a point where He tries to extinguish every last one of them. But human beings prove to be too resilient to give up that easily.

Rating: 4/5

Sometimes, first sentences of a novel set the mood for everything that is coming:

LET’S START WITH THE END of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.

And then we get our first glimpse of the setting:

It moves a lot, this land. Like an old man lying restlessly abed it heaves and sighs, puckers and farts, yawns and swallows. Naturally this land’s people have named it Stillness. It is a land of quiet and bitter irony.

The novel truly packs a punch – it deals with race (albeit made-up), class, sexuality, fear and prejudice. It also deals greatly with loss and the impact of murder not only on the family members, but also on the murderers themselves – in this fantasy world one simply has to be able to kill to survive or to save themselves.

Character development is crazy good in this story. The reader is introduced to three points of view and is yet to figure out how the three are connected (and there is quite a bit of masterfully done foreshadowing – abrupt changes in narration here and there, a strange thought creeping into the mind of the narrator that seem to make no sense – so it should not come as a huge surprise).

Anyway. It’s all there if you put the facts together and think beyond what we’re taught.

The Fifth Season is an elegantly crafted story of a very twisted world, and it is full of surprises, morally grey, yet likeable characters, and humorous and sarcastic banters.

There is an art to smiling in a way that others will believe. It is always important to include the eyes; otherwise, people will know you hate them.

Things are, of course, left on a beautifully done cliffhanger that promises that the next instalment will be even more brilliant!

Why I rave about this book and not give it the highest rating, you ask? Even though I absolutely loved it, such a complicated world takes time to build, so the story did seem confusing and a little bit boring in the beginning, which is obviously understandable. Which is why I feel like the next book will be pure perfection!

Accuracy is sacrificed in the name of better poetry.

“Home is people,” she says to Asael, softly. Asael blinks. “Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.”

“Timay. Control yourself.” Timay’s not home, Damaya thinks.

(Friends do not exist. The Fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Orogenes are not people. Weapons have no need of friends.)

The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

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The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher is a Steampunk novel that, for the most part, takes place on somewhat retro-futuristic airships powered by crystals and the Spires where the people of this time are living in, away from the dangers of the ground. A war is brewing between Spire Albion and Spire Aurora, and the kaleidoscope of the main characters are set to fight to protect their home Spire.

Rating: 4/5

I must say that this is the most inventive science fiction/fantasy novel I have ever read, and though you still get glimpses of Jim Butcher’s distinctive signature writing style, this book could not be more different from his other works. I cannot put into words how beautiful and humorous and hilariously polite the writing is. Sometimes I would reread a sentence or a paragraph 17 times, because the beautifulness of it would leave me utterly mesmerized.

“Oh,” Folly said, surprised. “I thought Bridget and I were returning to the master in the inn. But now we’re hiding in a dark alley instead. I wonder why we’re doing that?”

“If you go exploring, you might find something that could hurt you.” “If one doesn’t, one is not truly exploring.”

And can I just say that I respect Jim Butcher for portraying women as tough, smart, observant, curious, intriguing, provocative, courageous, and multidimensional? His female personages are incredibly interesting, each with their own personality and beliefs, and even the pure evil ones are very fascinating to read about!

I think she rather enjoys letting everyone believe she’s too self-absorbed to notice anything that’s happening around her.

A still-life image of her was something of an oxymoron. Calliope was never still. Even when she was seemingly motionless, he could see her mind at work, sorting ideas, seeking solutions, cataloging the space around her.

“HOW CAN YOU KNOW THIS?” the Voice demanded. “I look at things and think about them,” Folly replied.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is told from multiple points of view, which is also refreshing after The Dresden Files. We have several main characters’ points of view, and then there are also some others thrown in at some points. And reading from the point of view of a cat (!) is a surprisingly refreshing experience.

I feel like The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a very strong beginning of exceptionally epic series. I loved it so much that a lot of times I giddily jumped up and down not being able to contain my emotions towards the awesomeness that this story is. That being said, I really wanted to give it 5 stars, but it did not really reach that point for me. This book has a remarkably strong beginning and unusually and surprisingly thorough world building that could not help but pull me in, but at some point I started to feel less invested in the story. And then something very awesome would happen and I would get pulled right back in and enjoy it once again. Thus, I constantly went back and forth – at points really loving it, and at points being kind of bored.

All in all, I enjoyed The Aeronaut’s Windlass and cannot wait to see where the story takes our main characters.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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Station Eleven tells a story about the first steps of the human kind after the world they knew and were sure of was suddenly taken from under their feet.   

Rating: 5/5

The atmosphere of this story is enchanting and otherworldly (just look at that cover!). Where do you find solace when the world you thought you knew becomes a wasteland? When you have nowhere to go, nowhere to live, nothing to do, and the people you love are not around any more? Station Eleven is terrifying in the sense that it seems absolutely possible. There is no zombie apocalypse, no alien invasion, no horsemen of the apocalypse. And the world still ends. Electricity ends. Technology ends. And people go back to their roots, trying simply to survive at first, and then realizing that survival is insufficient.

Station Eleven is a beautifully written, quiet and enigmatic story that portrays resilience of people. It is not action-packed, rather very slow and unhurried, and wonderfully descriptive. I don’t feel it is possible to describe it in a way that does it justice; it is positively unputdownable. Reading about this clean slate of a brave new, ancient, tough, lonely, empty and dark world makes you feel like right now there is just too much world, too much noise, too much stress. It screams “Pay attention!” to what is truly important, because it is not going to be around forever; “Be present!” and don’t hide behind screens and walls and fears. See, touch, taste, feel, live!

Hell is the absence of the people you long for.

I’m sorry, I’ve just realized that I’m as minimally present in this world as you are, I had no right to judge.

No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.

This book is like a breath of fresh air, and I recommend it to everyone!

Paper Towns by John Green

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Quentin has been pining for Margo Roth Spiegelman since they stopped being friends years ago. So when she climbs into his room in the middle of the night with a Margo-esque revenge-on-theex-boyfriend plan, he does not need to think twice about helping her. After their all-nighter ends and Q comes to school, hoping that things will be different between them from now on, he discovers that Margo is nowhere to be found. Later he finds clues she has left for him, and embarks on a journey of a lifetime to find her. 

Rating: 4/5

To be honest, Paper Towns caught me off guard. The only other John Green book I have read was The Fault in Our Stars, and I did enjoy it, but not as much as most people, I don’t think. I saw Paper Towns trailer and it seemed like another coming-of-age story, but something about it intrigued me, so I picked up the book. I did not expect to like it as much as I did.

It is impossible to put into words how this book makes you feel (it is probably why John Green is exceptionally masterful writer and I am… not). It is such a beautiful story of friendship, growing up, and wonderful adventures. It is the kind of book where you find that every page speaks to you on so many different levels: to your inner child and inner adult, to your neglected-feeling high-school self, to your what’s-the-meaning-of-life self and a bunch of other selves each of us lives with every day.

Undoubtedly, I identified with Margo the most. The girl has a serious case of wanderlust! And leaving everything and everyone behind gets easier every time.

It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.

She is a character that probably embodies all your fears. Have you ever felt that waiting for something is much more exciting than the thing itself? That the thing itself never meets your expectations? Or that people around you could not possibly be real; they are too shallow, and cruel? Or that you are meant to do more, be more, but you cannot seem to remember what it is that you are meant to be doing?

I really enjoyed the fact that Quentin was the narrator of his and Margo’s story. At first, Margo was an enigma, but the more he searched for her, the more he realized that she was just a girl – empty, lonely and unhappy, but putting on a brave face and doing everything she can to change it.

What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.

I did not know that paper towns existed; I find the idea tremendously intriguing.

I admire John Green for dreaming up young adult characters that are not in any way cunning, cruel, vain and self-absorbed. They are innocent, intelligent, trusting, and insanely honest, and it was wonderful knowing them!

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo

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The capital, Ravka, has fallen, Alina is weakened and the Darkling rules. To defeat him, Alina has to claim the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins hunting for it, she realizes that claiming it could cost everything dear to her.

Rating: 5/5

Ruin and Rising is a reasonably satisfying conclusion to The Grisha trilogy. In my opinion, the ending was somewhat anticlimactic; I was left a little disappointed. It was a good and logical ending, though!

As to the way the story developed in the third book – it was excellent! I will not get tired of saying that Leigh Bardugo is most likely one of the best storytellers I have ever read.

I felt as torn and divided and confused and bleak as Alina did throughout the whole book – she is a fantastic narrator!

I loved the way the dynamics between the Darkling and Alina changed in this book. If the Darkling was the one haunting Alina in the previous book, then in Ruin and Rising she was the one haunting him. Gradually, she appeared to feel like his equal; still terrorized and terrified, but equal nonetheless.

The relationship between Alina and Mal also became more profound and complicated. I did not like the idea of them together in the first two books, because each of their characters felt two-dimensional. They talked, they did things, but they did not feel like real people, especially Mal. Throughout the second book their characters developed greatly and in the third one they were completely three-dimensional, complex and credible. I genuinely felt for them, for situations they were in and for decisions they had to make.

Plus, that plot twist that came out of nowhere? Good job, Leigh Bardugo.

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2) by Leigh Bardugo

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Hunted by the things she has done and hunted by the Darkling, Alina struggles to start a new life with Mal. She has to keep her identity a secret, so Darkling does not find her. But she cannot outrun her past and her destiny.

Rating: 5/5

It was hard for me to get into Siege and Storm. It was probably because I read Shadow and Bone about 3 years ago and I remember thinking that the book was almost good, though it was undeniably a very promising start of the trilogy. And the second book, Siege and Storm, did not disappoint.

I loved everything about it! It was beautifully written, engaging, thought-provoking and refreshing. I cannot say it was especially fast-paced, but I did enjoy that it gave the main character Alina, a Grisha with some neat powers, a lot of time for reflection – on the war she feels partly responsible for starting, on her inner darkness demanding more powers and relating to the Darkling and, yes, on her romantic feelings as well. And since love triangles are so yesterday, Leigh Bardugo went for a love quadrangle of sorts. I am not usually a fan of such things, but it only added to the reading experience, because it was not a typical YA situation. Alina had different kinds of feelings for each of her suitors. She associates Mal with her childhood, heart-piercing, soul-stirring history, and family. Sturmhond is new and exciting, charming and bold, and a prince on top of that. Darkling is the kind of a being that will embrace Alina’s darkness and probably ruin her, but he is mysterious, alluring and wicked.

To tell the truth, I cannot for the life of me associate this story with a YA novel. Reading Alina’s point-of-view I could not help but think that she is older and wiser than she is actually supposed to be. She is a headstrong female character that could just as well be in her mid-twenties.

The world Leigh Bardugo conjured up is fascinating – a Russianesque, medieval setting. And I really appreciate her spending a great deal of time dealing not only with her characters, but also their surroundings.

Iced by Karen Marie Moning

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The Fever series is back with Iced, a Dani O’Malley novel. After the Wall fell, Dublin is in ruins. And if that is not enough, someone is “icing” the city and killing a lot of beings, human and Fae. A self-proclaimed superhero with an actual super-speed superpower, Dani, is hired to help figure out who is doing it and how to stop him. And as if Dani has not got enough going on, an Unseelie prince is stalking her, Ryodan is watching her every move and Mac is out there plotting revenge.

Rating: 4/5

The only reason I picked up Iced is to “suffer through it”, so I can finally get on reading Mac’s story, because, honestly, who cares about Dani? It turned out that a 14-year-old superhero’s mind is actually a very entertaining and interesting place, full of witty remarks, existential crises and surprisingly quotable thoughts.

For example, who does not like a pun:

Dude, the bush is ready. Why are you still beating around it?

Or an inspirational talk that gets you to move you butt and do something:

Life’s a choice: you can live in black and white, or you can live in color. I’ll take every shade of the rainbow and the gazillion in between.

What-iffing is for grownups. They what-if themselves right into doing nothing, and die without ever living.

Or a girl that loves books:

Holy borrowing bibliophile, let’s book!

Or some seriously wise advice:

In my experience, anybody besides your mom that feeds you is going to want something in exchange for it.

Or a reason not to procrastinate:

You still end up exactly where you didn’t want to be, doing exactly what you didn’t want to do, with the only difference being that you lost all that time in between, during which you could have been doing something fun. Even worse, you probably stayed in a stressed-out, crappy mood the whole time you were avoiding it. If you know something is inevitable, do it and get it over with. Move on. Life is short.

Or a definition of love:

The active caring and concern for the health and well-being of another person’s body and heart. Active. Not passive.

Or a very relevant observation:

If she is bright as a butterfly and sexual as a lioness in mating season, she will be cherished.

Dani is an astonishingly interesting, amusing, thought-provoking character whose voice is written beautifully, in my opinion. She is a kid that had to grow up fast, so she is street-smart, intelligent and wise beyond her years, and childish and naive all at the same time. Reading her point of view is very refreshing – she is a teen that is all businesslike, direct and demanding, and it may be funny at times, yet this is exactly how people her age behave – larger than life. She is also very observant.

Her passion for life pushes her limbs further than they were meant to go.

I cannot stress enough how enjoyable being in her head is. And how captivating the situations she gets herself into are. She says herself, that she has

the luck of a broken mirror nailed beneath an upside-down horseshoe with a ladder nearby that a black cat just walked under.

I think Karen Marie Moning did a wonderful job distinguishing between points of view. There was never any doubt about whose point of view you are reading, because they are all genuinely discernible. Dani, Christian, Kat sound completely different from each other, which is the point a lot of authors cannot qualitatively accomplish introducing different points of view.

Plot-wise the story is very compelling. Other than the obvious “Who’s the bad guy icing Dubling”, there are also “What does Ryodan actually want with Dani?”, “Is Christian going to turn full-on evil?”; “Is Mac actually after Dani for killing her sister?”; “Why is everyone so enthralled with the girl?” etc.

All in all, something I was going to “suffer through” turned out to be very “fecking” awesome, and I cannot wait to read Burned (Mac and Barrons are finally back! Yay!).