May 2016 Wrap-Up

I didn’t thing my having read two books in April justified a wrap-up, especially since both were re-reads (City of Bones & City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare), so I am now back with my May wrap-up. May was an awesome reading month – I’ve finally finished re-reading the first three Mortal Instruments books, and started reading the other ones, which I have never actually came around to picking up. I also started Shades of Magic series (?), since they’ve been sitting on my shelf for ages, and all is well in the reading world.

One with You (Crossfire #5) by Sylvia Day 3/5

Crossfire series started off very hot and dark and intriguing, and went downhill with every book. Although I enjoyed One with You a little bit more than the previous two books, both of which I rated 2/5, this was not the conclusion I was hoping for. A couple of plot points that were introduced in this last instalment were never mentioned or hinted to before and made absolutely no sense to me, which I found to be very annoying, because I feel like it is just lazy writing in order to reach a certain page quantity. Also, so many things were left unresolved, and I really don’t care for it. As much as I grew attached to Eva and Gideon, I am glad their story is over (though it should’ve been over two books ago, don’t you think?).

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare 4/5

I didn’t think I would ever re-read these books and continue on with the series, but Shadowhunters TV show changed my mind. I didn’t want to pick up where I’ve left off and start reading the fourth book, since I’ve read the first three years ago and didn’t remember much, so I picked them all up once again. I was very surprised, because I enjoyed them much more than the first time around! This time I decided not to dwell on continuous teen angst and tedious tropes, and noticed that the writing is actually quite humorous and lively, and that the plot is very action-packed and politically-driven, which is my favorite kind.

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab 3/5

I liked A Darker Shade of Magic a lot! Though the start of the story was very slow and confusing, the pace did pick up in the second half, and I could barely put the book down. I’ve never read anything by V.E. Schwab before, and I find that she is a really great storyteller. Slow and confusing is perfectly understandable when you have to introduce the reader to four different Londons and a complicated magic system. I feel that it is a strong beginning to a potentially very interesting and intriguing series.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas 4/5

I wanted to refresh my memory before picking up A Court of Mist and Fury, so I also re-read ACOTAR in May. And although it’s only been a few months since I’ve read ACOTAR the first time, there were a lot of things I didn’t remember and some things I didn’t catch before. I thought I liked Feyre before, but this time she annoyed the hell out of me, though she did redeem herself in my eyes when she started to make smarter decisions, which I appreciate.

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab 4/5

I loved to get to know more about elemental magic, and I loved seeing characters going their separate ways. The plot of A Gathering of Shadows was mostly focused on a magic tournament whose goal is to basically reassert the power of rulers. And as per usual, the most interesting things are going on behind the scenes. I also enjoyed little flashbacks to events that happened in the four months since our main characters saw each other last. I loved that Lila has become a real, not self-proclaimed, pirate. The ending was heartbreaking and made me feel for Kell so much! And I can’t wait to read the next one!

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare 4/5

City of Fallen Angels kind of felt like the first book in a new series, which was actually kind of nice. New plot points, new struggles, new stories, new big bads! This series is ridiculously action-packed, and it is getting harder and harder to put these books down.

 

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March 2016 Wrap-Up

I have finished 6 books in the month of March, three of which – in the last week of March. That was The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski, which I simply devoured. I have not been this invested in a book, especially YA one, since forever. Now I wish I could unread it, so I could read it once again with fresh eyes.

Tatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons 4/5

I feel like The Bronze Horseman trilogy gets better with every book. I enjoyed Tatiana and Alexander a lot. I loved the flashbacks to Alexander’s childhood; Alexander as a child was hilarious, clever, and full of irony and snark. I also loved seeing how Tatiana builds a life for herself and her son in New York, her struggle of starting over. The historical aspects of this book are beautifully written and incredibly interesting.

The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons 4/5

The Summer Garden is my favorite book in the trilogy due to it being the most character-driven of the three, dealing with the postwar ordeals and struggles, a distance that grows between people who have been through too much, starting a whole new life, and learning to live it.

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard 3/5

I did not enjoy Glass Sword as much as the first book. I think my rating is closer to 2.5-2.75. The first half of the book was outright boring, though the pace did pick up later on. Nothing about this book is particularly good and compelling, and all in all, I was disappointed with the sequel. However, I do think I will continue on with the series, because I did like the first book, so I will wait to make up my mind about the direction the story is taking after the next one.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski 5/5

I. Can’t. Even. I did not expect to like The Winner’s Curse as much as I did, especially because I have not liked most YA fantasy books I have read lately. But this surprised me. It was politically-driven, intriguing, and unputdownable. I loved the characters, because they did not have the usual YA traits that I hate. They are clever, passionate, kind and humane. The affection Kestrel and Arin felt for each other is the most beautiful thing I have ever read about (except Outlander, because nothing can compare to Claire and Jamie’s relationship, though Kestrel and Arin come close) – no insta-love, no unnecessary angst. Just a wonderful, slow-burning thing that you cannot help but root for.

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski 5/5

The Winner’s Crime was excruciating in the best possible way. I love schemes and political games, and Marie Rutkoski did them justice. YA books usually have THE WORST miscommunication tropes that make absolutely no sense. The Winner’s Crime succeeded in incorporating miscommunication, lies and secrets in a way that not only made perfect sense, but could not have been done any other way. My heart broke into million pieces and I loved every second of it.

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski 5/5

When I received my copy of The Winner’s Kiss, the first thing I did is check how long it was. Oh, so long, 484 pages, yay! And still I read it in one sitting… It’s just that good. The key players play the political game like nobody’s business – they are cunning, intelligent and clever, and always have something hidden up their sleeve. Court intrigues, lies, half-truths, plots and schemes make for a very exciting story, while the romance between the main characters waters down the negative, it being packed with warmth and gentleness, genuine care for each other, beautiful and intimate friendship, ability to read the other person like you’ve known them your whole life, attempts to save each other from hurt and pain by putting aside your own happiness, honor and morale.

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.

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.