Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Heir by Kiera Cass Review

Author: Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Genre: YA Romance, Dystopian
Pages: 373
Buy it on Amazon
Oh, The Heir by Kiera Cass. What can I say about The Heir? For starters, I almost put it down and DNF'd it, but my mother told me to finish because Eadlyn becomes less of an ass in the last half of the book. So, I did finish, and I am actually happy that I did. This series continues to surprise me in its addicting nature, despite the many things that bother me. I still want to read it and know the conclusion, even when I am completely annoyed by it! I'm pretty sure that has never happened to me before.

If you didn't know The Heir is the fourth book in The Selection Series (check out my review of the first three books here). It takes place twenty years after the end of The One, and follows Maxon and America's daughter, Eadlyn. Eadlyn is coerced into hosting her own selection to find a husband to help distract the country from the dangerous upheavals happening all over Illea. She is not happy about the selection and doesn't feel she needs to get married to be a successful ruler, but some of the selected manage to break into her cold heart anyway.

This book is just as addicting as the rest of the series. I was pretty sure who would be the winner as soon as he was introduced, but as the story went on I began to doubt my choice. With Maxon's selection, the reader always knew America was his choice because there wouldn't be a story any longer if it wasn't her. The tension came in from the love triangle and if America would choose Maxon and the life of a Queen. However, with Eadlyn, there is no certainty in her choice, which makes this book hard to put down. There are several possibilities and there are adorable scenes with these possibilities. But like The Selection no choice was confirmed at the end of this book. She still had like nineteen men left in the palace. The best part of this book was Eadlyn's growth. She started out cold, self-centered and kind of mean. I was not a fan, but as the story went on she started to open up and soften, which was nice to see that she realized she didn't need to be cruel to be taken seriously as a leader.

The problems I had with this book were pretty much the same as the first three books; the world building. It was kind of disappointing to see that not much had changed in the twenty years Maxon had been in power. Sure the caste system was gone, but people were still struggling with poverty and no democratic parliament or senate had been established in place of the absolute monarchy. I mean they could still lead but let the people vote in representatives that can push for needed changes. It's like duh, you have never been poor, so how can you understand their needs? It makes no sense that this wasn't figured out by America being a 5. I really hope this is addressed by the end of the series.

The other problems I had were about America and Maxon themselves. They just didn't seem like the same characters anymore. America wasn't righteous or as involved in the politics as the old America would have been. She just seemed to fuss over Eadlyn's clothes and the cuteness of the current selected. I had hoped for more guidance and spunkiness from her. And the biggest plot hole for me was the fact that they forced the selection to begin with. You would think after what they went through they wouldn't force that on anyone else. It seemed quite ridiculous actually. But if you bought into that, there were still the cheesy lines from them, and the constant hugging and I love you's. I mean sure everyone says it, but it was like every scene someone including Eadlyn's brother's were all mushy with each other. Not realistic at all in my opinion.

Despite the problems I had, and some of the cheesiness that had me rolling my eyes, I still couldn't put the book down after like page 50. Cass does an excellent job of drawing the reader into the story, and that has to mean something right? So of course I will be continuing on to the next book, The Crown, and hopefully we will find out her choice! I give this book 3.5 stars.
 Get your copy here!

Ta Ta!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo Review

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 369
Buy it on Amazon
I really went into this Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo pretty blind. The only thing I knew about it was the fact that it was a Young Adult Fantasy series with a world that resembled old world Russia. I actually think this is the best way to read this book, and reason being are the mixed reviews. Don't let reviewers make up your mind before you read it! I know it has mixed reviews from some high profile BookTubers and Goodreads reviewers, some love it and others found it meh. But if you go into this book with no expectations, I think you will appreciate it much more.

Shadow and Bone follows a young orphan named Alina. She is a foot soldier in the King's Army and is forced to travel into the Shadow Fold where there are vicious creatures. Once inside the creatures attack and in an effort to save her best friend, Mal, she learns she has the power to harness and use light against the creatures. She is then whisked away to the world of the Grishas (magical soldiers) by the Darkling, who wants her help in demolishing the Fold and reuniting their country. I don't want to give too much else away because, like I said, it's better not knowing before you read.

What I love about this book is the setting. It has the feel of 1800's Empirical Russia, were there is great beauty and wealth but also great suffering and sadness. The way Bardugo writes makes Ravka feel very real and very cold. The magical system is also interesting, as the Grisha are able to use basic elements (fire, wind, water, earth) to create, move, change, enforce, etc. And our main character is able to summon the element of light, which is very rare. I loved learning about Alina's power as she tries to gain control over it, and I felt like Alina's character growth was fantastic as she gained confidence in herself over the course of the story. She started out pretty meek and scared and ended up a basic bad-ass. She reminded me a lot of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, with her spunky attitude and the way she doubted herself but was able to push through to accomplish an end goal.

I think some reviewers tend to down grade this book in a sense that Bardugo uses some pretty basic YA tropes. For example, it's pretty common for a YA character to randomly discover they have a magical power that is more special than other magical powers. It's also common for said character to not be able to control said power until it is crisis mode in the plot. But as common as this is, I was able to look passed it because I was so invested in the storytelling. The other trope that is present is the love triangle of two seriously good looking dudes and one average girl. Yes this is in the story but I was rooting for one guy so much that the other just didn't seem like an option at all.

I really, really enjoyed this story and I am looking forward to the next 2 books Storm and Siege  and Rise and Ruin. I would recommend this book to YA fans, but not if you are a stickler for high fantasy, as this does not read like a typical fantasy novel. I know I'm a little late to this party, but if you haven't read it yet, you might want to soon, since it has been optioned as a movie by the guy who did Harry Potter. I'm just saying. Do it now.


Let me know your thoughts on Shadow and Bone! And get your copy here.


Jami

Monday, January 25, 2016

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan Review

Author: Jennifer McGowan
Series: Maids of Honor
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pages: 416
Buy it on Amazon

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan was one of those books that I had to put down and think about for a while before I could really appreciate it. It was an impulse buy from Book Outlet, but the premise sounded so interesting I couldn't wait to read it. I know this book and its sequels are incredibly under-hyped and not a single major BookTuber or Reviewer that I follow has reviewed them yet. I believe this first installment was published in 2013, and there are two sequels released so far with two more to be published in the next few years.

This first book follows Meg, who is one of five young spies that work for Queen Elizabeth I. So, Shakespeare's time, and if you haven't guessed each book in the series follows a different spy. Orphan Meg Fellows, is brought into spy training after being caught stealing coins from the wrong guy. She is a gifted thief and has a few other remarkable gifts that I won't spoil for you. However, Meg is a valuable asset to Queen Elizabeth, who is trying to sniff out a few rats that are attempting to undermine her rule (through destruction and murder) for two reasons: she's protestant and a woman. So, the story follows Meg as she attempts to do her assignments for Queen Elizabeth to eventually gain her freedom (remember she was caught stealing and is technically a prisoner).

There really was a lot I liked about this book. I mean Teenage Elizabethan Spies, need I say more? The author is also a legitimate historian to this era and her terminology and descriptions of the setting and elaborate costuming were incredibly precise, which I appreciated. She also used real historical facts about Queen Elizabeth's personality and her reign to help push the story forward. None of the story lines about Elizabeth or plots against were exaggerated to the unbelievable and probably could have really happened. Meg's story was also an interesting one and the reader got to experience learning about Meg's parents right along with her, which made Meg a sympathetic character. The romance seemed a little insta-love-ish to me in the beginning but by the end I really did enjoy their relationship development. I also enjoyed Meg's commentary on the roles of women in the Elizabethan era. McGowan made this complex time period easy and fun to read while keeping the events as realistic as possible, which I really appreciate now that I am done with the book. Plus it has a fantastic ending!

So, going into this book I was thinking "spies and murder plots, must have tons of action!" Um, not really. The beginning and end both have a lot of action, but the middle was much more dry. There was mostly talking and investigating and Meg eavesdrops more than anything else. While it was interesting, it wasn't what I was expecting. And now that I look back on it, I think its the setting. I mean they never leave the palace. It's not like a modern spy book with car chases and gun battles. The characters are very proper and very much expected to be lady's of the Queen's court. They talk a lot about dresses and marriage while discussing their investigations. It was odd to me at first. And it made some parts slow to get through. So, just know going in what you are getting into. The only other thing that bothered me was the language. McGowan slipped in and out of modern English and Old English throughout the book. Most of the time they spoke Modern English, which I understand because it is a YA novel and not a historical non-fiction. But she did slip in the Old English occasionally which made it seem kind of inconsistent at parts but not unreadable.

I would recommend this book to YA readers that like historical fiction. Like I said, this is a very interesting time period and McGowan with her background paints a realistic picture of life in the palace with Queen Elizabeth. I originally gave this book 3.5 stars when I first finished the book, but now that I have had some distance I am upgrading it to 4 stars, and I will be reading the next book later in the year.


Get Maid of Secrets here!


Let me know if you have read this book and what you thought of it, or if you are planning on picking it up!

See ya soon,

Jami

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer Review

Author: Michelle Hodkin
Series: The Mara Dyer Series
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Genre: YA Suspense
Pages: 456

I truly resisted The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin for a long time. I usually never want to read books that are over-hyped and this series, especially the first book was extremely over-hyped. I saw it all over BookTube and Booklr and everyone was positively reviewing it on Goodreads. But I still held off until a few weeks ago when the beauty of the cover finally got me at the library. And I have to say that while I did find a lot of problems with the story, that I did enjoy reading the book. I mean it was fun, it was suspenseful. Was there any character growth? No. Was there insta-love? Sure. Was the mystery climactic? Meh. But that still didn't stop the story from being an engaging and immersing read, and I think that comes down to Mara herself. Being inside this girl's head is extremely creepy and if this story had been written in third person I don't think this book would have any redeeming qualities.

So if you are unaware, this series follows a teenage girl named Mara who was the only survivor of a building collapse that killed her three friends. After she wakes up in the hospital, she has no memory of what happened that night. Her parents agree to move to Florida from their North Eastern home town because Mara feels so guilty and depressed. Her father is a lawyer and takes on a high profile murder case while Mara and her brothers starts classes in a swanky prep school. Mara doesn't make many friends but catches the eye of the coolest guy in school named Noah. Then weird things start happening to Mara that she can't quite explain; are they real or are they visions? Mara can't really decide.

The parts that I really enjoyed in this novel were Mara's visions. It was incredibly interesting to be in Mara's head and trying to figure out what was going on. It was spooky and thrilling to not know how reliable Mara's story really was. Her unreliability kept me turning the pages looking for answers. I also enjoyed getting to know Noah's backstory even though he seemed a little Manic Pixie Dream Guy throughout much of the beginning. But by the end his character had grown some and he seemed on a much more level playing field with Mara.

Now the parts I had problems with do not negate the fact that I read this super fast and was completely enthralled in the story. But I had a lot of problems with the plot, as there seemed not to be one. I mean there was so much going on but nothing that really screamed main story line. Was it Mara's past she's remembering? Was it Mara's new scary abilities? Was it Mara and Noah's relationship development? Was it the court case her father was working on? I certainly couldn't figure it out. The climax of this story had absolutely nothing to do with the majority of the story. I was so confused and ultimately disappointed. Yes, the ending had a great cliffhanger, but the ending was so disjointed that I was extremely unsatisfied. I absolutely hate that YA authors treat series and trilogies like one long story that gets cut off in random places for the next book rather than creating a satisfying ending for each book. There needs to be a story line that is wrapped up in every book, like The Hunger Games, wraps up at the end of the first game. We know it's going to continue but the story ends in a logical place. If The Hunger Games ended like this book, it would have cut off when Katniss gives Peeta the berries and they decide to eat them together. But we didn't find out the conclusion until the second book. It makes no sense. YA authors take note, stop it!

The other problem I had with this story was the overuse of YA tropes. Mara was the dark, clumsy, not-very-attractive-but-the-hottest-guy-wants-me character. Noah was the ManicPixieDreamGuy that was there to show Mara a new way of living. Jamie was the random ethnic character that didn't seem very ethnic. Anna was the random mean girl.... I'm sure you get the point. I did enjoy Mara's little brother, he was interesting compared to rest of the commonplace characters.

Would I recommend this book or series? Like I said, it wasn't horrible and some of it was very thrilling. But I would say, if it interests you then you should read all the books together back to back. I do not plan to finish the series because I didn't read them together but I would give this first book 3 out of 5 unicorns.

Get book 1 here!
Get the whole trilogy here!

 See you soon with another review!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Selection Series by Kiera Cass- Review

Author: Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection Series
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Romance
For this review, I want to talk about this series as a whole rather than individually because I basically binge read the first 3 books (The Selection, The Elite, and The One) over the course of a week and differentiating events would be difficult for me now. I do plan on doing a separate review for the next book in the series titled The Heir because it follows a different protagonist.

So, this series follows a young girl from a rather poor family or caste that reluctantly puts in for The Selection and actually gets chosen to participate in the competition to become the prince's wife. The story follows America Singer as she enters the palace to compete for Prince Maxon's love with 34 other girls. Only America isn't sure she wants to be there and she may have feelings for someone else. She befriends and eventually develops feelings for Maxon as she tries to decipher her feelings for her childhood friend, Aspen, and whether or not she thinks she could make a good queen. Basically, this story is the TV show "The Bachelor" set in a futuristic dystopian society where everyone is born into a caste system that decides what type of jobs are available to you and thus limiting your earning potential. So, obviously joining The Selection makes financial sense for America and her family as they are 5's and struggle with money some of the time.

This series actually surprised me. From the cover and the synopsis, this book seems like pure romantic fluff, which is not my thing. I only decided to read it because it was recommended to me by someone who also doesn't like the romantic fluff. So, I gave it a go. America is a fantastic character; she's smart, witty and doesn't swoon all over the prince. I really liked her perspective and I think she made this long drawn out selection process easy to read and stay invested in the story. She also has internal struggles which makes her make poor decisions a lot of the time, but because you know she truly wants to do the right thing, she is redeemable through it all.

I also really enjoyed the fact that not all the girls were malicious through the process. I think it would have been easy to imagine the girls trying to destroy each other like they do on the show "The Bachelor" especially since a prince was the prize. But it was refreshing that most the girls really developed friendships and loyalties to each other despite the competitive nature of the selection. I mean even Celeste came around eventually and no one really retaliated on her antics, which I appreciated that the "mean girls" trope was not glorified in this series.

A few problems I had with this series stemmed from the world building. The first novel does an excellent job explaining the hardships of life in this caste system for the lower castes which America and Aspen living. However, once America is chosen and moves to the palace we learn there are two rebel camps that are angry with the monarchy and are organizing and attacking. But there is no real explanation is given on why they are attacking and why their ideological views differ. Sometimes it feels like a plot device to cause drama rather than a real setting. By the end of the third book there are some explanations given but not many and no real solution is given for ending the insurgency. It was a little disappointing that this unique society was kind of brushed under the rug much of the time and even America, who was active in seeking information some of the time, could easily forget about it in favor of a party or walk around the garden. It also seemed strange to me that while America had the diary of Illea's founder, that she didn't devour the information in it. She barely read it and I felt like more entries would have helped to clarify some of the problems with the world building and helped to explain some more reasons for the rebellions.

Another major issue I had was the love triangle. I felt like it was kind of over done and some of the choices America makes regarding Aspen were just ridiculous. I don't think anyone with a brain would have made some of the choices she makes, which made her frustrating to read from. A lot of the time she knew it was a bad choice with bad consequences but did it any way because, "you know love and stuff."

Despite the minor problems I had with these novels, I really did enjoy them because reading from America's perspective was fresh and fun although sometimes frustrating. This series also has several novellas from different perspectives throughout this selection and the series continues on for at least two more books 20 years after the end of The One. I would recommend these books if you are interested in a fast read with unique dystopian society, a spunky female protagonist and a fantastic love interest. I give the whole series  3.5 stars.



Get The Selection here.

Get The Elite here.

Get The One here.

Get The Selection Series here.

 If you have read this or are interested in starting this series let me know your thoughts below!

Talk soon!