5 stars · series · young adult

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo; amazing, astounding, astonishing

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Crooked Kingdom

Six of Crows #2

author : leigh bardugo

pages : [hardcover] 536

memorable quote :

I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together.

favorite character : matthias

summary :

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

review :

I’ve avoided reviewing this book, probably because reflecting on it reminds me that it’s one of the most painful stories I’ve read. Beautifully written, wonderfully executed, and the kind of book that makes me cry so much I kind of resent it.

If you haven’t read Six of Crows, you absolutely need to. Not only because it’s book one in this duology, it’ll be one of the best books you’ve ever read. If you’re a fan of fantasy, or inventive new worlds, or great character novels, or heist schemes, you’ll love this book. Then you’ll crave more of it. These books are incredibly hefty–basically, the length of four books compiled into two. I think the duology option was incredibly smart because there’s no room for “middle book syndrome” here. Just nonstop action. And heartbreak.

I still can’t think of Crooked Kingdom without being filled with a curious mixture of happiness and devastation. It worked for me perfectly, and ensured this duology will remain as one of my favorite reads.

But, you know. No spoilers.

Crooked Kingdom picks up just where Six of Crows left off, introducing even more characters (and a few familiar faces for fans of the original Grisha trilogy. I might have squealed). The plot is so intricate. Kaz Brecker, one of the main characters, is truly a master of twisting things toward his will. Often in painful and unexpected ways–painful for his enemies, of course, not always the reader.

Matthias has always been my favorite. But, honestly, all of the main characters are just very adorable–though I think all of them would kill anyone who called them such to their face, apart from maybe Wylan. I loved how this book delves more into everyone’s backstories. It explains so much, not only their actions from the books but their motivations throughout their entire lives.

The book ends, I believe, with a perfect balance. There is room left to expand and create more stories within the Grisha universe, but this particular story arc is complete. Not all ends of it are happy, but . . you’ll just have to read to find out what happens. Honestly, it’s such a wild ride that even a very detailed spoiler review would take pages and pages and pages to write. Leigh Bardugo is exceptionally talented at weaving these intricate plots together and I love it!

Read it. Please. And then you must discuss with me.

5/5 stars

 

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5 stars · children's books · fiction

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

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The One and Only Ivan

author : katherine applegate

pages : [hardcover] 307

favorite character : ivan

memorable quote :

Memories are precious … they help tell us who we are.

summary :

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

review :

I honestly can’t get over how great this book was. Sure, it’s a children’s book, but it’s the kind of book anyone can benefit from reading, especially because I feel like everyone has their own opinions on animal rights nowadays. When do you ever get to read a narrative by the animal himself?

Ivan is a very smart, very underappreciated gorilla who was captured when he was young and dragged off to live with humans, eventually ending in a small enclosure where three walls are glass, one wall is a poor, painted depiction of a jungle. He has plenty of food to eat, a TV to watch if someone remembers to turn it on for him, and sometimes he has the chance to draw. The other animals are his friends and some of the only creatures he’s ever known, particularly now that business is slow and not many humans come to ogle him anymore.

His voice is just so incredibly unique. His understanding of human traits and objects comes from either seeing people use them or figuring out what he himself can use them for. He doesn’t know much of a life apart from this captivity, and might not have been tempted to try to change it for himself–but he wants more, and better, for his friends. I ached for Ivan and the others in this little stop off of the highway. There’s a huge difference between zoos/sanctuaries that give animals plenty of room, try to rehabilitate, or are keeping creatures from extinction, but these roadside attractions (I hope) are steadily disappearing. After living in Florida for a few months and seeing the advertisements for some areas there–I’m sure there are plenty of places around the world still in existence where people pay to, basically, see animals being mistreated.

The narrative is so simplistic, yet powerful, that I think it’s wonderfully done as a children’s book. Kids will definitely feel for and relate to Ivan; he’s grown, in captivity, but his mindset is still rather childish because he hasn’t had grown gorillas to teach him. I’ve seen this book used in children’s literature classes and full-heartedly support that; this is the kind of book everyone needs to go through school reading. No matter how old you are, or what your preferred genre typically is, I suggest picking this up. It can be finished within a few hours, but the personal impact can last a lifetime.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

1 star · fiction · young adult

“Piper Perish” by Kayla Cagan was nowhere near as good as it could have been

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Piper Perish

author : kayla cagan

pages : 405

release date : (expected) february 28th 2017

favorite character : adams

summary :

Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and into art school in New York City, the better. It’s been Piper’s dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she’s never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper’s sister’s tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper’s art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power, even if it means giving up what she’s always known? Debut author Kayla Cagan breathes new life into fiction in this ridiculously compelling, utterly authentic work featuring interior art from Rookie magazine illustrator Maria Ines Gul. Piper will have readers asking big questions along with her. What is love? What is friendship? What is family? What is home? And who is a person when she’s missing any one of these things?

review :

I really wanted to like this book. Not just because I’ve had a great record with loving YA novels published by Chronicle Books. Not just because I share a fantastic first name with the author. It sounded so interesting, like nothing I’d ever read before. Unfortunately, there were more frustrations in this novel than anything else, and it left me with nothing unique to hold onto. It’s the kind of book where the plot will grow fuzzy a few days from now.

Piper Perish is about just that: A girl named Piper Perish. She’s an artist, from Houston, in high school. I know this because the book is told in journal entries and in about every entry she complains about how limited Houston is compared to NYC. Actually, I feel like this was a very accurate representation of teenage ranting, but it didn’t translate well to real storytelling. The journal entries didn’t progress throughout the half year they detail so much as passionlessly chronicle Piper’s lives in a vividly failing attempt to capture teenage slang in the written form. There’s no indication of what year this is intended to take place within, so with the technology available in Piper’s world I assumed 2017 was a fair choice for setting. For teenagers so “cool” Piper constantly harps about how cool they are, their word choices are awfully . . . uncool, for lack of a better way to describe it. It was hard to read.

There was a big factor in the beginning of the novel that almost made me DNF it right away but I hung on, because I partially hoped it would right itself partway through the book and also thought I should give the rest of the plot a fair chance. A main character in the book reveals very early on that he has an interest in boys, while he has been dating a girl for a few years. Thus said girlfriend goes on a slightly insane spiral thinking that because she has short hair, she has accidentally convinced him that he likes men. Later that thinking shifts to how did everyone but me know that he was gay? 

I’m so incredibly tired of authors just ignoring the fact that, hey, it’s true: You can like GUYS AND GALS. Basically most of the book was her coming to terms with the fact that yes, he loved her, just not in that way. This is a horrible example for teens who’ll be reading this book. There’s EVERY CHANCE some guy could love a girl, yes in that way, and then when he finds a guy to date instead, love him too. He doesn’t have to be straight. Or gay. Or even define himself by being bisexual, because I get that people don’t have labels, sexuality is more complex, and all. But the word bisexual? Not once does it appear (and I’m reading an advanced copy so, if for some reason this changes, I would be incredibly pleased to know about it!). Not even as a consideration or an afterthought.

Throughout the rest of the book, this was marring my experience, but I have to admit it didn’t truly detract from the plot because not much happens. Tiny situations resolve themselves. Plotlines that could have been interesting, such as a certain character potentially having very serious unresolved mental illness issues, are never even addressed. The only thing that isn’t stagnant is time.

1/5 stars : should have DNF’d

I received an advanced copy from Chronicle Book for review and this in no way affected my honest review. They are an incredible publishing house and I’ve loved working with them. If you would like to read some of my favorite books by them, check out my reviews on The Clockwork Scarab and The Falconer.

5 stars · fiction · young adult

Nowhere Near You by Leah Thomas IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME

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Nowhere Near You

author : leah thomas

pages : [hardcover] 400

favorite characters : ollie & moritz (duh)

summary :

Following up her acclaimed debut, Because You’ll Never Meet Me, Leah Thomas continues the stories of Ollie and Moritz in another heart-warming story of unique friendship.

Ollie and Moritz might never meet, but their friendship knows no bounds. Their letters carry on as Ollie embarks on his first road trip away from the woods–no easy feat for a boy allergic to electricity–and Moritz decides which new school would best suit an eyeless boy who prefers to be alone.

Along the way they meet other teens like them, other products of strange science who lead seemingly normal lives in ways Ollie and Moritz never imagined possible: A boy who jokes about his atypical skeleton; an aspiring actress who hides a strange deformity; a track star whose abnormal heart propels her to victory. Suddenly the future feels wide open for two former hermits. But even as Ollie and Moritz dare to enjoy life, they can’t escape their past, which threatens to destroy any progress they’ve made. Can these boys ever find their place in a world that might never understand them?

review :

THIS BOOOOOOOOOOK.

I don’t know why, but after I first read Because You’ll Never Meet Me and completely and utterly fell in love with it, I never realized that there was going to be a sequel. Then I happened to catch a blog post on one of my favorite blog’s about Nowhere Near You and the happy squealing was immense. When I was contacted to actually read and review this book, it’s a miracle I was actually able to form a coherent sentence to reply to that email. I’m still incredibly awed that I was able to read this book, before it was even published. I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever get over and I plan on keeping this ARC forever after.

I suppose it would help if I could be a little more succinct about why these books are so lovely and important to me. It’s important to note that they’re incredibly different from one another, too. Because I’ll Never Meet You is much more character-driven than the plot-driven Nowhere Near You. Luckily I love both types of stories and getting such different narratives offers not only a well-rounded view of our narrators but an exciting and different worldview. We don’t even know much about the world that’s shown in this sequel until close to the end of the first book. While book one masquerades a bit more like contemporary fiction, book two is science fiction through and through. And it’s amazingly charming and witty in the way it works these very improbable characters into a world just like our own.

Well, not exactly like our own, because then we would have our own Moritz and Ollie. Flawed though they may be, they’ve successfully captured my heart because they’re so incredibly sweet with each other. Even when Ollie is being a rambling annoyance or Moritz is so consumed by his own dark thoughts that he drags down anyone in the vicinity as well. Their friendship (which I know, I know, may possibly turn into more but I’m TRYING not to get my hopes up) is so real. They’ve never met each other. They can’t meet each other. But even through the letters they share, they know one another more intimately than most people have the privilege to ever know another person. They can make each other laugh (I know, with Moritz it seems near impossible). They fight with each other. But they always make up in the end, as stubborn friends tend to do.

There isn’t anything I could honestly say I disliked about Nowhere Near You. It was more than a solid sequel; it would be great wholly on its own. The cover is gorgeous. The characters are gripping. I absolutely can’t wait to see what could possibly happen next . . . although I’m not entirely certain there’s going to be a book three. I wasn’t even expecting #2, so I’ll take what I can get and be happy with it.

I can’t recommend this book enough and know that, once you get your hands on it, you’ll be extremely jealous that I was able to read this beautiful story months before you were. And now you’ll be left itching for more, too. You’re welcome.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · children's books

Disney Princess Storybook Collection is cute for any Disney lover!

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Disney Princess Storybook Collection

variety of authors for the short stories

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite story : one about flynn rider and rapunzel getting cupcakes together and it’s adorable

summary :

Get ready for an enchanting collection of stories, starring all the Disney Princesses! Solve a mystery with Rapunzel and the gang from the Snuggly Duckling. Gallop along with Merida after she meets a mysterious horse. Travel to Paris with Tiana as she competes in a global baking contest. Filled with wonder, excitement, and discovery, each princess’s tale is a royal delight!

review :

If you love Disney Princesses, you’ll definitely like this collection. Each of the 11 official Disney princesses are given a short story and some (like Tiana and Ariel) are given up to three each. There’s certainly something in here for everyone. I was initially drawn to it because of the two immensely cute Tangled stories in here, one about Rapunzel freeing Flynn from being framed for a crime and another about what Rapunzel and Flynn do when they reach Corona before they see the floating lanterns.

There are so many good messages contained in these stories that are the exact right size to read to a child before bed each night. There are stories about love, stories about adventure, stories about being true to yourself. They teach children about how to make their dreams reality or how to fix things when you and someone you love are angry with each other. There are great new side characters introduced in these little stories, brave men and women who are inventors, explorers, and–most of all–dreamers. I just loved it so much!

The writing is extremely simple, which makes for good read-alouds as well as a great collection for young readers. The text is pretty large and easy to read, though I love that Disney didn’t lessen the vocabulary and there were some great words in here that I think would be an awesome learning opportunity.

I’d recommend this to anyone, with kids or not!

5/5 stars

 

3 stars · Fantasy · fiction · young adult

GLASS SWORD by Victoria Aveyard — are all trilogies the same nowadays?

glass-sword

Glass Sword

#2

author : victoria aveyard

pages : [hardcover] 444

memorable quote :

No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone.

favorite character : shade

summary :

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

review :

Oh Glass Sword, how I wanted to love you!

Red Queen was the kind of book where as soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to buy a copy for myself because the one I’d been reading was from the library and I needed one for my own collection. So, when I heard Victoria Aveyard would be touring near me for the sequel, I hopped on the chance to meet her, get some signed copies, and hear her speak. It was a really fun event, and I wouldn’t mind going to one of hers again. Glass Sword sat aside for a while, waiting to be read. I finally picked it up, read about half of it, and then had to take a break because I ended up moving and forgot about it for a short while. When I picked it up again, I flew through the rest of it, but . . . Maybe it goes to show just how nonexistent the plot was, for how easily I could piece it all together again after such a long time away from the middle of the book. And I’m an exceptionally forgetful person.

Glass Sword suffers from the worst of second book in a trilogy syndrome. It’s ALL about setting up for book three and dealing with the aftermath from book one. There were some cool, world-building moments in here that I liked. Hints that we’ll get to see actual involvement from other countries and places in this world–such a rare thing in YA when these catastrophic events seem to take place in one country while all of the others casually ignore what’s going down. There are even some hints that we might find out more about what made the world come to this, Silvers ruling over the Reds, and usually in these fantasy/dystopian type stories, the world is plopped in front of us with little explanation. So if Aveyard can deal out all of this in book three, that would be awesome.

Unfortunately, I’ve pretty much decided that I’ll get book three out of the library, if I end up deciding to read it at all.

Glass Sword follows Mare as she builds up the resistance that will change everything, raise up the Reds who’ve been oppressed, and . . . Well. I’m still not entirely certain what her end goals will be. She clearly doesn’t consider Reds and Silvers equal, so it isn’t that she’s fighting for equality (even though she’s in a curiously unhealthy relationship with Cal when they snuggle when neither of them want to deal with their emotions). But she also doesn’t want to be put up as some ‘Red Queen’ to be a new ruling class of Reds. I understand that maybe she hasn’t figured it all out for herself yet, but she hasn’t really thought it through. Because we’re reading it all from her perspective, I would like to know her mind a little better, and I find it hard enough to fathom why she makes some of the decisions she does.

I really like the world of this book. I think I might like the direction in which it will be moving. I’m just not sure I’ll stick with it long enough to get to that point.

3/5 stars

3 stars · adult · Fantasy · Uncategorized

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

author : seth grahame-smith

pages : [hardcover] 336

favorite quote :

Judge us not equally, Abraham. We may all deserve hell, but some of us deserve it sooner than others.

favorite character : henry

summary :

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.”

“My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

review :

I’ve been thinking about reading this book for a long while and, honestly, was never sure that I would actually get around to reading it. See, I always had so many other options, and so many new and more compelling books to reach for. But being temporarily moved away from all of that, with only access to a limited library and the more limited reach of whatever books aren’t currently checked out there, I chose this book because it’s one of the few titles I haven’t already read but have heard of.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was nothing like I thought it would be. This is the first of Grahame-Smith’s books I’ve read, so I never before experienced his writing style in his retellings. It was an interesting take and better than I thought it would be. The tone is more dry historical nonfiction than sensationalized bestseller vampire lore. It reads like Grahame-Smith has really been commissioned by Henry, a vampire who’s lived for centuries, to tell the true story of Abraham Lincoln in a new historical textbook. There are even pictures included with insets that show you where Lincoln (or the vampires!) supposedly are. I liked how that added to the storybuilding with the play at realism.

Maybe it played in too well, however, because it really did bore me like an actual textbook would. There was surprisingly little vampire slaying in this Abe Lincoln biography. Although I’m not sure of how much written is historically accurate (I’m going to assume a fair part of it is, apart from the vampires and all), it was . . . dull. And demonstrates how utterly depressing it was to live in a time period where so many people died under mysterious or unexplained circumstances, not just because of vampires but because of diseases they didn’t even have a name for back then. It’s a wonder that some people managed to survive it all without losing their minds.

I’m not sure if I would pick up another book by Grahame-Smith. This book certainly shows the talent he has, but a book including vampires, to me, has to be entertaining. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter actually skimmed over most of the scenes where vampires appeared, and would refer back to action-packed events in one or two sentences rather than showing them. Actually, one of the things that annoyed me most in this book was the cheap trick of using a dream to get in an especially shocking or enrapturing scene, only to have it turn out to be a dream. That happened so often in this novel, I couldn’t even keep track of the number of times it frustrated me. At least three, maybe four or five scenes were constructed in this way.

I could certainly see the draw this book holds for the people who loved it so much but, for me, I’m now more interested to see how it would translate on screen for me because that form of media might work best with this material.

3/5 stars