Review: Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner

★★★☆☆

This was… not at all the book I was expecting it to be. (Hint: It was better.) I figured, when I saw the cover and the blurb, that I was going to be reading a cutesy, easy romance book about two teenagers. And part of it was (sort of) like that, but only the second half.

vaclav and lenaVaclav and Lena is basically split into two halves: the beginning focuses on Vaclav and Lena’s friendship when they’re young (age 10 and 9, respectively), and ultimately what tears them apart. The two are both Russian immigrants living in NYC. Both are outsiders, who find somewhat of a shelter in each other. The first half is super, super cute, because Vaclav is such a sweet little kid and he loves Lena with all his lil heart. The two spend every day after school together, doing homework and practicing magic, because all Vaclav wants is to grow up and be like Harry Houdini, with Lena as his “lovely assistant”.

Where Vaclav’s family is loud and loving, Lena’s life has been spent being passed from household to household, never really being loved or wanted. At the start of the story she is living with her aunt Ekaterina, who works as a stripper and doesn’t provide for Lena and is almost never home. When the popular girls at school accept Lena into their group, she clings to the feeling of belonging and begins distancing herself from Vaclav.

The book takes an omniscient approach to narration, switching back and forth between Vaclav, Lena, and Vaclav’s mother Rasia. Rasia was perhaps my favorite character in the book, because she was just louder the life and so full of personality. She was loyal and loved Vaclav immensely, as well as feeling a motherly protection for Lena. She walks Lena home most nights, tucking her in and telling her stories until she falls asleep in the empty house.

When Lena is sick one day, Rasia goes to check on her—and ends up seeing something that changes all of their lives forever. Lena is taken away, and then the story skips ahead to when Vaclav and Lena are both 17. From there we get to see the two reconnect and the pure love that binds them together.

The first half was sweet and innocent, and the second half felt gritty and real, while still harboring the childlike purity of the beginning. Overall this was an exceptionally written book that dealt with much darker subject matter than I was expecting—a beautiful portrayal of the healing power of unconditional love.

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Review: We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan

ARC provided by NetGalley!
★★★☆☆

This was a cute, short read (more of a novella than anything) written in verse, about two outsiders and the bond that forms between them. Jess comes from a violent household and can’t wait to escape, and Nicu recently immigrated from Romania and is having trouble fitting in, and when they both get sent to a youth correctional program on Saturdays, they quickly become friends.

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The book, though short, had a poignancy that some long YA books struggle to achieve, and it managed it in half the words. It’s easily a book you can read in one sitting (I finished it in a few hours). I didn’t realize until I began that it was written in verse; at first I thought my Kindle formatting was messed up. Honestly, I didn’t care for it, but I didn’t actively dislike it either. I don’t think it added anything to the story, but it also didn’t take away from it—overall it was a good thing in that it enabled the story to develop quickly and shed all the excess weight that most YA books have.

Nicu as a character came across as a bit too naive, especially for someone his age—he felt like some kind of innocent baby rather than a teenage boy. I don’t think being a teenager changes much between cultures, so this felt weird, like they were infantilizing him just because he couldn’t speak fluent English. Other than that, he was easily the best character because he was so forgiving and adorable.

Jess on the other hand was hard to care about, because she was such a mean person in some respects. For one, there’s active portrayal of domestic abuse in the book, and Jess continually thinks that her mother is the problem, that she’s not strong enough to leave Jess’ step-father, which is pretty insulting. (Also, I’m not sure I understood the whole obsession her step-father had with Jess filming him while he hit her mother. It was weird and it made me wonder why Jess, who apparently is so talented at stealing, didn’t just take his phone and go to the police with all of that evidence.) In the same vein, she ignores Nicu even when they’re established friends, letting him get bullied in front of her without saying a word. (Later in the book she speaks up, but it still annoyed me that she thought her mother was the weak one when she allowed her friend to be ruthlessly bullied.)

The climax came about pretty quickly, without much explanation, and it all felt a bit rushed, but I think that can be expected from the storytelling method: it was quick and to the point, focusing on feeling rather than details.

In the end it was a nice, quick read, timely in its depiction of racism and a poignant portrayal of love and loss.

Review: Air Awakens by Elise Kova

★☆☆☆☆

I really tried. I mean I really really really tried to find something good about this.
But it’s a day after and I’m still sitting here like

HOW DOES THIS HAVE A 4+ STAR RATING???

Listen. *deep breath* I am. IN LOVE. With Avatar. It’s one of the biggest influences on my own writing. So whenever I hear of an elemental fantasy I PICK THAT BITCH UP AND READ IT. I read it because I already have a pretty heavy inkling that I’ll love it, but ALSO because I’m writing an elemental fantasy and reading other books in the same vein is a bit like studying. How does the author pull this off? How do they explain this? You know, that kinda thing.

ANYWAYs.

This was a dumpster fire. And I hated it within one chapter. So why did I torture myself through the whole book? Because everyone on this godforsaken website gave this book shining stars and said it was fantastic!!!! Was I reading another book?? Idk man. Air Awakens was basically a bastard lovechild between Avatar/The Phantom of the Opera/Twilight. Yes, Twilight. And you know what? I LIKED Twilight.

[ThoughasanadultIcanlookbackandseeitsflawsitstillretainsitsentertainmentvaluekbye.]

So for starters, the main character, Vhalla, is a Mary Sure to the extreme. She’s got messy hair that omg never cooperates, she’s seemingly plain but actually totally beautiful once she puts on a dress and makeup, and—perhaps the worst part—she has literally three guys fawning over her throughout this entire novel. Three. Separate. Men. You thought love triangles were bad, enter THE LOVE QUADRANGLE.

Vhalla (which my computer keeps trying to correct to “Veal”) finds out the superhotprince (literally nicknamed ‘The Heartbreaker Prince’ by the citizens) has been injured in the war, so she does what us nerdy girls do best: she stays up all night reading, trying to find a cure for the poison in his system. Somehow this Awakens her powers, she’s kidnapped for some reason to The Dark Spooky Tower of the Sorcerers, and she finds out the person she saved was actually the ALSOHOTDARKSPOOKYFIREPRINCE and that’s how the story begins. She spends the entire first 25% of the book saying, “NO I CAN’T BE A SORCERER. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE,” just over and over… for probably about 100 pages.

The next 50% of the book is spent falling in and out of the love quadrangle—she gets asked on a date by her friend Sareem—of course hot dark fire prince sees them and narrows his eyes broodingly; she dances with the Heartbreaker Prince (I’m glad I don’t have to come up with a goofy nickname for him since the author managed that for me) and then sex scandal spreads because she was in his room?; and last but not least, of course, the dark hot fire prince tutors her through letters and finally in person and they fall in ~~instalove~~. I skipped a ton of this because I just couldn’t take it.

Aaaand the last 25% of the book was—gasp—actually decent! For a second, at least. The fight scene was great! Really! It was awesome and we finally got to see some of the “dark” side of the prince, some gritty action, as well as Vhalla’s courage. Unfortunately that was short lived; she got thrown in prison afterward for a crime she didn’t commit, and of course there’s an evil senator guy (whose hatred of Vhalla is never really explained?) and this situation was dragged out for days for some reason.

See, I get it. When I started writing my elemental fantasy I thought, “Wouldn’t it be, like, super cool if I had 4 books and each of them had one of the elements in the title?” Seriously, I considered this… And then I MURDERED MY DARLING. It was a bad idea, and it didn’t need to be done to tell the story, and it just makes the concept more cutesy than anything. So I killed the idea and moved on. Unfortunately this author didn’t, and so she had to stretch the first book out exponentially to make the title (“Air Awakens”) work. It’s ridiculous, it’s kitschy, and it ruined a potentially awesome idea! I really wanted to love this story, but I simply couldn’t because the first book was so incredibly tedious and unnecessary (kind of like this review—cough cough).

Anyway, god, I want to read the next book, because the action scene at the end was pretty great. And I want more of that. What I don’t want to do is pay for a book that ends up being a stretched out account of a bunch of characters flirting. I mean, I can get straight romance if I walk into a mall. I don’t need to pay for that. Idk. I might go for it, because elemental fantasy is my THING Y’ALL. But we’ll see.

Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

★★★★☆

This will be a semi short/messy review since I already did a proper one for Six of Crows here.

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LOOK AT THIS BEAUTIFUL BOOK. LOOK AT IT.

This was super enjoyable; I read it in the car, at work, till two in the morning, in the bathroom, while stuffing Chipotle into my face, etc. (None of those things at the same time, though, just to be clear.) BUUUTTTTTT, for the sake of honesty, it didn’t blow me away, even though I’ll say I loved the duology as a whole and Bardugo is a god damn genius when it comes to crafting characters.

To begin, there was a loooooot of deus ex machina going on here. I mean truly every scene where the odds were totally beyond their scope, where everything was hopeless, one of the characters would find this new power inside them and it would work! perfectly! each time! For instance, [SPOILERS BELOW]

  • Jesper learned that one of the reasons he might be such a good shot is because he’s a Fabrikator. Cool idea, and I’d assumed from the beginning that that’s why he was a sharpshooter, but then he went on to make an impossible shot where the bullet actually curved in midair around a corner and hit the person in the chest. SO YEAH it was cool, but like… too cool and too convenient. I have a problem with that.
  • Nina learns that after using jurda parem, she can’t control her powers like she used to. Then, against impossible odds, she finds she’s able to control dead bodies. Which was super gross to begin with, but she uses these CORPSES to not only defeat her enemies but then miraculously carry a net out under Inej right when she falls off a grain silo (this probably sounds super weird if you haven’t read the book, lmao). I’ve read other reviews for Six of Crows that mention the total lack of morals that these characters have, and I hadn’t had a problem with it because that’s the story, and I’ve read Game of Thrones which is a hundred times worse. People are sick and self-serving for the most part (can you tell I’m an optimist?), so these lawless characters didn’t make me grimace. But this… using dead people as props and controlling them… I had been gobbling up the pages and then that happened and I was like

It threw me off to such an extent that I wondered if I could recover from it and still enjoy the book. There are other instances too, but those are two that really annoyed me. And I mean, it wasn’t TOTALLY terrible because inklings of these abilities were sprinkled through earlier on in the story, but it was still just cringe-worthy in my opinion.

Other than that, the book was good but long and rambling in a lot of ways. It didn’t have a clear plot like Six of Crows; it was more a jumble of a bunch of Kaz’s failed plans and then the gang recovering from the previous heist and doing something else to get their money back. It wasn’t that it wasn’t fun to read, but it seemed like the book was a lot longer than it really needed to be and like the author couldn’t come up with one central heist to cover the length. It was a lot of back and forth, and that constant planning, executing, OOPS WE’VE BEEN BACKSTABBED or OOPS IT’S A TRAP, failing, replanning got dull after a while, to the point where I was skimming the more politic-driven scenes to get to the parts I cared about, aka the action and the kissing. (I’m not too ashamed.)

Last but not least, perhaps my BIGGEST issue was (pretty major spoiler ahead so don’t click unless you’ve read the book) Matthias’ death. It was, to put it shortly, completely random, out of place, and wholly unnecessary. It added absolutely nothing to the plot, it was brought on by a random character that was never explained or even reintroduced or ANYTHING, and it was just hard to read because of how forced it was. I have this very strong feeling that Matthias was killed off because someone, probably an editor or something, was like, “Listen, your readers are probably expecting one of these guys to die in the end, so we’ve gotta kill someone off. Who’s your least favorite?” The problem is that he was killed off in the most random way possible, like the heist was done, everything was falling into place, but NOPE: [insert random character death here]. I HATED IT. HATED IT.

Honestly though, the terribleness of those few things was BY FAR made up for by the adorable romances between Wylan/Jesper and Kaz/Inej, the wonderful character development, and the exquisite world-building. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these are some of the most believably invented characters I’ve come across lately. I’ve been so fed up with YA books lately; it’s all so boring and manufactured. But this wasn’t at all. I couldn’t contain the ~~feels~~. Also, Wylan and Jesper honestly overtook Kaz and Inej as my favorite pairing in this, and I ended up liking Wylan even more than Kaz.

Okay, enough fangirling. GO READ THIS DUOLOGY. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

★★★★★

God. Damn. I love Leigh Bardugo so much.

I went into this book with such impossibly high expectations. I mean, a band of ragtag orphans, thieves, and cutthroats; an impossible heist (even the word ‘heist’ gets me riled); elemental magic and mayhem and unrequited love—it’s literally my book wishlist all wrapped up in one. How could I not love it?

Even the books themselves are freaking gorgeous. They have dyed black and red edges. I cry.

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And with my employee discount, I nabbed a beautiful boxset at B&N for $20. Can’t say no to that!

So to recap: everything I’ve ever wanted in a fantasy book + unending media hype + one of my favorite authors + books as beautiful on the outside as they are potentially on the inside = insanely high expectations.

So the fact that I, though seemingly impossible to please, came out of this book glowing with the perfection of it all, is noteworthy.

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Art by @kevinwada

Bardugo has crafted an awesome, diverse cast of characters that you can’t help but root for. Each character has a defining characteristic, something that makes them memorable instantly. Bardugo splits the story up masterfully between them all, with each chapter told from one of their POVs (except Wylan, for some reason). This is a storytelling technique few authors can pull off, so it could’ve ended badly, but those defining characteristics I mention aren’t abused and they never feel gimmicky, so the characters don’t come across as caricatures. Each of them is wonderfully fleshed out, with vivid pasts and individual problems they need to solve.

Did I mention that Kaz Brekker is the newest addition to my “book boyfriends” list as well as my “favorite characters ever” list? I mean… look at him. I have a type, ladies and gentlemen, and apparently it’s pale, emotionally-stunted pickpockets.

 

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Six of Crows never never got stale, and it never failed to surprise. Every time I thought, “That’s it, they’re done for,” Bardugo pulled out another risky maneuver or cunning plan. When you read enough YA fantasy, plot twists can start to get a lot less twisty; you realize that half of these books have “twists” that are the same across the board. Not so with Bardugo. She just has a way of making everything fresh and exciting, the same way she did with the original Grisha trilogy.

I can’t wait to read the next book in this duology, and I highly, highly recommend Six of Crows to anyone with a book wishlist like mine. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnson

★☆☆☆☆

Ithousand-nights can count on one 6-fingered hand the number of 1-star ratings I’ve given (at least of the books I’ve rated):

  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman (although I may need to reread this now that I’m in the intended demographic)
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Choke by Chuck Palahnuik
  • The Maze Runner
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • Fifty Shades trilogy (which were mindless, stupid fun to read but awful in general)

And now this.

I considered giving it two, because it wasn’t awful, it was just ridiculously boring, but I really need to start being more harsh in my critiques and not rewarding mediocrity.

Basically, the story is a reimagining of A Thousand and One Nights, and centers around a girl (who is never given a name) who takes her sister’s place and weds an evil king. The king marries one bride from each village and they all die, normally after one night. But the girl lives and keeps on living, because she tells beautiful stories to her captor. Inspirational, right? It might have been, except literally this entire story is a slow, drawn out monologue on the boring parts of this character’s life, and she never actually got around to telling any of these beautiful, entrancing stories. To summarize, here are some things this character does:

  • Weaves things
  • Has dreams and visions that come true. Repeatedly. (The novelty of this wore off after the first time.)
  • Talks about her village
  • Remembers things about her village
  • Worries about her sister
  • Has her hair done
  • Talks about goats
  • Does some random, unexplained but super helpful magic (??)
  • Weaves some more

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And of course, there’s some intrigue mixed in to keep you reading: How did Lo-Melkhiin become possessed by this demon? Will he ever be free? How will the girl escape from him?

Listen, I love me some magical realism. It’s my thing. But if that magic isn’t ever explained, or if it has a really flimsy explanation, I’m instantly turned off. The girl gets her powers from the prayers of her people, who believe her to have become a smallgod. So when she weaves a tale, the tale comes true. It’s an interesting premise, but the execution was so slow and boring that I could not hold my interest for long. It took me like two weeks to finish this, which is ridiculous for a short, easy-to-digest YA book.

The girl is a good heroine, of course. She’s brave, she’s strong, she’s calm in the face of danger and fear, she sacrifices herself to save those she loves. And I think these qualities are some of the reasons this book has so many fans. But is a strong female character really enough to carry a book? I don’t think so. If it had been flipped and the protagonist were a young man, I have a feeling this book would have bored a lot of its readers. Simply the presence of a strong female character seems to be enough for some people, but it wasn’t for me. I was bored to tears.

Another issue for me is that I had figured a vast majority of my issues with this book would be explained in the sequel (which I’m not going to read), but apparently the sequel is set generations in the future. So all of those questions I had are probably never going to be answered. Maybe I missed something vital in the reading of this, but it was just incomprehensible for me.

Anyway, on to the next one. My next book for 2017 is The New Policeman by Kate Thompson! Check back for my review of that soon.

 

 

 

 

Review: Olivia Series 1&2 by Tessa Palmeri

★★★★★

As an editor, I sometimes get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at awesomeness in the making. And that’s exactly what this was! I read Olivia: On the Brink and its sequel, Olivia: Finding Her Way for work in 2015, and I absolutely loved both of them.

Set in the early ’90s, this series (which I believe has a planned five books in total) focuses on the main character, Olivia Miller, as she graduates high school and moves on to college life. Seems like a simple plot, and it is. That’s probably why I loved it so much; because although the plot isn’t convoluted and action-packed, the nature of the story is character-driven, which really lets you get into Olivia’s head and experience everything she’s going through.

Olivia Miller is pretty sure she’d win the high school senior award “Most Likely to Never Figure Out What They Want To Do With Their Life”. Her critical father and neglectful mother have contributed to her anxiety and lack of direction about her future. She’s a model student with a big heart for community service, but her dad has belittled any ambition she ever had in pursuing something she’s interested in. College is a definite, but where should she go, and what should she major in?

But there’s a new guy at school, Cameron McClain, who becomes a fabulous distraction. He is positively swoon-worthy, and not just because he’s a gorgeous romantic who plays the guitar—he’s also thoughtful and respectful. He fits right in with Olivia’s circle of friends: future fashion designer Lyla, photographer Kate, and all-around popular Josh.

As Olivia and Cameron’s relationship deepens, he shows her the acceptance and encouragement she craves which helps her deal with difficult family issues and college decisions. Together, they navigate the exciting, though sometimes confusing, waters of a teen dating relationship that grows into first love.

One of the reason I loved these stories so much is that Olivia honestly reminded me of myself at that time in my life. Graduating high school and watching your friends move away can be seriously stressful, and without the proper support it can be demoralizing. Turning to a boyfriend for all of that emotional support can feel right, but it can also be pretty disastrous. Palmeri pulls off this balancing act with finesse, showing Olivia’s struggle with finding her identity in a family that seems set on pushing her in the wrong direction.

Olivia doesn’t know what she’s going to do with her life. All of her friends seem to have everything figured out — everyone but her. Her father wants nothing but for Olivia to go into the same field as him, and he doesn’t try to conceal his disregard for other job fields that he deems unimportant or a waste of money. Her mother, having dealt with her husband’s emotional abuse for many years, has become despondent, often forgetting to pick her daughters up from school as she watches TV in sweatpants. Olivia has taken up the mantel of responsibility, shielding her little sister, Emma, from the worst of her father’s tantrums, but she fears leaving her at home to fend for herself when she eventually goes away to college.

This is a great story, one that I could easily recommend to my young family members. There isn’t anything explicitly sexual, although there is some kissing and cuddling and thinking of those things, especially in the second book. Furthermore, Olivia and Cameron’s relationship is very healthy, emotionally. And when it gets unhealthy for a second — well, you’ll have to read to find out. Olivia is a fantastic protagonist, one you’ll find yourself rooting for as you watch her strive to improve her life time and time again. There are elements of Christianity and reliance on faith, but as a non-religious person this didn’t feel like it was hitting me over the head or being preachy. It was used very nicely, and showed a girl with a different belief system than me practicing her religion mindfully and intelligently.

I would recommend this series to anyone in their tweens, teens, or early twenties who wants a quick, smart fiction focused on healthy relationships and finding your path in life.

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

★★☆☆☆

This was one of those books that I started to read ages ago and just…

never got around to finishing. So at last, I told myself, “Just finish it. It’ll be done and you can move on with your life.”

So I did.

I started at the beginning (because I remembered nothing of what I’d read years ago), and plowed through. And I’ll say this: normally I’m a pretty easy person to please when it comes to romance. Give me a few cute glances, a swoon-worthy, brooding, misunderstood love interest, and some drama and I’m golden. Even better when you toss some fantasy or paranormal aspects in to the mix. Really though, I’m one of those people that enjoyed Twilight despite all its issues. The YA paranormal romance genre gets away with a lot in my eyes.

Not so with Shiver. 

To summarize, this book is about the main character, Grace, who literally falls in love with a wolf.

To be fair, the wolf can turn into a guy. Or vice versa. But to be perfectly clear, Grace was basically in love with this wolf before she knew he was a werewolf. So… um…

When she finally finds out that he’s ~actually part human~, they fall in insta-love. Yep — his eyes are the same eyes as her beloved wolf, and she knows right then that they’re soul mates and nothing will ever ever separate them.

To top off the discomfort I felt from this, the love interest, Sam, isn’t very swoon-worthy at all. He’s not really… anything. I mentioned that I like the mysterious, brooding type, but while Sam was certainly angsty, he definitely wasn’t quiet about it. He had a teaspoon’s worth of personality, and most of his page-time was spent bemoaning his existence, his luck, his past, and coming up with dreadfully basic song lyrics. I’m serious, this stuff reads like an emo kid’s 7th grade journal:

  • “You’re my change of skin/my summer-winter-fall/I spring to follow you/this loss is beautiful.”
  • “She draws patterns on my face/These lines make shapes that can’t replace/the version of me that I hold inside/when lying with you, lying with you, lying with you.”

Maybe I’m turning into some sexless, unromantic robot, but yeesh. Give it a break, kid.

Honestly, all of the characters felt a bit like caricatures. There was

  • Olivia, the quiet photographer;
  • Isabel, the girl who omigawd is rich and and complains that she’s getting her expensive shoes dirty (I’m not kidding, this actually happened);
  • Beck, the father figure/big, burly wolf guy (kind of like Sam Uley from Twilight);
  • Rachel, the super hyper/constantly talking girl with loads of freckles;
  • And of course, the MC, who has a vague personality so any reader can kind of identify with her, and who trails her hands longingly across book spines as she walks through book stores.

I stuck it out through the book, because the one thing this book has going for it is pacing and plot lines. It ends on something of a cliffhanger, but not a very exciting one — in fact, I know almost exactly what’s going to happen in the next book (and I confirmed my suspicions by reading the blurb of the next book). So I’m not sure if I’m even interested enough to read the sequel. But… like… then my book set will be incomplete!!!

Overall, it was a fun read, but it was just kinda… blah. Hopefully Steifvater’s Raven Cycle is better than this, because I’m really excited for that one.

 


What did you think of Shiver? Like, love, or something in between? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

★★★★★

I started Shadow and Bone right after reading An Ember in the Ashes. This was a big mistake; I had a (lovely) book hangover from AEitA, so attempting to delve into a whole new fantasy world had me comparing and judging right off the bat. So I knocked out 60 pages or so, got bored, and set it aside for a few weeks while I cleansed my palette. And once I picked it up again, boom. I couldn’t put it down, and gobbled it up in one night and the next afternoon.

The premise of this book was really cool; there are a group of people called Grisha who study the Small Sciences, or how certain matter or elements interact with each other. Grisha are able to control or “call” these small particles and manipulate matter, the elements, or even the blood inside a creature’s body. There are the Corporalki (The Order of the Living and the Dead), the Etherealki (The Order of Summoners), and the Materialki (The Order of Fabrikators), and all of them are led by one man: The Darkling. All this wrapped up in a wild, desolate, Russian-inspired setting, and you have a hell of a start.

Now, some books are not life-changing books, but there’s something about them that makes me cast any small issues aside and hold them close. Shadow and Bone was exactly that: it wasn’t perfect, it didn’t make me question my existence or blow my mind, but it was fucking awesome and different and exciting and that made up for it.

I mean, “girl finds out she has special, one-of-a-kind power, gets a makeover and is treated like royalty, then somehow masters power and defeats enemy single-handed” is not a very unique concept. It’s been done a million times, but the reason is because when done correctly, it’s glorious. Potent. Spine-tingling. That’s what this book did to me — it actually gave me goosebumps two separate times while reading. I honestly don’t know if that’s ever happened to me before, but it rocked. The plot twists were as twisty as they come — I didn’t guess any of them (this is weird, because I almost always guess at least one big plot twist), and they surprised the crap out of me.

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Alina Starkov. Art by Nicole McEvoy. Click through for source.

While the plot itself was very YA-y and cliched at times, the writing is what blew me away. Seriously, it was great. The main character, Alina, is one of the coolest MCs I’ve come across, because she was so utterly believable and real, and I connected with her almost instantly. She was sarcastic, head-over-heels for her best friend (been there, done that!), blunt, and flawed, and her dialogue/narration was often smirk-worthy in its realism. Also, just sayin’, the smoochin’ scenes were A+++. 😉

I’m so, so excited to read the sequel of this. I already ordered the second and third books of the trilogy and I’m trying not to die of anticipation. Leigh Bardugo, you’ve made a fangirl out of me.P.S.: You can take the “Join the Grisha” quiz HERE on Leigh Bardugo’s website to find out which Grisha you’d be! I got:

CORPORALNIK: brave, belligerent, and cocky. Corporalki undergo the most rigorous training of all the Grisha. Heartrenders are always ready for a fight. Healers use their powers to repair injury and treat sickness. Which are you? Report to the Little Palace for further testing.

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

★☆☆☆☆

To preface: I am not a fan of John Green. I don’t like him or his writing, and I’ve never understood the craze surrounding him. This review might offend some people, but that’s not my goal.

I find Green’s stories hard to swallow, especially the super hot, mysterious, angsty girl falls in love with dorky “nobody” guy trope. I read Looking for Alaska ages ago (in high school) and I don’t think I ever even finished it (due to the trope listed above), and I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson a while before TFiOS and didn’t like that one much, either.

I feel like an enormous outlier here because everyone I know thought The Fault in Our Stars was fantabulous and moving. Welp… I really, really didn’t like it. I don’t often give one star reviews, and in fact my original rating of this was three stars. But as time went on, I got to thinking about how I remembered the story over the years; I wasn’t remembering anything sweet or meaningful or deep about the book — those parts weren’t sticking with me. Instead, I was remembering a lot of the bad. A lot of the parts that made me grimace. To put it plainly, the only parts that were memorable were the aspects that threw off my suspension of disbelief — and there were a lot of them.

And some might call me heartless for that, but it’s true. Just because a book is sad, and just because it makes the reader cry (and I did cry at the end) doesn’t make it a ~good book~. In many of my angry rants to friends and family regarding this book, I’ve mentioned this: John Green books always seem to me like the same basic outline with different names, and a few highly-quotable lines mixed in. For instance:

  • “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”
  • “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
  • “I fell in love the way you fall asleep; slowly, and then all at once.”
  • “That’s the thing about pain: it demands to be felt.”
  • “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
  • “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.”
  • “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.”
  • “I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it-or my observation of it-is temporary?”

What? I’m sorry, but do these sound like the types of things 16- and 17-year-olds say? Even those going through something as devastating as cancer? No.

So, below is my vague reasoning. Remember, this review is a few years late and not very specific. Besides, let’s get real: I’m not going to waste my time rereading a book I hated when there are about ten thousand books I still need to read. Anyway, here’s a bulleted list of reasons I remember:

  • Romanticized illness. Ughhhhhhh.
  • A deplorable main character. Although I have no examples of this because I haven’t read this book for a few years, I remember her as being kind of insufferable (which is understandable since she’s terminally ill). She’s grumpy, mean, and the only thing that makes her happy is Augustus. Even if this could be realistic in some scenarios, it just annoyed me as the angry feminist I am.
    • [She’s kind of like the Bella Swan of YA fiction, meaning she compares every. single. guy to Augustus and finds them all lacking (because they’re not “hot enough”. At one point, she meets her friend’s boyfriend and actually thinks to herself, “He’s cute, but nowhere near Augustus.”]
  • It’s a book about teenagers that doesn’t actually sound like teenagers. It sounds like snobby college students who are studying philosophy because they have too much money and no career path (think Karen from How I Met Your Mother). And to add on to this…
  • The dialogue and thought processes of these characters are terrible. It’s so unrealistic that I just felt like squirming the whole time. [Refer to earlier quotes for the full, cringe-worthy experience.]
  • And perhaps worst, we have the most over-the-top, “deep” love interest in perhaps the world of literature (or at least the world of John Green, which is bad enough) who pretends to smoke cigarettes by putting them in his mouth and leaving them unlit, and then saying pretentious crap like this: “It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”
I can understand where the love for this book comes from. Because in my middle school and high school days, a guy saying ~*~deep stuff~*~ like that totally would have tangled my panties, too. But then my brain fully developed.And as touching as the writing may be at times, the forced, unrealistic nature of it, mixed with the romanticized idea of sickness and death (which has been popping up in YA fiction much more often than I’m comfortable with) gives this book a nasty aftertaste for me.


What do you think? Do you agree or feel like I’m totally mangling Green’s message? I’m always up for a discussion. Let me know in the comments below.