Ruin and Rising Book Review

ruinandrisingTitle: Ruin and Rising
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #3
Authors: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Square Fish
Publish Date: April 18, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 427
Format: Paperback

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction–and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Okay, so, it’s been a hot minute since I last read the second book in this trilogy, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this third installment – which I did enjoy it! I remember not really liking the first one as much as I had hoped, but the second one was much more enjoyable, and I think that this one was even better than that.

So, as a whole, this book did really well in delivering what was to come that the plot had been leading up to and telling us would happen from page one of the first. There was fighting, loss, exhaustion, hope, and I thought that the characters themselves were doing what they could to just survive, let alone plan and plot to overthrow the Darkling.

Let me say that Alina’s character still annoyed the crap out of me. Like… I don’t know, she was very ready to not trust her friends at the drop of a hat, and I just didn’t get it? This mostly happened at the very beginning of the book in the first few chapters where she had a page of inner monologue with herself about if she should trust them over the man from the white cathedral who was creepy af. I just… didn’t get it. But I was glad that she got over that and actually took initiative a few times and didn’t rely so heavily on others.

But, you know, good things don’t last forever. I mean, I thought she did well for the situations she was in, but sometimes I wanted to slap her upside the head.

Anyway, I really liked the ragtag team of people that they had going and how they worked together through it all. Though not everything went according to plan, everyone did their hardest to keep each other safe.

I was not, however, expecting the betrayal, but when I reflected back I could see signs that would lead up to the person turning them over to the Darkling.

I also was not expecting what happened to Nikolai to actually be happening. Like, when I was reading that whole sequence, I thought it was just a dream. But nope, it was actually happening, and I remember reading it and going, “Oh shit.” Just my mouth was hanging open in disbelief at what was happening.

And Baghra. The more I got to know about her character, the more I grew to like her, and I will say that I think she was one of the best parts of this story.

And then we have the search for the Firebird. I loved the descriptions used to show the reader what the forests looked like, how there was a tale behind why the trees looked the way they did, at why the waterfalls glowed gold, and then the bird itself – it was such a great scene and one of my favorites in the book. I thought the way it was described really captured what exactly the characters were seeing and painted the picture vividly for the reader.

I also was no expecting the reveal of the final amplifier and boy, let me tell you: I was shook. But also not completely surprised? Just… okay, I was surprised, but I think judging by the back story given by Baghra earlier in the book really helped to paint the whole picture. I actually liked this part of the book and I liked how everything from previous tellings were piecing together for the final moment.

Which, speaking of, this was my biggest gripe of this book: the fight scene – the final battle with the Darkling – was incredibly underwhelming at the end. I was super into it throughout the whole thing, at how it was going down, and then… it just ended so simply? Like… it almost felt like a cop-out. I wanted there to be more stress and for Alina to be more distraught, and I just felt like it fell kind of flat there in those moments.

The scenes after were like a nice wrap up and a way to lead the reader to form their own questions and to hope for more story – which we’ll be getting when King of Scars comes out, but still.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. This book was highly enjoyable and I thought that the descriptions of the sceneries were some of the best elements.

And no, I’m not mad about the final pairing; I’m actually glad it happened because I thought they were good for each other.

If you’ve read the first books and liked them, definitely read this one. It provides a nice wrap up to an epic journey and I think you’d really enjoy it.

I rated this book 4.5 stars.

Leah On the Offbeat Review

leahontheoffbeatTitle: Leah On the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 343
Format: Hardcover

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

Well, let me tell you: this is the first actual novel I’ve read TO COMPLETION in… months. Many months. I still can’t believe it. It took me around probably six to eight hours to read the thing. And I really enjoyed it!

It was great jumping back into the world of Creekwood and it was great getting a story from Leah’s perspective, while also still seeing Simon and Blue (even though they weren’t the main focus). I loved her voice and how she really talks like a young adult – swearing, sarcasm, tumblr posts. She was such a fun character that really cared not only for her body as a plus sized young woman, but also as a bisexual person. Though she was only out to her mom (which is still awesome that her mom accepted her regardless), it only really start to make things difficult as time progressed in the story.

I found that the romance aspect of the book was done well, though sometimes it did feel like a little hiccup here and there with how it went. I overall thought that it was fairly realistic as to how it turned out, but I kind of wish I got a better feel for the love interest. I understand the strain on the friendship, but it still felt to me like I was missing some of the love interest’s personality.

I also didn’t really get a feel for just how tight knit the friendship between Leah, Anna, and Morgan were, despite it supposedly being so strong in the beginning. Although, if it were my friend, I would be very pissed about the comment that was made, too, but I don’t know if I would continue to be mad even after an apology. I don’t know, that felt rocky at best and I don’t really know how the friendships would have lasted after the end of the book.

Other than that, I felt like it was a fun, light hearted story, with dashes of drama inside. I like how Leah was both proud of her body, but also self conscious, because that really does show the two sides of the coin (as a plus sized woman, myself, I can speak to this very feeling). I think that the book overall was a great read, though I feel like I am missing out on a few threads that weren’t completely tied at the end (I don’t want to ask them here for fear of spoilers).

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, light-hearted story about a teen girl who’s trying to come to terms with her emotions as well as figure out who she is as a person, and the relationships she has around her, then definitely pick up this book! I hope that you’ll like Leah as much as I did.

I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Radiance Book Review

radianceTitle: Radiance
Series: Wraith Kings #1
Author: Grace Draven
Publisher: Grace Draven
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 297
Format: Kindle eBook

THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined. 

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE 

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light. 

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

I initially didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. I had seen the cover pop up on Amazon and I thought it was going to be another cheesy, trashy romance novel. I didn’t even bother reading the synopsis before jumping into reading a sample – and immediately being hooked to the story.

This story features two races: the Gauris, who are human, and the Kai, an ancient non-human race with gray skin, black claws, and lamplight yellow eyes. A Gauri girl – one raised in a noblewoman’s position but one of little importance – is married off to one of the Kai – the second born prince, one who is unimportant as his older brother has already secured his place for the throne and has several sons to rule after him. The two are repulsed that they have to marry the other as each race finds the other revolting in looks and customs alike, but when Ildiko and Brishen meet unsuspectingly that they were to later wed, the two have a connection of sorts that later comes into play in a great way.

Ildiko and Brishen have a very slow burn romance as they don’t expect anything from each other at first, and instead find good friends in each other at first, talking to one another, picking on each other as friends do, and I think that was so sweet to see at first. As time passed and the two faced different kinds of trials together (such as dinner with Brishen’s mother), their feelings for each other grew into more than just friends, and eventually those first opinions they had on one another’s appearance – of Ildiko think Brishen looked like an eel, and Brishen thinking Ildiko looked like a hag – changed and they saw the beauty in each other physically, yes, but mostly through their personalities and morals and I thought that was a breath of fresh air to read about. It felt natural and progressive and I highly appreciated it.

As for the rest of the story, there were politics, some action scenes, and little hints of what was to come in the next novel, and I felt that the story was fast-paced, but not so fast-paced that we missed out on anything. I do, however, wish there were more action scenes and that some scenes had been expanded, but then maybe it would have taken away from the magic of it all.

I felt that both Ildiko’s and Brishen’s characters were mature, but I kind of wished to see more of them develop and whatnot. Ildiko was proper, quick-witted, and kind. She always was above the expectations of the Kai, much to their surprise, and I liked that about her. She was stubborn enough to always try and not give up, but not so stubborn that she made poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Brishen was so unlike his parents, which was nice because his parents aren’t the greatest, and had a sense of humor, and a caring compassion for his fellow Kai and Ildiko. I found that they melded well together and that I craved to see more interactions between them.

Though this book was sort of a quick read, I found that I could really dive into the world and really feel for the characters. I’m already reading the second book and let me tell you: I’m getting the action I craved from the first.

If you haven’t picked up Radiance yet, I highly recommend you do if you’re looking for a slow-burn romance set in a fantasy world.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars.

A Darker Shade of Magic Book Review

adsomTitle: A Darker Shade of Magic
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Pages: 401
Format: Kindle

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. 

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

Now I understand what all the hype surrounding this book was about.

This book is full of magic and adventure, of power and control, of longing and desire, and of struggle and pain. There was so much happening in the book that I couldn’t helped be sucked into the story and really divulge myself into the characters’ stories. I found myself completely enraptured and wanted to know what was going to happen next.

I found Kell to be an awesome character. Though he didn’t show much emotion throughout the book (frowning, more frowning, a little bit of pain and annoyance, and a few tears, sure, but… okay, nevermind, he had emotion), I found his character to be one that was both curious and fun. I loved his magic as an Antari and how though he continued to say he had much stronger magic than those around him, he never really showed that off. Sure, he’d do little things here and there, but it wasn’t about showing off so much as knowing he had the ability, and also how his views on magic could potentially cause the outcome of how it’s used – or how it uses him. Throughout the book I found that his thirst for power from the stone later given to him was realistic enough that if someone had magic in their veins and touched it that they’d also crave it. I loved his character and how he continually fought for others – even though they would’ve been mad about it.

Lila, on the other hand, is quite the character and I freaking love her. If she were real, I’m pretty sure we’d be friends. I love her sense of humor and how stubborn she is and how she’s always fighting to get what she wants because in her world – in her London – she doesn’t exactly have anything. I loved how she on more than one occasion put Kell in his place when it came to his position versus hers or how he viewed his life versus how she’s lived. She was a spitfire, Lila Bard. The way she questions not only others, but herself, when they show even a bit of kindness or “charity” and how they don’t expect something of it (or if they do, they say to give it back over time) is something of an admirable quality about her given her circumstances.

Now what about Holland? He was the other Antari in this world and I felt like I just didn’t get enough about him. Like… I loved how he came in as an anti-hero leaning on villain, and I found myself wanting to just know more and have more of him in it, so I’m kind of sad that he wasn’t. I think it’s because there was a lot of mystery surrounding him, but I felt like his character could have been talked about more or something because he was just so interesting!

As far as other side characters go, such as the Dane Twins, Rhy, Barron, etc., I loved how each played such a big role in Kell’s and Lila’s lives without some of them really having to do much in them. I mean, the twins are the villains of this novel, so they kind of play a big part, but others have little pockets of significance with the two main characters and I loved how Schwab placed their chapters into the story and how the characters were written to add more depth to the others.

I thought that the plot itself was great, although sometimes I felt like it hopped a bit from one thing to another and it was kind of like, “Well why was this placed here?” And sometimes it would later catch up and it would make sense.

I thought that the chapters from other characters and other scenes added to the plot and showed just how alive the magic in this world(s) is and how it can really be clever in its own right. And the worlds themselves? How there are four Londons, all on top of another, and the concept of the doors and how you need a trinket from each to get to another? It’s so cool! I loved the concept and how it was dealt with and how each London has their own way of magic, how it’s like a trickle down effect and that it lessens the farther it goes (Black London being the strongest, then White, then Red, then Grey).

Towards the end, though, I felt like the climax to the end was really rushed. I felt myself wanting more from the chapters, whether it be descriptions or more magic or just something… I don’t really know how to describe it, but it just needed more. I mean, I guess it is the first book in the trilogy, so it kind of makes sense? But I felt that some parts were lacking and could have just used that little push to bring it to where it needed to be.

Overall, though, I highly enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced, charming, and it had me craving more. I can’t wait to continue on with the trilogy.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it.

A Silent Voice Series Review

asilentvoice1Title: A Silent Voice
Series: 7 Volumes Total
Author/Illustrator: Yoshitoki Oima
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Manga – Young Adult – Contemporary
Format: Purchased paperbacks

LEARNING TO LISTEN

Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far. Shoko is forced to leave the school, and Shoya ends up shouldering all the blame. Six years later, the two meet again. Can Shoya make up for his past mistakes, or is it too late?

This will be a series review, so I will be covering all seven volumes of this series. There may be spoilers, but I’ll do my best to keep this spoiler free.

This manga series is, in a word, stunning. I love the art and the characters and the story, and I’m so glad that it was so critically acclaimed in Japan because of the heavy subjects that it undertakes and how it’s executed in the story itself.

The story itself is about a boy named Shoya who always wants to have fun and never be bored. He often takes dangerous risks with his friends (such as jumping off bridges into shallow-ish water) in order to find those moments of fun and adventure. When his friends decide to cool it with all of the dangerous stunts, that’s when Shoko, a deaf girl, is transferred to his class and he thinks of her as kind of like a boss he has to beat in a video game.

Of course, that doesn’t exactly turn out well in his favor. He bullies Shoko without realizing he was being a bully by yelling at her, ripping out her hearing aids, and just causing chaos for Shoko. His other friends join in and eventually she has to transfer again.

That’s also when Shoya’s friends turn against him and he pretty much becomes a loner for the next six years.

I love how the story uses X’s over people’s faces because we’re seeing everything through Shoya’s point of view, and he doesn’t think about or care about anyone. Only when someone does something nice to him does that X fly off of their face and he sees who they are and becomes friends with them. I thought that that concept was demonstrated really well and that it was very important to the story itself.

When Shoya runs into Shoko six years later in high school, he returns the notebook she used to communicate with the other students to her and, to her surprise, he also learned sign language so he could communicate with her.

He tries very hard to redeem himself and make up with her and show her that he’s extremely sorry for the way he was as a kid, and though I thought this was sweet I oftentimes found that it became overbearing the way he was going about it. I did see immense growth in him, though, and I was glad to see that he was also affecting others around him in a positive way.

Shoko was a very defining character as well not only because she was deaf, but because she always tried to be kind to everyone and not let things get to her – at least on the surface. There are a couple of darker moments with her that made me want to reach out and comfort her. I thought that she was a very generous and warm character and I’m so glad to see some sort of deaf representation in manga (which I’ve never seen before).

There were also characters who were fat, or had a very ugly personality, or who was once bullied, or who tries her best in everything. Even Shoko’s younger sister is “different” in that she takes pictures of dead animals and dresses like a boy. I loved that there were so many varied personalities, body sizes, and disabilities shown in this series.

The plot, overall, was one that gripped me and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It was cute in many places, and there were a few times where I felt some things were unnecessary or were just too extreme, but the main story was very gripping and I loved it to bits.

If you’re looking for a diverse manga set in Japan, then I highly, highly recommend A Silent Voice.

Each volume has it’s own rating, but for my series rating I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

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