Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fantasy and Fight: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #1)
Bloomsbury, 2012

The salt mines of Endovier are a death camp, a prison, the place where the King of Adarlan sends those he hates. And Celaena Sarothien is the only person ever sentinced to a fate there to leave alive. Not because she has escaped, but because she has been chosen by the Crown Prince himself to compete in a competition. If she can defeat 23 other killers, thieves, and warriors from across the continent, win the title of the King's Champion, and serve him for four years, she will finally have her freedom. She may only be 18 years old, but it's a good thing that Celaena is the most feared assassin in the land. But in a land where magic has been almost completely eradicated and something is killing off contestants, Celaena isn't just fighting for her freedom anymore, but her survival.

Now that I've finally read this book, I'm kicking myself for not having read it sooner! Of course Throne of Glass, Sarah J. Maas's debut novel is a good example of a book you need to be in the right mood to read. While high fantasy can absolutely be escapist, it also takes a bit of work on the readers part (maps, colorful names, etc). When I first tried reading this, I just wasn't feeling a strong connection to Celaena, but once I read the prequel novellas published together as The Assassin's Blade, I couldn't wait to get back into this story.

Celaena is not terribly likable. She is an incredibly flawed person, and I'm not just talking about the fact that she's a professional killer. She's vain. She's arrogant. She's got a mouth on her that gets her into trouble more often than it helps her out of it. But then again, she's an 18 year old girl, and a lot of girls that age do have a tendency to focus on boys, romance, trying to make friends, and deal with the consequences of the circumstances life has thrown at them so far. By the end, I really did like Celaena because she's a person who absolutely will not say she's sorry unless she really means it, and I think there's something admirable in that.

Once I got a handle on this sharp Celaena, I devoured this novel, reading over half of it in one day. This book has action, adventure, a dash of romance (I predict a love triangle coming as the series progresses), an evil king, killings that will make you squirm, and a magic that all thought was lost forever which comes in the most unlikely of places. While some may find the pacing to be a dash on the slow side, I think that considering this is to be a six book series, it was spot on. This novel had an arc on its own, but it's clear to see that many of the themes brought up here have staying power and will not be resolved any time soon.

Should the mood strike for some high fantasy, I'd absolutely recommend Throne of Glass. But first I say read The Assassin's Blade if you haven't already - it's like a great running start into this saga and you won't want to slow down.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sarah J. Maas's Website
Sarah J. Maas on Twitter
Sarah J. Maas on Tumblr

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, The Spirit Jar

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: The Spirit Jar
Author: Karen Mahoney
Summary: Moth, a vampire for the past 10 years, has been sent to London by her Maker to retrieve an ancient text but winds up meeting a magical and mysterious boy with a mission of his own.
Thoughts: Yes, the vampire genre has been reimagined over and over again in the past 10 years, but I really liked the rules that Mahoney developed for her story here. Moth and Adam have a quick and unlikely alliance, and this is again another story in this anthology that has surprised me because though it does talk about romantic love, that is not what is driving our protagonist or her choices.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Announcing the Reboot of the YouTube Book Club!

It's back and better than ever! Check out my announcement of the reboot of the YouTube Book Club and find out how you can win a copy of The Recruit by Robert Muchamore, our upcoming read!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Heart (and Gut)-Wrenching Beginning: The Assassin's Blade

The Assassin's Blade: The Throne of Glass Novellas by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #.5)
Bloomsbury, 2014

Celaena Sardothien is one of the most feared assassins in her kingdom, but she didn't just become that way overnight. It took a lifetime of training under her master Arobynn Hamel to become such a deadly weapon. It's a life that has been simultaneously glamorous and gruesome, and it only gets harder when she's sixteen and makes a choice that will change the course of her life and that of Sam, her fellow killer and the only person she truly trusts. The high risks could lead to a great reward, but could also result in a terrible downfall.

On a recent trip to my favorite independent bookstore, Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL, I was so excited to see Sarah J. Maas on the schedule for an upcoming author visit (it was September 7th and it was Awesome!). It was just the kick in the pants I needed to start reading her Throne of Glass series! However, a few chapters in to book one, I wasn't quite feeling a connection to Celaena. I didn't get her. And for me to not connect with a fantasy book, one of my favorite genres ever especially since I'm from the Harry Potter generation, well, that's weird. Around this time, my friend Brittany over at The Book Addict's Guide posted her review of The Assassin's Blade, Maas' prequel novellas, and highly recommended reading this before Throne of Glass. I'm so glad I listened because now I can't wait to get back into book one!

In this collection spanning five novellas and about two years of Celaena's life, I got a much stronger sense of who this girl is. What drives her. What irritates her. What makes her tick. What makes her finally stand up to the cruel man whose only kindness was saving her from a life on the streets (but was it really such a kindness?). Each novella focuses on a different mission or journey, each one peeling back the layers of this complicated woman. Suddenly, the girl I had met in Throne of Glass was making much more sense, but I won't say any more than that because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone.

For now, I'll just say this: this book was both heart and gut wrenching (seriously, this girl's an assassin. Blood and guts feature pretty promenently.) While I liked some installments more than others, put together they make a compelling story and history. I highly second Brittany's recomendation that people read this before book one - it will make your experience that much stronger.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sarah J. Maas's Website
Sarah J. Maas on Twitter
Sarah J. Maas on Tumblr

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, Errant

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: Errant
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Summary: In France where unicorns are scarce but symbolic hunts of them are tradition among noble families, Gitta is charged with keeping track of Enyo, her convent's unicorn, while Elise prepares for her role in the ancient ceremony before her wedding.
Thoughts: This story took me a little while to get into, mostly because while Gitta is called the Hunter, she is actually protecting Enyo. Sort of. Eventually? Anyway, due to the wedding aspect I was expecting this to be a tale of romantic love, and was pleasantly surprised when it instead became one of the love between friends and between creatures and humans.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back and Forth: Afterworlds

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse, Expected Release Date: September 23, 2014

*e-Galley provided by the publisher via Edelweiss - thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of the book.*

Darcy Patel has won the literary lottery. At only 18 years old, not only has she written her first novel, but she got an agent, sold her manuscript in a huge two book deal, and is now moving to New York instead of her planned dorm room in Ohio so she can be full time writer for a few years. But living the dream isn't quite what Darcy thought it would be (not that she really knew what to expect). Then there's Darcy's book itself, Afterworlds, the suspenseful paranormal romance thriller about a girl who survives a terrorist attack and finds herself able to slide between the land of the living and into the Afterworld, where the dead reside.

This book is a true example of getting two novels for the price of one. Literally. Chapters alternate between the two stories, each one a full-length work resulting in a massive 600 page journey. Readers must be in the mood, therefore, for two things: 1) a big book and 2) wanting to read both straight-up contemporary and paranormal romance at the same time. This second part was a bit of a challenge for me at the time of reading - the paranormal chapters, while very well written and engaging, were just not something I was completely in the mood for when I picked this up. Lizzie and Yamaraj, these chapters' protagonists, are well considered and go on a captivating journey. Westerfeld could easily write a sequel just focusing on them (and I hope he does!). An interesting facet of this particular story-in-a-story is that Darcy is becoming a more seasoned writer as she's editing and rewriting, and we get to see that as the book goes on.

While I may not have been completely in the mood for paranormal, I was deeply interested and invested in the contemporary side of this story. Darcy doesn't always make the right choices. In fact, she makes a lot of choices that made me wince (mostly in terms of how she mishandles her financials), but those choices were incredibly realistic given her extraordinary situation. While much of Darcy's world is book related, it's not her whole world. She's discovering New York, learning how to live on her own, in her first relationship, and figuring out the publishing industry from the eye of the storm.

I've never read anything by Westerfeld before, and this was quite an introduction to his style and body of work. If you are in the mood for contemporary, romance, action, adventure, ghosts, and really a little bit of everything, check out Afterworlds when it hits book shelves September 23rd.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Scott Westerfeld's Website
Scott Westerfeld on Twitter

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, The Assassin's Apprentice

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: The Assassin's Apprentice
Author: Michele Zink
Summary: Rose wants nothing more than to kill the demon Bael and exact revenge on the monster who murdered her family, but that can only happen if Asher can make sure Bael doesn't kill her first.
Thoughts: While I would have liked the relationship between Descendants and Assassins to be explained earlier in the story so I knew how those pieces fit together, this was a very fast and fun read. What starts as a classic revenge story gets steamy, and I love stories that seem to star damsels in distress but it turns out they can take care of themselves just fine.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Say it With a Smile: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Crown Archetype, 2011

On the eve of my recent 26th birthday and a new school year, I found myself wanting to escape into someone else's life for a little while but not the world of fiction. I wanted something real, the story of someone who felt like someone I could actually know, who has been through a variety of the highs and lows of their mid-20s and who could laugh at themselves and the fact that "grown ups never actually feel like grownups" is pretty much the world's worst kept secret. So I went to the library and picked up Mindy Kaling's memoir.

I love it when I read a book at what feels like the exact right time in my life. A fun collection of essays by a woman best known for her role as Kelly Kapoor as well as a writer, director, and producer of NBC's The Office, Kaling looks back at her childhood in Massachusetts, life in a college town in a middle of nowhere (and how being so far from the rest of civilization can be a very good thing), her post-college life in New York and the world's smallest apartment, and eventually her move to Los Angeles when she got a writing job on a show that no one was sure would make it, but ended up taking the air waves by storm.

While I preferred the chapters at the beginning over the ones at the end, the whole book is a fun, slightly self-deprecating, totally honest read. In her conversational style, Mindy's narrative felt like reading an email from a friend. I could easily see myself giving this book as a gift to people. This is an ode to the 13 year old girls who held back for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, but at 26 finally decided that doing the things you love, celebrating the things that make you happy, and realizing things like 'yes you can like "girly" things like makeup and shoes and still be a feminist' is a much better way to live.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Mindy Kaling's Website
Mindy Kaling on Twitter

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Starry-Eyed, A Date With Destiny

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Starry-Eyed: 16 Stories that Steal the Spotlight.

Story: A Date With Destiny
Author: Josh Pultz
Summary: Monica is obsessed with famous people, wants nothing more than to be a celebrity, and her father is even a Hollywood agent, but when she runs into his famous client and her look-alike Destiny Sparrow, they swap places for a day and she sees how much work being a "star" actually is.
Thoughts: Why is it that characters named Monica are always super annoying? The fictional Monicas of the world are giving the nonfiction ones like me look bad! This story felt extremely convenient in terms of situation, and I don't feel like she actually learned too much in the end. This had a very Parent Trap/made for TV movie vibe.

And that's it for the Starry-Eyed anthology!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

August Wrap-Up

In which I talk about the 12 books I finished in August, 2014!