Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grave Mercy.

Grave Mercy
By: Robin LaFevers
Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make.

Going into this book I could instantly tell I was going to love it. Even by just reading the summary I knew. I mean, assassin nuns of the god of death taking the stage in a historical fiction with barons and duchesses and court politics. What is there not to like about that? Exactly, there is NOTHING not to like about that. So I was not surprised at all that I fell in love with this book.

Clever and Brave Heroine: CHECK
Ismae: I'll be the first to admit that I didn't always like her, but her character arc was absolutely wonderful. She was always a very well-developed character, but by the end of this book she really came into her own. She changed and grew and I loved watching it all happen. She was awesome with weapons, but not overly violent. She knew when to show restraint. I also really appreciated how Robin LaFevers portrayed Ismae's gradual yet realistic transition to loving Duval. She didn't pretend like falling in love was something horrible, just not ideal for their situation. And she didn't see being feminine as a deterrent to being tough or for fighting and outsmarting people or for being an active participant in the matters of court. Despite what everyone else believed about women.

Strong and Smart Hero: CHECK
Duval: another character that I wasn't sure about at the beginning, but I really started liking him as the story progressed. He also came into his own. He was really developed and flawed and wonderful. He was very clever when it came to coming up with plans to protect the duchess and yet I loved that he often needed help from Ismae and he never minded taking advice. He was humble but strong.

Excellent Supporting Characters: CHECK
The Abbess: I thought she was really interesting as far as motive was concerned. I could never quite tell where she was coming from or where she was heading. Maybe because her motive was supposedly so clear and yet she often acted against it (knowingly or unknowingly). I want to know more about her and I think that's going to happen in the companion books. So I'm looking forward to that.
Annith: I loved how Robin LaFevers has set up this world for the companion novels through different characters. She gave us just enough about Annith and Sybella to make you interested in the other books and kept enough secret to really intrigue. We learned more about Annith than about Sybella. The other impressive thing was that the three characters (despite what seem like very similar pasts) are completely different.
Sybella: I wouldn't have minded more about her in this book, but since I've already started Dark Triuh (the companion novel from her perspective) I understand why it was necessary. Some of her secrets needed to stay secrets until it was time to reveal them (also Ismae obviously didn't know much of it).
Chancellor Crunard:I never trusted him, but I didn't really suspect him until 3/4 of the way through. I loved his twisted sense of wrong and right. He really saw himself as the good guy and that's scarier than bad people who do bad things knowingly. 
Madame Dinan:another character introduced that I can tell we're going to learn more about in Dark Triumph. Her relationship with D'Albret is incredibly creepy, but she had a really good motive for betraying the Duchess.
Marshall Rieux:Another traitor (basically everyone is a traitor in this book, but it kept things interesting). And another traitor with a twisted sense of loyalty and morality.
The Duchess (Anne): I love her. So much. She's barely a teenager and in charge of a giant duchy and yet she does as good a job as anyone could be expected to do. She broke down. She got hurt by all the betrayal. But she was always strong. That was the wonderful thing, she was genuine and genuinely like a young girl who has been forced to grow up quickly.
De Lornay and Beast: More excellent characters! I wish we'd seen a bit more of them both (particularly De Lornay), but by the end I was so sad to see them go. 
Madame Hivern: possibly the most complex character in this book (which is saying a lot). Her relationships with her two sons and with the court in general was fascinating. I loved how LaFevers showed the role of women in that time through Madame Hivern and made the reader feel genuinely sorry for how little control she had over her life. She did what she could to protect herself and her family.
D'Albret: (or Creepity-Creep-Creep as he should be known). I know Sybella's story has a lot more to do with hi, (which I'm kind of interesting in a) learning more about him and b) seeing his hopefully inevitable demise) 

Wonderful Plot and Progression: CHECK
Before going in I'd read a lot of reviews that said this book was much slower paced than they thought it'd be. So going in I knew it was going to be more politics and less action. The thing is I love books involving court politics and such. So I really loved that aspect and there was still a fair amount of action to keep the intrigue up. I actually listened to the audiobook version of this so I had a bit of trouble a) keeping track of some of the members of the privy council and b) figuring out to spell the names. But once I started figuring out everyone's role in the book it became much easier. I loved the little twists and turns when loyalties were questioned and when agreements fell through. The changes were small, but when put together they formed this wonderfully intricate story.

Superb World Building: CHECK
I would say that historical fiction is one of the genres that requires the most realistic world-building (right up there with science fiction and dystopian). And this world was so well developed and so interesting. I loved the whole daughters of death aspect of the world and the assassin nunnery was just awesome. I think that while the premise might seem a bit ridiculous to some, it worked in the book and was very well-executed. 


"It is this kindness of his that unsettles me the most. I can dodge or block a knife. I am impervious to poison and know a dozen ways to escape a chokehold or garrote wire. But kindness? I do not know how to defend against that?"

"He smiles then, and even though it is well past midnight, it's as if the sun has just come out."

"There is no shame in scars, Ismae."

"Perhaps it is because you mistake death for justice and they are not the same thing at all."

"This is what I want to be, an instrument of mercy, not vengeance."

"His divine spark lives within me, a presence that will never leave and and I am but one of many tools he has at his disposal. He's given me life and all i must do to serve him is live, fully and with my whole heart."

"Surely he does not give us hearts so we may spend our lives ignoring them."

"I wish to serve in honor of his mercy rather than his wrath."

"Surely the darkness can give way to light sometimes."

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Maze Runner Trilogy.

The Maze Runner
The Scorch Trials
The Death Cure
by: James Dashner
The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)The Death Cure (Maze Runner, #3)

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

If you're looking for a dystopian that excels in action and mystery with a near no romance and a thrill level that is off the charts, you've come to the right place. The Maze Runner starts out a little rough with the repetitiveness and no questions being answered, but then things pick up and it really never stops after that.
The Scorch Trials was probably my least favorite book of the series, but it was still quite good. The action kicked up a notch and the casualties continued. The twist with the different group was actually really interesting and meeting the Rat Man was...ummmm... well, to be blunt, horrible (in a good way). It was nice finally having a face to put with WICKED organization. And the Cranks were completely, nightmarishly terrifying.
The Death Cure became my favorite book in the series as we were given the conclusion (but, maybe not the answers (to all that happened in this series. I would have preferred a few more answers about everything (and one less death... I'M STILL NOT OVER IT, OKAY?). But this book was heartbreaking and terrifying and bittersweet in all the right places.
My one issue with this series is the characters. They sometimes came off as a bit flat, but I could forget that most of the time because of how much was happening.

“Such a display of death - how could it be considered a victory?”

"That saving you was worth losing what we might've had.”  

“He turned to look just in time to see the rain start falling outside, as if the storm had finally decided to weep with shame for what it had done to them.”

“I watched as that kid died. In his last few seconds there was pure terror in his eyes. You can't do that. You can't do that to a person. I don't care what anybody tells me, I don't care how many people go crazy and die, I don't care if the whole shuck human race ends. Even if that was the only thing that had to happen to find the cure, I'd still be against it.”  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Siege and Storm.

Siege and Storm
by: Leigh Bardugo
Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

This book had the same magical feel of the Shadow and Bone and was equally as amazing. I loved all the new aspects that were introduced. I had heard so many amazing things from the reviewers who read arcs of this book, so when I couldn't read it when it first came in the mail I nearly died. Then when I could finally read it I basically devoured it. It was so fantastic and heart-wrenching and sad and charming and funny. It was all the things I wanted it to be and more. I think Leigh Bardugo's writing is only going to continue improving as she continues her career (and that's saying a lot because she's already spectacular).

Brave and Genuine Heroine: CHECK
Alina: Alina continues to be complex and really awesome. I loved when she punched Sturmhond in the face after learning his secret. She wasn't afraid to enforce her authority (or I guess I should say that she was afraid, but she did it anyway).  Alina starts out as a different person in this book. She has power now, and lots of it. She's far more powerful than she was, even at the end of Shadow and Bone. So in this book responsibility isn't being forced on her, she's choosing to take control of her own future, to forge her own path to freedom. I love that she doesn't always feel brave. She would like nothing more than to leave Ravka behind and run away with Mal, but she doesn't because she knows the Darkling is a danger both to her and to the country. I also loved seeing her struggle with her want for power. You don't often the protagonist struggling with that because it's seen as a very antagonist sort of thing. So the way Leigh so openly addressed Alina's desire for more and more power and how she had to fight against herself in that respect was both really risky and really incredible. It's safe to say that this book was better for that inner conflict and I know that, for me as a reader, that risk paid off.

Strong and Brave Heroes: CHECK
Mal: I love Mal and Alina's dynamic. They're not the typical couple. They're difficult and they know it. Then other times they're completely perfect for each other. But they fight for each other through it all. Their interesting dynamic is especially shown in these quotes, The first is an example of one of their problems and the other is their fantastic dialogue.

"Mal's always been like that. You could drop him in a camp of Fjerdan assassins, and he'd come out carried on their shoulders. He just blooms wherever he's planted."
"And you?"
"I'm more of a weed," I said drily."

"If you ever get tired of skin and bones," she called to Mal, "I've got something to tempt you."
I stiffened. Mal glanced over his shoulder. Slowly, he looked up and down. "Now," he said flatly. "You don't."

"I felt a lump rise in my throat. "Do you practice being wonderful?"
"Daily," he said with a grin. Then he winked. "But I prefer 'useful.' "

Mal has a lot of adjusting to do in this book. He suddenly finds himself without purpose other than protecting Alina. He's being told by everyone (except her) that he's not good enough for her and he has to figure all of that out for himself. He has to adjust to Alina's new power just as much as she does. But I am still all in favor of their relationship. Alina loves him, has always loved him. Mal loves Alina, totally and completely. and I love that Leigh didn't mess with that.

Fantastic and Interesting Supporting Characters: CHECK
STURMHOND: I FREAKING LOVE HIM. He's so sassy and charming and I loved every single scene that he was in. It was amazing how Leigh worked in showing his real self and his character develop despite his convincing façade. And I love for saying things like this,

 "I want the choice," I said.
"You'll have it," he replied. "On my word as a liar and a cutthroat."

"Nikolai Lantsov, but please don't make me recite my titles again. It's no fun for anybody, and the only important one is 'prince.'"

"You heard Prince Perfect," Mal said, and joined us at the table.
Nikolai grinned. "I've had a lot of nicknames, but that one is easily the most accurate."

and then he winds up saying really genuine, smart things like,

"I'm suggesting that maybe these people are just as fond of life as you are."

and then we find out who he really is and OH MY GOODNESS, YES. I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happened to him and the king and queen. I want more Sturmhond, man. I NEED more Sturmhond scenes.

Tamar: I absolutely love her. She was always witty and always brave. I definitely want to see more of her and Tolya in the third book. I was really interested with their relationship with the Apparat.
and then she says things like this and makes me love her. 

"You were an odd little girl."
"You have no idea. What did you and Tolya play with?"
"The skulls of our enemies."
I saw the glint in her eye, and we both burst out laughing."

David: For some reason I've always loved David as a character. He's just so interesting in a way that few people are.

"David, I think you just made a joke."
He frowned, utterly perplexed. "Did I?"

Genya: Another interesting character. I love that Alina couldn't help caring about Genya and their friendship even though Genya betrayed her. There were some things that Alina couldn't help feeling about her past friendship with Genya. It made it feel a lot more genuine.
The Darkling: We don't actually see an incredible amount of him in this book, but his presence is always felt. In his weird visits to Alina. But we see him at his weakest near the end. We see Alina almost sacrifice everything to take him down. I am really intrigued to see how that affects him in the next book, I can't see him coming that near to destruction and coming back sane. His life and his power are the most important things to him and now his power belongs to Alina just as much as her power belongs to him.

Gorgeous writing: CHECK
 Leigh Bardugo is an expert at tone writing. The words all seem so stylistically aesthetic. You feel the world through the words, not just in what they're saying but in how they sound and how they connect with each other. Just one example of a sentence that had my jaw dropping,

"His voice was raw white wood, torn from the heart of a tree."

The context made that sentence sound that much more powerful. I completely felt Mal's pain through the description of his voice and that takes talent from the author.


"The ox feels the yoke...but does the bird feel the weight of its wings?"
"You two have a bad habit of acting like fools and calling it heroic."
"I prick him, you bleed."

"It felt wrong, like everything was happening too quickly, as if we were rushing toward something we didn't understand."

"The power isn't feeding him. It's feeding on him."

"Besides, I like to have powerful enemies. Makes me feel important."

"I would face him. And one way or another, this would end."

"Tentative, frightened, but it still sounded suspiciously like hope."

"His face broke into a grin that left me breathless. I didn't know if I'd ever get used to the idea that a smile like that might actually be for me."

"No matter what I said, we both knew the hard truth. We do our best. We try. And usually, it makes no difference at all."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Selection.

The Selection
by: Kiera Cass
The Selection (The Selection, #1)
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.
This was a light and enjoyable read. In this book (as opposed to in The Elite) I found America less annoying and the story a bit more compelling (if only because I think more happened).
This book was a solid start to the series and gave off a really fun and vibrant tone. I loved Maxon from the second he opened his mouth to America in the garden. He's funny and sweet and kind of dorky, but in a princely way (if that's, you know, a thing that can happen).
The actual writing of this book isn't anything particularly fantastic, but it's isn't too noticeably bad either. It fits this series as a whole though.
The competition aspect was pretty interesting, but I would have liked if we got to know some of the other girls a bit more. I think it would have made it feel more evenly distributed in the characterization field.
“. . .true love is usually the most inconvenient kind.”  
"Something about the tentativeness of it made me feel beautiful. Without a word, I could understand how excited he was to have this moment, but then afraid at the same time. And deeper than any of that, I sensed that he adored me. So this is what it felt like to be a lady.”  
“Is this a good time to pat your shoulder?”

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Host.

The Host
By: Stephanie Meyer
The Host (The Host, #1)

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, didn't expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
So I have a movie review for The Host, but I've realized that I've never formally reviewed the book. It's been a long while since I read this one, but I remember a good deal of it and of its major themes.
Sure, there is a lot of romance in this book (read: make-out scenes). BUT, that aside it had some really big themes. It was a discussion on what it really means to be human and what the pros and cons are of humanity. It asks interesting ethical questions about loyalty and love (friendship love as well as romantic love).
I think the whole idea of this kind of quiet alien is really, really, REALLY interesting. I mean, I don't know if I've read or seen any other type of alien movie or book that has this sort of silent, not hostile takeovers. It asks whether the aliens did the right thing by alleviating the Earth of mankind's violence. And if mankind is "better" that way.
The other really interesting aspect of this book is its lack of a straightforward villain. The hosts were never technically evil. They thought they were being the height of ethical and you see that they are actually near "perfect humans." They're polite. They don't steal. They don't lie. They are generous and selfless. So did they fix mankind or destroy it?
The first 100 pages of this book drag quite a bit, but when you get past that it really starts to take off. I highly recommend this book and I recommend that you forget it was written by the same person who wrote Twilight until after you read it. This book is so different and so excellent.


“It's not the face, but the expressions on it. It's not the voice, but what you say. It's not how you look in that body, but the thing you do with it. You are beautiful.”

“What was it that made this human love so much more desirable to me than the love of my own kind? Was it because it was exclusive and capricious? The souls offered love and acceptance to all. Did I crave a greater challenge?...Or was it simply better somehow? Because these humans hate with so much fury, was the other end of the spectrum that they could love with more heart and zeal and fire?”

“Happy and sad, elated and miserable, secure and afraid, loved and denied, patient and angry, peaceful and wild, complete and empty...all of it. I would feel everything. It would all be mine.”


Thursday, June 6, 2013


by: Julia Golding
Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil of Gerfal. And he's not too pleased, either. She is used to a life of discipline, ritual, and splendor. He is used to hunting and carousing. They hate each other on sight. But both of their countries are under threat from a fearsome warlord, and the only chance of peace is to form an alliance. When Tashi and Ram are kidnapped, they fear there's no escape--from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing, and imprisonment?
I don't remember all that much of this book, mostly because it was an enjoyable read but didn't leave that much of an impression. I remember liking the characters and the general plot. It had an interesting religious aspect to it that was intriguing. It had a cute romance and some great supporting characters who also had cute romances. There was action and conflict to keep the pace up.
I did have some issues with it, like the problems being resolved a bit too easily or not at all and character changing halfway through in a sort of unbelievable way. But overlooking all that I would say that this was a really fun and action-packed read.
I do plan on reading on another one of Julia Golding's fantasy books, because I remember liking this read despite its problems.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Great Gatsby--Movie Review

The Great Gatsby
Movie Review
I read The Great Gatsby this January for school and absolutely loved it. The writing is gorgeous and the symbolism is masterful. It's easily seen why it became a classic. I'm glad the movie did that justice. It definitely took a different approach than most book-to-movie adaptations. The filmography took risks and the director made some interesting style and artistic based choices (namely the modern music and the almost dream-like quality of the flashbacks). I think these risks really paid off. The tone of the book was clearly displayed in the movie. I thought the  design of the sets and the costumes were fantastic.
This movie did a really great job of giving a modern feel to the roaring twenties. This tone really enhanced the theme of this story, that the American dream and the carelessness of wealth corrupt, again and again. All the acting was terrific and the script was really well-done. They worked hard to include all of the more important symbols (Eckleburg's eyes and the green light were both very well-done).
I enjoyed all of the tiny changes that they made (not in story or plot, but in emphasis). I loved that Nick was so affected by Gatsby's death and how he wrote out the story to work through it.
There was only one change that bugged me a bit. The movie portrayed Gatsby's relentless hope in the past as a good thing, as something admirable. I think this conflicts with the major themes of the book, but it was just a tiny bit off so I'll get over it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Princess Academy.

Princess Academy
by: Shannon Hale
Princess Academy (Princess Academy, #1)

Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.
This is the first in my series short reviews to supplement my normal blog posting this month. This is because I'll be gone most of this month (and when I'm home I won't have time to read). But to keep up my blog I've decided to post shorter reviews of books that I read before I started making reviews. Of course, I haven't read most of these books in a while, so these reviews will be more general than I normally do, but will give my overall opinion of what I remember.
I loved this book in fifth grade when I first read it and it has remained one of my favorite fantasy books. Not because the world was particularly crazy or anything, but because the characters were so endearing as were their relationships. It's a story of friendship and family and what it means to grow up somewhere. When I think of this book, I think of how perfectly it portrayed a hometown (or a group of people that grow into a family). Miri might not have liked everyone in the village, but she loved and needed them all. I loved Miri and Peder's cute childhood friendship-turned-crush story and how innocent it felt.
But the best part of this book for me was always Miri's relationship with all the girls who went to the academy. There was a little drama, but they were there for each other when the needed to be. Basically what I'm trying to say is that this book captures a truth of what actually happens in young teen girls' relationships.
And I said earlier that the world isn't anything crazy, but it had this cozy feeling to it. I loved the more fantastical aspects (like quarry-speech). The idea of the mountain people and working in the quarry and the problems with trading were all really interesting and worked together to progress the story.
In truth, Miri was not just an excellent character, but for a middle school girl to read, she was an excellent role-model. She made mistakes and was often nervous, but she was brave enough to seek knowledge (both for herself and for the people of her village). She sought change and, typically, she got it by working hard and not giving up. She took initiative. That taught me a lot.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Month of June.

June 1st - July 12th

The month of June is a VERY busy one for me. I play a game called Bible Bowl and all of our competitions are from June through the beginning of July. This means a lot of time away from home and when I am home, I'll be committing all of my time to studying for the competitions.

This, of course, means I have to put reading on hold for the time being. I will not be reading ANY new books until mid-July (except Siege and Storm, which I am making a MAJOR exception for because I am just so excited). And this, in turn, means no new reviews for a while.

BUT, because I'm being a good little blogger, I decided to pre-write some reviews for books that I've already read before I started writing book reviews. So I'm going to be spreading those out throughout this month just to keep updating the blog.