Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling (Beauty and the Beast)
Pages: 384
Series: None
Release Date: March 14, 2017

4 Stars

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I’m a sucker for retelling. I freaking adore them (as long as I’m familiar with some other version of the tale). Prior to this, I’ve read three different Beauty and the Beast retellings. I liked only one of them, and that was a very cheesy version. This is most likely my favorite. But not just because I wasn’t the biggest fan of two of the previous ones, but also because it’s actually really good.

I finished reading this book about six days ago and have managed to kind of forget the things I didn’t like about the novel. But not to worry, I’ll remember while I’m writing the review. Until then, lets focus on the positives.

Hunted is more about the symbolic meaning behind the story and I really liked the way that was done. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with direct-ish scenes from fairytales (the ‘wolf impersonating grandma’ scene in Scarlet was clever and epic) but I like symbolic cleverness as well.

It’s inspired by the original French version, seeing as Beauty’s father loses all his wealth in the beginning and the family (including Beauty’s two older sisters) is forced to move to a cabin near the woods. There are other similarities, but those might be spoiler-y. The different element is that her father is a hunter who becomes obsessed with hunting a monster in the woods and when he goes missing, Beauty goes to find him.

Where it’s similar to the Disney movie (or maybe some other version, there are a lot of them) is Beauty’s desire to have more, to be more. In the movie, Belle reads book. Here, Beauty (or Yeva, her actual name) hunts and explores. But it’s the same thing. Both Yeva and Belle want an adventure.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that this ticks the retelling box big time. Which is very important to me.

It also checks the well-written box and the interesting box and the un-put-down-able box; I read it in two sittings. I really liked the characters with their peculiar flaws and their surprising humanity. The topic of human contentment, how we always want more, is brilliantly featured.

Where there were problems… there was a secret that we, the reader, were told early on. And the author always dropped hints for Yeva about the secret in a way that made it seem as if she should have guessed it. They were not obvious hints, but written in a way that made you think Beauty was stupid or something. And I was like, why is the author trying to make Beauty look dumb? There could have been a simple solution, either don’t tell the reader, make the hints less hint-y, or make the protagonist smarter.

The other problem was a little section before the end, when things winded down for a bit. There were a few chapters of playing house that made me impatient and annoyed. I get that it was a nod to the French tale, but still, couldn’t they have been shorter?

Overall, this review seems like a disjointed mess to me, but I’m hoping I made the point I was trying to make. This is a very good novel, both on its own and as a retelling. I was quite surprised by it and I highly recommend checking it out.

P.S. Also inspired by Russian folklore but since I know next-to-nothing about that, I’m refraining from commenting.

Review: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Young-Adult, Fantasy, Humour, Mythology (Greek)
Pages: 432
Series: The Trials of Apollo #2
Release Date: May 2, 2017

5 Stars

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This book is 432 pages long? I read an e-book so I didn’t know the page count, but I do know that it sure didn’t feel that long. It actually ended really quickly.

But I guess that’s what happens when a book is so much fun that you’re surprised the book also had a plot. Because plots are supposed to be the boring, or interesting, parts of a novel with some fun squeezed between them. The whole thing can’t be fun! That’s just not possible. But uncle Rick proves one again that he is awesomeness personified. Because this book… is wonderful.

For one, we have Apollo’s narrative, which is filled with his all his numerous whinings that usually start with “when I was a god” or “if I was a god” or “when I become a god again”. Seriously, that dude is so not adjusting and it’s hilarious to read. Apollo is narcissistic, self-absorbed and would use you as a shield against monsters, but he’s still so likable. And he’s also learning, much to his disgust, to be selfless. I love the guy and I love his narrative.

Then there’s the fact that this series is almost like an epilogue for the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series, giving us moments of closure with all the old characters one by one, while also introducing new characters, and mythical figures and creatures.

There is honestly so much going on and I don’t know how Rick Riordan is balancing all of it. The writing is very clever too, so there’s something in there for people of all ages. I feel like Rick Riordan is highly underappreciated because everyone just considers him the “fun” writer, as if it’s not masterful the way he balances multiple characters, storylines, humour, emotion, characters development, adventure, action and backstory so brilliantly. People seem to equate good writing to serious writing with as little entertainment as possible. And that makes me very sad.

Thankfully, whenever I’m sad, I can just reread a book by uncle Rick and comfort myself with the knowledge that I appreciate him very much.

Anyway, I got off topic there. Lets get back to the book. I love it. Maybe even a little more than The Hidden Oracle because we got even more into the character of Apollo and there was an emotional arc with Meg (thanks to Nero, the turd) that made me finally like the character, where I was a bit iffy about her before.

Overall, this book was everything I wanted from the sequel and I can’t wait for the next part to come out. I’m going to leave you with the first haiku from the novel, because I love it:

Lester (Apollo)
Still human; thanks for asking
Gods, I hate my life

P. S. Just now noticed that I didn’t mention the plot. Though you probably know, still, it’s follows Apollo, Leo and Calypso as they head off on Festus to search for Meg, the second Roman emperor, and another old oracle that the Triumvirate has control of.

Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

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Genre: Young-Adult, High Fantasy
Pages: 416
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1 (Trilogy)
Release Date: October 14, 2014

3.5 Stars

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Sixteen years ago, the kingdom of Winter was invaded by Spring. Only a few people escaped while most were killed and the rest were enslaved. Now, only eight of the refugees remain. One of them is Meira.

Meira was only an infant when Winter was invaded. She doesn’t remember her home but she desperately wishes to feel like she belongs. The way to do that, for her, is by contributed as much as she can to fighting against Spring and freeing the enslaved Winterians. She’s willing to anything to save her people, even if she is a mere peasant’s daughter. She’s strong and she’s willing to fight.

And yes, Meira is not the first female protagonist who wants to fight for her kingdom. But she’s different in the sense that she’s well-trained, but not perfect at everything. She’s determined but she’s still just a teenage girl who will make mistakes. I found her character to be refreshing in that. Because usually we either get incompetent yet arrogant, or perfect and arrogant. Meira is not arrogant. She’s simply aware of her strengths and unwilling to back down. I liked her.

Another thing I liked were the kingdoms. Sure, we’ve read the season kingdom thing before. But this book had normal kingdoms as well as the seasonal ones. And there’s a reason given for why the season kingdoms are the way that they are.

Also, a love triangle was introduced (which is always a huge fucking NO! for me) but it was quickly resolved with very little drama. Of course, there was that dick measuring contest scene that I serious did not appreciate, and the author seemed to be trying to make Meira look special by two princes being in love with her even though, contrary to popular belief, a woman’s worth is not defined by the amount of guys who want to bone her. She can be important and special all on her own, thank you very much.

That was one of my biggest complaints with the novel. Along with it being quite predictable. Seriously, if you’re a YA fantasy reader, you will not be surprised by many of the revelations. The biggest one, about Meira, was actually so expected that I actually laughed.

Other than that, it reminded me of Falling Kingdoms when it came to how conveniently unexplained some of the things were. Imagine someone breaking into the royal palace and the author just forgetting to explain the details of how that was done. There were some details, but not nearly enough. It’s something I think will get better like the writing did. It’s a classic new-YA-fantasy-author characteristic.

Overall, the book had its ups and downs. It helped me, finally and fully, understand why Dumbledore had to die. I liked the world and the characters, but wasn’t fond of other things that will surely get better as the author writes more. It’s a promising start for the series. Worth checking out.

Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 536
Series: Six of Crows #2 (Duology), Grishaverse #5
Release Date: September 27, 2016

4 Stars

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This is the highly anticipated sequel (and by “highly anticipated”, I mean that I had to wait four whole days to read it and they were very difficult days) to Six of Crows and is also the conclusion to the series.

In the end of the first installment, Van Eck (the bastard) cheated our fabulous crew out of their hard-earned money and kidnapped Inej. Obviously, Kaz was unimpressed and has now sworn to get Inej back and to annihilate Van Eck, after which he will focus on slowly annihilating Pekka Rollins (Kaz clearly doesn’t have many hobbies).

The novel starts with out crew in hiding. They’re making plans while also trying not to die, or to lose the precious cargo they freed from the Ice Court.

Now, there are many reasons to love this book. And they’re not surprising reasons because I loved the first book as well and this one is quite similar, so I’m just gonna go through them.

The biggest reason is the characters. All six of our protagonist are so awesome and likable in their own ways. Each person has his/her own arc and they’re all handled together brilliantly. My two faves are, to no one’s surprise, Kaz and Inej. Kaz because he’s so freaking smart and complex, and Inej because she’s wise, badass and all-around freaking amazing. I love all the characters so much that, even though I love duologies the most, I wish there were more books in the series because I’m in no way ready to say goodbye to them.

The other reasons for loving the book are the story, the relentless pace, the Grishaverse, how well it’s written and the perspectives balanced.

But unlike with book one, there are also reasons to not love the book. One of them being something I mentioned above: it’s very similar to Six of Crows. And while that’s not a bad thing, I wish there was something to distinguish it more. For example, I wish it has less moments when the chapter ends on a point that makes us think ‘oh no! the plan is failing!’ and then we find out that no, that was actually part of the plan.

It’s a trick that works the first couple of time, which it did in the previous novel, but afterwards becomes predictable. I feel like the author was trying to prove how smart Kaz is. Except, she doesn’t need to. We know he’s smart. Let’s focus on something else.

Other than that… something happened later on in the novel that should have invoked a lot of emotion (chapter 40, for those who’ve read the book) but it didn’t. I was actually pretty ‘meh’ about it. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it was so anticlimactic and… pointless; it happened just for the sake of happening. Or maybe I felt that things would be fine sooner or later (which bothers me because Hello! that happened!).

Anyway, I’m sorry for the paragraph that didn’t make much sense to those who have yet to read the novel. This is actually a very good read. I don’t have to tell you whether or not I recommend it because if you liked Six of Crows, you’re gonna read this one no matter what I tell you. But still, it’s a good conclusion. I just hope we get to meet these characters again at some point.

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 462
Series: Six of Crows #1 (Duology), Grishaverse
Release Date: September 29, 2015

5 Stars

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Even though I finished reading the novel almost a week ago, it’s taken me this long to finally get to the review because a) I couldn’t seem to come up with anything to write. I loved the book, but I wasn’t sure how much, and b) I couldn’t think about it without also thinking about how much I wanted to read the sequel.

Now, I’ve read the sequel and it was, as usual, a terrible idea (not because the sequel was bad). You never read the sequel before writing the review, I know that. It creates the ultimate bias. But what’s done is done. And now I’m gonna keep things short.

Six of Crows is set in the Grishaverse (the world of The Grisha Trilogy) but follows a different cast and is set in a different nation. There are six main characters, all thieves or criminals and basically dregs. Kaz Brekker is one of them and he’s approached by a very rich merchant to perform and impossible heist. In order to get the job done, he needs the right crew. And that’s where the other characters come in, forming a band of misfits who are likely to kill each other before they even start the job because they seriously do not get along.

Some of the characters know each other already while others are close to strangers. All have their strengths, weaknesses and agendas. And since this is, hands down, my favourite trope, I was really freaking excited. I love the ‘band of misfits’ thing. And in this case, it was done really well.

For one, Leigh Bardugo, is a very good writer. The Grisha world is hella awesome and this new cast is the best. Kaz Brekker is a self-proclaimed monster and he is just so brilliant in his schemes… Smart people are my weakness and he’s very smart. Inej is strong, highly skilled and awesome. Jesper is the fun sharpshooter who’s also addicted to gambling and prone to losing. Nina and Matthias have a history and very different personalities while Wylan is basically the odd one out; he’s cute, all innocence and blushing. Overall, an interesting team.

The main plot regarding the heist keeps you on your toes, the pace is fast, and the story gripping enough that the book is very difficult to put down.

This was a great addition to the Grishaverse and I highly recommend it. I’d say I can’t wait for the second book, but I’ve already read it so… you get the picture. Read this book, if not for the story then, for the cast.

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

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Genre: Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 374
Series: Under the Never Sky #1 (Trilogy)
Release Date: December 1, 2011

3.5 Stars

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Under the Never Sky is a novel set in a dystopian world which is divided into the inside and the outside. After a series of Aether storms made the outside world unfit fit survival, a large part of the population went to live in domes carved into, and under, mountains, while the other part braved the outside world. Why those people didn’t go into domes as well, we don’t know. The people inside have since had a lot of technological advancement and spend most of their time in highly realistic virtual worlds. The people on the outside have regressed to move primitive times.

The protagonist, Aria, is from a dome and has never been outside. But due to a complicated situation, she’s kicked out and now has to find her mother, who she hasn’t heard from in weeks, to know what happened to her and to get her life back. She makes a deal with an outsider, Peregrine, who is looking for someone himself.

And they both team up in a very convenient way. Convenient because the situations that led to the team up felt very planned and exaggerated. The “evil government” was evil for no reason than to be evil. It was almost like a parody at first; like the author had an idea as to what she wanted to happen so she made it happen. Thankfully, near the end, a lot of the events that happened in the beginning were given valid enough reasons. They really saved the book.

And the characters did. I liked both Perry and Aria. At first, Aria came off as whiny and incompetent, but that could be chalked up to the fact that the life she lived didn’t actually require her to do anything. She really grew as a character as the book progressed and I started to like her. Perry, too, didn’t have the best first impression but, by the end, I really cared about him.

The story was interesting. I liked the world that the author created, even if she didn’t elaborate much on things. The tech, to me, seemed too advanced. Like something out of a comic book or cartoon. And the Aether wasn’t explained at all; we have no idea where it even came from. It’s in the sky and to me, it looks like an Obscurus (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) but one that attacks like a lightning storm.

The pace of the novel was really good, even when they were travelling. The writing was okay in the beginning and only got better. I got more and more invested in the story and, despite the rocky start I had, ended up liking it. It felt too planned at times but that got better toward the end as well. It’s a book worth checking out and I’m curious to see what will happen next in the series.

Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 288
Series: No
Release Date: March 9, 2010

3 Stars

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If it weren’t for the fact that I adored I’ll Give You the Sun, I probably wouldn’t have gone close to this book. It follows a girl, Lennie, who is very sad and very lonely, mourning the recent death of her sister, and who somehow finds herself involved with two guys, Toby and Joe; the former being her sister’s boyfriend.

So not only does the novel require me to sit through another love-triangle (seriously writers, can we please be done with those already?), this time, it’s a very messed up love triangle because she’s got the hots for her dead sister’s boyfriend, who’s got the hots for her in return.

But, I  would’ve let it slide. Because things were less about Lennie being interested in Toby (or vice versa) and more about the fact that she felt lonely in her grief and thought that he was the only one who understood. Her pain just manifested itself in a different way; even though there were other people who felt the same way and Lennie was simply being a self-absorbed twit; it happens. Grief is complicated, and I think the novel did a good joy of portraying it.

What I wasn’t okay with? Her complete betrayal of Joe. That pissed me off.

Speaking of Joe. He was… interesting. At first, I liked him. He was a joyful guy and an entertaining presence. But he was too joyful. His personality felt exaggerated. Like a wanna-be John Green character. His and Lennie’s romance was overblown and happened way too fast. There were cute moments, sure. But not enough real ones. Len and Joe were practically floating in their gushy feelings. Who needs a deep connection when you can just gaze at each other dreamily and make out, right?

I read that the author initially wanted to write the book in verse, and maybe it would have been better that way. Poetry is made for exaggerated moments.

Overall, this wasn’t exactly my kind of book. I liked some parts, the pace was good, and the prose was pretty. But it could have used some more… authenticity in the feeling department. As for recommending it, that’s entirely up to you.