Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review: Royal Airs

Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn
Pub Date: November 2013
Josetta is a princess of one of the Five Families. But she is far from the throne, so she is free to spend her days working in the poorest sections of the city. 

Rafe Adova, an outcast since he was born, lives the life of a career gambler in those slums. He has no ambition other than cheating at the card tables—until the night he decides to help a girl named Corene, who looks like she's stumbled into the wrong bar. She, too, is a princess—sister to Josetta, who finds her with Rafe. He fascinates her. 

Josetta has never encountered anyone like him—someone seemingly devoid of elemental blessings. He is drawn to her, though he thinks they are unlikely to ever meet again—but their connection grows strong when she nurses him back to health after he is assaulted by foreign mercenaries. 

And when they learn the reason he's being hunted, they know that the truth about his history could endanger not only their love but also their very lives...

Royal Airs was a royal let-down. I am sad to say it, but it's true. This was by no means terrible! In fact, I still enjoyed it and rated it 3 stars. Put simply, this book was such a disappointment only because I loved Troubled Waters so much. 

Josetta and Rafe simply paled in comparison to Zoe and Darien. They seemed like nice people but they were bland and boring. Rafe was supposed to be exciting (he's a gambler and a pilot!) but he still lacked a personality. And the so-called plot twist about why he was so special seemed trite, unlikely, and unoriginal. It felt like Shin kept trying to yell at us "RAFE IS SO SPESHUL" to make up for his aforementioned lack of personality. 

Josetta was also nice; I liked that she ran a shelter in the slums. She was pretty low-key. She almost seemed too perfect; and perfect is boring. (The most interesting part about her was her past.) And the characters together made a "blah" couple. There was no build-up, no fire, and I was actually rooting for them to NOT end up together. And the plot was boring as well. Phooey. 

However, now that we're done with the bad, let's go over the good things:

1) The Setting: I established in my review of Troubled Waters that I LOVE Welce and all the Elemental Blessings. The world simply comes alive when you read.  

2) Side Characters: I loved seeing Zoe and Darien again. And all the primes and Corene. AND there are cool NEW side characters like Steff.

3) The sub-plots: I liked the sub-plots involving the royal succession, Alis, Corene, and other beloved characters. I liked learning about the other countries beside Welce like Malinqua. Basically I liked all the plots not heavily involving the main couple. 

4) The ending: The end leaves off with Corene, my favorite character, doing something drastic. Corene is so much more spunky and interesting than Josetta. And she's the protagonist of the next book. I have a feeling Jeweled Fire will be amazing. I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Published: May 10, 2010

Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king’s fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river.

It’s there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood — and the secrets of the royal family — she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court. 

After I read the stunning, spectacular Summers at Castle Auburn I knew I needed to pick up another Sharon Shinn book. I decided to start with the Elemental Blessings series. I actually bought the whole series without reading a single book. It was pretty risky. I know. I'm living on the edge. 

Thankfully, Sharon Shinn did not disappoint. At all. The whole time I was entranced by the intricate world of elemental blessings and the slow-burn romance. I didn't want the book to end! It has everything: court intrigue, magic, romance, mystery, a wonderful cast of characters... 

So the first amazing thing about Troubled Waters is the heroine Zoe Ardelay. Her story is set into motion by a visit from the infuriating Darien Serlast. Her journey and character is ever-changing and evolving (part of her coru blood). However, she is also powerful and smart. She has morals and values that set her apart from a lot of the schemers at court. Her three blessings are beauty, power, and love. 

Speaking of blessings, the world of Welce was so creative. The people of Welce have a system of blessings; three are given at birth and random ones can be drawn anytime. The people also believe in the power of numbers and balance. Every part of the world was thought out. There are even car-like vehicles called elay-motives. Also, there are five primes for each element. Zoe is the coru prime and has tremendous control over water and blood. 

The first part of the book is pretty slow but I loved falling into Zoe's life. I loved reading about her time living by the river in the city, Chialto, fending for herself and making invaluable friends. I really got to know the world and the people. The second part of the book is at court. The intrigue at court and the plot twists were all very entertaining. Let's just say Zoe's ability to read blood lines uncovers a lot of scandals. And I have a feeling Queen Alys is going to cause more problems in future books. 

The ending was satisfying and left our main characters in a happy place. However, there are a lot of loose ends for the realm of Welce and I can't wait to read Josetta's story. You can bet I immediately picked up Royal Airs after this. I have a feeling this series will be a new favorite.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

My Experiences with Literary Classics: Part One

Daisy Miller by Henry James 

So, let's talk about assigned reading. It's a touchy subject. It's a good way to get kids to read but what about just letting them read what they want? How are literary classics any better than Harry Potter?

Well, I see the merits to both arguments. But, personally, I have had some interesting experiences with classics that have led me to value them. They've broadened my world view. I've loved a few of them. Others I've hated. And some I'm not sure.

Today let's discuss Daisy Miller by Henry James

I read Daisy Miller for a essay I was assigned to write in my sophomore year. I thought I hated it. Reading it was torturous. I kept wondering how such a short book (a novella really) could take so long to read. I called it dry and dull.

Then I wrote my essay. I did research on the book and author. I scrutinized the dialogue. And all of the sudden I started appreciating it. I could find some feminist themes. I started being intrigued by expatriates. I analyzed the main character and all of the sudden had this deeper understanding. The tragic story became more fascinating.

And I ended up having some fond memories of Daisy Miller. I display my copy proudly on my vanity- although that may be in part due to the books prettiness and quality of elegance.

However, I still struggle with my perception of the book. Did I like it? Did I not?

I mean, I haven't had the desire to reread it. I remember the painful hours it took for me to get through it. However, I still think about the characters. The characters and storylines in Daisy Miller haven't left my brain since that essay. And I definitely have that essay and my sophomore English class to thank for that.

However, other classics, like Great Expectations, I still hate even after writing about it quite extensively. And some, like A Separate Peace, I've loved since I read the first sentence.

So is Daisy Miller a good novella?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Review: The Cruel Prince

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black


Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences. 
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

The Cruel Prince is a very promising start to a new series which I am undeniably excited for. Holly Black is such an amazing writer. I loved her Curse Workers series and I'm glad to have found a new piece of work from her.

This book is definitely causing a storm in the book world. There's so many good reviews on Goodreads, blogs, and YouTube. While I didn't love it as much as some people, I definitely enjoyed it. (The hype might have ruined it a bit for me!)

THAT ENDING THOUGH. The ending has me itching for the next book. 

I'm getting ahead of myself though. So what do I love about this book? I love that this book doesn't hold back on the dangerous, feral quality of the fae. They are bullies. They are powerful. They will kill your parents. They will make it their mission to torture you. There were some fae *cough cough you-know-which-one-if-you-read-the-book* who I loathed. 

At some points I was close to yelling at the main character, Jude. DON'T DO THAT! DON'T TRUST THIS OR THAT PERSON etc. Sometimes I did question her judgement. Also, the bullying scenes were hard to read sometimes. 

I was intrigued by all the family, sister, and friend dynamics. Jude has a twin sister and a half sister. And they are all very, very different. And Jude's relationship with Madoc is so complicated and hard. He murdered her parents, but he's really the only parent figure she's known. It's all very interesting, especially toward the very end. 

I was pretty sucked in by the story. I felt a disconnect from Jude sometimes but I think future books will create a better connection between reader and character. So, in conclusion, I highly recommend The Cruel Prince. It's definitely cruel and dangerous. And the twist/cliff-hanger(ish) is a killer one. Now comes the wait for book two. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Take Place In Another Country

Visiting other countries is amazing. I dream of seeing new places and getting out of the United States can feel so very freeing. However, trips are expensive. So what's a fun alternative? Books, duh! :)

So, here's my top ten books that take place in different countries!

The United Kingdom 
There's like a million books I love set in the UK:
Harry Potter
Murder Most Unladylike
Some good old British fun. This is my favorite middle grade series at the moment. I love the female friendship and quirky mystery solving.
Clockwork Angel
The whole Infernal Devices Trilogy is such a love letter to London.

Saving Francesca
Melina Marchetti never disappoints and lots of her emotional, amazing novels take place in her home country.

Anna and the French Kiss
I will never get tired of singing its praises. Anna is hilarious and her descriptions of being an American in Paris are spot-on.

Night of Cake and Puppets 
Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series takes place partially in Prague. However, Night of Cake and Puppets takes place entirely there! These beautiful books make me want to visit so badly.

Up To This Pointe
Ballet and penguins? What more is there to ask for? I read this while at a ballet intensive as well... so that was cool!

Ancient Greece
The Song of Achilles
So I've raved about this one so much. It definitely transports you back to the myths of Ancient Greece. It's so well researched and I love Patroclus and Achilles so much.

Kite Runner
This is a powerful classic that everyone should read. I really need to get my hands on more work by Khaled Hosseini!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Favorite Books I Read in 2017: Part Two

So I've finally finished this list of amazing books:

8. The Bean Trees
I read this book in class and loved it. Not only is it beautiful written, it is also incredibly relevant to issues we are having today. The characters were all very memorable; Turtle, Esperanza, and Estevan have all stuck with me.

9. Bad Romance
This was a powerful book about a very important subject: abusive relationships. It was heartbreaking but I couldn't look away. Demetrius is such an amazing author... I've loved all her contemporary works.

10. The Song of Achilles
This book deserves all the awards. The Song of Achilles wraps Greek mythology, beautiful romance, and the tragedy of the trojan war all into one book. I loved reading about Patroclus and Achilles' romance.

11. Roses and Rot
This is a book for artists. It's a love letter to novelists, painters, poets, and dancers. And it has magic and fae mixed in to make it extra exciting. I fell in love with this beautifully written story.

12. This Adventure Ends
Emma Mills is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. I always have so much fun; This Adventure Ends was no exception. It's full of awesome, quirky friendships and adventure.

13. This Savage Song
This is my first Victoria Schwaub or VE Schwaub that I've rated 5 stars. This Savage Song was so beautiful, dark, and compelling. Expect violins and monsters. And it's definitely savage.

14. Three Dark Crowns
Okay. This was such a unique fantasy. I loved the matriarchy aspect, the sister rivalry, and the twist at the end. Like This Savage Song, Three Dark Crowns was a very dark fantasy. I can't wait to read the second book.

So, there we have it! I hope 2018 brings even more favorites. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Favorite Books I Read in 2017: Part One

Guess what guys?! I'm not dead! It just didn't feel right not posting my fave books of the year- even if it's a bit late to do so. Without further ado, here are the books I loved in 2017:

1. The Bear and the Nightingale
This was the first book I read in 2017 and boy was it a great way to start out the year! I read this luscious Russian fantasy while curled up in my warm bed with snowflakes floating down outside my window. Here's my review. 

2. Summers at Castle Auburn
I picked up a used copy of this on a whim. And I ADORED it. Summers at Castle Auburn was probably my number one favorite of the year. It's a cozy, creative read with a slow burn romance. I fell in love with the world Shinn created and I loved all the girl power and sisterly love. Here's my review.

3. Traitor's Blade
I had a blast reading Traitor's Blade while on vacation this year. It's hilarious, action-packed, and has a great twist at the end. Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are all my babies and no one is allowed to hurt them. Also, all the fantasy aspects are executed beautifully. I NEED to finish this series now.

4. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom
This is my favorite duology ever. Leigh Bardugo is a genius. I cried. I laughed. I screamed. Can we talk about how cute all the couples are??? Or what about how savage Kaz is? Also, read this for awesome as heck heists. I wrote an in-depth post about my SoC obsession here.

5. Tower of Dawn
I thought Sarah J Maas couldn't do it. But she did. She made a freakin awesome book about Chaol (AKA my least favorite character). Now I am in love with Chaol and Yrene and Nesryn and Sartaq. Also, I love how diverse this book was; we see so many new characters and places. Tower of Dawn might be my new favorite SJM book. It's that good.

6. Because of Miss Bridgerton (and all of Julia Quinn's books)
I went on a Julia Quinn binge this year and basically read all her books. OOPS. Anyway, Because of Miss Bridgerton is hilarious and banter-y and full of JQ goodness. If you're ever in a reading slump, pick this historical romance series-starter up for a quick cure.

7. The Queen of the Tearling
I've had the ARC of this sitting unread for years. It's pretty shameful. But I finally read The Queen of the Tearling this year- and I loved it. It was amazing and thought-provoking. The heroine, Kelsea, is unique and the book truly focuses on her becoming an amazing ruler. I will warn you it's a pretty slow fantasy; but I loved how immersed I became. I really need to read the next book.

Stay tuned for part two- coming next week!