Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo


Title: Siege and Storm
Series: The Grisha #2
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Format: Hardback

Page Count: 435

Rating: 

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

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. (taken from goodreads.com)


“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.” 

I read the first book in this series, Shadow and Bone, many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I don't really know why I never rushed to get my hands on the sequels. Then I started seeing how popular Bardugo's Six of Crows and it's sequel were becoming, and I knew I had to catch up on this series and the new one. Now, I'm struggling to write a review because I honestly just felt so meh about Siege and Storm.

I read so many fantastic reviews, and even though it came out almost four years ago, this second book still holds an impressive rating on GoodReads. Therefore, I started it with high expectations. We find Alina and Mal across the sea, hiding from the Darkling and attempting to move further away from his black reach. However, they are soon ensnared back into Ravka's political turmoil and forced to return.

Even though I absolutely adore novels packed with political intrigue, I couldn't help but feel bored as I pushed through Siege and Storm. I don't know why, but I simply didn't care about the characters as much as I did in the first novel. The plot felt stagnant, and I kept wishing that something interesting would happen. Bardugo does kick it up a notch in the last quarter of the book, but there were times I was so bored that I considered not even making it to that part of the story.

The Darkling was one of the best aspects of the first novel, and his relationship with Alina kept me intrigued, not because of his "I'm so dark and mysterious" personality, but because he was so utterly different from the other characters. In this second book, we barely even see The Darkling as Alina attempts to gain a following of Grisha to fight him. I lost interest and even set this book aside for a week or so to focus on other books that called my name.

Overall, I still enjoy this series, but I wasn't overly impressed with the follow-up novel to Shadow and Bone. I still plan to read the third book, so perhaps that one will hold my attention better.
 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Author Chat: Laurie Forest, Author of The Black Witch

  
Laurie Forest lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands. The Black Witch (May 2017, HarlequinTEEN) is her first novel, and Wandfasted (The Black Witch prequel, Summer 2017, HarlequinTEEN) is her first e-book novella

(taken from Laurie's
website)
  

Have you always wanted to write a young adult novel?

I had never read much of any fantasy until my pre-teen daughters pushed me to read Harry Potter (and I was instantly hooked!). I started devouring all the books they were in love with and more - Tamora Pierce's books, Robin Hobb's books, The Golden Compass, Cassandra Clare's books, Graceling, Wicked Lovely, and hundreds more. Over time, a story of my own started forming in my mind.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what do you listen to?

Yes! My main musical inspirations for The Black witch were Imogen Heap, Goo Goo Dolls, U2, Rage Against the Machine and many others. I'm on Spotify.

Are you more of a coffee or a tea person when writing?

Oh, I am a complete tea fanatic! Especially Irish Breakfast Tea. My books are completely fueled by the power of tea :) And there's quite a bit of tea drinking that pops up in my books. Watch for it!

What makes your protagonist stand out from other YA heroines?

My protagonist, Elloren Gardner, is growing up in an insular, fascist, isolated society (picture the dark side of LOTR or Harry Potter or The Naming (I could go on) winning and taking over the lands - that's loosely my starting point). Elloren happens to look just like her powerful grandmother, the legendary Black Witch, although she seems to be lacking magical power in a society that values magic and power above nearly all else. When Elloren ventures forth to attend Verpax University, she soon finds the wider world is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch, and that everything she's been taught might be cruelly unjust and dangerously wrong.

Did you have a writing schedule while you worked on The Black Witch? What did your average day of writing look like?

I get up at 5am pretty much every morning and write for about an hour. I also write pretty intensively on the weekends. That's been the schedule for a while now :)

What is one underrated book you would like to recommend to everyone?


The Bird of the River by Kage Baker is one of the most beautiful YA Fantasy novels I've ever read. Here's the description I found online.

"Two teenagers join the crew of a huge river barge after their addict mother is drowned. The girl and her younger brother try to make the barge their new home. As the great boat proceeds up the long river, we see a panorama of cities and cultures, and begin to perceive patterns in the pirate attacks that happen so frequently in the river cities. Eliss, the girl, becomes a sharp-eyed spotter of obstacles in the river for the barge, and more than that, one who perceives deeply."



Look for The Black Witch on May 2!

A Great Winged One will soon arise and cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. And just as Night slays Day, and Day slays Night, so also shall another Black Witch rise to meet him, her powers vast beyond imagining.

So foretells the greatest prophecy of the Gardnerian mages. Carnissa Gardner, the last prophesied Black Witch, drove back the enemy forces and saved her people during the Realm War. Now a new evil is on the horizon, and her granddaughter, Elloren, is believed to be Carnissa’s heir—but while she is the absolute image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above nearly all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren is eager to join her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University and finally embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the University, which admits all manner of peoples—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of her people—is an even more treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch. (taken from goodreads.com)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Waiting On Wednesday was created by Jill over at Breaking The Spine. It's a weekly post for you to share what upcoming books you can't wait for!

Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean 

Author: Jenny Han
Release Date: May 2, 2017


Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to? (taken from goodreads.com)

Why I Need It: 

Jenny Han has such a great writing style. Her characters are fun and realistic, and this series has won the hearts of so many readers. I can't wait to dive back into Lara Jean's love life. And can we look at that cover? It's gorgeous! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber


Title: Caraval
Series: Caraval #1
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Format: E-Book

Page Count: 407

Rating: 

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away. (taken from goodreads.com)


"Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world."

Before even starting this book, I'd seen how many great reviews it had. Therefore, my expectations were 100% unfairly high. Maybe that's partially why I didn't fall in love with Caraval like so many others did. There were just too many things that bothered me, and honestly, I found it quite boring.

I wasn't a huge fan of Scarlett. "She was a pretty girl, though she often liked to hide it." Bleh. Also, she's a little meek for my taste. "Scarlett attempted to make a sound of disgust, but it came out more like a whimper." Although she didn't drive me crazy or anything (most of the time, anyway), I was really unimpressed with her development.

The romance was equally uninteresting. It was as if Scarlett was so deprived of romantic relationships and sexual attraction that when she finally faced it she was helpless. There was no real substance between her and Julian. It was the same old "I'm dark and mysterious" trope and Scarlett fell right into it like the idiot that she is.

Scarlett can see colors attached to her own emotions, as well as the feelings of others. It was a little odd, and I'm not sure if I liked hearing about "goldenrod delight" or "ashy shades of anxiety" or "periwinkle curiosity" or "ochre shades of uneasy." Seriously, it was such a random trait and the descriptions go on forever. It felt a little forced to me, like there was an unnecessary amount of description. In fact, I thought many aspects of Garber's writing were a little too over-the-top, almost like she was trying too hard. There is such as thing as too many colorful descriptions. Also, I found Garber's writing to be a little childish for my taste. She takes too long to explain things, and her sentences often remind me of ones found in chapter books for kids.

I've said before that I love books about strong sister relationships, and obviously this looked like it would be right up my alley. Having said that, the sisters in this book didn't really intrigue me that much. They both seemed more preoccupied with their selfish interests than helping one another. Over and over again, they claim that they are so important to each other, then dash off to chase their own dreams. For instance: "If not for Scarlett's determination to protect her sister at all costs, she might have given up long ago. She probably should have. What was that saying, No love ever goes unpunished? In many ways, loving Tella was a source of constant pain." Well, that certainly sounds like unconditional sibling love to me.

So, why did I even bother to give this book two stars if so many things bothered me? The answer: Caraval. It's a unique idea, and I loved the magical aspects of the carnival. I was so interested in Legend and his role in the story. There was potential for this book to be intriguing, but the drawn out mystery and Scarlett's character drove my interest away almost immediately.