Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

The main character of “Throne of Glass”, Celaena has become the world’s greatest assassin at the ripe old age of seventeen.
Wait, what?
That’s ridiculous. Seventeen is way too young to be the world’s best anything unless it’s something that specifically requires to be very young to be skilled. And since Celaena thinks this of one of her competitors, we can rest assured that that is not the case with assassins.
Assassin indeed. His voice hasn’t even deepened yet. How did he wind up here?
But way more importantly than that, how can anyone be the world’s greatest assassin? And that’s not a personal opinion of a couple of people, that’s common knowledge. First off, who measures these things? You would be hard-pressed today to have people give the same answer to the question “who is the world’s best fashion model?”, and the performances of fashion models is something anyone can access. A good assassin shouldn’t be someone everybody has information on. But in this world, apparently, being a good criminal means being really famous and having people know your name. I don’t think there are words to describe how idiotic this concept is.
Then, there’s the little matter of this fact: we wouldn’t be able to decide today who the best in the world at something is (world’s best lawyer? Does anybody know who that is?). Today, when we have the Internet, and you can circle around the world in a matter of days. Try establishing that in the world the story is set in, where they have medieval technology and magic has been outlawed (so they can’t use magic to communicate or travel any faster), where crossing a country takes weeks. There’s not enough communication possible to decide with any sort of accuracy who the best assassin in the world is.
For these reasons, Celaena’s character could only be more over-blown if her name actually were Badass McAwesome. She’s a Mary Sue at her finest: she’s beautiful, she’s physically strong, she’s intelligent, she’s musically gifted. Her abilities never, ever fail her.
Her arrogance might actually have been an interesting character trait, if it had been exploited more. If she’d made a huge mistake because she didn’t think anybody capable of beating her. But, nope. Infallible Celaena.
Also, she’s judgmental as hell. She thinks of the king of Adarlan as a murderer and a monster. Which I am sure he is, but so is Celaena. She kills people for money. She thinks of all the pretty dresses she could buy with her salary as the king’s personal assassin. And this is never portrayed as problematic. When I read a book about assassins, I expect them to be anti-heroes. Or, if they aren’t, if they do this to keep themselves or somebody they care about alive, to hate having been coerced into this line of work, to feel remorse for their killing. Celaena never feels remorse for what she’s done. No, she’s a good assassin. How do we know this? Well, she doesn’t kill children. That doesn’t make her good. It just makes her a little less of a monster. But she’s still a monster.
The romance was actually quite light, for the most part, and the love triangle didn’t bother me at first, until the she started flipping back and forth with her feelings for the two guys. Then it definitely started getting on my nerves.
 Also, while Celaena does not fall into insta-love, one of her two suitors does.
Still, the image haunted his dreams throughout the night: a lovely girl gazing at the stars, and the stars who gazed back.
He thinks this two weeks after their meeting. He knows she’s dangerous. He knows she resents him and his family for what happened to her and to her kingdom. He knows that her attempted suicide involved killing several people with a pickax. He doesn’t know her. He’s enamored of her anyways. What an idiot. 
He loved her, and no empire, no king, no earthly fear would keep him from her. No, if they tried to take her from him, he’d rip the world apart with his bare hands. And for some reason, that didn’t terrify him.
This is after knowing her for three months, and they really only start spending time with each other after two months have already passed.
The bad guys are utterly ridiculous. They practically prance about wearing sparkly signs with the words “I’m EVIL” around their necks. And Celaena, who is supposed to be smart, somehow manages to be surprised when the villain’s identity is relieved.
Also, there’s a castle made of glass. Of actual glass. What the hell? I suppose that it’s really thick glass, but it’s still not going to be as efficient as stone when it comes to defending it.  A couple of hits from a catapult and it’ll be smashed into little sparkly bits. And it’s the capital of a kingdom focused on warfare, too. Why would you build this really inefficient, expensive castle that’ll guarantee boiling summers and freezing winters? How do you manage a fireplace in a castle made of glass, a material that melts really easily when put in contact to flames?
The writing’s fine most of the time, but sometimes there are some rather weird phrases, like:
Her blood grew warm and glittering.
But maybe Kaltain is a Twilight vampire, that’s why her blood is glittering.
There are some sudden POV shifts, which is an amateur mistake (I tried to edit the spoilers out as much as I could, but if you want to avoid all spoilers, then skip this bit):
Carefully putting his arms around Celaena, Dorian glanced toward [Characters A and B] In doing so, he missed the look exchanged between [character C] and [character D]. [Character D] pulled out his dagger.
But Chaol saw.
However, despite all its flaws, this book managed to keep me entertained and intrigued. It’s not a good book, by any means, but it’s a fun book, and not of the so-bad-it’s-good variety. So it's still getting two stars. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday 26/02/2015

“Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly anticipated upcoming releases. This week's pick is "A Darker Shade of Magic" by V.E. Schwab and it's scheduled to be released February 15th 2015.   
From V.E. Schwab, the critically acclaimed author of Vicious, comes a new universe of daring adventure, thrilling power, and parallel Londons, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic.

Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London...but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, who first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

How amazing does that premise sound? Alternate universes, and magic, and adventure! What's not to like? 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by the Brooke and the Bookish. This week's list is of books I really want to read but don't own yet. 

10. "Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures" by Mary Katherine Briggs 
I find Folklore fascinating, and this book looks amazing. 

9. "The Luminaries" by Eleanor Catton
I have been meaning to read this book for ages, but never get around to buying it 

8. "Dangerous Women" edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardener Dozois
I really like the premise of an anthology revolving around femme fatales, and some really big names are tied to "Dangerous Women" so I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

7. "Rogues" edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardener Dozois 
This anthology is tied to "Dangerous Women", and it ranks above that one for one reason and one reason only: "Rogues" has got a Neil Gaiman story in it. It's about my favorite character from "Neverwhere", the Marquis de Carabas.

6. "Runemarks" by Joanne Harris
Yay for Norse mythology! I really need to get my hands on this book soon.

5. "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making"by Chaterynne M. Valente 
I have heard so many good things about this book, and I can't wait to read it. 

4. "Vessel" by Sarah Beth Durst
I recently read "Drink, Slay, Love" by the same author and it was a lot of fun. I like the premise of "Vessel", and I'm looking forward to reading it!

3. "The Burning Sky" by Sherry Thomas
The premise of this book is right up my alley, and the upcoming sequel looks just as interesting.

"The Blood of Olympus" by Rick Riordan
This book's not out yet, and that's the only reason why I don't own it. I just can't wait to read the final book in the "Heroes of Olympus" series!

1. "Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman 
I am a huge, huge Nail Gaiman fan. And I also am a huge, huge, mythology nerd. Combine the two together, and I become immediately hyped for the book in question. How and why I haven't read or even bought this book yet is a mystery.
What about you? What books do you really want to read but don't own (yet)? Let me know in the comments! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quote-Tastic! 25/08/2014

"Quote-Tastic" is a meme hosted every Monday on Herding Cats & Burning Soup . To participate you have to post a favorite quote from a current or past read. This week's quote is from "Drink, Slay, Love"by Sarah Beth Durst.
Flanking her, Bethany and Evan walked with her. Each of them was close enough to lock arms with and skip down the yellow brick road, or more accurately, the cracked concrete sidewalk. "We'll show you the way!" Bethany said. 
"Fantastic," Pearl said. "All we need now is the Cowardly Lion." 
What are your favorite quotes this week? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stacking the Shelves 23/08/2014

Stacking The Shelves is a meme hosted on Tynga's Reviews all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
 This week I have added to my shelves:

"The Iron Trial" by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (Review Copy - read, you can find my review here)
"The School of Good and Evil" and "A World Without Princes" by Soman Chainani (ebooks) 

What about you? What do you think of these books? Have you read them? Do you want to read them?  What have you added to your shelves this week? 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The main character in "The Iron Trial" is Callum "Call" Hunt. He has the potential to become a mage, but his father has always warned him that magic is dangerous. Despite Call's best efforts, though, he is forced to go to the Magisterium, to be taught how to use is magic. 
This book is very reminiscent of "Harry Potter" in some ways. We have a magic school in a secret location. We have a young boy, who has magical powers. His encounter with the greatest evil of his age when he was a newborn left a permanent physical mark on him. He doesn’t have any friends in his town, but when he goes to the magic school, he befriends several people, in particular a boy and a girl. The dark wizard they’re all afraid of has an ominous nickname: he’s called the Enemy of Death. He wants to become immortal.  
The similarities between "The Iron Trial" and "Harry Potter" are particularly obvious in the first few chapters, so in the beginning I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes and going “oh, I haven’t heard that one before”.
 Thankfully, as time went on, it became less and less similar to the "Harry Potter" series, and I started enjoying it more and more.
“The Iron Trial” is rather short, and not much happens in terms of plot, as most of the book focuses on the world- and character-building. However, the book did make me want to keep reading. 
The main character, Call, is a pretty standard middle grade fantasy lead for most of the book: he’s a troublemaker, he’s caustic, he has the bad habit of acting first and thinking second, he’s loyal to his friends, he’s stubborn and proud. The only really good bit of character development he gets is right at the end. It made me appreciate his character a great deal more.
I really liked Tamara. She’s ready to do pretty much anything in order to reach her goals, and has been pressured from her family to be an overachiever. She has a temper. She wants do to the right thing. 
Of the three main characters, Aaron is the least compelling one. He doesn’t have any characters fault, and he never rises above his own stereotype. He’s a golden boy the first time we see him and he remains that way for the whole book.
The bully character, Jasper, had the possibility of being very interesting, despite the fact that he came off as really clich├ęd in the beginning. He was brave and his reasons were sympathetic, and I do hope to see more of him in the next books. 
The rest of the characters aren’t very complex or memorable, but none of them are outright unlikable, either.
There wasn’t anything really new and original about the world-building. There’s no sense of wonder,  nothing that surprised me, which is what I look for when I read fantasy. However, it all held together quite nicely and the reader was eased into the world of Magisterium with a lot of skill, so that there were no boring info-dumps. 

I loved the twist at the end of the novel. It was foreshadowed a great deal, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise, but the implications are very interesting. It’s enough to make me want to give the next book in this series a chance.
All in all, this book kept me entertained. I recommend it if you’re in the mood for some light reading and you don’t have a lot of time to read. “The Iron Trial” is an okay book, but nothing more than that. I would have given it two and a half stars, but the twist at the end was a saving grace, and it earned the book an extra half star.  


I received this book as an eARC from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday 20/08/2014

“Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly anticipated upcoming releases. This week's pick is "Princess of Thorns" by Stacey Jay and it's scheduled to be released December 9th 2014.   
Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

I love fairy tale retellings and this looks awesome! What are you waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling Me That I MUST Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by the Brooke and the Bookish. This week's list is of books people have been recommending often to me. 

"Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell" by Susanna Clark
People have been recommending this to me for years. I keep meaning to read, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. 

"Malice" by John Gwayne
Everybody's going on about how amazing this is. I am not sure wether or not I want to read it yet, though. 
"The Host" by Stephanie Meyer
After my brief time as a "Twilight" fan (it was a dark time), I vowed I would never touch another of Meyer's books with a ten-feet-pole. This does not keep one of my friends to keep recommending me this. She assures me that it's better than "Twilight", but I don't intend to find out.  

"The School for Good and Evil" by Soman Chainani
Unlike "The Host", I actually really want to read this one. It looks adorable and I really like the idea of the premise.
"I am Charlotte Simmons" by Tom Wolfe
This, like "Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell" is a book that was first recommended to me years ago, and I have often been told that I should read it. I have never been in the mood to, though. 

"Poison Study" by Maria V. Snyder
So many people loved this book, and so naturally this is recommended often. I like the premise, and the reviews have been glowing, but something still holds me back from this book. 

"Grave Mercy" by Robin LaFevres 
This is another book a lot of people have loved, and also a book that has a premise that's right up my alley (Give me all the book with a female assassin main character in a fantasy setting. Give them to me!), so it figures that I would get this recommended a lot.    

"Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel
A friend of mine has read this and he's adamant that I should read it, too. I swear that I will... at one point. 

"A Great and Terrible Beauty" by Libba Bray
People keep recommending this to me, but I have tried to read it once and never went past the first chapters. I absolutely could not stand the main character from the very first page, so I have no plans to read this any time soon. 

"Shadow and Bone" by Leigh Bardugo 
A couple of friends of mine have read this book and they keep recommending it to me, and I like the idea of the Grisha. It also sounds as though this book will focus a lot on the love triangle, though. And it has been getting a lot of mixed reviews, so I'm conflicted about reading it. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Beginning and the Friday 56 15/08/2014

Book Beginning is a meme hosted on Rose City Reader. To partecipate, you have to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. 

Friday 56 is a meme hosted on Freda's Voice. To participate, you have to post one or a few sentences from either page 56 or 56% of a book of your choosing. 

I am posting this memes together because I chose to use the same book for both of them. It's "Drink, Slay, Love" by Sara Beth Durst. 

The first sentence(s): 
"One hour until dawn," Pearl said. She leaped off the roof and landed catlike on the pavement. "Oozes of time if we steal a car." 
It's an okay beginning, but I am not a huge fan of it. It establishes the personality of our main character as a daredevil, but it's not exactly original. 

Taken from page 56 of the book: 
Snacks didn't have the right to criticize her. He was so far beneath her. In fact, he was so below her on the food chain (literally) that she wasn't going to waste a second more of daylight in thinking about him or his ill-conceived and ill-considered and all-around ill opinions. 

What about you?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday Finds 15/08/2014

FRIDAY FINDS is a meme hosted on Should Be Reading. It showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

This week's pick is "I, Morgana" by Felicity Pullman.
You know my name, but you don’t know my story …

After being schooled in magic by Merlin and promised a kingdom, Morgana is robbed of her birthright and betrayed by everyone she has ever trusted. Risking everything for revenge, Morgana uses her magical arts to trap Merlin, threaten her half-brother King Arthur, and turn away the only man she will ever love. In destroying King Arthur and Camelot, Morgana sets into motion a catastrophe that can only be reversed if she can learn from the past in time to protect our future … and so fulfill an ancient prophecy.

In the tradition of The Mists of Avalon comes a new story of Morgan le Fay, one of the most enigmatic and reviled characters in Arthurian legend.

Why have I added it to my TBR list? Well, mostly because it's a retelling of arthurian mythology, which I love. 
What are your Friday finds? Let me know in the comments! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

The main character in “A Sudden Light” is Trevor, a fourteen-year-old boy, who spends the summer in his family’s giant estate. His father and aunt are trying to convince their ailing father to sell it, since it’s very valuable and they’re poor. However, the house is haunted by the ghost of Ben, the son of the family’s patriarch, Elijah Riddell. Here’s the thing: Ben believes that the North Estate ought to be returned to nature after the family stops living there, and he won’t move on with his life (well, afterlife), until after his wish is fulfilled.
The novel has beautiful prose, which manages to convey the dark and disturbing setting very effectively. I actually took the time to highlight some passages I thought were exceptionally good, which is not something I do very often.
The family dynamics and the secrets were well crafted and intriguing, and the author managed to make the supernatural elements fit in quite nicely. Some of the chapters of this book were wonderful, worthy of a five stars rating.
A pity that a good chunk of the novel, especially in the beginning and in the middle, was quite boring.It took several pages for the action to start and around fifty percent, I noticed the novel had become quite repetitive. Most of the novel follows this formula:  
  1. Trevor has convenient dreams-hallucinations that explain Ben’s life story.
  2. Trevor wakes up and Ben creepily whispers his name and then vanishes.
  3. Trevor lusts after his crazy aunt Serena.
  4. Trevor goes exploring and finds a convenient info-dumping diary or letter. Good thing everybody writes down everything that happens to them (even their deepest secrets) and is rubbish at hiding their writings.
  5. Trevor reflects on how Progress Is Bad and We Are One (picture “Circle of Life” from the Lion King playing in the distance).
  6. Trevor talks to his demented grandfather.
  7. Trevor’s father tries to get Grandpa Samuel to give up the house and fails. During this, Trevor’s thoughts process goes like this: “If we sell the estate, Mom and Dad will get back together! But Ben won’t be pleased. But I’ll be happy! But  Ben!”
  8. Trevor goes to sleep.
  9. Rinse and repeat.

This routine it made me want to give up on the book. Thankfully, I didn’t, otherwise I would have missed the truly excellent final chapters.
The plot is pretty straightforward and I could see most of the twists coming from miles away, also because the author uses foreshadowing extensively. There was one instance where I was surprised, which I appreciated.
The book has a rather strong message, which sometimes takes the forefront, relegating the plot to the backseat. As it’s a novel and not an essay, this should not happen. Plot and character development come first and the message ought to be conveyed subtly to the reader. In this case, the reader gets metaphorically smacked over the head with it over and over again. Also, the book takes a simplistic approach to its own theme. In the end, it all comes down to good versus evil. Everything is black and white, with no shades of gray. This lack of complexity makes the message feel unrealistic, causing it to fall flat. In "A Sudden Light", progress is depicted as something negative, because of the effects it has on nature. What the book fails to acknowledge is that progress is what gives humans the possibility to spend time concerning ourselves with love, the meaning of live and the arts. Without progress, we'd have to spend our lives fighting for survival, instead. At one point, Ben critiques the building of sewers. Sewers, that improved the living conditions in cities greatly, and diminished illnesses. I really wish that the positive aspects of progress were acknowledged in the novel next to its negative consequences. It would have made it much more interesting, and the message would have been more powerful and realistic.  
There are also some issues with the dialogues, as they are often awkward. We have a saying in Italy: “parlare come un libro stampato”. It literally means “to talk like a printed book”. That’s how the people in this novel talk. Never, at any point, do they express themselves as actual people do. If it was one or two characters who did this, I wouldn’t mind. It’d chalk it to them having a particular voice. But everyone does that.
Oh wait, no, I remembered. The main character’s daughter, who only appears in the epilogue and has roughly two lines, talks like a real human being. But she's the only one.  
“A Sudden Light” had a lot of potential. It truly might have been a wonderful book, one of the best I have read this year. As it is, I liked it, but nothing more that that.


I received this book as an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.