Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review of Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers


Title/Author: Assassin's Heart (Assassin's Heart #1) by Sarah Ahiers
Publisher/Date published: HarperTeen, February 2nd 2016
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley, thanks!

Goodreads summary: In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible — and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct — and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

There's just something about books about assassins that always manages to draw my attention. I'm kinda wondering what this says about me...

I've been reading a lot of 'meh' books lately and have DNF-ed quite a bit, so I was REALLY hoping Assassin's Heart would not have the instant sigh factor that some of my recent reads have had. And it didn't! I was sucked in from the start and I totally love that!

We meet Lea just before the murder of her whole family (as described in the summary) and see how she operates and we also see a bit of her relationship with Val. And I really liked seeing this glimpse into what Lea's life was like before the plot of Assassin's Heart starts rolling. And knowing that it'll all go downhill very fast gives it a bittersweet vibe from the get-go.

I really liked Lea. I mean, she's definitely a kickass character in the literal sense of the word, but she's also smart and determined and even though I'm a bit like, girl shouldn't you think a bit more before running off and doing whatever, she makes it work. I did really want someone to shake some sense into her when she's all like 'I'll murder ALL the Da Via's for what they did' and there are like 50 of them and she's by herself. Yeah. Odds and all that. BUT she has a plan and is also open to adjusting it a bit, so I could work with this.

I really enjoyed the worldbuilding and I loved that Lea's views about how 'normal' the system is that they have in Lovera with it being legal to kill people for money are being challenged a bit. I mean, the whole idea behind this and the mythology is delightfully complicated and I loved getting a bit deeper into the how and why of things. I cannot imagine the whole Family before family thing, but it's maffia-esque and while I don't really understand it, I can accept it for what it is.

The plot is pretty fast paced and towards the end things start snowballing almost out of control, but OBVIOUSLY Lea has a plan and after the bomb that was dropped plotwise in the last couple of chapters, I'm REALLY wondering what will happen next! I felt like this was a very solid start to the series!

My rating: 4,5 stars

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review of The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin


Title/Author: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin
Publisher/Date published: Simon Pulse, January 26th 2016
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley, thanks!

Goodreads summary: In the tradition of Sarah Dessen, this powerful debut novel is a compelling portrait of a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer as she figures out how to learn from — and fix — her past.

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different — he’s taller, stronger... more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

So I'm usually the person who avoids books dealing with illness, in the main character or one of the people they're close to. But every once in a while I do pick one up and usually end up loving it. And this is what happened with The Year We Fell Apart.

Obviously Harper is a flawed main character, she's made an enormous mess of everything and she seems determined to keep making self-destructive decisions. But what you also get from being inside her head in this novel is that she's struggling SO much to keep everything together, and sometimes it doesn't work and she falls apart and does things that she later regrets. And you know what, I get it. She's dealing with a LOT and it's not even remotely resembling easy and sometimes she just wants to feel good, only the things she does that aren't the best decisions, don't actually make her feel good. And she slowly starts to realise this, but it's hard to change this. Especially when a whole lot of people have already made up their minds about who you are.

I loved that she has an awesome friend in Cory, he's just an amazingly good guy and he sticks with Harper, even though it must be really hard for him to juggle his friendship with her and with Declan after what happened. I also really liked seeing Harper develop a healthy friendship with two girls who she meets in her photography class, as the only other female friendship she's got going on is definitely more of the frenemy type and HATE that. I mean, wow, way to be supportive.

The thing is, I was pretty much loving this, though it's a lot more dark and angsty than the cover lets on, but the last part of the book kinda ruined it a bit for me. I mean, I was rooting for the romance to develop because hello, Declan is a good guy and I liked how Harper was the best version of herself when she was around him. I always feel that you shouldn't need to change essentially to be with someone, but they should make you be the best version of yourself, so I was full on going YES. But then some stuff happened towards the end and that just popped my happy swoony bubble and it was just extremely not ok. I mean, WOW, REALLY? I can get why he jumped to conclusions, but the way he reacts after that is just so insanely way over the line that I just could not after that. Basically all my happy feelings were gone.

So while I think this is a strong debut that deals with the illness of a family member in a very realistic way and shows how it can affect someone, I still had some serious problems with the way things ended and that soured my opinion of The Year We Fell Apart a bit.

My rating: 3,5 stars

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review of Truthwitch by Susan Dennard


Title/Author: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard
Publisher/Date published: Tor, January 14th 2016
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through Netgalley, thanks! I also bought a shiny finished copy :)

Goodreads summary: On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble — as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her — but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Obviously there's a lot of hype surrounding Truthwitch. It's only been on pretty much everyone and their aunt's NEED THIS list for a LONG time and the extreme gorgeousness of the cover is definitely adding to this for me. So I was both very excited and a bit scared to pick this up, because what if I didn't like it??

But I'm glad to say that I did very much like it, though I'm not fangirling all over it like I've seen many people do over the past months. Which would have been awesome, but I'm ok with things as they are now.

I LOVED the frienship between Iseult and Safi, they are true sisters in the best sense of the word and I really feel like they would do anything for each other. And as Susan says in the acknowledgements: 'A friendship can be as epic as a romance'. This friendship is the kind that launches a thousand ships and it is a beautiful thing to see in a book. Especially with a lot of friendships in novels being more like frenemies, which always annoys me.

And as much as I liked the girls together, I also really like them for their own persons. They're both amazing in their own way and I have so many questions about their past! I hope we'll see more of this as the series continues. They are both badass and have a set of skills that awes me, but definitely something that was hard earned instead of just given to them.

I really liked the worldbuilding and the different types of witches are very interesting! I hope we'll get to explore this more, because I'm definitely curious about how everything ties together and what exactly makes a person be a witch and others not so much. And what makes you be a certain type of witch. The thing I'm still a bit confused about though, is why exactly a Truthwitch is so valuable. I mean, I get that it's handy to rulers to have one, you can't be lied to, but it seems that there'd be even more useful skills to have. I mean, basically every country hunting Safi because of this seemed a bit over much.

As much as I loved the friendship between Safi and Iseult, I wasn't really feeling the romance. I mean, it was okay, but I wasn't really shipping it. The part leading up to the kiss was pretty great, but other than that it fell a bit flat for me.

So yes, like most of the blogging world, I really liked Truthwitch and I'm very curious to see what will happen next!

My rating: 4 stars

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review of Burn by Elissa Sussman


Title/Author: Burn (Four Sisters #2) by Elissa Sussman
Publisher/Date published: Greenwillow Books, January 19th 2016
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley, thanks!

Goodreads summary: After helping to rescue Princess Aislynn, Elanor has finally rejoined the rebel camp she calls home. Stolen from her parents at a young age and forced into service by the Wicked Queen, Elanor now wants nothing more than to see the queen removed from power. But Elanor has secrets, mistakes she’s spent years trying to forget, and the closer the rebels get to the throne, the harder it is for Elanor to keep her past hidden away.

With fellow rebels on her side — including Princess Aislynn, Thackery, and the handsome and mysterious Matthias — it is time for Elanor to make a decision. Will she protect her secrets? Or risk everything to save the people she loves?

So I really enjoyed Stray when I read it last year, so I was excited to see Burn pop up on Edelweiss! I mean, I've been waiting for some answers for AGES, so yeah, obviously I wanted to read Burn.

Sadly, Burn didn't work as well for me as Stray did. I mean, I felt a little lost throughout the whole story and that's just not a very good feeling. I like to be fully immersed in a story and the characters and experience everything right along with them. And that never happened with Burn. I kept wondering where the storyline was going and why exactly we were being told all these things and basically just what was the point to it all. I'm still not entirely sure about all these things.

Eleanor is in theory a very kickass woman, she fights, she's not afraid to admit that she falls in love with a person and isn't inhibited by a gender in this. I love that not everyone is the standard straight in this series. But while Eleanor is interesting, there just wasn't enough of a plot to back it all up. People did things (major vagueness, I know) that I'm still confused about, I mean, it was just WEIRD and seemed out of character. That is based on the things we actually get to know about the characters, cause most of the ones we're introduced to in Burn aren't given a lot of depth, sadly.

I did like learning more about Eleanor's past and her relationship with the Queen, but I'm still not really sure why the Queen did what she did and that kinda bugs me. Also, I'm not entirely convinced by the romance and aside from a very cute fox that I just wanted to HUG, there wasn't much that I was very enthusiastic about. The fox totally stole the show.

My rating: 2 stars

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review of Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan


Title/Author: Sword and Verse (Sword and Verse #1) by Kathy MacMillan
Publisher/Date published: HarperTeen, January 19th 2016
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley, thanks!

Goodreads summary: Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance — an underground army of slave rebels — to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries — one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

So Sword and Verse has been getting a lot of negative reviews and I have to say that I actually did really like this! My expectations were somewhat lowered by the not so glowing thing I'd heard, so that might have helped, but I genuinely liked this.

I really liked Raisa, she's been through a lot as a kid and she's part of a group of people that is being repressed by the nation she lives in. They're slaves to the Qilarites and the way they are treated is apalling and the dangers they put the children in, that's just.. awful. And Raisa has found a way to live a better life than most as she became Tutor in training. She's a little safer and is treated better than most of the Arnathim. And because you see the way that she interacts with the current Tutor and with Mati, the prince, I could understand her hesitancy to join the Resistance and risk her life and everything in it. I felt that it was a realistic struggle between her loyalties and I enjoyed seeing her grow as a person and find what's important to her.

One of the other things I really liked was the language, while science is more my thing, I loved learning languages in school as a teen and I'd still love to learn Spanish, Italian and Chinese if I ever find the time for it. So I was very interested in how the Qilarite language system works and especially once Raisa starts on trying to figure out the Arnathim language. There's a lot of technical stuff and details about the whole language and Raisa learning it, but that didn't bother me, though it slowed down the plot a bit at times. The thing that I did feel kinda iffy about is that I have zero idea as to how Raisa actually figured out the key to the Arnathim language. I mean, she had basically nothing to go on and then she just starts figuring it out because she hears her father's voice in her head? Who hadn't really started teaching her language before he was killed? I mean, huh? Je suis confused.

Also, I can get behind the romance, I'm not full on shipping it, but I do like that Mati and Raisa actually have a history together and have known each other for years before things start to happen. At times I wished Mati was a bit of a better man, cause I can't for the life of me figure out how he thought it was a good idea to keep certain things from Raisa, but I did like how she handled it. I mean, she doesn't forgive him out of hand and she definitely shows that she's the better person for it. I mean, that was just a big no.

So the ending leaves me very interested to see how things will go on, because certainly the events that lead up to it are gonna lead to a LOT of changes and I am definitely reading the sequel to find out what happens next!

My rating: 4 stars

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mini-Reviews (11): One Tempting Proposal, Da Vinci's Tiger, Maid-sama! Vol 1 & 2

So sometimes I fail at writing reviews for the books I've read, and 2015 has me failing spectacularly. And because it's been AGES since I read these, I'm just gonna do mini-reviews of them, so as to clear my need-review shelf (cause it's humungous, it's not even funny anymore).

Title/Author: One Tempting Proposal (Accidental Heirs #2) by Christy Carlyle
Publisher/Date published: Avon Impulse, November 17th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley, thanks!

It's been a while, but I remember liking One Tempting Proposal, but not loving it. There's a lot of pressure on Kitty to get married and her father is being an absolute pain in the ass about it and that was pretty annoying. I mean, I get that in that time period getting one's children married off was important, but why would he sacrifice the happiness (and marriage) of one of his daughters because he wanted to other one to get married? I mean, how is this logical?

Anyway, the romance between Kitty and Sebastian was nice, I didn't get all the feels, but it was ok. There's just so much going on around it and schemes and I just couldn't fully get into it. But I liked it.

My rating: 3 stars


Title/Author: Da Vinci's Tiger by L.M. Elliott
Publisher/Date published: Katherine Tegen Books, November 10th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley, thanks!

I really enjoyed this historical fiction set in the time period of Leonardo Da Vinci! L.M. Elliott introduces the concept of Platonical love/muses and I'd never heard of it before, it's fascinating! I'm still not entirely sure I fully understand it, but it is obvious that the author has delved into this subject and knows a lot about it and how it was handled in society back then. It seemed to be very good for your standing in society, especially if you were the female half of the pairing.

Ginevra was a decent main character, she's smart, she's passionate about art and I really liked her. She's stuck in this marriage to an older man and I was a bit confused as to mostly not being around of her husband, but apparantly this happened more often back then. The ending was a bit dissatisfying for me, cause I would have liked for there to have been a bit more romance to the story, but the man who made Ginevra his Platonic muse wigged me out, so that wasn't really an option for shipping. I guess it shouldn't matter, but I was basically being Team Ginevra because she's awesome and then she doesn't actually win at anything in the end. It was a bittersweet ending for me to a book that I otherwise really enjoyed.

My rating: 4 stars


Title/Author: Maid-sama! Vol 1 &2 by Hiro Fujiwara
Publisher/Date published: VIZ Media LLC, August 4th 2015
How I got this book: bought it

I'd been meaning to try manga and my friend Debby LOVES this series, so I decided to give it a try.
And guys, this is SO CUTE! I mean, I have to be honest and say that my feelings get involved more easily when it's a book, but this is so incredibly well done and the illustrations are amazing and just YES OK? I totally ship it.
It's just fun and whimsical and obviously I'm continuing this series.

My rating: 5 stars

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review of The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth


Title/Author: The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth
Publisher/Date published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 12th 2016
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley, thanks!

Goodreads summary: “I try not to think about it, what I did to that boy.”

Seventeen-year-old Kenna Marsden has a secret.

She’s haunted by a violent tragedy she can’t explain. Kenna’s past has kept people — even her own mother — at a distance for years. Just when she finds a friend who loves her and life begins to improve, she’s plunged into a new nightmare. Her mom and twin sister are attacked, and the dark powers Kenna has struggled to suppress awaken with a vengeance.

On the heels of the assault, Kenna is exiled to a nearby commune, known as Eclipse, to live with a relative she never knew she had. There, she discovers an extraordinary new way of life as she learns who she really is, and the wonders she’s capable of. For the first time, she starts to feel like she belongs somewhere. That her terrible secret makes her beautiful and strong, not dangerous. But the longer she stays at Eclipse, the more she senses there is something malignant lurking underneath it all. And she begins to suspect that her new family has sinister plans for her...

So I was pretty excited to start this because the summary hints at dark powers and a commune that could also be read as cult and I'm both fascinated and very scared by cults, so it's always interesting to me when they appear in a novel.

Sadly, I have to say that The Killing Jar didn't really work all that well for me. I mean, the plot was sort of interesting, but I kept getting annoyed by the characters. All of them. Most of all Kenna and her mother and also her grandmother and everyone in the commune. I mean, holy wow, can we just say people kept making REALLY bad decisions? And I'm not just talking about the teenagers, but mostly about the adults and I just cannot.

I mean, I'm sorry, but Kenna has done something awful and her mother KNOWS this and also knows what caused it and then she just sort of keeps Kenna at a distance and doesn't tell her about this? I mean, WHAT? And then all of a sudden something else happens and Kenna's mom decides to send her to this commune? I mean, WHAT THE WHAT? Without really explaining anything she just up and leaves Kenna there and OMG I got so angry at this! I mean, can we say bad parenting?

And Kenna herself... Well, I'm just not a fan. I felt like she was just completely ignoring what was right in front of her and why was she not questioning things more at the commune? I mean, maybe I'm just naturally suspicious, but something was OFF from the moment she got there and she's just like 'lalala, I'm just gonna sniff flowers and sing and dance and well, maybe the people here are weird and they don't tell me anything about anything, but I'm just gonna ignore that'. And the way she handled things with her twin sister was just not ok. I get that she's confused because of all the shiny things they did show her at Eclipse, but seriously, you have a brain, please use it.

The only reason I finished this because I wanted very badly to know what was behind everything at Eclipse. And we're sort of told about it, but my curiosity isn't really satisfied with the answers we're given. I think I just feel like this could have gone a lot deeper into things and now it felt very superficial and just not what I had expected.

My rating: 1,5 stars