September 24, 2015

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Source: Kindle Edition
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: June 5th 2012
Age Genre: Young Adult
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.
“I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”
Look who's really really late to join the bandwagon! Me! I've been itching to read this book for a really long while, but something was holding me back. The right mood finally came upon me and I started it. 

From page one, I was in love with the writing style of this book. There is just something so... beautiful about it. I can't really put my finger on it (plus it took me so long to write this review that it's not as fresh in my head as I'd like), but I was addicted to it. 

We're already off to a good start, aren't we? Then there's Alina, the main character of the story. I loved her voice. I loved her character. I loved that she was brave yet scared. Toughed yet so weak. That she had such a good heart in a world that doesn't often appreciated it. That she was human enough to sometimes break her own heart with the actions she had to take. 

Now we have the supporting characters. All were great in my opinion, all added something--whether if to the story or the layers of the world or whatever.

But, can we just say-- I FEEL SO BETRAYED RIGHT NOW. Seriously, I did not see that twist coming. I was having fun, strolling down the plot when BAM I AM UNDER ATTACK MAYDAY MAYDAY *explosion*. 
Seriously, what? why? who thought this was okay? I don't know how to deal with this! My shipper heart is flailing around in distress. 


Which, I guess, is what makes this book interesting. It's what makes it different than the rest of the books in the genre that work on the same vibe. It surprises you and makes you want to continue with the books so you could see where does it go--and what surprise does Bardugo has prepared for you next?

But... still. I was not prepared to hate a character that I've learned to love! 


September 17, 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik 
Source: Gifted Hardcover
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication Date: Published May 21st 2015
Age Group: Mature YA
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia - all the things Agnieszka isn't - and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.
From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.
Let me tell you something - this book is huge. It's only 438 pages but the size of this gorgeous hardcover? MASSIVE. So you'll understand just how excited I was for this book that I started it without hesitation the day after I got it, and it only took me that long because I had a prior book to finish.

I wasn't even two pages in when I knew I would adore this book. I was absolutely right.

The main character and narrator is Agnieszka, and even though I'm pretty sure I've never once pronounced her name right, I knew from the second she opened her mouth that I would love her.

She is a Dragon-Born girl, which is the term for a girl born on a Dragon year - every ten years, the valley's wizard the Dragon takes one seventeen year old girl to live with him in his tower. But Agnieszka and her family aren't really worried, because the Dragon always seems to take the best girl, and Agnieszka's best friend Kasia is a the sure choice that year.

But, surprise, Nieshka is chosen and now she has to deal with being uprooted (see what I did there??) and living with a surly, neat-freak, perfectionist wizard who won't try even a little bit to make the transition bearable.  

From that point on, things get real interesting.

First of all, let me say this - the bromance (is there a female term for bromance??) between Nieshka and Kasia is lifeI was worried that Uprooted will follow in Cruel Beauty's steps with more hate than friendship, but it totally didn't. Nieshka and Kasia are real, honest to god, best friends. They're practically sisters. It was beautiful, seriously. 

Then there is the Dragon. The Dragon is not an actual Dragon and I was shipping him and Nieshka from pretty much the first time they met. They just clashed so beautifully - she with her spontaneous, outdoorsy, clumsy manner and him with his straight laced, dignified order. It made from some hilarious interactions, and you could see from the get-go that those interaction rattled both of them.

In the best way possible.

I mean, it's sort of a hate to love relationship, and it is executed perfectlyYou fall in love together with these two characters, and the best part is that neither of them need to voice their feelings to know they are there. 

Oh, and they are hot. Sometimes in an explicit sort of way--but don't worry, that content is not overboard and it's very tasteful. Novik isn't scared to go past PG-13 and it fits the mood, the story and the characters to a boot. 

Now lets talk a little about the world because it was beautiful and horrifying and magical. Novik did a wonderful job flashing out the world without info-dumping it on you, letting you learn the ins and outs through the characters and their experiences. In this world, some rare people have magic. And the biggest threat to all the kingdom's people is not the war always brewing on the horizon, it is the Wood.

Yes. When was the last time you read a book where a Wood was the main antagonist? And not just any antagonist - a manipulative, cruel, mind controlling one who will do anything in his power to devour all the land and kill everyone in it. 

What, you're scared now? You should be. 

Alongside Nieshka, Dragon and Kasia, there are many side characters, such as the other magicians, the (kind of hateful) prince, the king, and the villagers. They were all, even when they were kind of awful, charming in their own ways. Mostly because no one in this book is really evil. 

Oh, and you should know - this book doesn't pull any punches. There are deaths. From a certain point there is a death almost every page. And some of it is hella gory. But even so, it's still so damn charming.

GAh, I don't know. This book does stuff to me. 

Uprooted is everythingThe only reason it's not a full five star is that I just want more of this world and characters so damned much that I can't deal with this being the end.


September 10, 2015

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Gravis-Graves

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Gravis-Graves
Series: Kate and Ian #1
Source: Bought Kindle
Publisher: Indie
Publication Date: August 25th 2015
Age Genre: Adult (explicit)
When Kate Watts abandoned her law career to open a food pantry in Northeast Minneapolis, she never dreamed it would be this difficult. Facing the heartbreaking prospect of turning hungry people away, she is grateful for the anonymous donations that begin appearing at the end of each month. Determined to identify and thank her secret benefactor, she launches a plan and catches Ian —a charismatic hacker with a Robin Hood complex—in the act.

Ian intrigues Kate in a way no man ever has. But after learning he’s snooped around on her personal computer, she demands retribution. Impressed with her tolerance and captivated by her spirit, he complies and begins to slowly charm his way past her defenses. Time spent with Ian is never boring, and Kate soon finds herself falling for the mysterious hacker.

But Ian has enemies and they’re growing restless. In the hacking world, exploiting a target’s weakness is paramount, and no price is too high to stop an attack. And when Kate learns exactly how much Ian has paid, she’ll discover just how strong her love is for the man who has hacked his way into her heart.
Before I start this review, I need you to understand that I find this book absolutely perfect. I started it and just could not stop. It was captivating without ever needing to sprinkle DRAMA everywhere, sweet without it ever being so much your teeth ache with it, heartwarming while not being cheesy.

It far suppressed everything I hoped it will be.

If you're looking for a strong, fearless, real main female character, look no farther than Kate, who is all of these things and more. I never failed to be amazed at this woman and her outlook on life. I sometimes felt like she was sitting right next to me. 

If you love male characters who are confident and cocky but in the most effing charming manner, main character who, despite their sure attitude, treat their women like queens and will never, ever want to hurt them, then I've got just the guy for you in Ian Smith Merrick Bradshaw. I mean, seriously, the guy is total swoon. I would fall for him.

And the romance? Well, if you like romances you believe in, romances that suck you in, romances that make your heart beat like crazy and make you wish for a similar experience... than yes, this book is for you. Because the romance does all that. Repeatedly. 

This book doesn't have much in the action department, because it doesn't need it to spice things up and consume you. There isn't much drama for the exact same reason (which I am eternally grateful for). It's fast paced but still makes you feel like the characters have known each other for years instead of weeks. It's that good. 

Ultimately, what you're experiencing in this book is the forming of love. And it's not a hard love - it's an effortless, swift, right love. It comes easily but doesn't let go even in the toughest of storms. It's... perfect, while being imperfect. 

And really, what else are you looking for in a romance? 
“So you want a nice guy, but you don’t want him to be boring.”
“Yes. Nice and not boring and not into threesomes and no cocaine. I mean, is that too much to ask?”
“No, although I feel compelled to point out that the threesome thing is pretty universal.”
“Oh for God’s sake,” she muttered.
“That doesn’t mean we’re all going to try to convince you to participate in one. It’s just that very few guys would be like, ‘Go away, extra girl,’ should one happen to climb into our bed when you’re already in it. That’s all I’m saying.”

September 3, 2015

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Series: The Maze Runner #1
Source: Bought Paperback
Publisher: Ember
Publication Date: August 24th 2010
Age Genre: YA
"If you ain't scared, you ain't human."
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He's surrounded by strangers--boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It's the only way out--and no one's ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

YES, I finally read The Maze Runner! *happy dance* This book has been on my shelves for ages. I've been meaning to read it ever since Dylan was announced to play Thomas, basically. 'Cause I'm a Dylan O'Brian fangirl and I feel no shame at that!

Anyways... as you can see by the rating, I wasn't head over heels in love with it. The book is interesting. It leaves you with a ton of questions you want answered, which in turn makes you want to continue with this series. And it all kind of messes with your head--in a good way.

But is it especially good as a story?

Um... not... really?

I mean, I found the story to be extremely dull for about the first 150 pages or so. I had to kind of force myself to read, to just say "okay, I'm going to read for half an hour now" and sit and read to get through them. Things kind of picked up when Theresa finally woke up.

Aside for it being kind of dull, I found the writing lacking. There was nothing captivating about it for me. It felt as dull as the story was. Not to mention the many repetitions - I mean, I get it. The memory loss thing is funky cause you can remember things but not whom you learned it from or where and stuff like that. I got that the first time, and the second and the third. By the fifteenth time I just wanted to hit Thomas over the head with something.

Speaking of Thomas... I still have no grasp over the guy, or any other character in the book. There were too many random shifts of emotions (and displays of violence), that every time I thought I understood who someone was the carpet was pulled from underneath my feet and I had to try to figure them out all over again.

I still can't differentiate between them, too. If you took out their names, I will have no idea who's speaking.

And the final issue I had with the characters was the fact they were not smart enough. Sure, they are not dumb at all. But geniuses? Err, I didn't feel that at all. They were just... normally intelligent kids. But a big part of the story is based on their intellect. If you don't believe that, then you really don't believe any of the shit going on. And I didn't, so...

BUT, I really have no effing clue what's going on and for what possible reason this was all done! It seems utterly ridiculous! I mean, I feel like I kind of grasped the general situation outside the maze, but the maze itself still makes no sense to me. This makes me excited (and hopeful) that the next books would reveal the truth about everything.