Monday, July 27, 2015

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) book review

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)

"A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie... and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

My review: 6/10

The first 80% of this book was a 4 star. I was so disappointed. And then, the last 75 pages or so was a 10 star. What? Yes. I've ended this book feeling both disappointed and hopeful.

The thing about labeling your main (female) character an assassin... it's not a title that you just use to make them seem hard or badass. First the physical, an assassin should have razor sharp senses and reflexes, a strong ability and desire to blend in, be anonymous. They should be cool, calm, deadly focused. If emotions take over the drive, that's when mistakes are made. An assassin needs to be all of these things, or else they would likely be killed from a botched attempt before they earned the title. I would suspect that an accomplished assassin would have learned to be very suspicious, frequently on edge, after seeing what they saw. They would be extremely guarded emotionally.

Celaena was everything an assassin is NOT. I couldn't even believe it.


Let's start with Davis' office. She seriously waltzed into that situation, where she intended to be sneaking and spying, very conspicuously dressed in movement-impeding clothes. Why not have something on underneath and shed the dress when needed? I would think her mind would be working on exit strategies first and foremost in every situation she finds herself in.

Moving on to Chaol, who is quickly built up as the most important person in Celaena's life, ever. He is everything. Then, all of a sudden, he is not. Nehemia is everything, and because he didn't tell her that he'd heard of a threat to Nehemia and that the King planned to question her, now Chaol is the enemy. What? This doesn't even make any sense. I thought Chaol was your everything? You would prioritize his safety over everyone else's. If the king had decided Nehemia was a traitor and ordered Chaol, his CAPTAIN of the guard, to execute her, what would she expect/want him to do then? Be executed himself? Of course not. Not only does the flip make no emotional sense, it makes no logical sense.

Celaena just busts into that warehouse in an emotional rage, annihilating everything in her path. She doesn't think or collect information before acting. You would think she would have learned from what apparently happened with Sam and would have learned not to act rashly, emotionally. But no, she just bursts in there intent on destruction. She was not clever, she was not wise, she was not stealthy, she was just stupid.

While troubling, I didn't think Chaol's withholding that information was such a big deal. It's not like he'd known Nehemia would be killed. Celaena doesn't ask any questions, doesn't think or consider, doesn't listen before turning on him.

The theme for this  story is that Celaena is always two steps behind. It's amazing she wasn't killed. She has no problem divulging her secrets and plans to those she currently considers trustworthy. I was floored. Even if they don't betray you (and she should have had a healthy respect for her mistaken judgments at this point), do you not care that having that kind of information could get them killed?! Why did they need to know? It was so carelss, so sloppy.

The whole Grave thing came out of nowhere. It was unnecessarily disgusting and should have been impossible. How is it that he got into the castle, past all the guards, past Nehemia's personal guards and then had the time to hang around and be "artistic?"

Why, WHY, did Celaena tell Yellowlegs the WHOLE riddle?! She's supposed to be intelligent! If you know that this is a riddle telling you the location of three powerful objects, WHY would you hjust hand that info out?! Why wouldn't you give her a piece of it? Why would you fish for information based on what you did know, asking questions like, what kind of power would it take to open a portal and let in creatures (like the ridderak), how would they get that power? etc.

At that point, I thought this book and its characters were doomed. I forged on, however.

Then, all of a sudden, Celaena transforms. Not into any of the poorly concealed surprise identities (SPOILERS: Fae, heir to the throne of Terrasen... seriously who didn't see that coming from about half way through the first book?) but into the smart, calculating powerhouse she should have been from the beginning. She thinks first, then acts. What a difference it makes.

I will read the next book in the hope that Celaena has been permanently altered and she can now be someone I respect.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Throne of Glass book review

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)

In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.

My Review: 6.5/10
I liked Celaena's brand of flaws. She's a little vain and materialistic. These are character traits that aren't dished out too often in the books I read. This is a book about an assassin, so there is gore and unapologetic violence, but it wasn't extreme, thankfully.

The story was interesting enough to keep me turning pages, but there were some things that got in the way and kept me from really getting lost in the story. I could sense a love triangle brewing, which I'm never a fan of. Sometimes Celaena did stupid and uncharacteristic things. As an assassin, she would have spent all of her training learning how to be invisible, how to blend in. She really needed to be told not to draw atttention to herself in the competition? There were several things like this that kept me from buying into the story that she was the best in the land. She was a little too soft, too vulnerable, too reachable, too soon.

I could see some surprises being set up for later on, so I wasn't shocked when I was supposed to be, etc.

I will continue reading the books in this series because I still think it has potential. But the writing and lack of realistic, hard characters are what kept this book from being one of a kind versus one of many.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Heart of Betrayal book review

The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles, #2)

The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)

Intrigue abounds in this hotly anticipated sequel to The Kiss of Deception!

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save her life, Lia's erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: there's Rafe, who lied to Lia, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be barbarians. Now that she lives amongst them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny.

My Review: 8/10

I have little to say about this book that I waited for with bated breath. I can't remember the last time I anticipated a book so much. Maybe Harry Potter. No, it's not in the same league, but just... feelings.

Anyway, though it's not fair to compare Heart of Betrayal to the first book, that's what's about to happen:

The first book built up a lot of mystery and interweaving side stories. Yet I believe it was still a good stand alone novel. This book would not stand strong on its own; it's the classic in-between book in a trilogy. It relies heavily on established relationships and plot layed out in the first book, and works to set up the third book. I think it covers a much smaller time line, so there is little development or growth, and understandbly, Lia does not travel and is a prisoner, so there are few new characters, adventures, or mysteries uncovered.

However, to give due credit, the characters remained consistent. *mild spoilers* This has not ever been a love triangle, though one character's unrequited love seems to make some people disagree, and I appreciate that Ms. Pearson kept Lia solid in her feelings. I love that she was never confused or waivering. I thought some of the risks she took, fueled by her emotions, were too reckless and not worth it, but I wouldn't say it was unbelievable; I remember being stupid in love myself.

I can't wait to see how Lia's story is resolved and to have all the missing pieces of the puzzle finally come together to reveal the history and truth of this world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Irish Meadows By Susan Anne Mason book review

Irish Meadows (Courage to Dream #1)

Irish Meadows (Courage to Dream #1)

Irish immigrant James O’Leary has spent his life building Irish Meadows into a thriving horse farm and is not about to let hard economic times threaten its success. He intends for his daughters to marry prosperous men–ones who will secure the family’s rightful place in society, and at the same time, guarantee the future of Irish Meadows. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their father expects them to marry well. Yet despite his wishes, Brianna, the quieter sister, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry–as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards. When stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from college and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

My Review: 7/10

I always get so excited about new authors- I'm always hoping to stumble on a new favorite.

This was a good debut novel in this genre. I enjoyed the characters and their struggles were mostly believable. I love, love, love when heroes make mistakes. Even better is when they don't sweep it under the rug but have to face it.

One of my favorite parts was a fight between Gil and Bri when she called him on his current lack of integrity and honor. His choices were understandable but still wrong and I loved that the author allowed him to make them.

Ironically the biggest problems I had were the Christian elements. While a lot of messages in the Bible are debated, the one, most important fact is clear: no one measures up. No matter how minor we think our sins are, they are offensive to God and unacceptable to Him. Jesus did for us what we can never do for ourselves, by paying the price for our innumerable wrongs, so that we may have salvation through Him. This message not only was omitted but I felt that the opposite was taught:

"You're a girl becoming a woman, and you've likely made a few mistakes along the way. You've not done anything so terrible that God wouldn't forgive."

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. This sends the message of, hey whatever you've done, it's not that bad. I would have preferred colleen to have made and revealed some intentional mistakes but even with her history as given, this is still wrong. *spoiler* Though she was blameless in what she had somehow been convinced she was responsible for, she, herself, was not perfect. She was still a sinful human being in need of grace and mercy.

There were a couple other instances when the characters lamented on someone's worthiness instead of their need for Christ.

I liked what Bri said at the end about putting her trust in God, I just wished I had seen some instances when she exercised that by seeking God's will first.

I loved Brianna's growth and the strength she found. Her situation wasn't easy. While I couldn't relate to some of her priorities (I would have felt like my future husband would have been more important than school or a career), I liked that she stayed true to character; the things most important to her remained most important even when she got other things she'd wanted.

I felt like the strained relationships did a 180 at the end to make the book wrap up nicely, which is something I don't swallow well. Those are aspects of reality that I usually wish carried over into fiction because those of us who can relate to that benefit more from knowing that others go through it too and that we can change how it affects us if the people themselves cannot or will not change, rather than a neatly tied Disney-esque package of an ending.

All in all, I'd recommend this to fans of this genre, especially to book clubs. Though I disagreed with some of the messages, it can be counteracted with open conversations, I think. I look forward to reading more from this new author.