Illusions of Fate- Kiersten White

I picked this book up on a whim (and also that gorgeous cover) because I’d enjoyed Kiersten White’s story in My True Love Gave to Me and had promised to try out some of her other works.  This is a historical fantasy-paranormal romance mash-up.  Jessamin is in school in Albion (a very English-feeling country) and works herself to the bone trying to get the education she needs to rise out of poverty and servitude.  Jessamin is from Melei, an island colony of Albion, and her dark skin, gender, and national origin put her at a disadvantage for surviving and succeeding in Albion and in school.  Things change for Jessamin when she meets the handsome, rich, and mysterious Finn and is introduced to his world– the wealth, the politics, and the magic.  But, of course, their relationship is in peril due to Finn’s mortal enemy who will stop at nothing to obtain the magical secrets and power that he believes Finn possesses.

What I liked: This was smart fluff– somehow managing to be both serious and fluffy at the same time.  Both Jessamin and Finn are YA stereotypes, but somehow they are more than just the cliche.  Jessamin is smart and beautiful and doesn’t fit in, while Finn is rich and has a paranormal secret and wants to protect Jessamin from his complicated and dangerous political/paranormal dealings.  And they’re destined by fate to be together… except Jessamin is determined to not leave anything to fate and demands to make her own choices and to be in control of her own destiny.  I liked Jessamin’s stubborn determination to get an education and make it on her own without accepting handouts from anyone.  I also enjoyed the post-colonial dialogue in the book and the plot twist at the end surprised me.

What I felt meh about:  Most of this story skimmed the surface when there was definite potential for more depth– more political intrigue, more romance, more character development.

All in all: I have gone on to read more Kiersten White because of this book.  White is clever and writes diverse characters and is just plain fun to read.

Spring Mini-Reviews: Read Harder Challenge Books

So.  Every now and then I get supppppper behind on reviews (ok, so it’s more like I’m ALWAYS behind) and in order to catch up I like to throw up these mini-reviews.  This post focuses on books that I picked for the 2015 Read Harder Challenge.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Read for Task 3: A Collection of Short Stories

The Things They Carried is a book of interrelated short stories featuring a unit of soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War.  I bought it years ago after reading about it in one of my graduate classes.  I then proceeded to not read it, but I am so so glad I finally remedied that.

What I liked: The writing in this book is absolutely beautiful.  I have never been to war and probably never will, but this book felt like it carried a truth about war– there’s death, fear, grief, muck, boredom, love, humor, hijinks, drugs, friendship, loneliness.  These men (boys, really) are thrown into an unimaginable situation and their lives are forever changed by Vietnam, whether they die there or whether they come home and can’t move on or come home and never stop writing about it.
What I felt meh about: I don’t really have any complaints about this book.  It was a tough subject matter, which sometimes made it difficult for me to pick up, but I kind of think that’s the point.
All in all: This has become a classic for a reason.  The writing is amazing, the stories are meaningful and presented war to me in the most real/truthful way I think I’ve ever read.  I pushed this on my husband to read (and he reads fiction almost never) because it’s that sort of book that will appeal widely.  I hope to reread it again someday.


Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Read for Task 11: A YA Novel

Mortal Heart is the conclusion of the His Fair Assassin series, a historical fantasy series that I’ve enjoyed.  Mortal Heart is Annith’s story.  Annith has been stuck at the convent, eagerly awaiting her turn to go out into the field and practice as Death’s handmaiden.  But opportunities keep passing by and the abbess seems intent on keeping Annith under her thumb forever, as the seeress for the convent.  Annith knows that is not the life she wants or is meant to live, so she strikes out, hoping to uncover the abbess’s motives and to set her own destiny.

What I liked: I generally enjoy the world that LaFevers has created in this series and the things I liked about it continued on into this book– there is plenty of political intrigue and a strong spiritual element to the story.  I especially love the old religion and gods in the book and Mortal Heart offers us a look at another aspect of Mortain, as well as the goddess Arduinna.  I also loved getting to see Annith back with Sybella and Ismae, as their camaraderie from the first book was something that was missing in the second one.  I was also really satisfied to see a conclusion to the political crisis in Brittany, as that historical element of the books has always piqued my interest.
What I felt meh about: This was probably my least favorite of the series, mostly because it got off to the world’s slowest start.  It took me over 200 pages to get into to it.  I also didn’t buy into the romance as hard, as it felt a bit shallow to me… something that I did not feel about the romances in the previous two books.
All in all: This was mostly a satisfying conclusion to the series and I’m happy I finished it out.  This is high on my list of YA fantasy to recommend, even though I feel like these books don’t stick with me for very long.  The research and writing are impeccable.


Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey
Read for Task 24: A Self-Improvement Book

Perhaps I’m silly to choose a book about hair for self-improvement, but it became a recent goal of mine to start wearing my hair more natural (that is, curly) and I needed some advice on how to get started.  Curly Girl is mostly a handbook on how to cleanse, style, and care for curly hair from products to coloring to up-dos, but it is also interspersed with personal anecdotes (“curlfessions”) from the author and other curly girls who have come to love and accept their curls.

What I liked:  I liked the cleansing and styling tips and they have really gone a long way in improving the look of my hair.  I’ve been using the curly girl method and my curls seem more defined, less frizzy, and more manageable.  Some of the steps (shampooing and drying) take longer than what I was doing before, but the styling part is SO EASY and takes a fraction of the time that blow drying ever did (not that I dried my hair much, mostly brushed it into a ponytail).  I also enjoyed the little “curlfessions” and related to these women who have been fighting their hair their whole lives.  I have wavy hair and because it straightens fairly easy if I take the time to do so, I have pretty much always felt (and been given the impressions by hairdressers/the world) that my hair should be straightened.  Previous attempts to go wavy have always left me feeling like I couldn’t pass as curly, either, with too much frizz and volume and not much uniformity in my curls.  It’s nice to see that I’m not alone in feeling like my hair was uncooperative and not worth messing with.  It’s also nice to see that there is some light on the other side– curly hair can be easy, fun, and beautiful, too!
What I felt meh about: Large chunks of this book did not apply to me.  I don’t color my hair and don’t have any desire to try cutting my own hair or making my own products.  Also, the skeptic in me is a little uncomfortable with the fact that the author has her own product line and salon/stylist academy.  She never outright tells you to go buy DevaCurl products, but still I wondered about the potential commercial motivations behind the book.
All in all: This was a nice, easy intro to hair care and styling for those of us with curly hair.  I don’t think it’s essential to read the book if all you want is instructional information, but the anecdotes and pictures were helpful/interesting for me, so I’m glad I grabbed it from the library.

Throne of Glass- Sarah J. Maas

Celaena Sardothien is a renowned assassin, serving time as a slave in the salt mines of Endovier.  One day she is presented to Prince Dorian, who tells her he hopes she will be his representative in a competition hosted by his father, the king, to find the king’s next champion.  If Celaena wins, she will be obligated to 4 years of service before earning her freedom.  Given that her only other choice is certain death in the mines, Celaena agrees to the bargain with Dorian and is brought to the king’s Glass Castle.  The competition ensues and it becomes clear that Celaena has only one real competitor to worry about.  That is, until the champions start dying gruesome deaths at the hands of a mysterious creature roaming the castle.  In the midst of the competition and the murders, Celaena finds herself growing close to both Prince Dorian and the captain of the king’s guard, Captain Chaol Westfall, perhaps even falling in love with them.

I have had very mixed success with the blogosphere’s favorite YA fantasy series.  I did not like Shadow and Bone, but loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  So I went into Throne of Glass nervous.  It seemed like everyone loved it and there’s not much worse than being the one person who just doesn’t get it.  Well, sorry to say, I don’t get Throne of Glass.

For one thing, the writing is excessively descriptive and flowery.  There are endless depictions of Celaena’s dresses, people’s glittering eyes, and Chaol’s red cape blowing crimson in the breeze.  Maas tends to overuse color words to the point that crimson, scarlet, obsidian, raven, jade, sapphire become overworked alternatives to saying red, black, green, and blue.  It was just too much for me and I found myself zoning out during descriptive parts because they just weren’t good.  I know fantasy is all about the details, but I don’t know, I feel like Maas tended to give overwrought descriptions of dresses rather than putting words into describing the world or the events of the plot.

That brings me around to the second issue that I had with this book, which is that the plot is totally convoluted.  There are a million things going on– from the competition for king’s champion to the murders to the love triangle to some political/historical/magical conflict and intrigue, but none of them actually have any impact on Celaena’s outcome.  It is clear from the on-set that Celaena will win the champion competition.  It is clear who the bad guys are and that the murders are not an actual threat to Celaena herself.  It is clear that you will have to read the entire series to come to a resolution on the love triangle.  This book read like 400 pages of backstory, basically.  (And to think that there are actually prequel novellas…)

All that to say, there were aspects of this book that made me think there is probably more to this series than I got out of this one book.  There a things going on the background that I was truly curious about in terms of the history and politics and magic, which might become important later and which, if brought more to the forefront, would probably ensure an interesting and action-packed series ahead.  I also thought the love triangle was one of the better ones I’ve ever read.  Both guys are good choices, who are attracted to Celaena for her character, not just her beauty.  Also, Celaena herself was an interesting and unique character.  She’s arrogant and bratty, can kick butt and take names, but also loves reading and shiny things.

At the end of the day, though, I don’t have any desire to keep on with this series.  I think it suffers from too much detail, too much set-up, too much of a desire to tell us every little detail, while delivering nothing of real substance.


Dreamer’s Pool- Juliet Marillier

Dreamer’s Pool is the first of the new Blackthorn and Grim series by Juliet Marillier.  Blackthorn and Grim meet each other when they are imprisoned in grisly conditions by Mathuin, a unjust, terrorizing chieftain.  Blackthorn is offered a deal by the fey man, Conmael– he will ensure her escape from Mathuin’s jail and the execution block, provided she not seek vengeance on Mathuin and that she travel north to Dalriada and become a wise woman (healer) there for at least seven years.  She must use her powers only for good and she must help anyone who asks her, or else Conmael will add additional years to her service or send her back to Mathuin’s gallows.  Blackthorn agrees.  Grim also escapes when the prison walls collapse.  With no where to go, Grim follows Blackthorn and, recognizing in Grim a call for help, Blackthorn reluctantly agrees to allow him to travel with her and help her establish her home in Dalriada.

Meanwhile, in Dalriada, Prince Oran has finally agreed to marry.  After establishing a tender and familiar correspondence with the Lady Flidais, Oran is certain she is a well-suited match.  The two share a love of poetry and the natural world and seem to be fairly even-tempered, innocent dreamers.  But when Lady Flidais turns up at the castle, something is off.  She is not at all faithful to her depiction in her letters and Oran becomes suspicious.  He turns to the new wise woman, Blackthorn, asking for her help in finding out what exactly is going on with Flidais, in hopes of returning the woman in his letters to him.

I love Juliet Marillier and what I love about the Sevenwaters series was in this book, too.  I love her writing, I love the sense of the supernatural that is all around, and I love the strength and intelligence of her female characters.  Blackthorn was deeply wronged by Mathuin and is fueled by thoughts of revenge, but bound by her promise to Conmael.  She is smart and good at her work as a healer and beneath her outward prickliness, she shows a love of justice and a desire and drive to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves.  Grim is at once liked and respected within the community for his size and strength and ability to contribute to the community in manual labor.  His secrets lie deep, but we see flashes of an uncontrollable rage in him, particularly in the face of men who have injured or insulted women.  I am curious to get to more of his backstory in future installments in this series.

The weaknesses for this story mainly lie in the whole plot with Prince Oran.  It was fairly obvious early on what must have happened to Flidais, and though there were some details that were not readily apparent, it wasn’t some grand mystery for me.  I am always a little disappointed to be several steps ahead of the protagonists in solving a problem.  Also Prince Oran was a bit… saccharine of a character.  While he is not a perfect character, he is a just and kind and fair ruler of his people and also this total softy when it comes to poetry and women.  He came off as too good to be true and so did the Flidais of the letters.  I do not anticipate that they will play a huge role in future novels, though, so I expect this won’t be a huge issue for me in continuing with the series.

I’d recommend this to fans of Juliet Marillier and if you aren’t a fan of hers, well, then, start with Daughter of the Forest, see what you think and then maybe consider this one.  It’s a nice fairy tale story with characters who have a lot of potential for development, but this is not the strongest plot to start with.

Winter Mini-Reviews 3: Chick Lit and a Series Finale

I am trying to wrap up my 2014 reviews by posting some mini-reviews for things I neglected to review in full.  This is the post for everything else that didn’t fit into the two previous posts, so I have a couple of chick lit titles and a fantasy series finale.


Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Girls in White Dresses tells the interconnected stories of a group of friends in their 20s, post-college, living in New York City.  It follow their various journeys through early adulthood– romantic relationships, starting out in a career, changing careers, never quite finding that real job you thought you’d have post-college, weddings of friends, friends having children, bad mothers-in-law, family stuff, etc.

What I liked: The stories were sharp and funny and all the stories and characters in this book felt familiar to me.  This book really captures what it is like to be in your 20s in the 2000s/2010s (as a white middle class college graduate anyways).  It was refreshing to get a more holistic view of these girls’ lives and I especially loved seeing them flounder in the area of career as that was the biggest struggle for me in my 20s.
What I felt meh about: I had some expectations coming into this book– the blurb made it sounds like it had a more cohesive plot structure, so I was initially bored and struggled to get into it.  Once I let go of my expectations and got further into the book, it totally clicked for me and I was sad to see it end.
All in all: I highly recommend this book, especially if you liked The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing.  I want to reread it some time and I have bought another book by this author since this one resonated so well with me.


After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Lauren and Ryan have been married for about five years and have reached a breaking point in their relationship.  They’re not really sure they love each other any more.  So they decide to take a one year hiatus from their relationship and reevaluate after that break.  This sets Lauren on a journey of self-discovery, as she tries to figure out how to fix her marriage and whether she even wants to fix it in the first place.

What I liked: I loved Lauren’s family.  She is very close to her mother and two siblings and I loved to see the exploration of adult familial relationships along side the exploration of the meaning of love and marriage.  Lauren learns that love and marriage and romance mean different things to different people and has to decide what it means for her.
What I felt meh about: I wasn’t keen on the ending– it was just a little too tidy for my preferences.
All in all: This is smart chick lit that is easy and fun to read.  Loved it and highly recommend it.



The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

This is the final installment in The Magicians Trilogy.  I read the other two books almost three years ago so coming to this one after a long distance was a bit tough.  Quentin has been kicked out of Fillory and is trying to figure out what to do next.  Mostly he wants to save Alice (who got turned into a nifkin way back in the first book).  Meanwhile, in Fillory the world is ending.  Quentin ends up landing a job in a magical heist.  This heist gives him some tools to help in saving Alice, and maybe even Fillory.

What I liked: I like Grossman’s writing– he’s always smart and funny and clearly loves books as homages to authors and books abound in his books.  I am glad to see an ending to this story, too, and to see how much all the characters have changed over the years.
What I felt meh about: This book was all over the place and encompassed so much, that it was really disjointed for me.
All in all: I’m happy I finished the trilogy, but this was my least favorite of the series.

The Queen of the Tearling- Erika Johansen

This book was everywhere this summer and more recently too after it went on sale on Amazon.  The reviews I read seemed to be polar opposites– either you love this book or hate it.  So… when I stumbled across the library’s ebook copy, I figured I’d try it for myself.  After all, it promised political intrigue and a strong female lead and those are pretty much my keys to loving fantasy.  Funnily enough, I found myself falling in the middle between the two sides– I liked this, but saw some flaws, especially early on, that prevented it from being a truly stellar read for me.

Kelsea has just turned 19 and is about to assume the throne that has been hers since her mother died when she was young.  Kelsea’s life has been in danger since her birth, so she was raised in hiding by foster parents who have tried to instill the virtues they wish to see in a queen in her, but who also kept some massive secrets about the kingdom of Tearling from Kelsea.  So… Kelsea shows up at the capital and starts turning everything on its head.  She’s untested, full of ideals, and many people want her dead.  And her first act as queen is to basically declare war on Tearling’s powerful neighbor, Mortseme, ruled by the cruel, autocratic Red Queen.

This book started out rough for me.  Kelsea is kind of blah and unproven, but she says one sassy or smart thing and complete strangers start spouting praise for her, convinced she has the potential to be the True Queen.  After finding out more about Kelsea’s mother, perhaps they are just happy she’s not her mother, but since I didn’t know her mother was a vain and silly queen, it came off as insincere, undeserved praise.  As the book goes on, however, Kelsea is tested and proves that she is courageous and capable of standing up for what she believes is right and just.  She is going to rule by her ideals, even if this poses a problem.  I loved this about Kelsea, though, I’m curious to see what happens when the Red Queen finally reacts to Kelsea’s refusal to comply with her treaty.  Will Kelsea remain firm to her ideals when her country’s very existence is at stake?

While character development is my favorite part of these sorts of series, fantasy also requires some world-building.  The Tearling world was not very well-developed in this book.  Best way I can describe the world is that it is set in a future that has reverted to a more medieval political and social structure and is probably set on another planet.  But that is not entirely clear in this book and I spent a lot of the early part of the book confused about when/where things were going down.  Basically, if world-building is a super important aspect of fantasy for you, I’m not sure you’d like this much.

The Queen of the Tearling reminded me a lot of The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  That series started out with a similarly sheltered, naive, unproven queen of whom I wasn’t very fond at first.  But by the end, I was cheering on the heroine and totally wrapped up in the political intrigue. All that to say, I have very high hopes for the rest of Tearling series.  I am eager to see Kelsea become the True Queen and to bring justice and prosperity to the Tearling.

Son of the Shadows- Juliet Marillier

this cover might be worse than the first one, just AWFUL


Son of the Shadows picks up about 18 years after Daughter of the Forest and features Liadan, Sorcha’s daughter, as the protagonist.  Liadan is much like her mother, in terms of her size and coloring and her talent as a healer.  But Liadan is also much like her father, happy to be tied to her estate and people, living a careful, duty-bound life.  Even further, she shares the gift of the Sight that her uncle Finbar had and she is told she has the power to change the course of destiny.  The “old evil” (AKA Lady Oonagh AKA Sorcha’s evil stepmother) is back to stir up some trouble.  Liadan’s sister, Niamh, is caught in an affair with someone her family strictly forbids.  Niamh is shipped off to be married to a political ally of Sevenwaters and Liadan accompanies her on her journey.  Liadan is kidnapped by a gang of mercenaries known as the band of the Painted Man when they hear of her ability as a healer.  Liadan stays with the band of the Painted Man for a week (or two) and falls pretty quickly into the arms of the Chief of the band, a man she names Bran.  When Bran learns Liadan’s family heritage, he scorns her and send her back to Sevenwaters.  Liadan soon finds out she is pregnant with Bran’s baby and while he has refused her, she cannot give up on her true love.  Nor can she give up on the quickly unraveling stability of her home and family.

So.  I was once again swept up in the Sevenwaters world.  Liadan has more powers and magic than her mother did, so the supernatural and folklore are even more present and active in this story.  I was inclined to like the romance between Liadan and Bran a little more than Sorcha and Red, but mostly because Bran is a bit of a bad boy with a code and well, I like that trope in my romance novels.  Liadan was not quite as endearing as Sorcha, though I liked her confidence in herself and her trust in others.  I did have some issues with some of the choices Liadan makes.  She is quite stubborn and refuses to tell Bran that she is pregnant because she assumes there is no room in his life for her.  I just can’t imagine a more selfish act than keeping the child from him.  Let him decide if he wants to stay or go!  Her major trouble is trying to decide whether to choose for herself or whether to fall into line with what the Fair Folk and her family forsee for her.  But it’s not even much of a struggle, as she very stubbornly believes she knows what is right for herself the whole time.  Also, whenever she hit a snag, there was some sort of magic available to bail her out.  Her journey was not near as tough as Sorcha’s and as a result it was not as touching and heart-wrenching as Sorcha’s.  The book shone the most for me when Liadan was in the camp of the Painted Man, among men with no other place to go.  I wish that had been more of the story, rather than the waiting and angsting that made up a good deal of the middle part of the book.

This is a decent sequel with romance and adventure and a lot more political detail and scheming, but it is not quite the tale of love and struggle and sacrifice that made Daughter of the Forest so special.  All that said, I am probably starting Child of the Prophecy very soon.  I really like this world Marillier has created and while her characters didn’t shine as brightly here, I know the final book of the trilogy focuses on the next generation and I’d like to see how the Sevenwaters family fairs against the reemergence of the old evil.

Daughter of the Forest- Juliet Marillier

this cover is not my favorite


Sorcha has six older brothers who have pretty much reared her on their own, as her mother died giving birth to her and her father threw himself into warfare and political affairs after his wife’s death.  Sorcha is a gifted healer and a bit wild, having grown up around boys and the forest and having been a bit indulged because of her position as the youngest and only sister.  But things quickly change for her, as her father takes a new wife, a woman with strange and evil powers and intentions.  The evil stepmother turns Sorcha’s brothers into swans to keep them from inheriting their father’s estate.  Sorcha is their only hope of returning to human form.  She must dedicate herself to the physically and emotionally painful task of constructing shirts for each brother out of a thorny plant and must not speak with anyone until the task is complete.  Sorcha is taken from her task away to Britain, where she finds a man she loves.  But Britons are the enemy of her people and her devotion to saving her brothers prevents her from fully accepting love into her life.

THIS BOOK.  I sort of felt like my childhood self while reading it, getting completely lost and caught up in Sorcha’s world and story.  I often say books don’t need to be longer than 500 pages, but while this one took a little bit to get going,  I realized how important it was to set the scene and develop Sorcha’s brothers as characters before they leave the story for a while.  The plot here is pretty simple: a task assigned that requires much of the character before it can be completed.  But the characters and the world-building brought the story to life.  Sorcha’s brothers are all uniquely drawn and lovable for their own unique reasons.  And Sorcha was awesome, probably one of my favorite characters I have read in a long time.  She is so strong and loves so deeply and is willing to sacrifice so much for the sake of her family and her beloved home.  It was heart-wrenching watching her hit speed bump after speed bump on her journey to save her brothers and heal her family.  It was heart-wrenching watching Sorcha find true love, only to have to leave it behind.  But Sorcha always remains determined and hopeful and that was so nice to see.  I am a little skeptical of a love story where the characters don’t even talk (I love romantic banter), but it somehow worked here, as Sorcha and Red found their own ways to communicate and be together.  I also had no idea I was remotely interested in Irish folklore, but I thought Sorcha’s world was quite fascinating.  The line between the real and supernatural was very thin and the Fair Folk and other supernatural presences were constantly present in Sorcha’s story, whether as voices in the forest or physical presences guiding Sorcha’s journey.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough if you want to get to know a seriously strong female heroine.  The weight of her family’s very survival is on her shoulders and it is a burden she gladly carries.  I almost immediately started the second book in the Sevenwaters trilogy after finishing this one because I could not get enough of Marillier’s writing and the Sevenwaters world.  I have a feeling this will be a book I revisit on down the road.  It just struck a very special chord with me and I am so glad I gave it a chance and discovered a new favorite.

Shadow and Bone- Leigh Bardugo

Summary from Goodreads:

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unraveling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance

Do you ever finish a book and wonder if you read a completely different version of it from everybody else?  Because that is 100% how I feel about Shadow and Bone.  The series finale was recently published and my Twitter feed blew up over how AWESOME the Grisha series was and what a strong character Alina was.  I’m sorry, but I don’t get it.  At all.

Alina is sassy and I liked that, but she has absolutely no wherewithal of her own.  She is told she has Grisha powers and must go train so she can help save Ravka.  So she does.  She is told The Darkling, who she has intuitively trusted and even begun falling for, is up to something evil and she must escape him.  So she does.  The about-face in The Darkling’s character (I guess that was the big twist everyone talked about?) was abrupt and confusing and I didn’t buy it.  The book would have been much much stronger if Alina found this out for herself, instead of being told it.  Show, not tell and all that.  I was also hoping The Darkling would be a more nuanced character.  You know evil, but contrite or evil with a moral code or something more than just plain evil.

For all my complaints about Alina and The Darkling, I was compelled to finish this book.  I wanted to know what happened and was sort of invested in the world-building (the creatures in The Fold were quite intriguing).  But the flimsy characterization was enough to convince me that I should probably not continue on with the series.

I Am A Delinquent Blogger, or Mini-Reviews, Summer 2014

I have been a bit of a delinquent blogger lately (shock, gasp).  And well, I have been behind on reviews by almost two months for two months with little hope of ever catching up.  Mostly, I can’t remember enough about the books to write full reviews.  SO.  Mini reviews.  Because I am really trying to review most of what I read this year because I hate when I don’t have at least a sentence or two of what I thought about a book to look back at.

She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

Laureth is 16 and blind and the daughter of a famous author who has gone missing.  Laureth kidnaps her 7 year old brother, Benjamin, and flies to New York City to search for their father, following the sort of trail he has left behind in his journal.  Laureth’s father is obsesssssed with coincidence and finding meaning in coincidence, so that is a big part of this book, too.

What I liked: the writing, Laureth, seeing how a blind person navigates through life, the fact this is a book that can be read in a day or two
What I felt meh about: the ending was totally blah, the obsession with coincidence was sort of interesting, but pointless and felt a bit shoehorned into the story at points
All in all: I would like to read more Marcus Sedgwick.

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

This is the first Miss Marple novel and it was available for free through SYNC summer audiobooks.  I’d never read Agatha Christie before, so I thought I would give it a whirl given that I’ve been a mystery fan most of my life.  Colonel Provero is murdered at the vicarage and the vicar (our narrator) gets wrapped up in trying to solve the murder of a victim who most everybody in town has motive to murder and to which a couple different suspects confess.

What I liked: Miss Marple is hilarious and I wish she got more screentime.  Actually, a lot of the characters were unintentionally hilarious and very very British.  I did not guess the murder suspect correctly, which is kind of astonishing because I have a problem with guessing the endings of mysteries.  Also, great narrator, but I always like a book narrated with a British accent.
What I was meh on: In a way this felt a little too textbook murder mystery, not exactly special.
All in all: I’d read Agatha Christie again… if only for more Miss Marple!

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

I read Grave Mercy last summer and really enjoyed it (to my surprise), so when Dark Triumph was on sale for Kindle, I jumped on it.  Sybella has a dark past, brutally abused by her father and brothers, but found sanctuary and a purpose at the convent of St. Mortain.  The Abbess, however, send Sybella back into the fray, badly wanting the information Sybella can gather as a member of her powerful father’s household.  It is from her father’s household that Sybella rescues a prisoner, Beast, a legendary warrior who is an essential member of the Duchess’s forces.  The two must make it to the Duchess in time, in order to save Brittany from the growing threat within and without.

What I liked: I really enjoy the political intrigue in this series and appreciated that this was a little darker in mood than Grave Mercy.  Beast is the right kind of romantic lead for me.  And I liked that Sybella and Beast were both foreboding killers with dark pasts, but still had hope/love within them.
What I was meh on: I love these books while reading them and then quickly forget everything about them.  I usually want something with a bit more staying power.  I was also a bit concerned with the fact that Beast kept swooping in and literally knocking Sybella out to get her to cooperate with his decisions.  It is true that Sybella was going to make stupid decisions, but the use of force bothered me.
All in all: I will most certainly be reading Mortal Heart when it releases.