March 27, 2015

Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Fairest by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: January 27th 2015
Pages: 222
Series: The Lunar Chronicles book # 3.5

Short Sweet Synopsis: Levana's story. Find out why she is such an awesome villain. 

I have a confession to make, I don't usually read novella's or short stories that are part of a greater series. I wish I had a good reason for this, but usually I'm simply not interested enough in a character to take this on. However, I have always been intrigued by Queen Levana in the Lunar Chronicles because she is such an amazing villain. I love to hate her and could not imagine myself empathizing with her, but Marissa Meyer made it happen in "Fairest".

Let's make this clear, you will not end Fairest thinking that Levana is a stand up gal who is just misunderstood. You will have a better understanding of her as an individual, but you will still think everything she has done is unforgivable. What is the point then of reading the book? Because even though Levana was doing some devious deeds, I felt myself hoping that she would surprise me and take the high road. At the same moment, I felt sorry enough for Levana that I was in tears through most of the book. Even though Fairest is very short, a little over 200 pages, Marissa packs enough character development that you will understand how Levana became so twisted.

If you enjoy the Lunar Chronicles, it really doesn't matter your opinion of Levana, you will want to read Fairest. If you are like me and appreciate Levana's demonic plots then you MUST read Fairest because you have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mental torment. I probably just made myself sound like a bit of a psychopath, but I just admire when an author can create an truly terrifying villain.

March 24, 2015

Review: Misdirected by Ali Berman

Misdirected by Ali Berman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: November 25, 2014
Pages: 288
*Received free digital ARC for review*

Short Sweet Synopsis: 15 year old Ben moves to a small town in Colorado quickly discovering that atheists are not tolerated by the conservative community. Will he be able to find a way to fit into a high school filled with students with such strong religious beliefs? 

Misdirected was a fast paced and enjoyable read. As someone from Massachusetts who was not raised in a religious household, I could relate to Ben. Although I grew up in a small conservative town so people did tease me because of it, but no where near what Ben faces in the book.

I liked that the characters weren't static, they were human beings that would make mistakes and many tried to grow from them. I was a bit worried that the book was headed in an anti religious direction at the beginning, but by the end it felt completely different. I was really impressed with how Misdirected handled the issue of religion in our country; it is a polarizing subject that can't be ignored. This book could help facilitate some wonderful discussions on the topic. I really liked how the book ended. It was hopeful without having that afternoon TV special feeling.

I just realized that some of what I just said might have made the book sound boring, but it isn't! Even if you don't want to read about religious differences, there are plenty of classic teen moments! Ben has his first kiss, people are sneaking out of their houses, there is bullying, first day at a new school jitters and family drama; Misdirected even has magic! I will say that the magic tricks were probably what I liked least out of this book, but at least it made Ben unique. I appreciated his passion for it in the end.

Bottom line, interesting book with great characters that tackles a timely topic without slowing down the plot. I definitely recommend it.

February 25, 2015

Review: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: September 1, 2014
Pages: 224

Short Sweet Synopsis: Ceony has worked hard to be first in her class at the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined to fulfill her dream of choosing metal as the medium for her magic; however, her dreams are crushed when the school assigns her to work with paper. Little does she know that there is more to paper magic than she even thought possible. When a magician practicing dark magic enters the picture, Ceony must use all the magic she has learned in order to save the life of her teacher.

"The Paper Magician" was a nice change from the books I have been reading. You may think that the idea of a paper magician is lame, but Charlie N. Holmberg makes it incredible. Like the idea of a magician who can work wonders with paper, there were aspects of "The Paper Magician" that I loved, but there were some issues with the execution of the plot that got in the way of the flow of the story.

I'm going to start with the positives because my experience when reading "The Paper Magician" was a good one. I loved the characters in "The Paper Magician" because they all had strong personalities. Ceony and Emery had great chemistry throughout the book and I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. I truly appreciated the way Holmberg created his magical world where there Magicians bond to a specific man-made medium. Once bonded a magician can only work with that material. Even though paper sounds like a lame material to work with, it turns out that almost anything is possible if the magician knows his craft and understand the material.

My biggest problem with "The Paper Magician" was the pacing. Much of the book moved very quickly, but then the book slowed down towards the end. There was too much descriptions that didn't add to the world building or story. There was also a point where the plot started to crawl along and Ceony was going around in circles. It was getting really frustrating. I think it would have helped the pace if Emery and Ceony had more time working together at the beginning of the story and less with Ceony running in circles (sorry I'm trying not to give away cool details). Luckily the end of the book made it totally worth it!

I really enjoyed "The Paper Magician" because it felt very unique to other fantasy books out there. Yes it had romance and a good vs. evil plot, but these are elements I enjoy when the author does them well. Even though poor pacing is one of my pet peeves, I still really enjoyed "The Paper Magician" and even plan on reading the second book in the series.

February 11, 2015

Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

The Jewel by Amy Ewing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: September 2nd, 2014
Pages: 358

Short Sweet Synopsis: In a world where the royals cannot reproduce, surrogates are trained to create offspring for the higher class citizens that live in The Jewel. Violet is now of age to be sold as a surrogate and quickly discovers that her training has ill prepared her for what her status really means in the society of The Jewel. 

I read The Jewel based on a recommendation by a friend. We both LOVED The Selection series and she thought this was a good read alike. Yes there are girls in pretty dresses and they are somewhat competing for the favor of royals; however, the feel of The Jewel is nothing like The Selection. The Selection had a pretty light tone to it, but The Jewel was heavy.

While I thought The Jewel was great, I spent most of the book insanely stressed out about how Violet would become pregnant. The process of impregnating the girls, like all aspects of their lives, are kept secret. This unknown act kept me at the edge of my seat for most of the book; it felt similar to reading a horror novel and knowing that something terrible would transpire but not knowing exactly what it would be and when it would happen. It has been weeks since I finished The Jewel and it still unsettles me. I know I am making the book sound awful, but I'm of the opinion that if you are going to write a book about women being forced into becoming surrogate mothers for the wealthy it NEEDS to make you stomach churn, else the author is doing a disservice to what could have been a powerful story about women's rights.

The Jewel has more than just a super creepy plot; it has dynamic characters, a steamy romance, page after page of mystery, and an amazing ending. The whole book is pretty mysterious because of Violet's limited knowledge about her life as a surrogate. She has no idea what is expected of her until she is presented with a situation. You think you have figured out a specific character in The Jewel and the next thing you know they act in a way that drops your jaw. Is anyone entirely evil or are they just reacting to their situations? You just do not know!

I have to say that I'm pretty over the dystopian craze. It feels like deja vu every time I pick one up; however, I am very glad I read The Jewel because it was very different from other dystopian teen novels that have been coming out in recent years. I will confess that the beginning of the book will feel very Hunger Game-esque, but that wont last very long. You will swiftly get past that part and find yourself in a twisted world unlike one you could ever imagine. I've been told it is similar to The Handmaid's Tale, but I haven't read it so I can't verify whether or not that is accurate.

January 22, 2015

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (to be more accruate a 3.5)
Pub. Date: September 27 2011
Pages: 456

Short Sweet Synopsis:  Mara Dyer is trying to restart her life in Florida after being the only survivor of an accident that took the lives of her friends. Mara struggles to deal with the loss of her friends and with her inability to remember what happened. Mara wants to remember, but will remembering help her get over her PTSD or will it just make her worse? If her personal struggles aren't enough then wait until Mara meets the student body and teachers of the private school she now attends. Luckily there is a hansom, charming British bloke who will try to charm the literal pants off her. 

Sorry, that synopsis was rather long and was probably more confusing than sweet, but there is just a ton going on in this book! I have mixed feeling for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer to the point where I struggled with giving it a star rating. I spent hours debating on a rating, this usually takes me 5 seconds to decide! If I could give it a 3.5 I would, but I decided to give the book a 4 because I did really enjoy reading it, even if I rolled my eyes sometimes.

I know I really like a book if I stay up way too late reading, do chores around the apartment willingly so that I can listen to the audio book, and/or spend my whole day off reading it. I did all these things while reading/listening to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. If I could have physically stayed awake to read the book in one sitting I would have.

At the same time, I found myself frustrated at the characters of the book. Mara spent ample time making some awful decisions and often found herself being "saved" by our rich, hansom, charming, brilliant leading man, Noah. This may sound familiar if you've read a certain bestseller featuring sparkling vampires, or any popular YA paranormal book that features a bad boy with a heart of gold. Noah is even classified as a heartbreaker and at one point in the book ORDERS for Mara at a restaurant, YUCK! This should make me automatically hate his, but Michelle Hodkin was able to make Noah so unbelievably charming that he won my heart. Seriously, I really tried to dislike him, but he had such a great sense of humor I couldn't do it. Even Mara sometimes made me want to punch her in the face, but she was so spunky and had been through so much trauma that I couldn't help but root for her.

I could spend all day complaining about he Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (like what happened to Mara's only friend, Jamie?!?! He seriously disappeared about 2/3 of the way through the book! I know there was a reason, but I felt cheated by his lack of presence!), but in the end I enjoyed the book so much I am planning on reading the sequel. I enjoyed reading the book, even with it's issues, and want to know what happens! The ending of the book was on a major cliffhanger and I NEED to know more.

To wrap things up, I REALLY enjoyed The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. I enjoyed the overall story, even if there were same major issues with it's development. I am a bit horrified that the cornylicious romance didn't spoil the book for me, but Michelle Hodkin was able to make it work. When all is said and done, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is not a great literary work, but it is definitely a book that had me hooked from start to finish. I thought the audio book was well done, but I wonder if hearing Noah's lines with an accent is what did me in. I am a sucker for a British accent.