Book Review – King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Unlike the wait I went through between reading Red Queen and Glass Sword, there was less than a week between when I finished Glass Sword and when I started King’s Cage. One of the aspects of the series I’ve been enjoying most so far has been the way each novel ends with a complete change in circumstances from the previous story. The characters are the same in many ways but their relationships with one another and their senses of self shift dramatically. Even when the plot misses, falls into predictability, or struggles against the limitations of first-person narrative perspective, the character studies at the heart of the series carry it forward with tremendous purpose.

Glass Sword ended with Mare agreeing to go with Maven in exchange for him letting Cal and the rest of their team go free. Picking up where the previous novel left off, King’s Cage sees Mare as a veritable slave in Maven’s palace. With constant guards and silent stone suppressing her powers, she struggles to make it through each day. But Maven’s mind and emotions have lingering scars from his mother’s manipulations and he can’t keep away from Mare as he wrestles with his feelings for her. She does what she can to manipulate him right back, hoping for the day he lets something slip and praying for the day the Red Guard and her friends will break her free if she can’t contrive to escape sooner. Continue reading


Book Review – Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Given how Red Queen ended, I was eager to start the second book in the series, Glass Sword. While there were more rough spots in Book Two, it expanded the fictional universe in interesting ways that continued to feed my enthusiasm for the series (Book Three is ready and waiting for me right now). The character studies that develop in this second book also add to the depth of Aveyard’s world and make up for most of the weaknesses in plot or execution that arise.

Mare Barrow and the fallen Prince Cal survived and escaped what were supposed to be their executions. The Red Guard help them to get further away from the newly crowned king’s clutches but both must deal with the betrayals they have suffered at Maven’s hands—and at each other’s. The plan Mare devises for challenging Maven—and distracting herself from all that she’s done to the people around her—is to find, recruit, and train the other “Newbloods” that were on Julian’s list before Maven can find and kill them—or worse. Continue reading

Book Review – Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

As is often the case—especially with fantasy—it was the premise that caught my attention and made me want to read Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns (okay, the cover too; young adult fiction really has some of the most alluring cover design). Actually reading the novel was an unexpected rollercoaster that definitely requires additional explanation, but I ultimately enjoyed the story and characters enough to be looking forward to the novel’s upcoming sequel… however nervous I am about the way that narrative will be presented.

It is the will of the Goddess that Fennbirn’s queen always gives birth to triplets and that those three girls are then raised by prominent families of the separate magical factions on the island, each according to the talent gifted her by the Goddess at birth. When the young queens reach the age of sixteen they begin a fight to the death with the last one alive claiming Fennbirn’s throne with her queen consort from the mainland at her side until the next trio of queens is born. The beginning of the Ascension year is approaching and the three queens—Katharine, a poisoner, Mirabella, an elemental, and Arsinoe, a naturalist—are preparing to fight for the throne and their lives. Despite the dominance of the poisoner queens over the last century, Katharine’s gift hasn’t strengthened as much as the Arrons would like. Rumor has it Mirabella is more powerful than any queen in recent decades and the Temple’s priestesses are already backing her. Only Arsinoe’s friends hold out any hope that her gift will show itself in time for her to put up any kind of fight against her sisters. Continue reading

Book Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

I moved immediately into A Court of Wings and Ruin on the heels of finishing A Court of Mist and Fury; the ending of the second book in Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series demanded it. And while the characters, their relationships, the themes, and the content are all as compelling as the first two novels in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin suffers tremendously in pacing and organization, leaving this initial trilogy arc with a satisfying if roughly executed conclusion.

Feyre begins the novel back at Tamlin’s Spring Court pretending that her relationship with Rhys was all a delusion he’d forced on her and that she had really been in love with Tamlin all along. Not everyone buys Feyre’s cover though. When Feyre’s sisters were forced into the Cauldron and turned fae, Lucien felt the deep pull of a mating bond with Elain. Unable to escape his concern and curiosity for her, he keeps a close eye of Feyre, which feeds into her own plans for undermining Tamlin’s hold over his Court and accumulating knowledge about the Hybern forces. From the crumbling Spring Court, Feyre eventually rejoins her mate and family at the Night Court where their preparations for the coming war with Hybern are well under way. Her sisters are adjusting to fae life with varying degrees of success; allies are few and far between; and any possible alliance between the Courts of Prythian will be fragile and tenuous at best. But war is coming and they must do what they can in the face of annihilation. Continue reading

Book Review – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Usually when I find new books to read it’s through recommendations or hearing something about them first. In this case, I moved by complete and total impulse. I saw the cover while I was shopping and it reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Night Circus, so I copied down the title and looked it up when I got home. The premise sounded intriguing enough and I’ve been on a streak of young adult aimed novels that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed so I went ahead and read it. While it has its moments, Caraval doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of its premise and leans too heavily into melodrama for my personal tastes.

For years, Scarlett had hoped that she and her sister might be invited to the magical Caraval game her grandmother had told them stories about that is held every year. But as she got older, Scarlett realized it was far more important to get married so she could leave her abusive father behind and take her sister, Donatella, to safety with her. Shortly before her nuptials (to a man of her father’s choosing and whom she has never met) she receives the long desired invitation to Caraval. It’s dangerous to go but Donatella won’t let Scarlett say ‘no’ and once they arrive on the island where Caraval takes place (with a little help) it turns out that the game the Caraval Master, Legend, has in mind is a more personal one for Scarlett. Donatella is kidnapped before they’ve even been there a full day and clues have been left behind for Scarlett and the other Caraval players to puzzle out in order to find Donatella and win Legend’s prize of a wish. But not everyone involved in Caraval is who they seem; magic and lies bend expectations and mislead and it’s up to the players not to get carried away by the game they’re playing. Continue reading

Book Review – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

wintergirls - book coverSomewhere between Speak and The Impossible Knife of Memory, I missed that Laurie Halse Anderson had published another book—Wintergirls. Luckily I have friends who alerted me to my oversight and now I have corrected it. Always willing to dive into the darker realms of growing up, Anderson addresses the psychology of eating disorders—a subject everyone knows exists but few are willing to discuss or explore in the face of a society that doesn’t wish to change the ways it portrays and commodifies young women’s bodies.

Lia has been through treatment twice before to deal with her anorexia (a term that is not used within the narrative itself) but both times she has managed to escape intact, telling the doctors, nurses, her parents, and psychologists what they want to hear in order to hurry the process along. Though she and her best friend since childhood Cassie had suffered a falling out before their final year of high school, when Cassie turns up dead in a local motel and the other girl’s eating disorder is determined to be the root cause of her death, Lia finds herself haunted by Cassie’s ghost—Cassie had tried calling Lia thirty-three times the night she died. Is it in some way Lia’s fault? Will Cassie’s death turn out to be the wake-up call Lia needs or the final nudge over the edge? Continue reading

Book Review – Cress by Marissa Meyer

9781250007223_p0_v4_s192x300While I enjoy young adult series for the most part, in the wake of The Hunger Games I’ve had a hard time finding one that felt as carefully plotted and well-executed. I thought the Divergent trilogy would fit the bill but the final installment was such a tremendous disappointment in execution that I’ve been a bit disheartened. I thought Cinder, the first installment of the Lunar Chronicles, was promising but Scarlet (the second book) left me wary. Having finally gotten up the courage to read Cress (Book 3), I’m completely excited to pre-order my copy of Winter (Book 4 due out this November).

Scarlet saw Cinder break out of prison along with fellow-inmate Carswell Thorne before eventually meeting up with Scarlet Benoit and the genetically enhanced ex-Lunar operative, Wolf. With all of them aboard Thorne’s ship, the Earthen Union stands on the brink of war with Queen Levana so Emperor Kai agrees to marry her. Cress picks up right where Scarlet left off with the formal introduction of Cress, the hacker Cinder spoke with briefly in the first book. Adding Rapunzel to the litany of fairy tales The Lunar Chronicles tackles, Cress has been kept imprisoned in a satellite orbiting Earth for the last seven years. Her only visitor is one of Queen Levana’s closest henchwomen, Thaumaturge Mira, who has had Cress hacking, programming, and infiltrating every Earthen system to glean information while protecting Lunar interests; along the way, Cress has developed a sympathy for Earth and in fact has been covertly aiding Cinder in her escape. When Cinder reaches out to Cress once more, Cress immediately agrees to help if Cinder and her crew will free her from her satellite. The rescue plan – and the larger plans for preventing Levana from taking over Earth – hit a snag when Thaumaturge Mira arrives at Cress’ satellite minutes before Cinder. Continue reading

Book Preview – My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

9780399169526_p0_v1_s260x420One of the most hyped books of 2015 is probably going to be M.O. Walsh’s My Sunshine Away and there are many reasons why it will deserve the hype. The narrator recounts the rape of his childhood crush, Lindy Simpson, in the suburbs of Baton Rouge. The book is very much about violence against women and the problems of trying to view such acts through the male gaze.

Lindy has a regular and predictable schedule during summer vacation. She rides her bike to the high school up the street and runs laps before coming home for dinner as darkness falls. But one evening, someone is waiting for her in the bushes along her street. Hit over the head, she doesn’t see the face of her attacker. The police investigation turns up a number of suspects but little physical evidence and the trail eventually goes cold. When school resumes in the fall, Lindy is acting strange but it isn’t until the narrator tells a classmate about her rape that she begins acting out in retaliation. As the narrator’s memory drifts back and forth between life prior to the attack, the years immediately following, and even decades later, the reader is introduced to the suspects and what happened that night slowly begins to take shape.

Continue reading

Book Review – The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

9780670012091_p0_v1_s260x420The Impossible Knife of Memory is the first novel by Laurie Halse Anderson that I’ve read since Speak back when I was in middle school. I remember flying through that one and how impressed I was with the way she handled the difficult subject matter of Speak. Anderson shows, once again, that when she tackles difficult subject matter in a young adult novel, she doesn’t dumb it down or sugar coat it.

Hayley and her father have recently returned to the home where he grew up to settle down after years of living on the road in a big rig. The change means that Hayley must adjust to the regulated life of public schooling. A senior in high school, at first it seems like Hayley has little respect for the rules and enjoys causing trouble. And while some of that is true, the reasons behind how and why she acts that way at school lie deep in the past that she suppresses in herself each day as she does what she can to keep the past at bay for her father at home. Continue reading

Book Review – The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

9780525478812_p0_v1_s260x420John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is another book that appeared on so many must-read lists in the last year or two. So onto the library’s waiting list I went. I went through a phase when I was about ten where I was a fan of Lurlene McDaniel and her many novels about teens dealing with serious illnesses, debilitating accidents, and love. But after a point, they became not just predictable, but predictable in a depressing way (I think I only read two or three books where none of the characters died). So going into The Fault in Our Stars, I knew pretty early on exactly what was going to happen. Whether it’s just been long enough since I stopped reading those books (fifteen years or more) or that I went in knowing how easily I could wind up disappointed, but I found The Fault in Our Stars quite compelling and sentimental but not in an annoying or preachy way.

Hazel Lancaster knows she’s living on borrowed time when she heads to a support group for teens living with cancer diagnoses. When she meets Augustus Waters one week, she finds it difficult to open up to him completely because she doesn’t want to hurt him even though he knows better than others what he’s in for as far as her illness is concerned. Confronting mortality and the roller coaster of teenage hormones, the voices John Green gives to his characters, narrator Hazel in particular, are fresh and keep the novel grounded.

Continue reading

Book Review – The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

9780061974601_p0_v1_s260x420I had some serious reservations after finishing The Power of Six a while back so it’s taken me a while to talk myself into picking up The Rise of Nine. Ultimately, after having to read so much Literature (yes, with a capital “L”), I was ready to dive back into the world of YA science fiction/fantasy. I remember moderately enjoying the first book of the series and I don’t like leaving things unfinished so I though it was time to give the Lorien Legacies another chance. I found out I’m glad I waited because I’m still undecided.

Picking up right where the last book left off, The Rise of Nine brings more members of the Garde together with more and bigger battles than before. There’s a lot of action but not a lot of chemistry as the cast of characters gets a little out of hand. The absence of former favorite characters tried this reader’s patience and much of the plot felt like filler, designed to stall things for character development that didn’t go beyond a superficial level.

Continue reading