A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

ACOTARInformation

Goodreads: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Source: Giveaway
Published: May 5, 2015

Official Summary

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Review

I wasn’t a huge fan of Maas’s debut, Throne of Glass, but this was in large part because I thought the book still read like something the author had started writing at the age of sixteen, even after extensive revisions before publication.  With this in mind, I decided to give Maas’s new series a chance; after all, fans everywhere are obsessively swooning over the book, and Maas has garnered a lot more writing experience finishing the Throne of Glass series..

As an amalgamation of “Beauty and the Beast” and Faerie lore, A Court of Thorns and Roses isn’t offering something spectacularly original. but it’s still wildly fun and engrossing to read.  The main draw is really the romance–steamy, enthralling, and tantalizingly forbidden.  That is to say, I’m not sure anyone is here for the plot, which for a long while features protagonist Feyre living it up in her captor’s mansion, doing little while pretending she’s a badass (an unconvincing characterization, in my opinion, which I did my best to ignore).  The true attraction are the unfathomably handsome and off-limits Faeries, who do their best to provoke Feyre and reader’s hearts into submission.

However, the plot excels in one particular point.  I always hate the part of “Beauty and the Beast” retellings where Beauty goes away and bad things happen to the Beast and “Oh, no, will she go back to save him?”  We know she’s going back to save him, and it can seem like a tired and unnecessary plot tangent in uninspired retellings.  Maas makes it work, though.  This isn’t a pit stop in her plot; it’s when the plot really gets going and Feyre begins to show more of her character.  I enjoyed this section more than I would ever have anticipated.

The downside to this section of the book, however, is that love interest Tamlin entirely disappears while Feyre takes center stage.  Readers are then introduced to a different male character very much in depth, who quickly becomes far more interesting than Tamlin.  When Beauty and the Beast are finally reunited…I found myself not really caring.  I wanted the other guy.  It looks as if I’ll be getting my wish in the second book to see more of the new guy, but that doesn’t satisfy me.  I can’t help docking stars from a book that drops its own love interest and makes the ending super anti-climatic, no matter how much I liked the rest of the book.

4 stars Briana

Ten Interesting Posts of the Week (2/7/16)

Interesting Posts

  1. Stephanie talks about why she wants to read and review more classics.
  2. Interesting Literature shares five fascinating facts about John Donne.
  3. Agent.Carly Watters gives tips for juggling your creative life.
  4. Girl of 1000 Wonders shows us book covers with skylines.
  5. SF Said explains why children’s books need more media coverage.
  6. Summer talks about the cons to requesting ARCs that no one really tells you.
  7. Agent Heather Alexander explains why authors might want to go through a couple drafts of their story before giving it to beta readers and other critics.
  8. Emma investigates whether she favors certain publishers.
  9. Bri tells us why she wants more religious characters in YA.
  10. Mel lists suggestions for surviving without the Internet.

TV Review: Mercy Street Ep. 3, “The Uniform”

Mercy StreetSummary

Mary Phinney and Emma Green continue their fight over equal treatment for Union and Confederate prisoners while Drs. Foster and Hale remain antagonistic toward each other over their medical methods–especially now that Dr. Foster has entered the army and outranks Hale.  Meanwhile, Mr. Green contemplates signing the Oath of Allegiance to save his business even as Confederate spies infiltrate the city to uncover Union army secrets.

Review

Attempting to write a summary for this episode made clear just how scattered the plot line can seem.  While Downtown Abbey manages its large cast by giving each character a defined plot arc throughout the season and Call the Midwife balances its cast by, perhaps counter-intuitively, focusing on the stories of each week’s patients and then tying that story back to the personal lives of the midwives, Mercy Street remains a confused mass of characters bumping into and out of each other’s lives.

I think Mercy Street would be better served by using Call the Midwife as a model.  Currently we know nothing of the patients in the hospital except for Tom–and we only know him because he’s Alice’s beau.  The others remain remarkably invisible in a show meant to illuminate the medical practices of the Civil War.  To generate drama, then, the show ignores all the characters already present and instead chooses to introduce new ones each week–the runaway slave who barely receives screen time, Dr. Foster’s wife who appears only to leave, Dr. Foster’s mother who brings with her a list of grievances that remain ambiguous since she has not enough time to elaborate on her and her son’s apparently bitter backstory.

The insertion of these characters each week comes across as forced and usually does little to illuminate the lives of our main characters, as apparently they are meant to do.  Yes, now we know Dr. Foster’s wife left the state and his mother is upset he supports the Union.  But throwing this information at viewers does not bring Dr. Foster alive.  But watching Dr. Foster interact with his patients, watching him get to know them and try to save them, and sometimes fail–that would make me believe in Dr. Foster and in what he’s doing.

Only three episodes remain and, sadly, I am not convinced that is enough time for me to come to know and love the characters as I wish I could.  The introduction of a Confederate spy seems to indicate that the show is going to use espionage as its source of drama as it builds toward the finale, instead of focusing on the hospital life it is allegedly committed to portraying.  This is a choice I admit I do not understand.  Hospital nurses experienced more than enough drama in their wards.  I really wanted to see their world come to life, but, since this show is so ill-paced, I worry that it won’t receive enough positive attention to try to redeem itself in a second season.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

TruthwitchInformation

Goodreads: Truthwitch
Series: Witchlands #1
Source: Purchased
Published: January 4, 2015

Official Summary

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Review

Truthwitch is one of those books everyone seems to have already read and everyone else has reviewed. So while I initially questioned whether to write a review at all (Who’s left to read it?), I decided to go for it based on the fact that although I enjoyed Truthwitch a lot, I didn’t think it was the greatest thing to happen to fantasy. And I’m definitely in the minority for that opinion.

I actually did not read any reviews for Truthwitch at all before picking up the book, but that did not allow me to escape from the hype. Promotions and pure, unadulterated love for this book were everywhere in the weeks leading up to its release. I couldn’t go on Twitter without getting the impression that Truthwitch would be my new favorite book, a book that would change my life, a book that would be everything. So, sure, part of my critical attitude may be just an adverse reaction to major hype. People set some incredibly high expectations for this book, and I’m not sure anything could have lived up to it. Mostly my issue is that, although technically brilliant, the book never really grabbed my emotions.

Truthwitch is undoubtedly great fantasy. Susan Dennard has put an amazing amount of care into the world-building (almost too much, actually; I thought the details were overwhelming and irrelevant at times) and into the characterizations. Though I didn’t end up loving all the characters the way many other readers do, I certainly appreciate them and their complexity. My prime example is love interest Prince Merik. I’m simply not swooning over him, despite his very admirable love for his country and desire to help his people without turning to unethical means. And I’m not swooning in part because he’s flawed. He’s selfish and self-righteous. He says he’s going to do one thing while secretly planning to do another, then gets angry when people act based on what he told them and not on what he intended, as if they’re supposed to read his mind. An annoying this itself is, it’s even more annoying when the other characters agree with him that they were in the wrong. They weren’t. I don’t understand some of these characters at all.

And that perhaps is the main problem. I was interested in the characters, as I would be interested in observing people walking on the street. I didn’t fall in love with any of them. I could see the relationships Dennard was trying to build, the way she wanted to build a strong female friendship between Iseult and Safiya and the way she wanted to craft a heart-tugging one between Iseult and the mother she could never quite tell loved her. But I wasn’t really invested in any of it.

This is consistently the hardest thing for me to explain: why a book doesn’t emotionally move me despite apparently having all the correct ingredients. I recommend this book. I think it’s really good and, in fact, some of the best YA fantasy I have read in a long time. I just wish I cared a little more and that could pinpoint and articulate the reason I didn’t.

4 starsBriana

The Book of Kings by Cynthia Voight

Book of KingsINFORMATION

Goodreads: The Book of Kings
Series: Mister Max #3
Source: Library
Published: Sept. 2015

SUMMARY

After the disappearance of his parents, Max has been supporting himself as a detective, or solutioneer.  But now he and his Grammie have located his mom and dad as the new monarchs of Andesia–and they need his help to escape.  Now it’s up to Max to convince the king to send him and his friends as an official embassy to Andesia, all so he can spirit his parents away from a nation they do not want to rule.

REVIEW

The previous installments of the Mister Max trilogy stretched my suspension of disbelief, the premise being that a twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy manages to convince multiple people that he is really anything from a university student to a middle-aged man as he solves mysteries around his city.  The adventures were fun enough, however, that I willingly overlooked the laughable notion underlying the story.  The premise of the third book proves so nonsensical, however, that I could barely drag myself through to the end.

I admit that I skimmed about a third of the book, that being the only way I could stomach the absurdities, so possibly the story possesses some more nuance than I give it credit for–but I highly doubt that.  Everything from the explanation of how Max’s parents ended up the king and queen of Andesia to Max’s plan to rescue them is ridiculous–so ridiculous that it is almost embarrassing to read.  This is simply not how international politics work.

I don’t want to ruin the story for any still reading this trilogy, so I’ll summarize briefly and, if you really don’t want to know, you can skip this paragraph and the next.  Briefly, it seems that some general coerces random actors he once saw in a Shakespeare play to pretend to be monarchs all so he can figure out who assassinated the last monarchs.  I’m not sure what his plan was.  To hope the assassin strikes again so he can catch him/her?  Everyone in the country accepts the random new monarchs and doesn’t question never seeing them while the general runs the country. If he does.  It appears that Andesia has one rich family and the rest live in squalor.  I guess it’s just that small.

Meanwhile, Max decides to organize a fake embassy to Andesia.  A real one if he can convinced the king to send a random future baron and a random boy and his grandmother as said embassy.  The king amazingly agrees that sending a boy in a fake embassy to rescue his parents is a good idea.  He adds a random business owner to the group.  Then they all march into Andesia with no rescue plan, but it works out after the general attempts to hang Max’s father for a murder everyone knows he didn’t commit because the general wants to establish the rule of law??  I still don’t get it.

With a premise this flawed, I simply could not get into the story.  I was almost insulted I was expected to buy it.  I realize that the book is written for a younger audience, but surely even middle schoolers don’t think that spies are sent to foreign countries just so a king can kindly send aid if the wheat crop fails; or that an embassy would be composed of a housekeeper, a businessman, and a man who doesn’t even have a title yet; or that anyone would kidnap some actors to masquerade as monarchs as part of a great political scheme.  What a disappointing ending to this trilogy.

2 starsKrysta 64

If You Like Tamora Pierce, Then Read….

If You Like, Then Read is a feature where we offer reading suggestions based on books you already like, scheduled once a month. If you have more suggestions, feel free to tell us in the comments! You can check out the rest of these lists here.

If You Like (60)

 

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

When Miss Georgianna Fitzwilliam’s parents become frustrated with her out-of-control science experiments and unladylike behavior, they send her to England’s most notorious reformatory school.  None of them know that Stranje House is more than a school for Regency England’s rich and powerful young ladies. It’s a front for an organization that trains girls of unusual talents to serve their country as scientists, diplomats, and spies, and Georgianna is about to become entangled in some dangerous plots.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

In Katsa’s world, a select few are born with Graces, an incredible skill in one area.  Unfortunately, Katsa was born with the Grace of killing, and her uncle the king uses her talents to terrify his subjects.  Then Prince Po comes to court, looking for his kidnapped grandfather, and Katsa goes on a journey with him that will change her forever.

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

In Edwardian London, three young women find themselves inexplicably drawn to solving the same mysterious murders.  Together, Cora (a lab assistant), Michiko (a samurai), and Nellie (a magician’s assistant) will employ their unusual talents to track down the criminal who has eluded all the experts.

The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

Commander Korish Savoy is irate when he is called from his important duties at the front lines to teach teenagers how to fight at the royal Academy.  Cadet Renee de Winter is elated at her chance to meet the hero she has only read about.  The two become much closer than either of them would have expected when Savoy is kidnapped to fight in the underground death matches, and Renee appoints herself his rescuer, even if it means her expulsion from the Academy.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Connor, a nobleman in a kingdom on the brink of civil war, has created a plan to hold his country together.  He gathers boys from orphanages across the land, seeking for the perfect boy to present to the court as the long-lost prince, the rightful heir to the throne.  Although Conner presents his motives as pure, Sage is skeptical.  His tongue is as sharp as his mind, but he finds he may have to compete for the role of prince as keenly as the other boys if he intends to come out of the plot unscathed.

Top Ten Tuesday (122): Historical Settings

TTT stars

Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s topic is

TOP TEN HIstorical Settings

  1. The American Civil War: Addresses issues still relevant today.
  2. Renaissance Italy: Florence, especially.
  3. Renaissance England: The age of Shakespeare!
  4. The War of 1812: I haven’t read many set during this somewhat obscure war!
  5. The Napoleonic Wars: I do love Hornblower!
  6. The French Revolution: Because of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
  7. The 1940s: Big band and swing music!
  8. The Middle Ages: Cathedrals! Illuminated manuscripts!
  9. The Oregon Trail: I don’t think I’ve read a book set on it.  But I would.
  10. Victorian London: Dickens!

Krysta 64