A+ characters, C+ plot: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray [REVIEW]

3682A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Series: Gemma Doyle #1
First published in December 2003
Tags: Young Adult, Historial Fiction, Fantasy

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N

Source: Library
Rating:  photo three stars_zpsohkkn6ww.png

A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy—jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls’ academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions “for a bit of fun” and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the “others” and rebuild the Order.


I’d heard a lot of good things about this, but it didn’t quite reach me even though it was good. 

So this is a young adult series from before YA was cool, i.e. before Twilight. Nice. It’s set in the Victorian era (although it’s probably not the most historically accurate book ever) in an all girl’s school. The atmosphere is kind of gothic, which I enjoyed. 

We meet Gemma, who grew up in India but after her mother’s death (which she foresaw in a mysterious vision) is sent to England to go to school. There she meets three girls; Felicity, Pippa, and the outcast Anne, and together they stumble into a world of magic and powers. 

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Just as beautiful as the last: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater [REVIEW]

17370618The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater
Series: The Raven Cycle#2
First published in September 2013
Tags: Young Adult, Fantasy

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N

Source: Purchased
Rating:  photo five stars_zpsr2o5iiuv.png

The second installment in the all-new series from the masterful, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater!

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

This series, guys. This series. This is the type of thing I wish I could write. 

I don’t know what to say about this to be honest, because a lot of it will just be echoing my review of The Raven Boys, because the plot is still just as fantastic, the writing is just as stunning, and the characters are just as lovable. I don’t have any superlatives left. 

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Good, but not memorable: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab [Review]

23299512This Savage Song by Victoria (V.E.) Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity #1
First published in June 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Tags: Young AdultFantasy

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N 

Source: Purchased

Rating:  photo three stars_zpsohkkn6ww.png

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.


Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

I don’t know how long this review will be, because I honestly don’t have that much to say. I have a very on-again-off-again relationship with V.E. Schwab. I gave Vicious a glowing 5 star review, it’s one of my all-time favorites and everyone should read it, but A Darker Shade of Magic bored me to tears. 

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There’s no other book like it: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater [Review]

15743650The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
First published in September 2012 by Scholastic Press
Tags: Young AdultFantasy

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N 

Source: Purchased

Rating:  photo five stars_zpsr2o5iiuv.png

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.


Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.


His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.


But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.


For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.


From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the
Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

I’ve gushed about this book a lot on this blog already, but it deserves a proper review as well so I’ll try to do this coherently. 

I’ve always been skeptical to this series, despite knowing how many people love it. First off, the covers look cheesy and the synopsis on the back of the book is even cheesier. The tagline needs to go. Combined, it all makes the book sound like your regular, dramatic YA romance. “Female character can’t kiss her true love or he will die.” Yawn. Well, THAT’S NOT EVEN WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT. Even the synopsis from Goodreads focuses mostly on that, and it doesn’t do the book justice at all. At most, the true love’s death kiss is more on an overarching mystery that always looms in the background. Who is Blue’s true love? Is it actually Gansey? We’ve already seen he will (probably??) die, as Blue saw him as a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, but how will he die? Why? 

Before reading the book I thought Blue was like Juliette in Shatter Me, that there was something physical about her that made her kiss lethal, but it’s not like that. Thank god. It’s not a power/curse she has. I think this is important to point out, because it’s way less cheesy this way. 

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness [REVIEW]

22910900The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
First published by in August 2015 by Walker Books
Tags:
Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary
Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryB&N

Source: Library

Rating:  photo four stars_zps2ktftgcp.png

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?


What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.


Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.


Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.


Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

It’s been two months since I finished this book so it’s about time I write the review. Those of you who don’t know anything about this book might wonder why I classified it as both fantasy and contemporary, as ‘contemporary’ in the blogging world tends to refer to realistic non-fantasy books. Well, this book is set in a world where fantasy stuff goes down, but the book still reads largely like a contemporary because it focuses on regular people (mostly) and their every-day lives. It’s about those people in the background, who watch the chosen ones with weird names run around fighting vampires and zombies and blow up the school on prom night. Yeah, you know those people, we’ve all seen those shows and read those books. 

But what about the people in the background? What are they doing while all this is happening? And how do they deal with the consequences of the chosen peoples’ drama? Well, they just live there, and this time we’re pulling the background into the foreground and putting all the special kids (called “indie kids” in the book) in the backdrop. They go about their daily lives and their own personal battles. Everyone’s a hero in some way. 

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Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor [REVIEW]

22363172Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Series: Daugher of Smoke and Bone #2
First published by in November 2012 by Little, Brown and Company
Tags:
Young Adult, Fantasy
Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryB&N

Source: Purchased

Rating:  photo four half_zpszfonypqk.png

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.


Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.


In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed
Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For
hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Read my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone here.  

What do I say about this book? It was good. It was amazing. It was emotional and funny and just as beautifully written as Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Goddamn it, Laini Taylor. This book is poetry. Every sentence is so wonderfully crafted and nothing feels forced to me. I mention this because I’m reading Shatter Me at the moment and the metaphors are killing me, they’re so forced and cheesy and a lot of the time don’t even mean anything. Ugh. 

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil held a wishbone between them.

And its snap split the world in two.”

See, that type of writing says something. It says something about the war and its effect. It’s visual and has an impact, you can hear the snap of the wishbone and the crackle of the earth when you read this. Or maybe that’s just me. But that’s why I love this writing so much.  

Moving on from the writing style, this book is quite different from the first one. What’s changed between these two installments is that the focus is no longer on the romance, even though the core of the story is  still very much about love and hope, that hasn’t changed. The forbidden love is strong in this one, and if that is your thing then this is most definitely the series for you. However, now Karou and Akiva are separated and heartbroken, working on opposites sides of the war. And the war gets brutal. 

In fact, the way this series is built up reminded me of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking. I’ve only read the first two in both series, but they’re similar in the sense that the first book is more narrowed in on one specific problem, as well as certain characters, then second book comes around and pans out, focusing on the larger war where the two main characters have been forced apart to the opposite sides. 

This book is darker and more intense than the first. There’s more action, more plot, and more war-related horrors. And the twists in this book are still as amazing as they were in the first one, I love me some good plot twists. I absolutely loved the final section of the book. 

The only reason this one gets half a star less than the first one is because it was a little bit slow in the beginning. We get a lot of new POVs in this book and it took a while to get into it. And I wasn’t always as interested in what Akiva and his siblings were getting up to, even if what they do is super important, I’m just more invested in the other characters. My favorite parts were definitely the parts in Marrakesh. I love Zuzana and Mik, they’re such relationship goals. Zuzana is just hilarious, her comment about Thiago: “Anyone who would wear all white like that clearly had issues” made me laugh. And I’m still emotional at the fact that a certain character appeared. ;_;

All in all, this series is fantastic. If you want good world-building and unique characters I couldn’t recommend this enough. 

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Have you read this book? Did you like it more or less than Daughter of Smoke and Bone? How does the last one compare? 

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Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

lgbt books for young adultsCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Pan Macmillan in February 2016 (first pub. October 2015)
Pages: 528

Genres:
Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQIA
Source: NetGalley
Buy:
Amazon | Book DepositoryBarnes and Noble
Rating: lgbt books for young adults

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.


Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

I received a free ebook copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

lgbt books for young adults

 

I hadn’t originally planned on reading this, both because I didn’t like Fangirl and because it seemed too similar to Harry Potter and that bugged me. But then I saw this as a “read now” book on NetGalley and I couldn’t resist that. 

And what do you know, I actually enjoyed it. It starts off very similar to Harry Potter, that it does. For those who don’t know, the story of Simon Snow started in Fangirl as the main character’s fanfiction. And in that universe, Simon Snow is like their Harry Potter, it’s an eight book fantasy series with a huge fandom about a magic school and a Chosen One. And then this book, Carry On, isn’t Cath’s fanfic, but it’s still the characters and story Rowell invented in Fangirl. Though in Fangirl, all the fic excerpts were terribly boring and this is a lot better. Are you with me? Alright. 

So yes, it starts off with a lot of Harry Potter-isms. There’s an orphan boy who goes to a magical school. People whisper about it being a school for unruly or criminal kids. He’s the Chosen One, but’s not really feeling it. There’s a prophecy that says he’s the most powerful mage there is and he’s been chosen to save the magical world and defeat the Big Bad. He has a really clever friend named Penelope, who would remind anyone of Hermione. He has a rich asshole ~nemesis~ that he’s obsessed with ala Harry and Draco in The Half-Blood Prince. The nemesis lives in a mansion. The headmaster is Simon’s mentor. 

But most of these elements are pretty basic. There are lots of stories about Chosen Ones and magical schools. Yes, the similarities are many, because after all Harry Potter is the inspiration, but as far as the plot goes it’s not Harry Potter. I stopped reading it as Harry/Draco fanfiction in not too long. 

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