Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Heir of Fire

Book: Heir of Fire
Series: Throne of Glass #3
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?-Goodreads

Review: I had high hopes for this book but sadly I was disappointed. 

The Good
World Building: Celeana spends most of this book in a new land where she can hone her magic skills. I really enjoyed the mystical elements here, this made the book seem much more 'fantasy.' 

New Characters: I really enjoyed two of the new characters introduced. First up, Fae prince Rowan who is tasked with training Caleana from a magical standpoint. He was fantastic. He actually challenges Caleana physically and mentally (instead of just getting her back in shape, which is what Chaol did) and she opens up like she hasn't done in the previous books.  While the training sessions were overly long and drawn out, I enjoyed their dynamic more than any other her friends and I appreciate that this isn't a romantic pairing.  Next up,  Aelin's cousin Aedion who balances a lot of responsibilities in this book while remaining loyal to his roots. Can't wait to see how the story unfolds for both of these guys. 

The Bad: where to start...?
The Witch Storyline: We are introduced to a new character named Manon and she's going to be competing in some competition on these things that are essentially dragons. Boring, boring, boring. I skimmed these sections and still almost fell asleep. I literally could care less about her, but I'm sure she will play a big role in the next few books and hopefully she'll be more exciting. 

Chaol: He was insufferable in this book and really turned me off to him ever being a serious love interest for Celeana. However, my fear is since this is YA and Chaol and Celeana have already consummated their relationship, they are 'destined' to be together. Ugg. He is so boring and his inability to take a stand throughout this book until the very end was insufferable. 

Maeve: for someone who is such a bad ass..she was underwhelming. 

Overall, my biggest challenge with this book is that if felt like a chore to read it. It seemed like a filler book that was poorly edited. I'm hoping the next installment is much better. 

Grade: 2/5

Crown of Midnight

Book: Crown of Midnight
Series: Throne of Glass #2
Author: Sarah J. Maas

"A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie...and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.-Goodreads
Review: Wow-huge improvement over the first book in the series. There was world building (yay!), character development across the board (yay! Especially Dorian, he was mostly a pretty playboy in the first book but had actual purpose on this book) and an interesting plot (yay!). While there was still too much time spent on the romance for my liking and the final reveal (I'll avoid spoilers) was not much of a surprise, this was a really fun read. 

Grade: 4/5

Throne of Glass

Book: Throne of Glass
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Author: Sarah J. Maas

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.-Goodreads

Review: Overall, this was a predictable but fun read. The plot was rather simplistic and there wasn't much world building, but there is a lot of potential for future books. I had a love/hate relationship with Celaena, the protagonist who is an assassin fighting for a chance at freedom. I loved her big personality but I could never really 'buy' her as an assassin. She had zero patience, was not subtle and at one point, knowing a killer is on the loose in the castle, finds a bag of candy next to her bed and digs in. could have been poison! There was a (kind of) love triangle with Dorian (Prince) and Chaol (Captain of the Guard) which I hope is not dragged out throughout multiple books. 

Fun start to a new series!

Grade: 3/5

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Book: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author: Laura Hillenbrand 

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Review: I finished this book last month and I've been putting off the review because I have so many conflicting feelings about it. Almost of my goodreads friends gave this 5 stars and I thought I would love it too. I read Seabiscuit several years ago and though it was fantastic. Unfortunately, I was overall I was disappointed in this book. Let's dig in.

This is the story about a troubled youth who becomes a standout high school and college track star, Olympic athlete, Air Force bombardier and then POW in Japan. There is no doubt that Louis Zamperini experienced a crazy life and this should have been an exciting and emotional read. Instead, I felt like I was reading a textbook. It took several weeks to finish this (very unusual for me) and some nights I had to literally force myself to read it was boring. There are so many facts being thrown out and one dimensional characters (It was difficult to keep everyone straight) that I had no attachment to anyone. The only character that really felt real to me was Louis's brother. There is little dialogue in the book between characters, rather we are told 'he did this, he did that' etc. Several things in this book also seemed exaggerated, which didn't bother me that much but did induce eye rolling. Here is a quote from the book (talking about a fellow POW) that supports some of Louis' memories may not be 100% accurate: 

The curious thing about Harris was that while he was certainly a tall man—six foot two or three, according to his daughter—virtually everyone, including Louie, would remember him as a giant, by one account six foot eight, by another six-ten.
There is a claim of Louis running a 4:12 mile in SAND at one point and a lot of pages devoted to his time lost at sea involving sharks. Supposedly these pacific sharks had nothing to do all day besides circle Louis and his two comrades for weeks on end. And when one of the comrades dies and they put his body in the water, we are to believe that these starving sharks, who apparently had no other food supply, just left the body alone. Hmm, okay. And Louis, being starved, dehydrated and several burned after several weeks was able to punch sharks repeatedly to help repair the raft at one point. Hmm, okay. There is also a claim that he was moving 20-30 tons of material in a rail yard at one point. I've heard adrenaline can kick in at crazy times, so maybe that is what happened? 

The end of the book left me feeling like another chapter was missing. After becoming an alcoholic and experiencing PTSD, he's cured after listening to Billy Graham speak for a few hours. At least that is what I inferred from what was written. What?! I can believe that this was the catalyst to stop drinking, but how they cured him of PTSD, I don't understand. 

Okay, you may be thinking..this is not the most positive review so far. While I was disappointed in this book, there were some things I enjoyed. I thought Louis's older brother was fantastic, a wonderful person who helped Louis get on the right path and realize his potential (in terms of running). I love the focus on Japan, since every other WWII book I've read talks only about the German side of things. I learned a lot about the Japanese military (wow, scary stuff) and the Japanese POW camps. 

Overall, a dry, fact-filled book but I enjoyed the Japanese focus. The movie for this comes out in a few months and looks fantastic. I will definitely go see it. I think that while I found most of the characters one-dimensional on paper, they will really shine on screen. If you are a WWII buff, you will probably love this book. 

Grade: 3/5

Invisible Monsters

Book: Invisible Monsters
Author: Chuck Palahniuk

Review: Have you seen Fight Club? It's based on a book by Chuck Palahniuk so going into this, I knew I was in for a wild ride. I'm happy to say it didn't disappoint. Our narrator is a nameless former model who was shot in the face and severely deformed. She meets a drag queen at the hospital and her life takes a wild ride. 

The book style is what I would describe as chaotic-the timeline is constantly shifting, several pages don't have page numbers and it seems almost like a play at times. Palahniuk likes to "flash" from scene to scene frequently. While this style may turn off many readers, it worked for me. There are a lot of shocking things in this book and while I didn't particularly care for any of the characters, I felt an overwhelming sadness at the wild conclusion.

Grade: 4/5

Perfect Scoundrels

Book: Perfect Scoundrels
Series: Heist Society #3
Author: Ally Carter

Katarina Bishop and W.W. Hale the fifth were born to lead completely different lives: Kat comes from a long, proud line of loveable criminal masterminds, while Hale is the son of one of the most seemingly perfect dynasties in the world. If their families have one thing in common, it's that they both know how to stay under the radar while getting-or stealing-whatever they want. No matter the risk, the Bishops can always be counted on, but in Hale's family, all bets are off when money is on the line. When Hale unexpectedly inherits his grandmother's billion dollar corporation, he quickly learns that there's no place for Kat and their old heists in his new role. But Kat won't let him go that easily, especially after she gets tipped off that his grandmother's will might have been altered in an elaborate con to steal the company's fortune. Forced to keep a level head as she and her crew fight for one of their own, Kat comes up with an ambitious and far-reaching plan that only the Bishop family would dare attempt. To pull it off, Kat is prepared to do the impossible, but first, she has to decide if she's willing to save her boyfriend's company if it means losing the boy-Goodreads

Review: Like the first two books in the Heist Society series, Perfect Scoundrels was a quick, fun read. Unlike them, it had a darker feel to the plot and seemed to focus more on just the 'heist.'  This was good as we delved into Hale's family dynamic and  we meet several new characters such as Kat's dad (loved him!). My only beef with this book is that the book starts with Kat and Hale as a couple and then they quickly break up. Um..I'm wondering when the relationship actually happened because it definitely wasn't defined in book 2. 

Grade: 4/5