BOOK REVIEW: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

17378508Title: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours 3 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: May 27, 2019

Read Finish Date: June 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:
Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost. Friends can betray. Mothers can disappear. Visions can mislead. Certainties can unravel.

My Review: This is the third book in The Raven Cycle series. My review of the first book, The Raven Boys is here, and my review of the second book, The Dream Thieves, is here. I am giving it a rating of 3 out of 5 stars. Although this book was certainly better than the second book, I still overall find this series lacking as a whole. I like that the story gets back on track, and the pace is a bit faster — but at times the plot really drags on. Sometimes I wonder whether 4 books were really necessary.

It is really hard to write a review of this story because there are so many twists and turns to the plot, that sometimes I get a little lost. I wonder whether all of this detail is really necessary? What is this series actually about? Sometimes it all just seems so pointless.

Sure a few themes run through out, the search for Glendower, and that Blue will kill her true love with a kiss — but that is where it ends. Each book seems to be its own creature, and with only thin strings attaching each to the other. And some of the characters are just plain annoying, don’t add anything to the story, and the dialogue in places surrounding these characters are just plain stupid. I can’t really say much more without giving away the plot, so I won’t.

I am curious how this series will wrap up.

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

17347389Title: The Dream Thieves

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 45 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: May 19, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 27, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: 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…

My Review: This book has been on my TBR list since 2012. It is the 2nd book in the Raven Cycle Series. You can find the review of the 1st book here. I am not sure whether I really liked this book or not; what is for sure, is that I liked it less than the first book. I read a lot of review of people who L.O.V.E.D. this book, and I am personally scratching my head and wondering why. Did I miss something here? Why am I not getting that this book is like the best thing since sliced bread? I even read one review who basically said she liked how the author dumbed down the conversations between the characters so that it would resemble what a teenager would say. The review didn’t say it in those precise words, but that was the jist.

Here’s why this book, for me, was only “meh”:

A lot happens in the book, but nothing happens at the same time. It’s like being busy all day at work, but feeling at the end of the day that you have accomplished actually nothing. The Goodreads summary of the plot is a bit vague, but essentially this book is all about Ronan, and his ability to pull things from his dreams.

Apparently, there is another boy in town who can do the same thing, and there are long and boring sequences of the book where Ronan and this boy have what can only be described as pissing contests to see who can pull things out of the dream better. There is also some weird platonic love triangle going on between Blue, Gansey, and Adam. A character is introduced, the Gray man, who goes around town telling people he is a “hit man”. And everyone goes, oh, okay, like that’s normal or something. I mean, huh? No one recoils in fear, no one calls the cops, and Blue’s Mom even starts dating him…

After nearly 13 hours of listening, only the last few minutes actually progresses the story, which I can’t tell you about because it will ruin the story. Sigh.

Lastly, I really hated the audiobook narration. Most of the book it was okay, but the narrator’s impression of a character who was supposed to be Eastern European sounded like he was some Italian thug straight outta the Sopranos. It’s like, if you take the time to change your accent for ONLY ONE character in the WHOLE book, make sure you do it correctly!

What I did like:

Okay, so maybe there was some character development happening (but did we need 13 hours of it?). I will wait and see how this development brings the plot forward in the 3rd book, which I am reading now.

Stay tuned for my next review of this series!

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (aka J.K. Rowling)

41899Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling) 

Book Length (Audiobook): 1 hour 54 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: April 17, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 18, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander’s masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the Wizarding World. Scamander’s years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books – the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail … Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur Magizoologist. This is an essential companion to the Harry Potter stories, and includes a new foreword from J.K. Rowling (writing as Newt Scamander) and six new beasts!

My Review: This book is short and fun! If you have ever seen the movie of the same title, you know that Newt Scamander is a wizard who works for the Ministry of Magic in the Beast Division. During the movie, he was writing the above mentioned book. J.K. Rowling writes as Newt Scamander, and the book lists in detail the magical beasts, their attributes, personalities, etc.

If you liked the Harry Potter series, this is a must read!

The Audiobook Recording: The audiobook recording was really funny. It had the sounds of the animals as Newt described them.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

17675462Title: The Raven Boys

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 8 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: April 11, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 18, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: 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.

My Review: I first read this book back in 2012, when the other books in the series had not yet been published (there are 4 all together). I had put the second book on my TBR list on Goodreads, and there is where it languished for 7 years. In an effort to clean up my TBR list, I wanted to finally read the second book, but since I hadn’t read the first book in a while, I read it again.

Since I didn’t really remember the book from my 2012 reading, it was like reading the book again for the first time. My overall impression of the book was very positive, and I would recommend the book for the following reasons:

Interesting and Addictive Plot. Even though this is a Young Adult novel, as an adult I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I will just say that the plot was rich with Welsh mythology, history, ghosts, ley lines, psychics and just every amount of weird and crazy that you can think of. It really kept me engaged in the story, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next. At times though, the plot was a bit difficult to follow, as there were always several moving pieces–but it all came together in the end and there were several plot twists which I was not expecting, which made the plot even more interesting.

My only criticism is that after the “big finale” (you will just have to read the book to find out what I mean), the book has a sort of “Epilogue” (although it is just another chapter). There is a gap in time between the “big finale” and when the book ends, which isn’t explained very well. The book was so well paced throughout, and then all of a sudden BAM! a very fast ending, as though the author didn’t want to take the time to really explain what had happened. Maybe it will be fleshed out in the next book?

Overall, I cannot wait to see what happens in the 2nd book!

Well Developed and Likeable Characters. The characters are very well-developed, and the characteristics of each really support the story line. For example, Blue’s mother, and her mother’s friends are all psychic or mystical in some way, and each of their powers, including Blue’s, is important to the plot. The characters are simple on the surface, but somehow complicated underneath the surface–the author reveals these depths through out the story, and with each new reveal you become more invested in the story.

If you like paranormal / fantasy books, this book is definitely for you, and I would highly recommend it!

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

32075671Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 44 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Read Start Date: March 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: March 26, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

My Review: I had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it — honestly, I do not remember how it ended up on my holds list at the library. I am struggling to write a review of this book, as it has raised many mixed emotions for me. I have mixed emotions because on the one hand, I understand that there are bad cops out there that give good cops (like my brother) a bad name — but I also know there are criminals out there who give non-criminals out there a bad name.

The theme running throughout the book, and the meaning behind the title, is from Tupac’s famous quote, that Thug Life means, “The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody”. The plot of this book could be ripped straight out of today’s headlines, i.e., Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, African-American vs. Police, etc.

Living in Europe for the past two years, I have not really been following the recent movements, but I can understand that it is a very contentious issue. This book takes the view of an African-American teenage girl, and more or less paints the police in a bad light.

Starr is traumatized when her best friend Khalil is shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Starr takes a deep look at what being African-American means to her. Starr has many juxtapositions in her life. Her father, Maverick Carter, a formal gangbanger, enrolled Starr and her brothers in a mostly white school in a better neighborhood. During the school week, Starr has white friends, and even a white boyfriend. On the weekends in her African American neighborhood (Garden Heights) she leads a different, and separate, life.

This book (and the movie version that I watched afterward) really moved me – at some points to tears. I really felt bad for Starr and her community, especially Khalil, who was shot because the police officer was scared he was reaching for a gun. Khalil wasn’t doing anything wrong, but the police officer didn’t know that. This happens in real life, and it is very, very sad.

There is so much broken with American society, and this book poignantly shows that. Not all African-American men are gangbangers and thugs who sell drugs, and not all police officers are dirty, trigger happy cops who murder African-Americans without provocation – but it is these stereotypes which keeps everyone imprisoned behind walls of hate and suspicion, and forces our collective children to grow up with fear and a learned hatred.

This book may be fiction, but it might as well be nonfiction. Too many times in recent history there have been police shootings of African-American men. Sometimes it is justified, but I can only imagine that sometimes stereotypes and racism (whether conscience or not) have played a part in such a shooting. Sometimes the office responsible for the shooting is indicted, and sometimes he is not. Each time the media and the parties involved become incensed, and it only adds more fuel to an already out of control fire.

Even though this book is supposed to be for teenagers, I would also recommend it to any adult. I usually read only for entertainment, but sometimes it is good to read a book that provokes thought and introspection.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

12291438Title: The Madman’s Daughter

Author: Megan Shepherd

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 50 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads : Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. MoreauThe Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

My Review: After a horrifying scene in London, where Juliet walks in on some medical students performing vivisection of a live white rabbit, Juliet discovers that her father was in fact alive (although presumed dead for many years). The author describes the scene with the rabbit so vividly that it left me queasy for days. I still shudder when I think of the rabbit’s screaming. I know it is imaginary, but things like that really hit me hard. I cannot stand to think of animals suffering, even fake ones.

Similarly, that Dr. Moreau performed his operations on his creatures without any pain killers or anesthesia is just terrible, unthinkable even. I wanted to cry just thinking of the pain inflicted on these poor animals. What a sick and twisted character. What makes me more upset is thinking that maybe in real life back in those days scientists really did perform these types of “surgeries” on animals. Animal cruelty is just so not okay. I was bothered that no one tried to stop Dr. Moreau. Why didn’t Juliet or Montgomery just kill him? I felt like maybe they were a little brainwashed, or maybe this was supposed to be an indication that they had “morals”? That they were not killers like the mad doctor. I don’t think that I could have stood by and let that go on.

I read some reviews which pooh-poohed the love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery, and Edward, but I didn’t feel the same. I didn’t find it sappy, or unbelievable. Montgomery was Juliet’s childhood friend (even though he was their servant’s son), and as an adult her childhood affections had turned romantic. She had conflicting emotions, however, because he was helping Dr. Moreau torture animals to make his “creations”. With respect to Edward, there was something in him that Juliet was physically drawn to despite her mental reservations about it, although we don’t really find out what that physical draw was until the surprise ending.

The writing was very good, and the story was suspenseful. Although I liked this book, it left me unsettled — the same feeling I came away with after reading H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I cannot fathom why this book would be classified as “young adult”. I wouldn’t say this book was “scary”, but it certainly was very disturbing, and I think that the story will stay with me for a while.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

17667561Title: The Shadow Throne

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 53 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: The Shadow Throne is the last book in the Ascendance Trilogy following The Runaway King (see my review here) and The False Prince (see my review here). The book starts off about three weeks after the ending of The Runaway King, and war has come to Carthya. Imogen is captured by the King of Avenia, and Jaron sets out to save her. Tobias and the Princess are sent to the Princess’s country to get aid, and Roden is sent away to the border to stop an invasion. While Jaron is on his quest to save his love, war is erupting all around him.

My Review: SPOILER ALERT. I liked this book a lot less than the other two books. Although it was entertaining, and was a fast paced story, Jaron’s “wit” was getting super annoying. I mean, how cool is it when everything coming out of someone’s mouth is a quip or a one-liner? Talk about eye roll inducing. This book could have been full of action, but instead of following the battle scenes, most of the book followed the story of Jaron who was captured several times, tortured / beat up several times. It just got a little tedious. And to be honest, I didn’t really understand the whole point of having this war — except for maybe to get three books out of the storyline. I do not see how Jaron even won at the end, since everyone surrounding him was against him. It was a bit unrealistic. But of course, everything had to end so neatly with a happily ever after.

I have to say that I was kind of disappointed in the ending, but maybe Game of Thrones has made me expect too much from these medieval kingdom type books.

The Audiobook Recording: SPOILER ALERT. At the end of the recording, there is a special scene involving Bevin Connor and the King of Avenia. Connor is betraying Jaron in exchange for becoming King of Carthya after Jaron is dead. During this scene, Connor began to regret his traitorous ways and vows to help Jaron win the war. This seemed unlikely that after everything Connor had done he would for some unknown reason turn coat (again) and be loyal to Jaron…but okay. I guess it was needed to help the plot. Jaron of course had to win the war in the end (aforementioned happy ending) and there really were insurmountable odds without Connor’s help.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

15703770Title: The Runaway King

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 27 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: The Runaway King is the sequel to the False Prince (see my review of the False Prince here). First, I guess I should explain that Sage the orphan from the first book was really Prince Jaron in disguise. At the end of the book, he reveals his true identity, and takes his rightful place on the throne. At the beginning of The Runaway King, King Jaron has been king for 1 month, and everything is already in shambles. The Princess who was betrothed to his older brother Darius, is now betrothed to Jaron. The only problem is that the two of them dislike each other, and she is courting favor and winning allies among Jaron’s regents (behind his back).

At the funeral of Jaron’s family, Roden (one of the other orphans from the first book) tries to assassinate Jaron. It is discovered that the pirates (who everyone thought killed Jaron in the first book) are trying to kill him again — and it is possible that they are being paid to do so by another country, which has neighboring lands to Carthya. This neighboring country is on the brink of declaring war against Carthya. Jaron, not knowing who to trust (and because the regents decide to put a Steward in place until Jaron comes of age), leaves the castle and becomes “The Runaway King.” His plan in to infiltrate the pirates and to stop the coming war, or to at least be better prepared.

My Review: I liked this book. It was entertaining and was a fast paced story. However, it didn’t have the same “I need to get to the ending as fast as possible to find out what’s happening” pull as the first book did. The reader knows that Jaron is hiding as “Sage”, and knows what Jaron intends to do. The book is about the unfolding of these plans. Since there is a third book, I could only assume that Jaron would pull off whatever scheme he cooked up — and I had no illusions that it would be like Game of Thrones where the author killed off my most favorite characters because it would happen like that in real life. This is a YA book after all.

One of the things that I don’t like about YA in general, is the age of the main characters. Jaron is supposed to be 14 years old, but acts like he’s 34. Maybe I am just showing my age a bit, but I don’t remember being so capable when I was 14. Another thing that struck me as weird, is the Imogen / Jaron relationship. They are friends, but also more? This did not seem well fleshed out, but rather only mentioned in a few lines of dialogue toward the end of the book. It left me confused as to whether they did have romantic feelings for each other, or was it really only a friendship? Maybe this will be explained in the 3rd book.

The Audiobook Recording: Nothing special to report.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

12432220Title: The False Prince

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 15 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: The King, Queen, and Crown Prince are dead, and the (now) heir to the throne, the youngest son of the King, is presumed dead (although no body has ever been found). Carthya is on the brink of civil war when nobleman Connor takes orphan boys Sage, Roden, and Tobias to his estate to train them for the biggest con job in history. Each of these boys will compete to impersonate Jaron, the lost prince. The boy who wins the competition will become King, but for those boys who lose, only death awaits.

My Review/Expectations: Honestly, I was very surprised to like this book as much as I did. I had originally read it back in 2012, and am reading it again so that I can read the 2nd and 3rd books in the series (which are part of the top 10 oldest books on my Want to Read Shelf). The story of this book is fun and entertaining, and I found myself eager to continue listening to it. Sage is of course the front-runner (and the main character), so it was obvious from the beginning that he was going to be chosen by Connor to be the False Prince, but this didn’t lessen the quality of the overall story. The writing is good, but easy, so I was able to breeze through in a few days at 1.6x times the normal speed (Audiobook).

There was a plot twist at the end, but I saw it coming a mile away. This could have been because I had read the book before (even though I didn’t remember anything about the story), or maybe there were just numerous hints throughout the book…but I would say that this added to the story rather than detracted. I kept waiting for the big reveal!

I would definitely recommend this book.

The Audiobook Recording: Nothing special to report.