Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

7896527Throne of Glass

Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads

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 four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. 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.

Review:

There are two different covers to this book. One is here: rather badass, to be honest. The other is the one I used. I think this one is more accurate. Very pretty girl with unnatural eyes that you can only tell is a warrior by a dainty knife strapped to her arm. To me, this is Celaena Sardothien. Why? Because she’s a conceited pain in the ass who only barely resembles an assassin.

The Bad:

  • OH MY GOD THE INTRODUCTION. The first five or so chapters were painful to me. They included everything I hate in a fantasy novel: UTTERLY unpronounceable names/names that are simple but are spelled in the most ridiculous/fantastical fashion; a truly stupid and ridiculous male authority figure; a protagonist who can’t stop talking about how great she is; a protagonist who can’t stop talking about how pretty she once was; and an immediate love interest that gains the lustful attention of someone who should have better things on her mind.
  • For being the greatest badass that ever lived (supposedly), Celaena is given no opportunity to show off how great she is  until the last two or three chapters of the novel. That’s A LOT of listening to how great she is, from both herself and others, without any proof. It gets tiring to listen to that kind of stuff.

The Middling:

  • I do like and appreciate the two male/romantic options. She has good and interesting interactions with both. I also appreciate that there’s some rightful conflict in Celaena as to being attracted to the son of her greatest enemy.
  • There’s a lot of things mentioned that don’t always pan out. For example, there’s this whole fae focus at one point that hasn’t been developed. I’m 99% sure that it will show up in the rest of the series, but I would have made more subtle mentions.
  • I knew every twist before it happened.

The Good:

  • When I finally got through those first few chapters, I enjoyed the story. It’s not fairly well-written, well-paced, and the characters are interesting. Even Celaena I grew to appreciate. She is conceited, but that’s part of her character, not something that the narrative tries to combat.
  • There’s a lot going on that I’m interested in. I will be checking out the rest of the series, but in my own time. I’m not particularly eager, just interested.
  • The audiobook, I think, saved me. The narrator has great inflection and brings the characters to life, probably better than the book itself does with simple print on paper. The one thing that bothered me however was that sometimes Chaol sounded constipated.
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Warcoss by Marie Lu

29385546Warcross

Marie Lu

Goodreads

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Review:

So this book is good. It’s very good. It’s fun and exciting and interesting. I recommend giving it a try if you enjoy anything Hunger Games adjacent. (I know everything gets compared to Hunger Games but that’s the best description I can ever find that everyone will understand.)

The Good:

  • The main character is Quirky but Relatable, has a good backstory and solid motivations through the whole thing.
  • Her characterization is not compromised for the romance.
  • The romance writing itself is verrah good.
  • I count there as being one twist and one reveal. I did not see the twist coming. I saw something on the horizon, but I did not expect it to be what it was. So props for coming up with something original enough that it gave me mild surprise.

The Middle:

  • The romance is a little… rushed. As they often are in novels like this. But if a man is described as closed-off and extremely private, I don’t take well to him telling his life secrets to the first spunky girl he meets after a little more than a month. (Less than? Can’t recall exactly.)

The (Sorta) Bad:

  • I… saw the reveal coming. HOWEVER, that did not stop my enjoyment of the book. I wasn’t 100% sure that the reveal would be what I thought it would be. So I continued to scramble for theories while I went. But, yeah, I was about 80% sure.
  • I. Wanted. More. Team. Stuff. I love team building. I want it. I crave it. And (understandably) Emika has to keep herself closed off from her team a lot. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting more of it in the sequel. Nay, demanding more.

The Audiobook:

  • Very good! I’m having a streak of excellent narrators, which makes me happy. Her inflections were good and, while I have no idea if her pronunciations were good, her Japanese sounded natural. Her French accent could use some work, but that was minimal.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

33257757Iron Gold

Pierce Brown

Goodreads

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe, and Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

Review:

Brown does a wonderful job of weaving these four stories together. He has a real skill for diving into the character, showing all of their failings even while showing exactly why they think what they think and choose to do what they do. Darrow especially is a character study in hubris and martyrdom, as well as being the inspirational war hero that he was in the first three books. You can understand why he’s doing the things he’s doing and want to believe that he’s doing the right thing, even while having the sinking feeling of dread that things won’t turn out the way he wants and knowing that he’s making the absolute wrong decision.

The other thing that struck me was how well Brown brings the political into focus without feeling forced. There are some that say that fantasy and scifi should not reflect politics, an argument which I personally find ridiculous, but Brown makes the politics a necessary part of the story. He makes you see the parallels between the roiling Republic and today without feeling heavy-handed. Perhaps this is because the parallels aren’t exact and were never intended to be, but especially in an incident where Lyria visits a museum and is arrested for no cause, I saw a connection to today.

Having listened to the audiobook, I can say that the narration is *almost* top notch. The woman who narrates Lyria’s chapters is especially well-acted, moving me to tears at certain moments. Ephraim’s narrator starts out almost unintelligible thanks to a heavy accent (to my American ears) and tons of techno-speak, but he grows on you to become the second best of the book. Darrow’s narrator is solid, leaving only Lysander’s narrator to fall short, his reading sounding like pure reading rather than anything with real inflection and voice.

The book leaves you with four cliffhangers, four reasons to be lusting after the next book. And I will be. All my favorite characters will be making a return and I’m eager to see what questionable choices they will be making in this amazingly fleshed out world that Brown has brought us.

The Princess Diarist

26025989The Princess Diarist

Carrie Fisher

Goodreads

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

Review:

This is not a story about the making of Star Wars, not really. While Carrie does of course speak at length on the effect of the series on her life and the immediate aftermath of the popularity of the first movie, there’s no behind the scenes content. Except when it comes to her relationship with Harrison Ford, playfully referred to as Carrison.

There’s a lot of that.

But hearing the story, I can’t really blame her for her focus. The impetus for this book was apparently the rediscovery of several journals that Fisher had kept through the making of the first Star Wars movie. And, being nineteen and having an affair with Harrison Ford of all people, her writings naturally revolve around their relationship, as well as her own insecurities and a few telling touches with her disease. This is a memoir of Carrison, without any scandalous, sexy bits involved. That, and a reflection on the meaning of Leia in Carrie’s life.

I have never read any other of Fisher’s writings, so I can’t compare what’s written here with what’s written there. I can say that from what was read of her journals directly (by her daughter Billie Lourd) that even without an editor she makes an excellent writer and clever poet. I can also say that, as I listened to the audiobook, hearing it all spoken in Fisher’s voice makes all the difference. Her inflections are perfect and hammer home how ridiculous she now takes her younger self, as we all view our younger selves.

Thunderhead by Neil Shusterman

33555224 Thunderhead

Neil Shusterman

Goodreads

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

Review (minimal spoilers):

The summary does not even begin to scratch the surface of all the things going on in this book. From what (I felt) was a fairly straightforward (but immensely enjoyable) plot in Scythe expanded into multiple overlapping storylines as well as new characters.

At a certain point in roughly the middle of the book I thought to myself, “Is this too much?” And then I decided that I didn’t care because the ride was too enjoyable. I was rewarded in the end by having all the storylines neatly wrap up and then abruptly be cut off by an amazing cliffhanger that has me desperate to see what comes next.

The main star of the show in this novel is Citra, or Scythe Anastasia. Her growth from novice overachiever in the first book to political savvy junior scythe in this adventure is seamless and wonderful to read. Rowan, I feel, takes a bit of a back seat. Or perhaps I was so thirsty for more of Rowan’s story after Scythe that nothing would satisfy me. The secondary star for me was definitely Greyson Tolliver whose storyline had me as interested as any of the main characters. While in the previous book, each chapter had some quotation from a scythe’s journal — notably Scythe Curie — in this novel we have insights from the Thunderhead itself which I feel adds so much to the worldbuilding of this novel and bookends all the chapters with just enough commentary to make you understand how the world and the Thunderhead thinks (which often syncs up with what you’re thinking).

And oh the worldbuilding. So much was added and shaped and honed. So much that I didn’t understand or was annoyed by now makes sense. The Tonists! The Tonists!

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

32051572Dividing Eden
Joelle Charbonneau
Goodreads

Twins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure.

But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom.

As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family.

With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?

Review:

Codependent relationship between twins disintegrates into fratricide in a matter of three fucking days when they are subjected to a series of trials for the throne. The boy twin, Andreus, has a panic disorder. Which is to say he has one proper panic attack which results in him blacking out and another that’s like, just genuine panic. The girl twin, Carys, has a opioid addiction.

Things that bothered me:

  • THREE FUCKING DAYS
  • Can’t tell all these Elder council members apart. They all look vaguely like Lord Frey in my head.
  • Supposedly these trials are supposed to be based upon the Seven Virtues that guide the kingdom, but these virtues are apparently: Archery, Hitting Each Other With Sticks, Steeple Chase, Socializing, Not Seeing Through an Obvious Setup, and Horse Racing
  • Constantly had to remind my brain to rhyme Andreus with Carys, because they’re twins and they should, right???
  • Nothing really good or interesting happens until the end. And then the book ends.

Things that I enjoyed:

  • Girl’s romance was minimal/lowkey on her side
  • Nothing really good or interesting happens until the end. And then the book ends.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

28954189 (1)
Scythe
Neal Shusterman
Goodreads

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Review:

No one in the whole world can die, except when they’re gleaned by a scythe. The human race has reached this kind of stagnate perfection, brought about by the cloud, the Internet evolving into an all-knowing, all-seeing force that controls the world to make it function perfectly.

(Honestly, this is greatly interesting to me, but only the surface gets scratched in the novel. I’m hoping for more when the next two come out.)

Citra and Rowan are thrust into an increasingly corrupt system of Scythedom, designed, in theory, to keep the human population in check. They are above the law and untouchable and therefore, of course, have plenty of evils lurking around in the shadows. The romance between the two is a bit pasteded on yay, but because of that it’s hugely background, which I liked. This is a great world-building story and definitely something that’ll interest me into the next two books.