Book Review: Stray by Elissa Sussman

Book Review: Stray by Elissa SussmanStray by Elissa Sussman
Series: Four Sisters #1
Published: October 7, 2014
Format: eARC (384 pages)
Genres: Fairy Tale, Romance, Young Adult
Source: For Review

 
Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.

When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.

But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.

After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?
3 Stars

After reading the acknowledgements by the author, I could see the Into the Woods inspiration.  Stray follows the sappy fairy tale stereotype and gives it a darker undertone especially about it’s control towards women. If you kept Cinderella almost the same but made it slightly darker with forbidden magic you might have something like Stray.

This fairy tale was all about controlling women and how they aren’t valued in this world even though they are technically powerful.  I know it was supposed to be a satire but sometimes it was difficult to read about the extreme rules for them all towards the goal of getting married.  The girls act ridiculous and when one of them eats before going to a ball I couldn’t get the image of Scarlet O’Hara reluctantly stuffing her face and wondering why you have to be so ridiculous just to catch a husband.

The world building just wasn’t very strong.  While I liked the plot, it felt hard to imagine the world because it was a little confusing.  The biggest problem for me, though, was the question of why these girls would even put up with all these crazy restrictions or where they came from in the first place.  That thought pulled me out of the story a lot because it was never really answered very well.

The writing was ok for the most part.  A few cheesy lines here and there with the cliche “breath she didn’t know she was holding.”  I’m so glad she figured it out in time or she might have died.  And my favorite “Suddenly” was in there more than I prefer. But it had some good writing too.  Just not terribly consistent.  I liked the characters and their relationships. The villain gives speeches about having fun with the poor, powerless protagonist and it made me roll my eyes.

I didn’t like the beginning.  It throws me into an action scene right away but I’m not sure why I should care yet.  I’m not a fan of when authors do that.

And to be very, very nitpicky – she doesn’t use the term “artless” like I’m used to Jane Austen using it and it irked me.

Overall, it was a different take on fairy tales that had an interesting plot but the world building wasn’t my favorite.

Content Rating: Medium, for some violence.  The language was pretty mild if there was any.  It’s been a while since I read it so I don’t remember for sure.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  I received this book for review from the publisher, Harper Collins, in exchange for an honest review. I was not told what to say, I was not paid to write this review and all the opinions expressed are my own.  I read an Advanced Reading Copy for this review.  

About Elissa Sussman

Elissa Sussman

Elissa Sussman is a writer, a reader and a pumpkin pie eater.

Her debut novel, STRAY (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins), is a YA fantasy about fairy godmothers, magic and food. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and in a previous life managed animators and organized spreadsheets at some of the best animation studios in the world, including Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks and Sony Imageworks. You can see her name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TANGLED.

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their rescue mutt, Basil.

Book Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Book Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini TaylorDreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3
Published: April 8, 2014
Format: eBook (613 pages)
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

 
From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.  At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?
4 Stars

Spoiler free even if you haven’t read the first book in this series. 

Dreams of Gods & Monsters was an epic and beautiful finale to one of my new favorite fantasy series.  The romance made my heart melt.  There was a Star Wars joke about using a Tauntaun to keep warm which I loved.  There was more of the blunt, honest humor that I laugh out loud at.  Behold my favorite joke ever.

Razgut paused as though he were thinking up a reply, and then he farted. Squinching up his face, he did so with effort. The reward was slight in resonance but grand in aroma, and the emperor was not amused.

– Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 367

I’m certainly amused by Razgut.  Speaking of Razgut, I kind of wondered when he was going to say “my preeeciousssssss” because he totally reminded me of Gollum.  He was pitiful, ugly, scheming and for reasons I don’t understand I kind of liked him and felt sorry for him.

The book before this one, Days of Blood & Starlight, was very dark.  Dreams of Gods & Monsters did a good job showing that no matter how dark things get, love and mercy matter.

But all he could think, in answer to that, was what Karou had said earlier, about the darkness we do in the name of the dead, and whether it’s what they would want for us.

-Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 264

The writing is beautiful and just sucks you right into the story.

She’d spoken of their happiness as though it were an undeniable fact, no matter what happened— apart from everything else and not subject to it. It was a new idea for him, that happiness wasn’t a mystical place to be reached or won— some bright terrain beyond the boundary of misery, a paradise waiting for them to find it— but something to carry doggedly with you through everything, as humble and ordinary as your gear and supplies. Food, weapons, happiness.

-Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 413

As much as I loved this book, I wish it had ended 100 pages sooner than it did.  Not because I thought the book was too long but because I felt like the final subplot that took up those last pages was unnecessary.  The final subplot goes into the epic territory of Where This World Came From.  Honestly, I don’t like knowing that much detail because I feel part of the beauty of an amazing fantasy is leaving a little left unanswered especially about the origins of a fantasy world.  For example, J.K. Rowling describes a hidden world of witches and wizards but she never attempts in the narrative to explain where the first witch and wizard came from.  I think if she had, it would lose a lot of it’s magic.  Laini Taylor literally answers all the questions and to be fair she did foreshadow this plot in the previous books so it is nice that she didn’t just abandon it.  But I felt like the story would have worked much better without that final subplot because I felt like the plot really dragged through those last 100 pages.

Overall, it was a very satisfying conclusion to my favorite series but I was not a fan of that final subplot about the origins of the world because I felt it was unnecessary.

Content Rating: Medium, for a few suggestive scenes and some language.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor

Hi there! I'm a writer of fantasy books for young people, but my books can be enjoyed by adults as well. My 'Dreamdark' books, Blackbringer (2007) and Silksinger (2009) are about faeries -- not dainty little flowery things, but warrior-faeries who battle devils. My first young adult book, Lips Touch, is a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award! It's creepy, sensual supernatural romance. . . about kissing. I am also an artist with a licensed gift product line called "Laini's Ladies."

Book Review: Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike

Book Review: Life After Theft by Aprilynne PikeLife After Theft by Aprilynne Pike
Published: April 1, 2013
Format: eBook (352 pages)
Genres: Retelling, Supernatural, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

 
Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto.

No one can see or hear Kimberlee except Jeff, so--in hopes of bringing an end to the snarkiest haunting in history--he agrees to help her complete her "unfinished business."

Clash meets sass in this uproarious modern-day retelling of Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel.
3 Stars

Without it saying so in the summary that Life After Theft was a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I would have never known.  It was a very loose retelling since instead of saving people’s life, the main character Jeff is returning people’s stuff.  The setting did a great job of being updated and contemporary, but I didn’t think this was a great retelling.  The stickers with red flowers on them that Jeff put on the stuff he was returning was really the only tie-in to The Scarlet Pimpernel that I could see.  It was more like Mean Girls meets the 1990’s film Ghost Dad that starred Bill Cosby (yes I watched that show all the time as a kid).  I compare it to Mean Girls because these girls in the book were awful to each.  Just awful.  And the reason when we finally find out didn’t really justify to mean the extreme hate these girls had.  I can’t even remember what it was.

The voice of the main character Jeff was very well written and fun to read.  He was snarky and funny.  The plot was a little bland and didn’t move along that fast, but the characters were interesting enough that it kept me turning the pages.  I was also curious about why these girls seemed to hate each other so much and that kept me reading as well even though I didn’t really like the reason when I found out.

Overall, it was a quick, fun read with interesting characters but not that great as a retelling.

Content Rating: Medium, for swearing, crude language, teen sex (that fades to black), and teen drinking.  It was actually quite a lot of content and it bothered me a little.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Aprilynne Pike

Aprilynne Pike

Aprilynne Pike is the critically acclaimed, internationally and #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Wings series. She has been spinning stories since she was a child with a hyper-active imagination. At the age of twenty she received her BA in Creative Writing from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. Since then she has worked as a waitress, a restaurant manager, a slush-pile reader, an editor, a childbirth educator, and a doula.

When not writing, Aprilynne can usually be found out running; she also enjoys singing, acting, and (of course!) reading books about magic and kissing. Aprilynne lives in Arizona with her husband and four kids; she is enjoying the sunshine.

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Book Review: Reached by Ally Condie

Book Review: Reached by Ally CondieReached by Ally Condie
Series: Matched #3
Published: November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover (512 pages)
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

 
One young woman has raged against those who threaten to keep away what matters most—family, love, choice. Her quiet revolution is about to explode into full-scale rebellion. With exquisite prose, the emotionally gripping conclusion to the international–bestselling Matched trilogy returns Cassia, Ky, and Xander to the Society to save the one thing they have been denied for so long - the power to choose.
4 Stars

Spoiler free even if you haven’t read the first book in this series. 

“But we do find answers in beauty, more often than not.” – Ally Condie, Reached pg 507

More poetic writing from the lovely Ally.  In the final book of the Matched trilogy, we get a lot of questions answered, like how Cassia became immune to the red tablet.  But Ally doesn’t answer everything which is what makes this book stick with me.  In fact, when she signed my book she wrote “Remember – it’s all right to wonder…” I’m still wondering about the Otherlands…

We also get to learn where the Rising came from. Each of the narrators work in a different part of the Rising so we can see all sides of it.  I felt like there was more plot in this book than the other two in the series. I flew through this book in only 3 days (which is fast for me).  This is not a fast, action-filled plot but I loved how it still surprised me along the way.

All of the characters are reaching for something.  Some of them make it and some of them don’t.  I loved how significant the title was to the whole story.  The colors red, green, and blue are woven throughout the narrative, tying the whole thing together in a beautiful way.

 “I realize now how much courage it takes to choose the life you want, whatever it might be.” –  Ally Condie, Reached pg 471

Cassia doesn’t defeat the Society in a huge, explosive way.  She defeats it in a very subtle and personal way which I found very moving.

Overall, a beautifully written dystopian full of depth that I enjoyed.

Content Rating: Everyone.

About Ally Condie

Ally Condie

Ally Condie is the author of the international bestseller MATCHED, and its sequel, CROSSED. A former English teacher (who still keeps her license current, just in case!), she lives with her husband and four children outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, writing, running, and listening to her husband play guitar.

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Book Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Book Review: Incarnate by Jodi MeadowsIncarnate by Jodi Meadows
Series: Newsoul #1
Published: January 2, 2013
Format: eBook (374 pages)
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Source: Library

 
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why. Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society....
3 Stars

Incarnate is about a girl named Ana who lives in a world full of people that always get reincarnated except for her.  She’s never been born before and frankly no one knows where the crap she came from.  And no one likes her either.  It sounds like an exciting start to a book which is why I was so surprised that I found this book slow and the characters boring.  Sam was the most boring character of all.  Apparently being 5000 years old makes you dreadfully dull.  He seems to have no faults, he never gets surprised or shows emotion to anything until almost the end of the book, but by then it was too late because I could have cared less about him.  The plot did not have much going on.  A lot of the story focuses on Ana and Sam’s relationship which would have been interesting if I had cared about Sam.  There is a very anti-climactic fight scene but in the grand sceme of things, nothing really happens.

This book would have gotten 2 stars if the ending hadn’t been good.  We finally get some interesting conflict towards the end.  I thought the idea of living walls was very new and creative and also creepy.  I was full of questions and theories by the time I closed the book, so I will most likely be picking up the rest of the books in the series eventually.  My biggest question that was conveniently never brought up was if animals were reincarnated, too.  This led to my theory that I have.  I think that Ana used to be a butterfly. Like, literally a butterfly.

Overall, this was one of those books that redeems itself at the end with some interesting conflict and ideas, but I had to plow through 300 pages of boring Sam to get there.

Content Rating: Medium, for some mentions of violence and some kissing.

About Jodi Meadows

Jodi Meadows

Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy (her cat), and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut.

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