Friday, January 23, 2015

The Assassin's Blade (Novellas 1 and 2) by Sarah J Maas

“Nervous?" he asked, his voice barely audible above the steady slice of his oars through the calm bay.
"No," she lied.
"Me too.”

 photo 18243700_zpsr08g01ds.jpgTitle:The Assassin's Blade (Novellas 1 and 2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: A-
Recommended For: Fans of the Throne of Glass series (obviously!) and fans of The Young Elites and Graceling
Source: Library e-book

One-sentence review: A great way to better understand assassin Celaena of the Throne of Glass series, but these two novellas are not necessarily imperative to the series overall. 

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

Why has it taken me so long to get into Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series?! It has quickly become one of my absolute favorites. I'll be honest, I think it was the cheesy covers that swayed me from reading sooner, they seem too high fantasy for me. I tend to enjoy books and series with fantastical elements but considering myself a "fantasy" enthusiast just felt too Dungeons-and-Dragons for me or something. However, this series has definitely changed my mind and attitude! If loving high fantasy is wrong, I don't want to be right.

The Assassin's Blade is not technically the first book in the series and it's not the first book I read. I began my obsession with Celaena Sardothien with book one: Throne of Glass. However, The Assassin's Blade is a book consisting of five prequel novellas that I read to better understand Celaena's character before moving forward with the rest of the series. I've decided to give each novella a mini-review because you can definitely read them stand-alone or not at all. Hopefully my reviews will help you decide if they're worth your time.

This compilation centers on Celaena Sardothien, the realm of Adarlan's most notorious assassin and, unbeknownst to most,  merely a teenage girl. Orphaned and trained at a young age by her master, Arobynn Hamel, Celaena trusts no one, not even the assassins in her guild. Each novella follows Celaena on a mission she must complete and gives the reader better insight into her background for the full series.

Novella 1: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord
In this novella, the reader is introduced to many of the assassins who are part of Celaena's guild, including her master Arobynn and the infamous Sam. Arobynn sends Celaena and Sam on a mission to meet with the Pirate Lord. What they think is a simple collections mission turns into a battle of conscience as Celaena and Sam learn Arobynn wants to get into the slave trade.

I admit I mostly wanted to read these novellas to learn about Sam! He is mentioned lightly in Throne of Glass and I had to learn who he is. While my appetite for knowledge was somewhat satiated, overall this novella was a huge disappointment and I could have skipped it. Celaena and Sam are rivals for Arobynn's attention and while this novella does show how their similar moral compasses bring them closer, overall it was dull and I was happy for it to end. The Pirate Lord was very one-dimensional and there was really nothing else to help me through this one. I enjoyed learning about Celaena's heart for the oppressed, but I didn't have any breakthrough moments reading this.

Novella 2: The Assassin and the Healer
The second prequel novella takes place as Celaena is on her way to the desert for her punishment for her actions in the first novella. While staying at a disheveled inn at a poor port town while waiting for her ship, Celaena seeks adventure by teaching a sorry barmaid how to fight for her safety and fight for a better life. There isn't much more to say about this one which is why it's another novella I would have skipped. Again, we learn about Celaena's empathy for the poor, lowly and defenseless. We also see how she is no-nonsense even when helping people. But again, I didn't find anything groundbreaking in this novella. The only way I think I'll be happy I read it is if I run into any of these characters in the future of this series.

If you're thinking you definitely don't plan on reading these novellas at all after my unenthused reviews, don't lose hope because next week I'll be talking about the other novellas in this compilation that bring a lot more hope to whether or not you should read!

Friday, January 16, 2015

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

You don't mention death when it's hovering near someone you love. You don't want to attract the reaper's attention.

 photo 13138635_zps73bd565b.jpgTitle:These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Genre:YA Fantasy
Rating: B+
Recommended For: Fans of space adventure romance
Source: Own hardback copy

One-sentence review: This futuristic novel set in space starts as a space ship version of Titanic, progresses to a very lengthy survival story of a guy and girl full of tons of sexual tension on an unknown planet.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

These Broken Stars is a novel set in space written by two authors, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Sixteen-year old Lilac is the galaxy's sweetheart, the daughter of the most wealthy and power space engineer who built the "indestructable" Icarus space ship. On the ship, Lilac meets Tarver, a young major in the galaxy's military who is well known for an act of valor. When the indestructible ship is knocked out of orbit and Lilac and Tarver find themselves in an escape pod together, they must use each others skills to survive and hope to find a way home to their families.

I had a love-hate relationship with this book through and through. I wanted to read it because the authors were having an event and I wanted to go meet them, but when I first started the book it was really difficult for me to get into it. I think I credit this to this book being co-authored. There are just too many words and not enough explanation in those words. I found myself really having difficulty understanding Lilac and Tarver's world, there was little structure and readers are just plunged in. This wouldn't be so bad if I didn't feel like the story moved so slowly to begin with.

That said, I'm glad I finished the book anyway because once Lilac and Tarver find themselves on an unknown planet, things pick up reasonably well and the book becomes a nail-biter at times. I think the romance was pretty cheesy because both characters dislike each other soooo much which makes it soooo obvious how things turn out, but it worked out. I ended up liking the characters more than I expected and really cared about how things turned out for them, which encouraged me to keep reading.

One factor that I'm undecided about is that absolutely anything can happen in this book. This is the future, these characters are on uncharted territory with any possibility of lifeforms or unknown territory, which made the story very fascinating with many opportunities for things to go wrong. However, sometimes I felt the authors pushed this too far and I lost my trust in them (if you read this book you'll know what I mean and you'll have to tell me how you feel!).

It may sound like I had more negative things to say about this book than positive, but I think it's the perfect example of how someone's favorite book is someone else's least favorite book. While I didn't care for the writing style and high fantasy, I did love the adventure and overall story. I think this book is so different that there could be debates on it being the best or worst book. Either way, I found that it was worth the read and I am excited to read the new companion, This Shattered World! It also didn't hurt that the authors were so nice when I met them. :) Did I mention I got to meet Marie Lu, too?!

 photo IMG_20150105_225254_zpsru9x7kvu.jpg  photo IMG_20150105_225711_zps4t3dfbol.jpg

Have you read These Broken Stars? What did you think?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

“You’re bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s ON YOU to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”

 photo 13526165_zps77f8957e.jpgTitle: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Genre: Contemporary, Comedic Mystery
Rating: A-
Recommended For: Fans of smart, witty, writing with a splash of mystery
Source: Library e-book

One-sentence review: A very colorful, well-written (albeit long) story of a fifteen-year-old girl's plight to find her eccentric and missing mother after a series of strange events.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is one of those huge-books-of-the-year-they-came-out that I missed the boat on but it's cute cover kept calling my name (And don't act like you've never picked a book by its cover!). Right from the start the clever writing and wit reeled me in and delivered a wonderful conclusion to the year as my last book of 2014.

Maria Semple's critically acclaimed novel is the story about 15-year-old Bee's hunt to find her mother after she mysteriously disappears before their family trip to Antarctica. This book is divided into different sections that each consist of clues Bee has accumulated to help her solve her mother's mystery. From emails between her mother and her remote personal assistant to emails between mothers at school who hate Bernadette, Bee has everything she needs to solve the mystery of where her mother went - but can she? Is her mom even able to be found?

This book is really long. That's not a terrible thing because the writing is so well done and it kept me laughing despite the serious content of a missing person. However, if it weren't for Semple's witty writing, I would have probably not finished this book. It takes a really long time to even know the circumstances that lead to Bernadette being missing and some people might not have the patience for that. I took a few breaks reading this book because of it, but all that said, I'm glad that I finished!

This book is so well-crafted that I feel terrible ranting about it's length and the time it takes to get anywhere. It is still entertaining, although the book at the end barely resembles the book that you began reading. The pieces Semple puts together to bring a final product is worth the effort. I especially enjoyed the voices in this book; from the crazy private school moms and Bernadette herself, to Bee's Microsoft exec dad and Bee herself. Everyone stands out so well which contributes to the high entertainment of the novel.

While it's a long book that might not be for everyone's attention span, I'm glad I finished readig Where'd You Go Bernadette because it was a well-written and thoroughly entertaining novel that's unlike anything you might expect. I haven't been reading a ton of Contemporary lately, so that might also contribute to my lack of attention span. ;)