Thursday, September 29, 2016

Recreated by Colleen Houck

Title: Recreated (Reawakened #2)
Author: Colleen Houck 
Date Published: August 22nd 2016 
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Ratings: 2 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: 
From Colleen Houck, New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger’s Curse, comes Recreated, the second book in the epic Egyptian-inspired Reawakened series, in which a seventeen-year-old must literally go to hell to save the love of her life.
Lily Young thought traveling across the globe with a reawakened sun prince was a grand adventure. Now she’s about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.
When Amon and Lily part tragically, he transports himself to the Netherworld—what mortals call hell. Tormented by the loss of his one true love, he’d rather suffer in agony during Lily’s mortal years than fulfill his duty to protect humanity.
Heartbroken, Lily seeks refuge on her grandmother’s farm. Yet she can feel Amon’s pain, and she has been having dreams—dreams of Amon continually suffering. For before he departed, Amon gave Lily something very special, an item that connects them even though they are worlds apart. Now Lily must use this object to free him, and to free their realms from darkness and utter chaos. She will do whatever it takes.

Isn't that cover absolutely brilliant?

Sadly the book itself does not hold a candle to the cover. I am terrible disappointed with how this book fails to deliver. The characters were awkward, the plot annoying, and the writing absolutely lifeless. I loved Ms. Houck's Tiger's Curse series, it was fabulous. But all I was thinking while reading this book is what went wrong? 

I think its because the plots are almost completely recycled. Yes, this book is based on Egyptian mythology (and any reference to that made in this book I loved, hence the 2 stars), but it was similar to the books in her previous series in that they follow a formulaic pattern! First the character is presented with a challenge, she goes through some kind of transformation that makes her a bit different from who she was in the last book (either mentally or physically), has to solve/figure out around 2-4 small challenges, then she fights the big "battle", and at the end of the book, just when everything seems resolved she's dragged into another problem. 

Yes, I've heard of the Hero's Journey, and that's pretty much what I described above, but most authors tend to employ it a bit more creatively! There should be more to the story than following this mold, and I think that is exactly the reason I disliked this book so immensely. However, there were bites of Egyptian mythology which I happily gobbled down, and even some of the characters seemed like they could be interesting. One (two?) such character being Lily+Lioness= Sphinx. 

The Sphinx is the only interesting concept in this book. Literally. To explain a bit, in order to save Amon from the Netherworld (in which he inadvertently finds himself in while quitting his "job"), Lily has to turn get turned into a Sphinx, which happens when a spell is cast and Lily kills a lioness. But Lily fails to kill the lioness. Instead, the lioness sacrifices itself, and this complicates everything because now the Lily the Sphinx is now Lily and Lioness the Sphinx. The issue with this is both have to share the same body, and the fight for control plays out well. Another aspect of the book I can say I enjoyed is "meeting" all the characters. We are introduced to some Egyptian gods, better introduced to Amon's brothers, and also a crazy Pixie (which I honestly don't understand, because how in the world does it fit in with Egyptian mythology?) that takes up residence in Lily's head. Along with Lily and the lioness (this being the problem that the book ends with). 

The fight for control between Lioness (aka Tia) and Lily took center stage as the most interesting part of this book. Hearing them converse/argue was fun, and the only time I laughed during this book was because of Tia. I recommend this to those who enjoy Egyptian mythology and haven't read Tiger's Curse, because there is a good chance you will not get tired of the homogeneous plots. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

And I Darken by Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken (Conqueror's Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White 
Publication Date: July 7th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

(this isn't the same cover as the book I read, but this one captures the book better)

Goodreads Blurb:
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

After reading Ms. White's other books, I was shocked at the writing style, characters, and literally everything in this book; I can't believe the person who wrote the Paranormalcy series wrote this book! I think it's impressive that an author can try out and succeed with different styles and different genres, and even though I wasn't a fan of this book, many thoroughly loved it.

My feelings about the book itself are definitely conflicted. On one hand, the plot and characters were really complex, but on the other, they were a bit too complex that it was difficult to understand what was going on.

What I Liked:
* loosely based on history
* Lada was fierce, driven, and downright scary
* Radu was sweet and serious throughout the novel
* Mehmed was mysterious
* the narration was intense and the plot was driven
* there were a lot of historical allusions to the Ottoman Empire that I understood
* the writing style was good

What I Didn't Like:
* the plot was too much (for me), and the descriptions were a bit tedious
* Lada was a little too negative and bitter sometimes
* literally only three characters who were fully developed
* the book skipped the shift in Mehmed, from little kid to king
* role of women/ the stereotype was appropriate to that time period I suppose but it was still silly that Ladu was trying to be "manly" and stifle her feminism

Overall, it was not a fun, light read. It was engrossing and tough. The world they live in is brutal and at times a bit too fantastical. It is harsh and there weren't many positive, happy feelings in this book; I found it to be very dark and as a generally happy person, I found it discomfiting and wanted something a little more light. However, it was written in a time period that was harsh and gritty, so this book was successful in capturing that mood.

I recommend it to fans of historical fiction as well as those who enjoy reading dark, intense stories about thriving when the odds are stacked against you, about losing what makes you human, and about the darkness in all of us. Also, if anyone is interested in Vlad the Impaler, Lada is supposed to be the female version of him.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)
Author: Susan Dennard 
Publication Date: January 5th 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: 
In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.
Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.
Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.
In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
I ended last year with a WoW for this book and sadly after reading over it and comparing my expectations to what it actually turned out to be, I am a bit disappointed. Yes, it was a great book because of the characters, the setting, and the story, but it lacked the depth and presence that characterizes my favorite fantasy novels like ToG and Angelfall. 

  • Loved the idea of elemental magic, very Avatar-like 
  • World building/setting description was good
  • Characters were interesting and had lots of potential (there were so many roles and personalities that were full of foibles)
  • I gave this book 5 stars because it was fast paced and there was SO. MUCH. STUFF. The details, side-stories, descriptions, character interactions, magic, fights, travelling, and more fighting were all so interesting. I don’t think any one of these aspects of the book were developed as much as they could have been, but they were all undeniably interesting and added to the charm of this book.
  • The writing was good and honestly I loved this book even before it came out. Thanks Twitter.
  • The map in the front of the book really piqued my interest and I will continue this series in hopes of discovering the other regions. 

  • with all the build-up and hype, I expected the book to be my fave book ever, but it fell short of an ideal book
  • weak character interaction- there wasn’t much tension/humor in the dialogue between the characters- it seemed to fall short of my expectations
  • elemental magic could have been explained waaay better- I get that it’s a similar idea to Avatar, but it would have been helpful for the author to include how exactly the elemental witches contributed/played a role in society.
  • the history was almost non-existent, I want to know more about Nubrevna, about where Safiya is from, why Safiya has such a high rank but lived like a peasant and how she was unable to help Iseult. The mood and intensity of the book was a little shallow/superficial and it felt like the author was just crafting a pretty story. It wasn’t very meaningful (to me personally).
  • To compare to Throne of Glass, this book didn’t hold a candle to the action, suspense or gravity found in ToG. It had exciting moments, but neither of the heroines pulled off the “badass” vibe like Celaena did.
  • Safiya and Iseult had a strong bond but it wasn’t the best bond I’ve seen in literature… I compare every “best-friend” bond to that between March sisters and I found this one to be lacking.
Main Characters: 
Safiya: Truthwitch (can discern lies from the truth), impulsive, outgoing, loud, and more lively and I guess this book is more "hers" than Iseult's
Iseult: Threadwitch (can see life threads), for the most part acts calm and secretive. She is an outcast and her backstory is heart-wrenching
Merik: Windwitch, the prince of Nubrevna and his role is to help the his country as Admiral of the Nubrevnan navy
Aeduan: Bloodwitch, tries to kill both Safiya and Iseult... but fails every single time. Complicated character, scary at times, and downright confused at others. 

Favorite scene:
I absolutely loved the dancing scene between Safiya and the captain; it was a sort of turning point and heralded a major conflict in this novel. Also, the writing was very descriptive and almost poetic.