Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: The Iron Queen

The Iron Queen (The Iron Fey, #3)The Iron Queen (The Iron Fey #3)
Julie Kagawa
Paranormal fantasy

My name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's
 sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.

You can read my reviews for books 1 and 2 here.  If you've read those you'll see that each time, I came at these books expecting to love them but then was disappointed. 

The cover is beautiful, the premise is original, everyone seems to adore the series. And yet, I could only just tolerate the first two. However, The Iron Queen redeemed the series for me- I don't love it yet, but I can tell that I will by the end of book 4.  

Meghan started off as annoying as ever, treating Puck like trash but then running back to him for help the second she needed him. Her concerns were ASH ASH ASH. 

But then, miraculously almost, she experienced what we call 'character development'. ROUND OF APPLAUSE PLEASE, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. Took her three darn books. Seriously, Ms. Kagawa. She starts to care about BOTH of her companions and the kingdoms relying on her, and goes lengths to secure her human father's safety and mental health. She takes charge when she can and yields results. It was fun and refreshing, if a little unbelievable at times when she beats people with way more skill and experience than her at sword fighting. Whatever- I'll take whatever improvement I can get.

Ash opens up much more, and we can see that there's A LITTLE BIT OF PERSONALITY in that 'piece of ice he calls a heart' (Thank you, Puck). Speaking of Puck, he (and I) finally begin to accept that Ash and Meghan will be together and he stops trying to woo her. 

Hands down best character is Grimalkin. When the answer has been obvious to me for 150 pages Grimalkin loses his patience with Meghan and says, annoyed

"Really, human. Sometimes I despair." 



And he goes on throughout the book with many sarcastic remarks, much like me in this review. 

One last problem. The novel contradicted itself in some places and just plain didn't make sense in others. Like how a certain person survived in the end? Whaaa

Okay, okay. RANT OVER. In the good, I did enjoy this novel in spite of myself. I guess that's why I continued all the way to book #3. But the best news is-


I could throw a party. 
Rating: 3.5 stars. If you know how to cut pictures, please enlighten me.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha 
Arthur Golden
Historical fiction

A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel presents with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction - at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful - and completely unforgettable.

I'd like to focus on one word in the above synopsis- unforgettable. In my memory, I don't think I used that to describe any book I reviewed here (granted, Harry Potter and Percy Jackson I read before), so I hope it has the desired effect when I say Memoirs of a Geisha was UNFORGETTABLE. 

Recommended to me by a really good friend who just said he knows I'll love it, I came at it with no expectations, good or a bad. I was sucked in before I even figured out if it was an actual memoir or not. The author managed to get into the head of a young Japanese girl and follow her story over the years in a way I didn't realize was possible- as if Sayuri was sitting across from me and telling me the story herself. Her personality shone through in every word I read- and boy is she classy. 

The story was the most compelling I've read in a long time. The whole week I was reading it I was just waiting for free time to see what happened next. The setting and the plot are fascinating- Japan before and after WWII, and more specifically, a Geisha district. I know little about Japanese culture, and had never before known about the Geisha system. In the beginning I thought I understood, that they were basically entertaining prostitutes. As you read you understand that that is completely untrue, and their importance and self-respect is evident on the pages. 

I quickly fell in love with Sayuri, with Gion and with all it's inhabitants. I was amazed at how she viewed the world, and by her resilience in the face of troubles. It was refreshing how the book was told in hindsight, with our narrator adding in details she found out later and some interesting tidbits from her older life in New York. Sayuri's story wasn't scary or heartbreaking, but somehow stayed with me like no other book has before.

I recommend this book to everyone from teens up. It was absolutely UNFORGETTABLE.
Rating: 5 stars. I apologize, they're being wonky today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: Captured Again

Captured Again (Let Me Go #2)Captured Again (Let Me Go #2)
L.L Akers
New Adult

Ink doesn't fade, but bad memories do. Gabby, Olivia and Emma have stumbled through the ashes of their past. They've happily moved on when disaster strikes again, and one heart breaks when another stops beating--forever. Olivia must help her twin sister, Gabby, keep her tentative grip on reality when the happily ever after she and Jake fought so hard for is threatened.

And Emma's all grown up these days. Now that she's a junior in college, she's determined to hide her old ink and write a new story. Anyone who remembers that girl she used to be is where they belong--in her past. However, after a rough night, she's detoured by Dusty... he's almost too good to be true. He's hot. He's sexy. But the smoldering gray eyes don't hide the fact he's not Emma's typical bad boy. He's a cop. One who's always colored between the lines--until the day he arrests Emma, the troubled girl from long-ago with the dragonfly tattoo. But she's not a girl anymore. Dusty falls hard for her fiery blue eyes and spitfire personality. For her, he's willing to risk getting burnt.

In hot pursuit of Emma, Dusty enters a dangerous game of hide and seek. Emma's stubbornness and refusal to surrender may just get one of them killed, before he's able to capture her heart.

I featured the first book in this series, Let Me Go, back in September and hosted an interview with LL Akers. You can read it here. It occurred to me now that I never reviewed it, because my blog tour stop didn't require it - but basically, I really liked it and it kept me thinking for awhile after I finished. I'm happy to say I loved Captured Again! 

Book #2 takes up a few good years since book #1 left off. I loved getting to read about Emma as an adult, and this time the book centers on her. I also loved seeing Olivia with her life on track- in general, the girls' lives are much better than when they were younger, and that took courage and hard work that was beautiful to see.

You think a book all about girls won't make you swoon? Think again. Dusty alone made me all smiley. And towards the end a certain someone shows up... warning: There are some steamy, steamy scenes(;

Gabby is not doing well. However, unlike other books that feature troubled heroines, she isn't whiny at all and lives and learns and is, in other words, a survivor. (Survival is a running theme in the series)

Lastly, some cover love. Just how gorgeous is this novel?? 

Highly recommended!!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: Crossed

Crossed (Matched #2)
Ally Condie

The Society chooses everything. 
The books you read. 
The music you listen to. 
The person you love. 
Yet for Cassia the rules have changed. Ky has been taken and she will sacrifice everything to find him. 
And when Cassia discovers Ky has escaped to the wild frontiers beyond the Society there is hope.
But on the edge of society nothing is as it seems...

A rebellion is rising.
And a tangled web of lies and double-crosses could destroy everything.

I read Matched before I started blogging, so no review to link you to. Basically, the first time I read it like four years ago I was like nice, but.... blah. I recently reread Matched so I could read Crossed and I really liked it! I wasn't able to pinpoint why exactly, but I think it's because being older now I don't expect the booms and bangs as much and a quieter struggle seems more realistic to me. The first time I, like everyone else, thought not enough happened. 

Structurally speaking, the Matched trilogy is a bit like The Hunger Games to me- Book 1: Girl gets personal reason to despise government. Book 2: How Girl makes her way to the rebellion. Book 3: Rebellion. Of course, this is only structure-wise, and obviously I haven't read Reached (book #3) yet but that's what it looks like it's gonna be. 

So! A lot more happens in Crossed. More interesting characters are introduced (something I thought Matched was lacking in) and more ground is covered, literally and figuratively. Ky's POV is introduced which I thought would be more fun than it was. He sounded a lot like Cassia, but we learned more about him and his past, which is good. Pacing was not- because of both POVs, it was almost like we rehashed everything twice. 

There were no major surprises that are coming to mind now, but Indie made for quite an unpredictable character (even though I didn't like her much). 

About the love triangle: Alas, no modern YA series seems to be complete without it (*sarcasm*). First time I read Matched years ago I was Team Ky. My last reading of it made me firmly Team Xander, and I remained on that side all throughout Crossed no matter how much I love Ky. 

In my experience with love triangles, there's usually one who the book is kinda telling you will be The Chosen One, and the other who you really love but you know won't be it. (e.g Edward and Jacob, Jace and Simon) In Matched, it seemed to me like we were being pushed toward Ky, and in Crossed the author did a 180 and started dancing for Xander. This really didn't bother me because it made it an even fight. I have a feeling Xander will be The One, for reasons I will not disclose so as not to spoil you(;

Rating: 3.5 stars


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesday's with Morrie
Mitch Albom
Inspirational memoir

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly 20 years ago. Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn't you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you? Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man's life. Knowing he was dying of ALS - or motor neurone disease - Morrie visited Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final class: lessons in how to live. This is a chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie's lasting gift with the world.

So this book is in every bookstore's recommended shelf and probably discussed in every book club. My grandmother gave this one to me and one of my best friends loved it, so I was really looking forward to reading Tuesdays with Morrie.

I'll be honest- I was kinda disappointed.

Maybe it was because I was raised on these life lessons since birth, maybe because I read a lot, but the novel didn't strike a cord with me. After every big revelation I was like, well, duh. The things were a bit cliche- well-known defects in American culture. (That's another thing. Not living in North America helps when it comes to perspective on world issues and life in general.) Also, being religious, I already knew and understood some ideas that Morrie brought up.

However, there were some aspects I liked.

The story- Mitch goes from starving-musician-on-the-streets-of-NY-who-hopes-to-be-a-star to rich-journalist-who-spends-his-life-trying-to-make-more-money-with-a-job-he-doesn't-even-like. Sound familiar? I would hazard to guess that was the humble beginning of many a businessman. I thought it was nice to see that narrative after the fact- as in, the story isn't about Morrie counseling the poor confused young adult against this course. After it all, student and teacher reunite and talk about mistakes made and what forward. Not a typical plotline (it's real life! As stated above, Tuesdays with Morrie is a memoir) at all- no epic romance or medical miracle.

The POV- the author does not put his own words in quote- just Morrie's. I'm not sure how to explain this to you, just flip through the book and see for yourself. Anyway, it emphasizes Morrie and minimizes Mitch, which I think was the desired effect.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: Sarah's Key

Sarah's KeySarah's Key
Tatiana De Rosnay
Historical Fiction, Contemporary

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting French families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard-their secret hiding place-and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.

Sixty Years Later: Sarah's story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future.

I know what you're thinking- but Esty, how can it be historical AND a contemporary? So Sarah's Key alternates between the story of Sarah Starzinsky in July '42 and the journalist Julia Jarmond (say that five times fast with a French accent) in modern day Pareee. 

It's a very famous book with a very famous plotline- it's right in the synopsis, so it's not even a spoiler. Little do they know, that incident is just the beginning of both Sarah's and Julia's journey. At first I thought putting in the modern day person who all of a sudden developes a close interest to an event and telling the story through her is a bit cliche. I was pleasently surprised to discover that it's more like Julia's story with her deriving inspiration from Sarah.

Throughout the time I read this wonderful novel, I felt myself drawn to these characters- I wanted so bad for them to catch a break and for everything to be okay. I knew nearly nothing about the Vil de Hiv roundup of the French Jews, and found the whole book a very educating experience. It wasn't written heavily, I'd like to add. However, if you're fully able to comprehend the horrors of the event, it will weigh on your heart, as it should. I firmly believe the tragic holocausts of the past musn't be shrugged off because they're emotionally  hard for us- it could just as easily been any one of us, and we owe it to them.

Pacing was a little slow for my taste. Other than that, beautiful writing. 

I'm currently in the States for the summer and been to Barnes and Noble. Talk about tears of emotion. Visiting family and friends all over, and unfortunately that means hours and hours of planes, buses, and trains. On the bright side, lots of reading time!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves and The Sunday Post are weekly memes hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

From Netgalley:



I think that's everything I got recently. Can't be bothered to go up to my room and check. Waaaayy too tired (As you can see, I didn't even put the titles and authors in) My review of City of Heavenly Fire is already up, just scroll down or search. Hope you guys have a wonderful weekend, and leave me your posts in the comments!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Weekly Spotlight

Armageddon and the 4th Timeline         
 Don Mardak       
In a world faced with violence and the potential of cataclysmic annihilation, what if the only means to save mankind existed in an alternate reality?
We live in uncertain times. The underlying threat of nuclear proliferation and the probable spread of weapons of mass destruction exist throughout the world. Add to that a collective consciousness that doesn't always agree on religion and the nature of existence, and you have the potential for conflict ending in disaster. Author Don Mardak wrote Armageddon and the 4th Timeline to convince mankind that we do have the power to prevent such an outcome.
Armageddon and the 4th Timeline, is a fast-paced mystical fantasy with three thought-provoking themes: the war on terror and the potential of a nuclear holocaust; travel through time to alter future events; and new-age spiritual principles that affect the way mankind coexists.
Armageddon, Don Mardak's second exciting novel, is a fast-paced adventure through time and space, as mankind faces the enormous specter of uncontrollable and calamitous extinction. The book is a must-read for Truth seekers and those who have been searching for answers to the most basic questions about life and the nature of ultimate reality.

About The Author:

Don Mardak has been a student of Christian mysticism and the Infinite Way writings of Joel S. Goldsmith for more than four decades. He also has conducted classes on Living the Mystical Life, and has been a successful entrepreneur for most of his working years. As the President, CEO, and Chairman of a small public company-International Monetary Systems, or IMS Barter-Mr. Mardak always tried to apply the mystical principles outlined in his books and on his website in his business dealings and relationships. The results have been quite astonishing as, very often, without taking thought, or striving for a specific result, the proper person appeared, or a meaningful event occurred, which made each day a divine spiritual unfoldment. Mr. Mardak tries to communicate these principles in his three books: An Adventure In Mysticism, Armageddon and the 4th Timeline, and Spiritual Healing for Today, Tomorrow, & Beyond. His greatest desire is that those of you who truly are receptive to this message will open yourselves up to the inflow of the Spirit. In that process, you will find answers to your deepest questions which, then, will lead you to your own search for Truth, and ultimately, your personal spiritual destiny. Mr. Mardak lives with his wife Judy in Wisconsin and Florida. They have two grown children and four grandchildren.