Mini Reviews: Beastkeeper, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

More TL:DRs for ya! After these mini-reviews, I’m actually pretty caught up with my reading list. Thank goodness for that!

Beastkeeper has been on my reading list for a while now, and while it didn’t make the Fableulous Retellings podcast discussion, it was still an interesting take on the Beauty and the Beast tale.

I actually watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Netflix and found the movie interesting enough that I wanted to read the book it was based off of. I hadn’t actually known that the book would be in the form of letters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though! I actually loved the epistolary novels I’ve read before, so this was a pleasant read.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

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Murder Most High || The Dazzling Heights Review

Initial Thoughts:

Okay. OKAY. This was actually much better than the last book even with all the random ass drama going around. I will admit I was ready to chuck my speakers out (yes I had this as an audiobook) during all the teacher drama but I calmed down when I realized Rylin had a decent head on her shoulders. The girl death was kind of lackluster though, and could have benefited from more narrative on her part. But more on that later.
SPOILER WARNING: The Dazzling Heights is the second book of the The Thousandth Floor trilogy, so expect spoilers from the first book and possibly some spoilers in this next one.


THE DAZZLING HEIGHTS

by Katharine McGee
HarperCollins, August 2017
YA science fiction
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

New York City, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amid high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…

Leda is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden—even if it means trusting her enemy.

Watt just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good?

When Rylin wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there also means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him…no matter the cost.

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.

I’ll have to hand it to McGee, she knows how to put attention-grabbing passages to good use. I really wanted to know what would happen after the death in the first book, and then another one in this one? Oh yeah, definitely curious. There is a morbid fascination I have to this book and it has drama written all over it.

I did like this book a lot more than the previous one, even though some people *coughAVERYcough* still annoyed the hell out of me. I still have major issues with the whole more-than-brother-sister relationship Avery and Atlas harbor throughout this book. BUT. At least one of them has a modicum of sense by the end of the book. Hint: It’s not Avery, that’s for sure. And honestly, that story was the least interesting. I wonder if there’ll ever be an Atlas POV, though. The fact that he’s such a babe magnet is beyond me, because as Bryce put it, he’s kinda vanilla other than the whole “in-love-with-my-sister” issue. I’d love to see more flavor injected in him, and maybe a POV would fix that.

In other news, things heat up with Leda and Watt, and while I faced this mostly with great amusement (because YES, WATT, let’s make nice with the girl who practically rufied you in the first book…THIS IS TOTALLY NOT OKAY BTW), I am kind of feeling this relationship. It’s almost as toxic as the beginnings of the Blair-Chuck relationship until even that blossomed to something amazing. I’m hoping for something along those lines, because I really liked the interaction they had, especially with Watt being amusing and all. Also, Nadia. I want Nadia in my head, too, if she’s gonna be the voice of sass and sometimes reason.

Dammit, every. Single. Time. It’s a vicious cycle of wanting to watch this show when I bring it up!

I worried over Rylin a lot once she started going to school with the Highliers, and I was definitely sent into a bit of a panic when the whole teacher drama thing started. I’ve been watching Pretty Little Liars recently, and lawdiedee, I was going to flip out if the whole “sexy teacher sleeps with a student” thing was going to go down again. I’m so over this sickening trope, and honestly, the minute my audiobook got to the bit where that skivvy over-confident douchenozzle lip-locked with Rylin, I was prepared to chuck my speakers out the classroom door. (The irony is that I was listening to this AS I WAS CLEANING UP MY CLASSROOM AND OH GOD THE IMAGES ARE DISGUSTING.) All that said, I am hopeful that she’ll make the right choices. I am also a lot hopeful that Cord will snap out of it and do his thing before Rylin well and truly gets snatched up by someone more appropriate.

JUST DO IT CORD.

An addition to the bunch of conniving drama-addled characters is Calliope, whose name isn’t actually Calliope, because she’s a con-woman along with her mother. Frankly, I’m not exactly sure what she adds to the story, because the revelation she finds at the end of the book wasn’t anything new or groundbreaking. Honestly, Watt and Leda had that covered by the end of The Thousandth Floor, and Calliope was, in all respects, a superfluous character. To be honest, we could have gleaned a bit more out of Mariel’s character if they had more of her POV littered in the book. Especially since it was kind of silly to have her show up in the beginning, and then nothing for the longest time until the very end. While I did like Calliope’s narrative tone–she kind of reminded me of a British-speaking Georgina Sparks (from GG of course), all there to make trouble but easily able to disappear from the plot without making any major ripples.

I’ve come to love Georgina after a while…but again, she wasn’t really all important in the grand scheme of things.

So yeah, the drama level is still high up there, and while some were cringe-worthy and overly-dramatic, others actually pick up to become riveting. I would definitely like to finish this trilogy.
3.5 out of 5 cookies!


Have you read this book? What did you think?

A Light at the End || Ruin and Rising Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Well hot damn. From my thoughts about the last book, I honestly didn’t think I’d be won over so well and truly with the love story that became super pervasive in all three books. I mean. I GET that it had to happen, because where would the poetry be that tied all three books together? What I didn’t get, until now, was that it FITS. I get it now. I understand this ending.

And hot damn. That didn’t make it any better. I still cried for all the loss. I still cried for Aleksander. And I totally blame Bardugo for making me an emotional wreck throughout this entire book.

WARNING: This is the third book of the Grisha trilogy, so expect spoilers from the first two books, and possible spoilers for the third book (because how could I NOT talk about the shit that happens in this third book…).


RUIN AND RISING

by Leigh Bardugo
Square Fish, June 2017
YA fantasy, romance
Rated: 5/5 cookies

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

I will admit I went into this last book apprehensive and a bit afraid of what I was going to find at the end of it. Like many trilogies I’ve read, I normally go between loving the conclusion and wishing I’d just stuck to the first book because I was fine with how it ended then. This is probably one of the reasons why I am not so quick (okay, code for “I suck at”) to pick up a sequel or a continuation of a series. To me, standalones are still awesome.

But Bardugo spared no punches in this book. Ruin and Rising quite possibly beat out Shadow and Bone as my favorite of the trilogy, and I say this grudgingly because not only does it show one of my favorite characters in quite possibly the lowest point in his life, but it also slightly humanizes one of the worst villains ever. It was both painful and sad to read, and yet…

Hell, I read this whole book in two sittings. That’s got to be the record to beat this year. (This may not be a big deal for many readers, but again…I READ LIKE A TURTLE OKAY.)

The book pretty much follows a couple of months after Alina goes underground. Imprisoned by the Apparat in the White Cathedral, Alina is still recovering from a deadly battle that had occurred between her and the Darkling at the end of Siege and Storm. Unfortunately, with Alina mortally wounded, the royals of Ravka missing/possibly dead, and all but 12 of the Grisha Second Army decimated, it comes as no surprise that the Darkling has taken his rule over a ruined Os Alta. Already the situation is bleak, so it stands to reason that things can only get better, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. If anything, things could possibly stand to get even worse. AND IT DOES.

But let me not dwell too much on the horrible bits and get to some of the lighter things I enjoyed about this book. (Hah, lighter things…)

“You are on your knees,” I said. “We are not negotiating.”

His lips thinned, but after a moment, he dipped his chin in assent.

Alina is definitely sassier now. I love this change in her. I love that it’s a continuing process. She went from a girl I had no patience for, to someone I respected. Yes, this comes in the territory of having great power, and in my mind, as I read the story, I was pretty sure there was going to be a way to nix Alina by the end. Alina was a special snowflake at the beginning, but to be honest, I ceased thinking of her as one because she definitely worked at being the person that she is by Ruin and Rising.

“I’ve never understood this taste for otkazat’sya. Is it because you thought you were one of them for so long?”

“I had a taste for you, once.” His head snapped up. He hadn’t expected that. Saints, it was satisfying.

And honestly, someone who could say that confidently to a man that constantly dogged her throughout Siege and Storm and Shadow and Bone deserves every respect.

Which brings me to the matter with the Darkling. What I loved about this trilogy is that Bardugo created a villain that had gone so far that redemption–if there is to be any–is absolutely unfeasible. In the first book, the Darkling was someone I sympathized with (I do have a weakness for Tall, Dark, Handsomes after all…). In the second, I cringed with disappointment because holy hell, Darkles, did you have to do that to Genya and Baghra?! By the third book, I knew–and I was ready to see–that the Darkling was too far gone into the Dark Side. Darth Vader would be proud. Erm. Wrong fandom, I get it.

And yet…Bardugo still found a way to humanize him. She gave him a name. My copy of the damn book includes a short story prelude to the entire trilogy. (Which I haven’t read, because I’m still emotionally scarred and I am not ready to cry some more over someone who completely broke bad). She gave him a heartbreaking backstory. By the end of it, as much as I agreed with how it ended, I still sympathized with a lonely boy who thought the only way to belong was to forge a new world where everyone could belong. Best intentions…but again, not the way to go about things, Darkles.

Oh god. The Darkling IS Walter WHITE. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

(I won’t get into the thing with Baghra…I’m still crying over the thing with Baghra. I don’t think my sorrow over Baghra is ever going to get better.)

There’s poetry in the romance. In my review of Siege, I’d mentioned that I was not really seeing the ship that was clearly Bardugo’s endgame. I still saw Mal and Alina as mismatched, Mal constantly does a 180-turn in his personality (and he does this again in this book), and Alina–as strong as she’d become–is still hung up over a boy she’d grown up with. The love story itself does flesh itself out in this book, and the twist that concerns Mal kind of adds to the drama by the end, but all in all, I thought the resolution regarding Alina and Mal’s relationship was done well. It’s honestly not my preference, but to each her own.

“Toss him over,” Zoya said. “Break his heart cruelly. I will gladly give our poor prince comfort, and I would make a magnificent queen.”

Frankly, I rather agree with Zoya. Might have to do with that Lantsov emerald, NOT GONNA LIE.

But it mostly has to do with how much I loved this book with Nikolai in my life.

“I saw the prince when I was in Os Alta,” said Ekaterina. “He’s not bad looking.”

“Not bad looking?” said another voice. “He’s damnably handsome.”

Luchenko scowled. “Since when–”

“Brave in battle, smart as a whip…An excellent dancer…Oh, and an even better shot.”

Like Siege and Storm, I was always riveted by bits where the Lantsov prince walks into the scene. He always comes off with flair, and even in his darkest moments (and ohhhh boy, did those send me in a tizzy), there is still that bit of hope I had that he would eventually get through.

(It did, however, help that I knew he’d be around for the sequels–hell, there’s a duology about him coming up and I cannot WAIT.)

“You never know,” said Nikolai. “I’ve been busy. I might have some surprises in store for the Darkling yet.”

“Please tell me you plan to dress up as a volcra and jump out of a cake.”

Oh gods. I just realized the foreshadowing in that quote.

“There’s not much to do underground besides train.”

“I can think of a few more interesting ways to spend one’s time.”

“Is that supposed to be innuendo?”

“What a filthy mind you have. I was referring to puzzles and the perusal of edifying texts.”

But yes, without Nikolai, I don’t think I would have read this book faster than I did.

5 out of 5 cookies! Honestly, Alina’s story could not have been tied up better, and as much as I would have loved to see her feature more in later books, I think this poor girl needs a rest. I’m mostly ready for Genya and David and Zoya to rock out in their new roles. And I’m most definitely ready to see Ravka flourish under its new king.


Did you read this book? What did you think?

Damn Those Second Book Syndromes || Siege and Storm Review

Initial Thoughts: 

UGHHHHH SECOND BOOK SYNDROME WHY YOU DO THIS. There was a lot of development of characters and world building, and the plot doesn’t fully escalate until the end, which then led to the drama and hijinks with Mal and Alina–which led to a lot of bookrage (because the former refused to change and the latter finally grew a backbone and why couldn’t she have just slapped the asshole to begin with?!).

Honestly, I’m still broken up over Genya. I don’t think I can emotionally recover from that.

Okay breathe.

THAT BEING SAID. HELLO SASSY NIKOLAI YOU CAN QUEEN ME ANYTIME JUST LET ME SUMMON THE SUN FOR YOU GIVE ME A MOMENT HOW HARD COULD IT BE.

*SPOILERS WARNING* As this is the second book of the trilogy, expect some spoilers from the first book, Shadow and Bone.


SIEGE AND STORM

by Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt and Company, June 2013
YA fantasy, romance
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

So once again, a fire had to be lit under my ass to get this book read, and mostly because my friend started a rant on it. I can understand why, though, because as far as Siege and Storm went, it definitely paled in comparison to the first book, Shadow and Bone.

BUT. I’m getting ahead of myself.

For all intense and purposes, I am still adoring the world of the Grisha, of the Corporalnik and the Etherealki and the Fabrikators. I loved seeing Ravka being fleshed out in bits and pieces, and the stories and myths Bardugo added into the plot? Fantastic. I even absolutely loved the addition of the technology, because the world changes and even the magic of the Small Sciences is beginning to waver in light of the world of guns and metal.

The story pretty much continues in Alina’s POV, some months after her rather reckless escape from the Darkling in the Fold. Clouded by guilt and repressed in her ordinary, Grisha-hidden life, Alina is not at all satisfied with her station. She is still yearning to become more than what she is, and this becomes a strain in her relationship with Mal. Fortunately, not much drama of guilt is prolonged, because just when she starts feeling bad for herself and resenting her life with Mal away from Ravka, she’s once again snatched by the very guy she hoped had not survived the attack in the Fold.

Which brings me to the characters, because what I loved about Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone was the depth she put in her villain and secondary characters. Genya and the Darkling had been my favorites even through this second book, but we’ve got so many more that were introduced in Siege and Storm that totally stole my squeeing heart.

I’m totally talking about Nikolai Lantsov, duh.

“And there’s no way I’m leaving you alone with Prince Perfect.”

“So you don’t trust me to resist his charms?”

“I don’t even trust myself. I’ve never seen anyone work a crowd the way he does. I’m pretty sure the rocks and trees are getting ready to swear fealty to him.”

This. This quote pretty much defines everything about Nikolai. I have a weakness for cads and pirates, and Nikolai isn’t only that, but he’s ticked off the “confident,” “strategic,” “ambitious,” and “clever and flirtatious” boxes, too. I really loved his banter with Alina and the other characters, and honestly, I want more of him in the last book.

“And I’m notoriously immune to tales of woe. So unless your story involves a talking dog, I don’t want to hear it. Does it?”

“Does it what?”

“Involve a talking dog.”

“No,” I snapped.

I love him so much.

One of the standout character arcs, however, does go to Alina’s growth as a person. There’s a reason why I have this fondness for the Darkling, and it’s because he’s. Not. WRONG. What he’s told Alina, right from the very beginning, is that she’s got a power like his, and to run away from this just to live a normal life is wasting it, which is a detriment to the country. Again, HE’S NOT WRONG. The biggest difference between him and, say, Nikolai, is that the Darkling is cruel. Alright, so he is.

“I’ll return to Os Alta with you, and I’ll consider helping you make a bid for the throne.” I took a deep breath. “But I want the Second Army.”

And eventually, Alina starts to think similarly. She gains ambition. She effing grows a spine, you guys, I love it.

“I’m not a symbol,” I snapped. “And I’m tired of being a pawn.”

That. That right there is indication that Alina is coming to her own.

Now, that being said, I will admit that the book works slowly once everyone gets back to Os Alta. There was a lot of action in the beginning, and the end escalated so quickly that I’m still emotionally torn by the events (I AM STILL UPSET OVER GENYA YOU GUYS WHY) that happened afterwards. This didn’t really bother me as much, because I always expect the middle book to be the build-up and bridge to the conclusion story.

Unfortunately, it also amounted to a lot of drama between Mal and Alina. And while I found Mal to be tolerable and sometimes even cute and adorable in Shadow and Bone, I effing deplored his whiny ass in Siege and Storm. I don’t know how Bardugo is going to make me think otherwise, but I solely believe that Mal and Alina are completely mismatched.

Yes, they’re childhood friends. Yes, they’re going to love each other. But MAL STOP BEING A WHINY BITCH BECAUSE YOUR GIRLFRIEND IS TURNING INTO A FIERCE AND POWERHOUSE CHARACTER. The entire book all he did was whine, sulk, and get jealous over some ONE-SIDED flirtation that Alina constantly rebuked throughout the book. I mean, you know what, Mal? If you want Alina to run to another man’s arms–the Darkling or Nikolai or what-have-you–you’re doing a great job pushing her away.

God, man, he doesn’t even try to meet her halfway, and it’s utterly devastating to see that Alina still tries to cling to this relationship like a lifeline. Like she can’t survive in a world without him.

Alina, you’re stronger than this. You’re Sankt Alina, you’re the Sun Summoner dammit. Woman up and just blow a hole through another roof. It’ll make you feel better. Then move on and snog Nikolai. I don’t mind. At least Nikolai doesn’t begrudge you for being a Grisha. Hell, “like calls to like,” so if you’re into that kind of dark relationship, have your dream sex with the one guy who’d definitely support your rise to Grisha power! YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, ALINA, YOU’RE A GROWN ASS WOMAN.

Again. THE DARKLING IS NOT WRONG. I will be forever saying this, even though yes, the Darkling is a scoundrel and a cruel one at that. (I CANNOT FORGIVE HIM FOR GENYA AND BAGHRA BUT STILL.)

Deep breaths.

4 out of 5 cookies! I still loved this book, and I do look forward to reading the last. That being said, I’m also a little afraid, because in my head I’ve already got three different ways things can go down, and none of them with Mal. Sooooo…that might be a problem.

This book is part of the Beat the Backlist Reading Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Mini Reviews: The Princess Diarist, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I’m slowly getting out of my book slump, but it’s still pretty difficult, considering there’s really only been a handful of books I’ve rated 5 out of 5 this year. Anyway, here’s another mixed set of books. Both were listened to as audiobooks.

Have you read either book? What did you think?