Mini Reviews: Shape of Water, All the Bright Places

A hot and cold set of audiobook reviews! On the one hand, I enjoyed Shape of Water lots. On the other hand, All the Bright Places was not so very bright. A lot of this comes from bias for the former, and annoyance for the latter.

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

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Mini Reviews: Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda, The Kite Runner

More minis! I went back to reading graphic novels, so you’ll probably see a few reviews regarding graphic novels and whatnot. That being said, it’s not all about the illustrations, because I’ve also been busy with audiobooks and good ole’ text.

I wasn’t such a big fan of the last coming-out book I’d read (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe), and I wasn’t really interested in reading Call Me by Your Name, but I actually super-loved this book.

I also super-loved this book as a graphic novel. I haven’t read the original novel, though not for lack of trying. I’m pretty sure I have a copy of it somewhere…though after going through the grueling images in the graphic novel, I might want to avoid The Kite Runner unless I want a really good cry.

Have you read either books? What did you think?

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?

Mini Reviews: Vassa in the Night, Death Comes to Pemberley

I’m kind of amused at how eclectic my reading has been these past few weeks. On the one hand, there’s your general fantasy reads, and then BAM, somehow I went through several versions of Pride and Prejudice, both in readings and in the media. Ah well. Fantasy girl I may be, but I think I can stand to read much more anyway!

Vassa in the Night could actually stand to be reviewed fully, and I had much more to say about it, but I’ll wait to do that on the Fableulous Retellings Podcast.

Death Comes to Pemberley is probably on the lower end of 3 stars because honestly, I’ve read more emotionally interesting fanfiction on this time period, especially regarding my favorite Austen couple. That being said, I just had to see what this was all about, because the BBC mini-series based on this book has my second favorite Darcy (Matthew Rhys) and the ever-lovely Anna Maxwell Martin as Lizzie.

Have you read either of these? 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?