Category Archives: Reviews

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. I didn’t really want to do a review on this book, but here I am.

This book takes place on a luxury cruise liner sailing in Europe. The ship is constantly described as being miniature, which I totally get. What I loved best about this detail was the perspective of the MC, Laura aka Lo. She didn’t really care for it, despite being impressed. This hit home for me because in the Spring I went on luxury cruise in the Caribbean and despite how NICE and BEAUTIFUL everything was, I would never do it again.

But what really missed the mark for me, especially in the beginning was the MC’s treatment of her boyfriend, Judah. While their relationship isn’t explored in depth, I loath her for her treatment of Judah. It really turned me off to her, built this wall that I never overcame while I was reading the book. The second barrier I encountered was the opening act. The opening scene where Laura, the MC, is robbed in her house was the reason that Laura acted the way she acted the entire book. It was this solid thing she could point a finger at and say “this is why I am acting this way!” both as an miserable excuse, and a triumphant validation. I thought that I didn’t understand because I had never been in the position but last night something parallel happened to me and now I know that if I had read this today, rather than a few nights ago, I would have just rolled my eyes.

The plot development with something like this had a lot of standard elements you would expect to find, but there were some pleasant twists and turns. I won’t ruin them for you.

So back to characters- there are really only other characters that are developed at all upon the ship. Laura’s ex receives some development, but it is little, but I sort of held onto it because so many of the other characters were cardboard cutouts. Then there was the MYSTERY GIRL. I am so impressed with how MYSTERY GIRL is handled. She is by far my favorite part of the story.

So would I recommend it? Not especially, but I wouldn’t discourage you if you are interested. I keep telling myself, it’s me not the book. I was hoping for Tana French or Gillian Flynn but that’s not what I got and that’s not the author’s fault.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Advertisements

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh B’Ardugo

Croo22299763ked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo is the sequel to Six of Crows. It takes place in the same universe as her Grisha Series. If you keep reading, expect spoliers for both Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

Crooked Kingdom picks up right were Six of Crows left off. Inej is kidnapped by Van Eck and Kaz is plotting on how to get her and the money back.

The first thing that has to be talked about is the fearless gang leader, Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker. Kaz has got to the best example of a sympathetic dark antihero. He isn’t this kind hearted soul wearing a thinly veiled tough exterior. Nor is he this obvious villain that has good looks and a little bit of mystery to compel some heroine to swoon occasionally.  Kaz is this complex, brilliant leader that calculates every move as if his whole life is a chess game that is infinite and could end at any moment. Kaz’s plans are even more brilliant than Six of Crows, and I think that is because he has home field advantage. I thought for sure it would be revealed that Nina healed his crippled leg before the effect of her drug high wore off. But that didn’t come to pass. Which also leads to more development of his skin to skin weakness which was so raw and this idea that his crippled leg is his advantage. People don’t look for other weakness, they are obvious. Kaz makes my favorite observation of the book. He’s recalling an old crime wizard that compares a lock to a woman but Kaz is annoyed by it. “Sure a lock was like a woman. It was also like a man and anyone or anything else–if you wanted to understand it, you had to take it apart and see how it worked. If you wanted to master it, you had to learn it so well you could put it back together.” Kaz also reaches and grasps his dreams. He starts he own gang which was no easy feat, it required breaking up with his boss in a public and dangerous display.

This might sound horrible, but I was really hoping that Inej wouldn’t escape by herself. It would have destroyed their crew. Instead, the tension and poison Bardugo created with Inej’s raw fear of having her legs broken thus tossed away by Kaz was so powerful and gut wrenching because the audience can completely get behind that fear. “”He’ll never trade if you break me.” You believe that line in your stomach and so does Inej. So she clings harder to escaping Kitterdam and Kaz with lofty visions of being a pirate of pirates. It’s so real. Inej is reunited with her crew in this elegant disaster and escape. She ends up fighting this insane assassin she calls her shadow. For this first time, I see Inej as a dark soul that has a lot to be sorry for, she isn’t just a victim of slavery and prostitution. She has done her own dark deeds.

Which leads us to this relationship between Inej and Kaz. They spurn their feelings for each other. It’s way too complicated and messy for either of them. Inej’s dark fear that Kaz would abandoned her if she was no longer an asset builds this tension that has be addressed. It’s at this point, pretty early in the book, things really change between them. Inej tells Kaz about Van Eck wanting to break her legs and how she convinced him that she’d be a useless pawn for him if he did. Kaz grapples with it too. Finally he says, “”I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together–knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”” This has to be the romantic line of either book. It’s not accompanied with any dramatic or physical gestures, but it’s this turning point. That doesn’t mean it’s roses for them afterwards. Kaz forgets her fear of being touched because he’s blinded by his own. Their is suspicion. But really from this point on, there is only reinforcement of their strong relationship. Inej displays unwavering loyalty. Kaz changes her bandages without his gloves. In the end, he spells out exactly how much he loves her, not with stolen kisses or well crafted words. He gives her freedom, her family, and her dreams on silver platter.

Bardugo doesn’t suffer from giving the audience too much information, especially with her characters. She lets them speak, rather than just telling us about them. The only dip in this if I find is with Nina. Nina is this almost trained Grisha solider. She is well educated and speaks a few languages. We are told that she is a fierce warrior, but I forget that sometimes and think of her as the softest one of the bunch. But then I have to take it back because boom, in the midst of street battle for her life she breaks her softness and destroys her would be assailant. Nina is also going through a sort of identity crisis. She is struggling with this new strange and dark power she has, and mourning the power she no longer has.

Matthias was under developed compared to the others and I think that is why he died. Bardugo didn’t bother to give him a future, a purpose beyond the moment. You can see it in the super sugary moments Nina and Matthias share like this: “”You’re better than waffles, Matthias Helvar.” A small smile curled the Fjerdan’s lips. “Let’s not say things we don’t mean, my love.””  I feel like his death was pointless. Not in the random way that sometimes bad things happen and there is nothing you can do about it, but in the let’s kill one of the main characters off kind of way. It was so anticlimactic and it lacked impact. I also thought it might be a sort of symbolic killing. Matthias was this traditional solider type with a streak of naivety and formality about love. His sort of ideas are dead, and so is he. I just sort of boxed him up and put it on the shelf.

Then there is Wylan and Jesper. I really feel like this was their book. These characters are two peas in a pod which strikingly similar obstacles they must over come. Both have pasts that are catching up them and problems with their fathers. They both try to hide their weaknesses, and both are struggling with acceptance. Wylan is rejected by his father, the odd man out in the crew with his upbringing, and even rejected (accidentally) by Jesper at one point. Jesper is also struggling with rejection from Kaz, fear of his father rejecting him, and rejecting himself, by rejecting his Grisha gift. This common thread is really the binding agent.

At one point, Jesper and Inej discuss forgiveness and she says “This action will have no echo.” I wish this was thing in our culture. It has so much more meaning than apologizing. Jesper really takes it to heart and it shows.

Wylan gets all the complexity he lacked in Six of the Crows. He is having a purpose crisis and rightfully so. He doesn’t really belong with Kaz and his group and he’s been completely rejected by his father. You see his toxic relationship with his father both in snippets like “I will treat you no more harshly then the world will. That was his father’s refrain.”  and the larger flashbacks like his father attempting his murder. Then the crux of Wylan’s purpose crisis resolving when it’s revealed his mother is alive. Wylan’s vigor is completely changed after that. He’s got this grit about him after that is respectable instead of just feeling pity for him.

I loved this book, it’s obvious from the time I took thinking about it. I want badly to give it 5 out 5 but, I just can’t because there are some glaring things I can’t over look. Leigh Bardugo wove an amazing tale worthy of praise. I wish our journey with Kaz, Inej, and Nina weren’t over. I feel like they especially have so much more to do.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Go ahead, dive and have a good time that will leave you whirling.

 

 

 

Pyromantic by Lish McBride

23310689Pyromantic by Lish McBride

Pyromantic is the sequel to Firebug which takes place in the same universe as Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and it’s sequel. So if you haven’t read Firebug, don’t start with this.

The short version: I loved it! I ate it right up and couldn’t put it down.

McBride is an excellent weaver of sarcasm and wit. Ava, like last time, is the main character that is full of actual flaws that have real consequences. She isn’t quite the same Ava from Firebug, she’s more mature and has a stronger mindset. A lot of the old crew is back. Lock of course, being his charming self, Sylvie gets to be more fleshed out of a character which is fantastic. Cade is sort of shoved in the corner and standby and watched Ava’s life, I didn’t like it. It seemed really weird, especially for a father. Then there is Ezra…Ezra might have been my biggest disappointment of this book, he didn’t really sparkle like he did in Firebug. He just seemed kind of there because he was expected to be. But then there are some new characters like Bianca and Alistair that were fantastic. Of course, the dialogue is what really propels this novel and I wasn’t disappointed.

The plot of this book has it quirks but where I think it really shines is that the characters spend so much of their time fumbling around. Normally this wouldn’t be a strength but the nature of the problem is really beyond their experience, so there wasn’t this nice yellow brick road that they followed that lead them from plot point to plot point. They spent most of the book just playing catch up to the problem. There is this believable scramble and they don’t have all the answers. It just isn’t a problem they are use to facing, it really makes them come together and grow. It’s very satisfying, and very human.

Overall: 4 out of 5 Whoopie Pies. 😉

Ready Player One

9969571Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Technically I started this book way before my summer reading challenge, but I muscled through the last half of it this week so I’m counting it. Especially because of how painful this was to finish.

I have no idea how this has such a high rating on GoodReads. It’s slow, monotone, and boring. The action of this book could be condensed to a fourth of the length, if you removed all the 80s movie, TV show, music and video game explanations. I know kids today don’t know about tape players and whatever but it was like a grandfather trying to cram “back in my day” disjointed stories down your throat and expecting you care. Or a grandchild to trying to explain Instagram to a grandparents. It’s just not the same experience unless you live it.

Then there are the characters. Wade Watts is the main character. He has almost zero character development. He is shallow and doesn’t understand having personal relationships which is almost understandable but when he does have the chance, doesn’t face any problems that someone that hasn’t had personal connections with other people would have. For example: when his girlfriend leaves him, he doesn’t display any sort of trust issues.

The other characters including said girlfriend are about as flat as a piece of paper. Two do good philanthropists, a token girlfriend, a best friend that has social justice issues, and a dark, evil corporate executive. Wade the MC, suffers from being good at everything. It’s such a burden. Of course he is poor so that is challenge enough I suppose. Wade can play a perfect game of PacMan, escape from slavery, has endless time to relive the entirety of the 80s multiple times, super polished hacking skills, and never has to worry about conflicts with his friends. (He says he doesn’t have friends but he has has at least 4 which isn’t awful.)

There were some good things about this book, the idea of the Oasis is fun. Traveling through it was great. The contest concept was interesting. I can totally imagine being in the Oasis and how addicting it would be. Final ruling: 80s Fanfiction.

Rating: Two out of Five Extra Lives.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

25735012

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Here is my partial rantings on Career of Evil. I wasn’t really impressed but continued to be entertained. I still feel like Robin is Emma Watson. Anyway, this isn’t really a review, it is more of airing my frustration. Spoilers are probably below.

  1. Pretty girl (Robin) stumbles and gets catcalls and lewd remarks from construction workers.
    1. Ugh, I am so tired of this stereotype. Construction workers are always painted in a negative light. I am sick of it. Construction workers have manners, they are very respectful of women, they don’t wait around for a pretty woman to walk by so they embarrass themselves and her. Construction workers aren’t not the end all of sexist pigs. I wish writers would stop categorizing groups of people by irrelevant criteria. If you want to show sexism, show characters being sexist, not faceless generalities that promote fear mongering and false pretenses.
  2. The constant comparison of Cormoran Strike’s hair to “pubes”.
    1. Does this need any explanation?
  3. The negative portrayal of Matthew.
    1. Robin doesn’t make much money compared to Matthew. Matthew supposedly uses passive aggressive techniques to compel Robin to do such boring tasks like “go to the food store” just because she makes less money than he does.
      1. Seriously? Uncontrolled, raging feminism. Every household has to have someone go to the food store or pay someone to do it. There is absolutely nothing wrong Robin doing this. Stop making Robin a victim of petty sexual repression to suit your soapbox.
      2. And guess what! A couple should try to contribute equally to a household. Whether it is through getting a spirit crushing job that pays the bills or doing chores. Work together! Man or woman it doesn’t matter.
  • While in the grocery store, she is treated like a sexual object again! A man stares at her breasts. Gosh, all this grocery store represents is woman’s oppression. What a terrible institution.
  1. Oh gosh, the food store drama continues: Matthew did the food shopping and told her about it! Matthew is now upset.
    1. Matthew can’t even hug her without Robin being repulsed.
  2. Also, when does the audience get to actually see any of these fights Robin and Matthew have? We get it all second hand from Robin’s memory.
  3. Matthew is a punching bag, we never see anything good about him. He represents all that is bad in society and poor Robin is stuck with him when all she is trying to do is follow her dreams.
  4. Matthew has been snooping on her! Reading her emails and using her computer.
    1. Robin must change her password in order to keep her privacy. Won’t she have a nice tidy list of reasons to leave Matthew when the time comes?
  5. Matthew insists that their lack of car is her fault for not having a high salary. (According to Robin)
  6. Matthew helps out at his future in-laws more than he does at home for Robin
  7. Matthew become publically dismayed over being given an old car from his inlaws proving that he is self absorbent and ungrateful and Robin should add this to the list of why she is leaving him.
  8. Matthew walks into a room after she literally threw a tantrum, politely offers not to discuss it, brings her tea, and then is regarded as embarrassed for her justified behavior and a terrible person. He just can’t understand.
  9. Matthew, by spending time with her parents that they traveled a long distance to see, is wasting his time by watching TV with them. Robin is going to important work on her computer, and be alone and taciturn.
  1. The antagonist is just another male supremacist. They litter this book.
    1. Says women are disgusting
    2. Refers the woman closest to him as “IT”
      1. This is a successful woman that brings home the money
    3. Purpose in life is expose his dominance.
  2. Other men that pop up randomly are more often than not shown in the negative light, especially with sexual inappropriateness.
    1. When doing their investigating work the men that hire them do it in order to keep tabs on their lovers like possessions. When a woman hires them it is for some noble cause like to keep a dastardly man from stealing his child in the middle of the night away from the mother.
    2. Cormoran’s step-father was sexual repugnant
      1. He walked around naked in front of his step-daughter causing the girl to run away from home.
      2. Step-father was also awful in other ways: insulting Cormoran, discussing murder, lies, abuses animals, and getting stoned.
    3. The police man that comes to collect the severed leg checks out Robin thoroughly despite this being unprofessional and his being married.
    4. Robin’s younger brother is the only unsuccessful sibling: lives with parents, doesn’t go to school, hasn’t joined the army.
    5. Men simply can’t understand the importance of human life. They are constantly glib about the poor dead woman’s leg. So improper and horrible. The list of offenders include: police officer, Cormoran, Martin, the brother.
  3. More sexism angles!!! Everywhere.
    1. “Has his employee been male, he wouldn’t be vulnerable…”.
      1. Seriously. Stop. Too much.
      2. But also as woman has been useful being a typical female: warm, gentle, ect ect. He owes her just for being a woman, to keep her safe.
    2. Robin’s mother brings up that men have a hard time when their women work closely with another man.
      1. Men are insecure and feel threatened by this.
    3. People with strange sexual fetishes on the internet could not be women in Robin’s eyes. They simply could not.

 

Things I like:

  1. Robin and Cormoran’s relationship
    1. This is very genuine
  2. The author makes her words very powerful
    1. Her word choice and diction is superb
  3. The personal side of Cormoran is slowly unraveled. We haven’t go to see much of Cormoran’s back story so far, just enough to be intrigued. This time the plot is personal.
  4. Cormoran’s disability is very reasonable.
    1. He does not find super human strength to overcome his missing leg.
    2. He experiences pain associated with being too active.

 

After this point. I stopped taking notes. So….enjoy these partial notes! Because it has been awhile since I actually read this……

The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins

From the beginning, this novel disturbed me. (In a good way.) This novel has three female narrrators, Rachel, Megan, and Anna. All three are there own special kind of falling apart but Rachel to me, feels like the main character.

Anna, is the new wife of Rachel’s ex husband. I have no tolerance for her. I hate her. She is stupid and smug. I don’t want to talk about her anymore.

Megan is the most complex of the three. Her story spans the largest time gap but isn’t told in a clarifying way. She is emotional, uninspired and broken.

Throw all of these narrators together and sooner or later one of them was bound to end up dead.

Rachel starts off by telling us all sorts of things about a sweet couple that she see from the window on the way to work. It is stalker level 9000 but at the same time, it rings false. I mean, what kind of doctor lives in a house abutting the train tracks? And she did make things up about that sweet couple but that didn’t mean Rachel wasn’t a creepy stalker because wow, she took it to a new level for me. She has spiraled out of control and hit bottom with losing her husband, drinking, her job, her home. “I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.”

As for the storytelling, this book did not simply take you from one point to another. This is an unraveling, slowly picked apart. A scab, not completely healed. One moment, it is relieving to pick at the old skin in order to find the new skin peaking through. Then the next moment you are gushing blood wondering where you went wrong. That is exactly how it is for Rachel.

The plot is a path in a dark forest that constantly is twisting and turning, unfurling before you but you can’t really see where it is going. The crafting of this plot feels like it’s own dark and sinister character.

But it did have flaws. I cannot see Tom putting up with Rachel’s antics like he did, especially for so long. Though without that we wouldn’t have had a story. I also don’t see Scott’s fat shaming as believable for that social context. He spent the whole book trying to put on a performance of “great guy” to the people around him, it would have blown his cover. I also find the therapist’s character to be unbelievable. It feels like the author might not have known another way to get the audience much needed information. The actual need for a therapist was important but just not believable.

I highly recommend it. It is a great thriller and I don’t want to give too much away. So if I seem vaguer than usual that is why. 4.5 stars out of five.

And Tom got exactly what he deserved.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

From Good Reads

Let me just call it like I see it- Taylor Swift fanfiction.

You know it. I know it. Delilah Montgomery is young Taylor Swift. Matt is based off one of those Jonas Brothers.

It was mildly entertaining but the style the story was told in was terrible. Mostly because it would switch in the middle of a scene.  One moment the protagonist Reagan, is recounting a scene like she is telling us like a memory but then wham! it’s like on going action that is unraveling in front of you. It’s sporadic and not well done. Even if it was well done that memory/recount into on going action doesn’t work well with contemporary fiction. It works well with Secondhand Lions and The Great Gatsby.

Anyway, the characters were totally predictable and for a story with a character driven plot- double ouch. Not to say that at times it wasn’t mildly entertaining.  I did snort out in laughter at some of the quips and my favorite part of the whole book was the improv lyrics that Matt sang under Reagan’s window.

Matt, Reagan, and Dee plus all the auxiliary characters felt so 2-D because their characters were built off cliches that didn’t deviate from the mold. We were suppose to be given some insight into fame but that didn’t happen either. Though the relationship dynamics of Dee and Reagan are refreshing. It is nice to see two girls that truly get along and help each other. The obligatory fight with Dee and Reagan came out of blue, the content wasn’t believable, and not for one minute did the audience believe it was going do harm to their friendship.

The romantics in this book were boring. Dee’s not relationship with Jimmy was refreshing at first, then her revelation at the end was beautiful but the way the author wrote their eventual confrontation was a disappointment. I thought Dee would embrace her epiphany but instead it seemed like she just picked up where her and Jimmy left off. Reagan’s relationship with Blake was mildly interesting but the audience was left with no doubts about the general events that ended that relationship, learning the specifics was only solidified the evidence. Reagan’s relationship with Matt did not give me any feels.  It had a very predictable order of events with a very predictable resolution. Spoiler: I did hope that Lord would surprise us with an ending that left both girls independent of men and ready to face the world together.

The redeeming quality of this book is that the heroines were not total drips. They did not have completely immature and illogical behaviors. The adults characters did exhibit some adult behaviors which was also nice which is why I am giving the book 3 out of 5 irises.

Three Irises from Positive Creations, dlhorch

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Stole the picture from Goodreads

In the past I have really like Rainbow Rowell writing. Attachments, not so much. I understand this was Rowell’s first novel and I think it shows. Everything feels super contrived.

So, this novel is about Lincoln, basically 90’s loser that is cute. Today he would probably fall into the hipster category. The original hipsters, the ones that didn’t try. He is, what amounts to, an internet night watch man. He reads his co-workers emails in case they are breaking company policy. Meet Beth and Jennifer-they don’t care about company policy. They rattle about personal problems all the time. This is where it starts to turn fake and plastic like, other than Lincoln being cliche. We, the readers, only get to read exchanges from Beth and Jennifer. Sure, we hear that others vaguely exist but we only get the exchanges from Beth and Jennifer. There were so many missed opportunities with this to built Lincoln and add interest.

Jennifer and Eve were probably the best characters in the book. Lincoln didn’t disappoint me, but he didn’t wow me either. Beth was….okay. Chris wasn’t believable, like at all. Lincoln’s mom was a typical mom, nothing too exciting going on there. Doris was also a pleasant character but it felt so convenient for her to appear. Then there was the subplot and backstory Sam, believable but so flat and boring. She was “different” in a trendy sort of way and she was extremely predicable. These clauses are oxymoronic (I’m making that a word!) which sums up Sam. The Dungeons and Dragons gang was alright. I don’t understand anything about that so I felt a touch lost. Then there is Justin, a walking cliche. SPOILER ALERT: I’m sure him and Dena will be divorced within a year. Justin is a total tool.

All the cliche movie references were kind of annoying. I was surprised there wasn’t more internet shorthand in the emails. The plot was pretty stale, especially for a publish date of 2011, even though it was a throwback. Maybe I just can’t appreciate throwbacks? Not sure.The ending was very OOC. I had to back up a page because I thought I missed something. Anyone that’s read it, please tel me if you agree.If you want something cutesy to read, go ahead, this isn’t terrible but don’t expect the fantastic work of Fangirl in Attachments.

I give Attachments a 2.5 rainbows out of 5.

Found on Google Search

The Secret Place by Tana French

Image from GoodReads

Let me start by fan girling over here…and over there and every where. I love Tana French. I first picked up Into the Woods in high school and it intrigued me but I had no money to buy it. My dear sweet Rob G bought it for me and it was all over from there. Tana French gripped me and never let go. French was the first author that I was ever mad at but still in awe. All over her books have engrossed me and spit me out feeling feelings unknown to me in complicated way.

This book has a little bit of everything-murder, boarding school, best friends forever, ghosts, Frank Mackey, pop music, boy problems, secret places, and edgy motives for the characters. I liked it, a lot but it wasn’t love.

The beginning of The Secret Place was very underwhelming. The characters are beautiful complex as normal but the plot is just a thin, ragged sheet holding the book together. However, I think it was that way by design. Moran has a lot of hope riding on a wisp of maybe evidence and it makes the audience in tune with him-like it could fall apart any second and we could be back to our old lives. My favorite thing in the beginning is when Detective Moran interviews these girls at a boarding school. He is so adept at reading them that it makes me wonder if he is too good.

After that scene with Moran and the girls the plot thickens and comes together. It becomes real and then suddenly I’m invested. This middle section has a lot of flashbacks and not a whole lot of detecting which is fun but I was hoping for more of a balance. The investigation is what is, for me, driving the plot. Conway and Moran are getting along too well but I don’t expect that to continue.

The meat of the book contains fantastic character development and a slow unveiling of the events led up to the murder. I am not disappointed in the least with the quality of the mystery. I don’t know who did it just because there are so many possibilities on how it could play out. In true French fashion, nothing is cut and dry.

When Frank Mackey arrives on the scene I am blown away. You get this feeling that everything in his career has led up to this moment, and while he might feel guilty for causing it, he is prepared to handle the situation. I seriously have a crush on this guy even though he’s old and not real. Frank is a welcome explosion in this case. So much is tightly wound and he is blaring. The contrast really increases the divide between the girls and the adults. It becomes harder and harder to identify with these boarding school girls the more you learn about how twisted they are. Frank is this crashing force that pushes everything apart.

As the book concludes, the identity of the murder slaps me and I feel stupid. I don’t like it, in a good way. I don’t like how they use the ghost either, in a bad way, but everything is ending much cheerier than other French books. I am still left feeling overwhelmed about what happened despite the almost lovely ending. I have come to really appreciate the whole back story. It’s delightful.

Audiobook: The girl narrator annoyed me and distracted me from the story in the beginning but I either got over it or the story got so good it didn’t matter because 2/3 through I found myself not minding at all.. The guy narrator’s voice of Julia was horrid. Redo?

Overall I give this book 4.5 hoes out of 5.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

In Honor of TBT: Here is the first review I wrote! When I started, I wrote with spoilers, so beware.

This book is about a princess trusted with special destiny in a fantasy world. Sounds boring already. The characters could have been so stale. The gender role bashing could have been eye roll worthy. The culture blending could have been so fake and over done. But it wasn’t.

From the first page Carson ignored pretenses practically required for writing this kind of story. Young princess in an arranged marriage that isn’t prattling about how unfair life is and how she wants true love? My hopes soared. A princess that isn’t a size zero and has trouble with over eating?  Normal sibling rivalry? I got scared in the next chapter I would be let down because everything good was in chapter one.

No. Nothing let me down, well…nothing serious.

Spoilers may exist from this point on-Read at your own risk.

The first showing casing of Elisa’s intelligence comes when she takes her sister’s advice. The sister she doesn’t like. The sister that is better at politics than Elisa. More than two thirds of young adult heroines would never do that. They have to be free and learn from their mistakes and yada yada yada.

The attitude that Elisa has toward her arranged married and Alejandro is jaw dropping-ly appropriate. She doesn’t balk at it, she doesn’t have false expectations about insta love, and she is clear about her desires. She tells her husband/acquaintance  right off the bat-“I don’t want to be intimate tonight.”

What a novel idea, communicate with words your feelings/preferences/control instead of acting crazy. Since Alejandro isn’t a scum bag, he completely respects that.

There is no insta love with anyone. Love isn’t even central to the story-plenty happens without it, like war council, kidnapping, battles, losing important people.

Oh and a mystical god gave her a belly jewel that makes her special and appropriately, she is pious, yet struggles with her faith. Some people think that makes this Christian Lit. I’m going go with no, while they might have a lot of common elements I am sensing Carson is just accurately portraying someone that had something supernatural happen to her in which her society has an explanation that works. The religion portrayed in this book has common themes with Christianity but I would not say parallels it.

I also love how Elisa isn’t an island. I mentioned this before, but Elisa doesn’t ignore everyone’s advice and just do in heart what she feels is best without reasons to back it up. She listens to the people that she respects and she learns without having to make disastrous mistakes. Yet, you never feel that Elisa is a puppet because she makes her own choices after mulling things over plus she has character growth over the course of the novel. She starts out self centered and then starts caring about the people around her more. She learns about her own abilities and their limits. She makes mistakes because she isn’t experienced and some have disastrous results. This makes her worthy of role model status.

Now the other characters are not as well developed.  Rosario, her nurse, Cosme, Humberto…they are multi-faceted but I don’t think they get the depth they deserve. Hopefully in future novels this will change. Alejandro did get a fair amount of depth but without true exploration. This is actually a good choice on Carson’s part  because there wasn’t time in Elisa’s life to truly get to know him. Elisa, and the audience, learned that he was complex but that was it.

I think Humberto’s death was appropriate. Too often love interests are saved by the author just because they are love interest. The world is cruel, war is brutal, and killing your enemies’ treasured ones is effective. Not killing them removes the horribleness of war.

Now, Elisa started off the novel overweight but then she goes through a tough physical trial and slims down. A lot people also had a problem with that because she changed herself. That is ridiculous. Elisa grew as a human being to have more self control and endurance and people are mad about that? Elisa is stronger for this change, not weaker. I applaud Carson for this realistic choice.

Some of the bad things-a few haired brained schemes worked when they shouldn’t have but this fantasy so I’ll let it go. The antagonist were not super developed and there should have been more time spent developing them, especially individual leaders.  And finally, after being made Queen Regent over the land Elisa carves off a part for a new country and makes a new Queen. Woah. No way is the Quorum going to be peaceful about that or the public.

 NO SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT.

I will be reading more of this series, I will be reading more from Carson, and hopefully if just gets better. I will give this book 4.5/5 roses for good writing and refreshing characters.