Review: Throne of Glass #2, Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

18846563Blurb from Goodreads

“A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend.”

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie…and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Kindle Edition, 433 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens (first published August 15th 2013)
edition language: English
series: Throne of Glass
genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
My Thoughts
So I didn’t quite enjoy Throne of Glass and almost put this book on hold if not because of my friend who keeps telling me that she really loves it. Now I just want to give applause to Sarah J. Maas for this awesome sequel. This is for you, Ms. Maas.
This sequel is like the opposite of its prequel. Things that quite bother me in Throne of Glass turn out differently into something that I loved.

For one thing, Celeana doesn’t think and care much about clothes and stuff as she did in Throne of Glass. Well…she’s still mention what dress she wears and all but it isn’t her main focus anymore. She certainly doesn’t talk much about it here. She knows and set her priority clear now. And for that I’m so glad because it makes me see her as a notorious assassin, (again) a stuff I couldn’t buy in book 1.

“She came through the fog, no more than a sliver of darkness. She didn’t run—she just walked with that insufferable swagger. […]Still she approached, and the sword at her back whined as she drew it. The moonlight glinted off the long blade.”

She also doesn’t crave people recognition as Adarlan’s no. 1 assassin anymore. I can see she’s as good as she claims without she keeps telling me about it. This time she talks less but does more.

Thus, it makes the story so engaging. I didn’t feel bored at all. It can make me glue to the story and couldn’t stop reading it. There are so many things happen and so much emotions I feel when I read it. It’s also quite unpredictable, though I bet you can guess some part if you really pay attention to the story.

“Believe me, Celaena,” he snarled, his eyes flashing, “I know you can look after yourself. But I worry because I care. Gods help me, I know I shouldn’t, but I do. So I will always tell you to be careful, because I will always care what happens.”
And the romance, how I love Celaena and Chaol relationship and yes, I also love her friendship with Dorian. I can’t help not to swoon over them. The feels, it’s all there. Although the romance has bigger part than book 1, it doesn’t take the main focus of what this book about. It intertwines with the whole story nicely.

All in all, this is one of the best books I read this year. I just can’t wait for Heir of Fire now!

Note: Is there anyone who also thinks that Ms. Maas (might be) inspired by the lord of the rings (both books and movie)? There are scenes that quite remind me of LOTR while I read this book.
Result: 5 out of 5 stars

Review: Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park

22324898Blurb from Goodreads

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation.

But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.

Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him.

Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.

Whether you were charmed by Celeste in Flat-Out Love or are meeting her for the first time, this book is a joyous celebration of differences, about battling private wars that rage in our heads and in our hearts, and—very much so— this is a story about first love.

ebook
Published May 24th 2014 by Flat Finn
edition language: English
series: Flat-Out Love
genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
My Thoughts
One does simply fall in love with Celeste Watkins and Justin Milano
I first met Celeste Watkins in Flat-Out Love. She isn’t the main character there, but she catches my attention. I think she’s one weird character who has problem that needs professional help. Yet I love her weirdness or eccentricities as Matt Watkins always says. Now she’s a young adult with her eccentricities still. She’s much better now, at least she doesn’t have to rely on Flat Finn anymore but she still speaks with such formality. It’s like she is an old lady, instead of a senior high school student. And yet, I still love her.

And then enter Justin Milano, a sophomore college student who also has his own eccentricities. From the first time I met him, I know that he is as weird as Celeste. He’s so funny he doesn’t even realize it. I can’t help not to love him when I read his emails to Celeste. Basically they are perfect for each other.

There are many moments and lines I love from Justin and Celeste. Some of it reminds me of Matt and Julie, but it doesn’t mean that what Justin and Celeste have are less appealing, far from it because they tell it in a different way. Hence make it their story.

I also love that Celeste is still true to her personalities in Flat-Out Love. The way she thinks and her word choices are still unusual, and she also doesn’t use the contractions most of the time. That made me believe that she is the girl I knew from Flat-Out Love. But as a character she also grows up along the story. She tries hard to live the life she has dreamed and fight for it. I can see her changes. And it made me love her more as a character.

Just like Flat-Out Love, there are so many emotions while I read this book. I think it’s funnier than Flat-Out Love as Justin is really a funny guy with his non-stop rambling

“What? My keys. Damn, thank you! Okay, now I’m ready. Remind me that I have to get milk at the store. Forget I said that. It’s not your job to remind me to get milk. I don’t know why I asked you that. My study group is at three today, so I’ve enough time. Wait, what time is it? It’s not even nine; what am I worried about?”

But it’s also romantic,

“You’re a life saver, Celeste,”
“No, you are my life saver, Justin”

adorable,

“I’m nervous. Is that weird? But you make me nervous. I mean, in an awesome way. But you make me nervous,” he said.

sad,

“I am sad because of me. I am embarrassed.”

hopeful,

“I understand that. There are battles, some greater than others. But they are worth getting through.” He held her tighter. “This is the fight, Celeste. You’re in the middle of it. I feel that.”

and I feel sorry for the characters but at the same time I know there’s hope in them, they aren’t hopeless

“I think we need to make our own hinges now.”

In the author acknowledgements, Jessica Park said that her son said she should think about writing something else. But for me, I still can’t get enough of Flat-Out characters. That’s how I love Justin, Celeste, Matt and Julie.

Result: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Review: Penryn & The End of Days #2, World After by Susan Ee

12983100Blurb from Goodreads

In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what’s left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?

Kindle Edition, 438 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Skyscape
edition language: English
series: Penryn & The End of Days
genre: Post-apocalyptic, Suspense, Young Adult
My Thoughts
So this is what the world looks like when one of the archangels wants to play god and the angels play human, from Susan Ee version, anyway. It’s frightening, disgusting and in some part ridiculous but I loved it nonetheless.

I think there are at least two things that I thought won’t work for me. First, as the blurb said in this sequel, Penryn is looking for Paige (again). Somehow I was afraid that there will be similarity, a repetition from Angelfall  as she’s doing the same thing here. And second is Raffe only really appears in the story in the last quarter part of the book which my friend told me about it before I read it. I love Penryn as much as I love him, if not more since she’s so stubborn and a kickass character. But I also love their relationship and want to read more about them together. To be honest, it’s one of my favorite parts in the story. So knowing that I won’t get to read their banter in most of the book was quite worried me. Thank goodness it was just my thought as I didn’t have problem and still enjoyed the story.

I have many memorable moments from this book that I think I won’t forget easily. All those moments are really emotional, from gruesome scene that made me want to stop reading because it was just ewww… to the heartbreaking part about Paige and her relationship with Penryn. It was so sad, shocking and yet I was so damn proud of what Paige do. She has bigger role here and I wish she still has bigger part in the next sequels. And when Raffe finally meets Penryn, made me giddy and so happy I felt like I want to jump up and down. It made me thinking that my waiting paid well. But it wasn’t my favorite Raffe-Penryn moment. It’s one simple scene not long after they meet. Susan Ee didn’t use glorious word to describe Raffe feeling when he thought she died, yet with the way she wrote it successfully touched my heart. I keep reading it over and over and bookmarked it so that I can read it again every time I feel like I want to just skim the book.

Long story short, this is definitely one of my favorite YA series!

Result: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: Penryn & the End of Days #1, Angelfall by Susan Ee

11500217Blurb from Goodreads

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

Kindle Edition, 283 pages
Published May 21st 2011 by Feral Dream
edition language: English
series: Penryn & The End of Days
genre: Post-apocalyptic, Suspense, Young Adult
My Thoughts
Although I really want to read this book, I didn’t pick it up as soon as I can. I thought I’ll read it when the series is completed but then I knew that it’ll likely be one long series that will end in years. And I was kinda afraid that it will be like any other typical YA dystopian books I read. It seems I read many dystopian these days. But I didn’t have enough patience to wait it for years to read it, so I read it now.

First thing I realized that it is more a post-apocalyptic than a dystopian story. Many lists on Goodread said that it’s a dystopian book and the blurb implies it too. So I was kinda surprise when I read the setting and worldbuilding. But I was also happy it isn’t really dystopian. I rarely read post-apocalyptic story and reading it was like a refreshing for me. I really like the way the author wrote it. It’s so clear I never doubt it even one single moment. It’s haunting and frightening me most of the time. It reminds me of another post-apocalyptic story that I love so much, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I think there are similarities to both of them, despite the angel thing.

As for the story, it’s unpredictable and engaging. It can glue me to keep reading it. Although at some point I want to stop reading it because it was just too terrible for me to read it, I couldn’t help not to continue it since I couldn’t wait to know what happen next. But since it’s told from Penryn POV, I have to wait a little bit longer to know what really happens and the reason behind it. And when it finally gets the answers, it was just not much. It feels like her limited knowledge avoided me to know more. It didn’t mean it’s slow-paced, though. There are things that keep my heart beats fast with Penryn and Raffe along the story.

I’ve read many angel stories, but it isn’t like any other I’ve read before. A story about angels isn’t something new. A post-apocalyptic setting isn’t unusual either. But somehow it has its own originality. And now I can’t wait to read its sequels.

Result: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge

17368138Blurb from Goodread

A romantic and fantastical reimagining of the classic Cinderella tale, Gilded Ashes is a novella by Rosamund Hodge set in the same world as the author’s debut novel, Cruel Beauty.

Orphan Maia doesn’t see the point of love when it only brings pain: Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia’s father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother’s approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they’ll all be struck dead by the curse.

Anax, heir to the Duke of Sardis, doesn’t believe in love either—not since he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was only using him for his noble title. What’s the point of pretending to fall in love with a girl just so she’ll pretend to fall in love with him back? But when his father invites all the suitable girls in the kingdom to a masked ball, Anax must finally give in and select a wife.

As fate would have it, the preparations for the masquerade bring him Maia, who was asked by her eldest stepsister to deliver letters to Anax. Despite a prickly first encounter, he is charmed and intrigued by this mysterious girl who doesn’t believe in love. Anax can’t help wishing to see her again—and when he does, he can’t help falling in love with her. Against her will, Maia starts to fall in love with him too. But how can she be with him when every moment his life is in danger from her mother’s deadly bargain?

ebook, 111 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Balzer + Bray
language edition: English
series: Cruel Beauty Universe
genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
My Thoughts
This book begins with “My mother loved me more than life itself. That’s how everything went wrong.” That single paragraph intrigued me, because what can be wrong with the love of a mother who loves you more than anything, though there is also a song, Indonesian song, that called “Love that Kill You”. And after reading this novella, I know that yes, apparently love can kill you.

To be honest, I don’t know much about Cinderella story. I only know one version of the story. It’s Disney version which is way different than this story. Just like Cruel Beauty, this retelling is far from sweet, easy, cheerful story like Disney created. It’s the opposite. It’s dark, eerie and cruel with ironic story. After all, it’s about the bargain with the demon, nothing sweet you will get when you do it, right? That’s the connection between Gilded Ashes and Cruel Beauty. Gentle Lord makes an appearance here, to grant wishes from characters in this story. With him alone and his connection, I think the author can create many stories.

Again, just like Cruel Beauty I feel like it’s a new story. Maia or the Cinderella in this story doesn’t need prince charming to save her from her stepmother. She’s strong and brave enough to save herself and help her stepsisters. She’s also witty, smart and honest, though in her honesty there is also deceit. She likes and good at deceiving, though her reason is to protect her love ones. She’s a complicated and a weird character. And that’s why I love her.

I think this is a perfect companion for Cruel Beauty, one thing that doesn’t quite perfect is it’s a novella. It’s too short while I want more of Maia and Lord Anax and even Kore and Thea, Maia stepsisters.

Result: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: The Malediction Trilogy #1, Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

17926775Blurb from Goodread

For those who have loved Seraphina and Graceling comes another truly fabulous fantasy…

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

ebook, 324 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Strange Chemistry
language edition: English
series: The Malediction Trilogy
genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
My Thoughts
Although I can’t wait to read this book, there’s a part of me that doubt it will be good. As the blurb says, it’s about troll while the troll I know is the kind that turn to stone under the sun, the ugly creature who loves to boil human, the one like Tom, Bert and William from The Hobbit. So I was kind of wondering how will Danielle Jensen creates it into something good, nice, if not pretty creature without being too romanticized it. Tristan, the troll prince, says the troll I know is just human made-up, a myth that far from reality. Through his voice, along with Cécile, a human girl and the main character in this story, I believe that that is true.

It’s been a while since I read a fantasy book that feel like it takes place in and/or part of this world history. Most of fantasy books I read these days seem so far away from our time. Yeah I know that’s why it’s called fantasy but it also feels nice when I read fantasy that I feel like it’s a part of human history. A story I can relate too. Reading this book bring those feeling. The troll world with their knowledge of solar system, earthquake, and all make it close to the world I know. Hence I feel like Cecile and Tristan story is a part of our world, a history that can be read and relate to. It might sound weird, but I like that feeling.

As the main characters, Cécile and Tristan are easy to love and connect with. Tristan, the heir of Trollus has different perspective of his world from his father. It leads him into rebellion. Through Cecile’s eyes, I get that he’s perfect and swoon worthy. He is indeed perfect but it’s Cecile that makes me keep reading this book. She doesn’t have strength or magic like troll, easy to bleed and needs time to heal. She’s fragile compare to troll. She’s human. But to me she’s strong and brave. She refuses to be helpless and useless. Aside them, I also love supporting characters. Tristan friends, the twin Vincent and Victoria, I never get bored reading their antics. Marc, I love him I want him to have his own happy ending and Anais, she’s surprising me through and through. I even like reading Zoe and Elise and other half-blood.

I don’t think this book can begin and end better than what already has. The beginning makes me curious of the story. It draws me to read more, to know and understand the characters and their story while the ending makes sense, believable and left me wanting more. It also begins and ends with action. I think I can say that this book is full of action and tension, at least that’s what I feel. It’s fast-paced, though the pace is a little bit slower in the middle of the story. But it isn’t a problem for me because that’s where I learn more about Tristan world and their political intrigue. It doesn’t mean there isn’t anything happened in the middle of the story, though. I assure you, there are a lot of things happened, some predictable, some aren’t. One thing for sure there is always tension in it.

All in all, I love this book. Everything in it is perfect. And should I say that it’s well written with beautiful-magical worldbuilding and doesn’t have an insta-love or I-feel-like-I-know-you-forever-and-can’t-live-without-you kind of line? For me, it couldn’t be more perfect.

Result: 5 out of 5 stars

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

18052957Blurb from Goodreads

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

ebook, 352 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by Balzer + Bray
language edition: English
series: Cruel Beauty Universe
genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
My Thoughts
So this book has a very pretty cover, one of the most beautiful cover in YA books I’ve ever read. Seriously, I feel like I can’t stop staring at it. It also has intriguing title and blurb that scream to me to read it. Add it with Beauty and the Beast retelling and from what I read on other reviews, it also has Greek mythology. I so love Greek mythology but most of YA books with Greek mythology didn’t work well for me or only has a little bit of it. With all of those good things, it seems too good to be true for me. That’s why at first I was kind of hesitated to read this book.First couple of chapters were quite surprising me, in a not-so-good way. I was confused with many things in this book. The worldbuilding and setting, it was hard for me to imagine it. It was quite complicated world I have to read carefully to understand and then picture it in my mind. Add it with the words choice that the author used. I found that there were unfamiliar vocabularies (at least for me) here and since English is not my first language, in a way I have limited vocabulary, I have to keep looking at the dictionary to know what it means. I also didn’t know and never heard of Hermetic which is one of the important thing in this book. So I have to rely on Google to know what it is. Long short story, I was confused!

On the other hand, the characters captivated me since they were introduced. I felt sorry for Nyx, the main character in this book, mad to her father, her aunt and her twin sister Astraia, and couldn’t believe how come her father has a heart to sacrifice her to the demon lord to pay his bargain. And I was so curious of the demon lord himself, Ignifex.The more I read, more curious I become. Hence, it was easier for me to read it once I got the main picture. And then my confusion turned into curiosity that kept me reading it. Since it’s a retelling I can guess where the story will go. But I also keep wondering and questioning whether my guesses were right and all the while the what, why and how keep swirling in my head. And I just love that feeling when I keep questioning and wondering the story I read. In some part it made me forget that it is a retelling. I felt this is a refreshing story, an unoriginal yet feel original story, if you know what I mean. And there is also one thing that I love from this book, Greek mythology as subplot.

So here I got Beauty and the Beast retelling blended perfectly with Greek mythology, though I have to say it also has so much more. In first part of the story, it was quite slow since Nyx needs to describe her world and its complexity but it’s written beautifully I can’t help to not love it. I’m glad I give this book a try because in the end I love love love it. After 23 books, I finally found my first five-stars worthy reading for this year!
Favorite quotes:
“Love—the kind that was holy to Aphrodite—was not something I had ever allowed myself to think about much. If you desired someone, if he comforted you, if you thought he might leech the poison out of your heart, was that love? Or only desperation?”
“Where you go, I shall go; where you die, I shall die, and there will I be buried.”
“They said that love was terrifying and tender, wild and sweet, and none of it made any sense.
But now I knew that every mad word was true.”
“Knowing the truth is not always a kindness.”
Result: 5 out of 5 stars