Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book Review: The Trylle Trilogy (Switched, Torn, Ascend)

Hey guys!

I have clearly fallen behind on my reviews and reads recently, and so to catch up, I'm doing collective and collaborative reviews. This round we've got all of the Trylle books, by Amanda Hocking. Let's start in order, shall we?

When Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy finds out her mother might've been telling the truth. With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed - and it's one she's not sure if she wants to be a part of.

Nice Things First!

I LOVE the idea of the Trylle people, and their changelings being all over the country and such. I wish we had gotten a better idea of the people, though, in this first book, because otherwise it's mostly just focused on Wendy's confusion and what Finn is teaching her about Trylle. I think it would have been a better way to "show" this clearly faulty society by bringing Wendy out of her shining palace every now and then.

I wish there had been more about the Vittra in this volume because I was absolutely DYING to know why they wanted Wendy so badly, considering Queen Elora hardly seemed too thrilled to have her back home. I wanted to know why they were supposedly so different from Trylle, and why Finn, and everyone else they were mentioned around, hated them so much. That was intriguing.

Descriptions, descriptions and imagery for days!! I loved it, I could see the palace, and Wendy's room, and her human house, all in my head with Hocking's descriptions and writing style. It felt spot-on without being too long, dry, or distracting. Bravo!

The action at the end was thrilling, and made for some good reading!

Not so Nice Things, Next

I found Wendy as a protagonist annoying, especially when it came to Finn. I'm not a fan of "love at first sight" stories, and for Wendy this was a "lust at first glimpse" tale, no matter how hard she tried to "deny" it in the beginning. There didn't seem to be any point in the book when Finn wasn't being hot or cold simultaneously, often in the same scene, and I'm not sure how or why Wendy found this attractive, but she did, and so much so that she did not want to stay at the palace or be an semi-intelligent person if Finn could not be around. 

The plot sort of lost its momentum not too long after Wendy arrived at the palace, mostly because there wasn't too much pushing it forward, since it appeared that Vittra could not get into town. The biggest "event" was Wendy's debutante ball-thing, and training herself for that night, which get lost in the "OMG Finn is so HAWT"-ness.

Overall Impression:
I probably won't read it again, but I really liked the sequels, so I have to give it a decent review.

Blonde's Rating: 3.5/5

When Wendy Everly first discovers the truth about herself—that she’s a changeling switched at birth—she knows her life will never be the same. Now she’s about to learn that there’s more to the story…

She shares a closer connection to her Vittra rivals than she ever imagined—and they’ll stop at nothing to lure her to their side. With the threat of war looming, her only hope of saving the Trylle is to master her magical powers—and marry an equally powerful royal. But that means walking away from Finn, her handsome bodyguard who’s strictly off limits…and Loki, a Vittra prince with whom she shares a growing attraction.

Torn between her heart and her people, between love and duty, Wendy must decide her fate. If she makes the wrong choice, she could lose everything, and everybody, she’s ever wanted…in both worlds.

This book started out with a BANG! and kept the tensions high throughout! 

First Wendy is attacked by the Vittra after running away from the Trylle and back to her home and to her human host-brother. There she, Rhys, and Matt are abducted and taken to the Vittra castle *dundunDUNNNNN* where we meet MY NEW FAVORITE, Loki. Wendy doesn't exactly know what his game is yet, but he's sweet and pretty hot, and he's not too subtle about letting them escape.

When she gets back to the palace, political tensions between Trylle and Vittra, not to mention Wendy and Elora, are running sky high, and the histories of both types of troll are revealed to Wendy. 

There's a lot of worrying going on in this book, plus a lot of yelling and crying, between Wendy's fights with her mother Elora, and Finn. There's some side cuteness with host-brother Matt and Trylle friend Willa, but Rhys kinda disappears after they all go back to the palace (like, for the rest of the book). And we can't forget Wendy's new Tracker guard, AND LOKI!!! I wanted MORE LOKI. He is too adorable, and I wish Wendy could have seen how much he obviously cared about her, not like Finn, who would rather hide their feelings than ever put them first. 

Overall Impression:
I liked Torn much more than Switched, and I'm glad I stuck with the series.

Blonde's Rating: 4/5

Wendy Everly is facing an impossible choice. The only way to save the Trylle from their deadliest enemy is by sacrificing herself.  If she doesn’t surrender to the Vittra, her people will be thrust into a brutal war against an unbeatable foe.  But how can Wendy leave all her friends behind…even if it’s the only way to save them?

The stakes have never been higher, because her kingdom isn’t the only thing she stands to lose. After falling for both Finn and Loki, she’s about to make the ultimate choice…who to love forever. One guy has finally proven to be the love of her life—and now all their lives might be coming to an end. 

Everything has been leading to this moment.  The future of her entire world rests in her hands—if she’s ready to fight for it

Okay, I'm not going to lie to you; I didn't read this whole one. I mostly skipped around to get to the Wendy-Loki parts, and I still got a very good idea of what happened, so I'm good. 

It's been a few weeks since the end of Torn, where Wendy has made a temporary truce with the Vittra until she is the Trylle Queen. Tensions are still high, however, as the Vittra have naturally found a loophole in their "truce" and are still hurting Trylle. Not to mention Wendy is set to marry her friend but not-at-all-love, Tove. Oh, and Loki is now a Vittra fugitive. That's cool, because it means he's not Wendy's enemy anymore!

There is a LOT going on, with Vittra attacking innocent Trylle/other trolls, Loki totally trying to be a third in Wendy's marriage, and Queen Elora slowly dying, Wendy has a lot on her hands, and she tries to deal with in her own ways. This doesn't always work out well for her, but it forces everyone around her to act, and it keeps the story moving forward.

There's a little bit of heartbreak at the end, but I think it ends happily (concerning my OTP for these books), so that's all that matters.

Overall Impression:
Like I said, it's a bit of a "blurred" impression, given how much I actually read, but it's a pretty good one.

Blonde (blurred) rating: 3.5/5

Much like my feelings on the Mara Dyer books, you must PUSH yourself through the first one to get to the goods in the second and third.

Do I recommend this series? 
Sure, but I found it at a slightly more juvenile reading level than some of the other books I've read recently. This makes it seem a little young, but it also makes them fast reads. That balances it out, I'd say.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: The Winner's Curse

By Marie Rutkoski

Supplied by Macmillan
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love
They were never meant to be together. As a general’s daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then Kestrel makes an impulsive decision that binds Arin to her. Though they try to fight it, they can’t help but fall in love. In order to be together, they must betray their people . . . but to be loyal to their country, they must betray each other.
Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of rebellion, duels, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart. -Supplied by the Publisher (Macmillan)

     If I had been aware before I bought and read this book that it was the first in a trilogy, the rest of which has not yet been published, I would have waited...because I couldn't stop. And when that inevitable realization hit me at the end, with five pages left and WAY too much happened, I realized my mistake -I had just started the first in a barely started series. I try to avoid this situation as much as possible, especially with a story and writing as great as that in The Winner's Curse.

Things That Were Just Okay
      It was a little hard to get used to the history and society of the two very different types of peoples in this book. The few times it felt natural to get a little bit of the histories of the Valorians and the Herrani, they were too far apart to really get a defined picture of the cultures, accompanied by each individual character's prejudices.
      The "dual" perspectives have a way of excluding any other characters from really identifying themselves as anything but shadow characters and vehicles to show how the protagonists are more "progressive, rounded" characters.
      Arin's apparently sudden turn of affection for Kestral seemed to come a little out of left field; there wasn't a ton of turn-around for his opinion, or at least it wasn't expressed as much as it was through Kestral's perspective.

Things That Were Awesome
     AAAHHHHHHH THE TENSION! This is the definition of a forbidden romance, and AAAAAAHHHH THE BETRAYAL! and AAAAHHHHH THE POLITICS!! and AAAAHHHHH THE ENDING!!!!
     The writing style and technique is also excellent.

Basically, this book has earned a solid "OOF" to the heart that easily empathizes with fictional characters.

The Blonde's Rating: 4.5
GoodReads Rating: 4
Amazon Readers' Rating: 4.5

Thanks for reading!
The Blonde
Let me know what YOU thought of The Winner's Curse in the comments!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rainbow Rowell Collective Review

Hey guys!

I have clearly fallen behind on my reviews and reads recently, and so to catch up, I'm doing collective and collaborative reviews. This round we've got all of the Rainbow Rowell books I've read in the last couple of months, starting with...

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

I loved this book. I loved it so much, I recommended it to one of my toughest book friends!

I really felt connected to the main characters, and I could really feel the tension and emotions from each of them as they progressed through the story. I laughed and cried with them, I made an identical playlist to listen along with them, and I really disappeared into this book.

I was a little confused about Eleanor's living situation and what was actually going on in the dynamics between her family, even at the end when she's run away. Nothing about it is directly said out loud, and with the speed of everything happening at the very end, the actual explanation is sort of blurred over by the time Eleanor and Park get into the car.

Other than that, I enjoyed reading this book, and I recommend it to any fan of contemporary teen romance.

The Blonde's Rating: 3.5/5

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


I'm a fan of fan fiction, and a recent graduate from college, and the two coolest plot points of this book were that it takes place during that awful, confusing, terrifying first year of college and moving away from home. The second awesome part was that it focused on an interesting art form that's definitely ignored in the writing world and the world of books, but is a HUGE aspect of being a fan of nearly any entertainment enterprise: fan fiction.

I really liked the integrated chapters and quotes from both the main character's fan fiction pieces, and from the fictionalized "real" book the fanfic was based on. I thought they were placed in the right places, and the story of each were very relatable to readers just coming of the Harry Potter-high.

I think Cath's everyday struggle with classes and relationships was incredibly relatable, especially for readers about to pack up and go to college, or readers who are already at college. The emotions and sense of awkwardness about everything was conveyed successfully enough so that I was taken back of a lot of my own time from my freshman year of college.

I was invested enough to begin having emotional reactions for Cath when certain characters would show up in the book, specifically her annoying, infuriating twin sister, Wren.

I'm on a tough line between thinking that Levi is a little too-good-to-be-real, BUT i've never been out in the MidWest, so who knows? Maybe there really are still gentlemen out there someone in the world.

The Blonde's Rating: 4.5/5

"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?

I read through this book so quickly. The characters and their situation was absolutely hilarious, and a little painful, too, knowing these character would likely never cross paths.

I was surprised by the technique used in this book to display the events of the characters that aren't Lincoln. The combination of letter style-and-prose was easy to adapt to and also very easy to read.

Overall, I felt like this was a great and unique concept, and I enjoyed it tremendously.

The Blonde's Rating: 5/5

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: Of Poseidon

By Anna Banks

Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen—literally, ouch!—both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom...

Told from both Emma and Galen's points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.

I'd never read anything by Anna Banks before picking up Of Poseidon, but the book had been intriguing me for quite some time, and so I finally broke down and bought the book (from my local indie bookstore, by the way -thank you Brookline Booksmith!).

I think I finished this book in 20 hours or so -I just couldn't put it down. Just when I thought there would be a lull where I could stop and do something else with my day, the chapter would end on something I couldn't and I couldn't just leave!

Some of the things that I really liked about Of Poseidon are:
I was so happy to read something that wasn't a dystopian novel, I was already chomping at the bit to read it, but I was also grateful that it wasn't the typical "boy comes into girl's life and everything changes forever -and oh by the way, I'm a vampire" kind of thing (mermen are a totally different beast). I liked that Galen kind of had to tell Emma what she was pretty early on, because that made for an entirely different sort of interaction and connection between them than just:
From Pactressia.Tumblr.com
Boy: "hey girl, I'm a mystical creature"
Girl: "well, I'm a worthless human"
Boy: "no, you're a cool mystical creature too, but way more badass!"

I also really appreciated Emma's sassy defiance to Galen's concern/orders. Every time he left and tried to tell her what to do, I thought in my head "you go girl! tell him he can shove those orders up his fin!"

I appreciated that this wasn't just a "Little Mermaid" retelling, or a "I'm a mermaid and I'm afraid I'm going to kill the cute guy in class with my irresistible siren voice" story. It reminded me a little bit of the Pearl-Kale story in Debbie Viguie's Midnight Pearls, but Of Poseidon is it's own unique beast.

I was really interested in the politics of the Syrena people. I thought it was really interesting that there were two "breeds" of Syrena, and I wanted to know more about what was actually expected of the royal family that Galen and Rayna were clearly neglecting.

Some things that I didn't really care for:
From Disney's Finding Nemo
I was so sad we didn't get more time with Chloe!
From the fifteen pages we got with her, I really liked her personality, and I would have liked to see how this story would have played out while trying to either keep Emma's Syrena-ness a secret from her long-time best friend, or trying to get Chloe to keep her mouth shut about it! And OMG Chloe vs Rayna would have been such a great battle of sass.

I thought Rayna as an individual character was a little too over-the-top, and was sort of used as a foil after a while to get the plot moving forward again (think about it -every time information that was "just a little too awkward to blurt out" had to be shared, Rayna would pop up out of no where and ruin any secret Galen was trying to keep).

Overall, I found it compelling and different. The writing was a bit juvenile, but that kept the pacing quick and made it easy to read. I will admit that I guessed the ending from about chapter 10, but there were quite a few times when the book had me thinking I was mistaken!
And after that cliffhanger, I will DEFINITELY be reading the sequel, Of Triton.

The Blonde Rating: 3.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4/5
Amazon Buyer's Rating: 4/5

Thanks for reading!

Let me know what you thought of Of Poseidon in the comments!

Book Review: Cress

By Marissa Meyer

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Meyer does it again; another fabulous retelling, but also a great example of how she has created a unique and individual story and has continued to build it up to a larger climax in this installation.

from Instagram: theelunarchronicles
There are a hundred different reasons why I'm already so invested in The Lunar Chronicles, but just talking about Cress here, I was really only disappointed in a very small number of categories.

First, let's talk about what I really liked:

I loved how strange Cress was, and yet it totally fit her in terms of how she had to grow up and stimulate herself. Her little fantasies to get through difficult times were entertaining, and they were convincing as a coping mechanism for her loneliness.
One thing I was curious to know about was why she was so sympathetic toward Earthens, and not for Lunars. I think what was trying to get across was that her isolation from both Lunars and Earthens led her to seek contact through videos and news reports, which only come from Earth due to Lunars' aversion to photography and cameras. And from that research, she grew to identify more with Earthens than with the Lunars that locked her away in a satellite, but her loyalty was something I was wondering about most of the time.

OMG! The plan to ruin the wedding! (I won't put any spoilers here) But yes! Such a fantastically comical and impossible idea! Loved it, and the execution made me think of Oceans Eleven or maybe even a Sly Cooper video game. Just hilarious.

In this book (and Scarlet in particular to me) Iko just shines. Her personality really brings a lot of comical relief to what could be a really tense reading. I was so upset when I thought that her new body was going to be ruined and she was going to have to be the ship again, but things are great, and she gets to stay mobile! YAY!

And finally, POOR BABY WOLF!! Again, no spoilers, but awwwwwwwww. Every time he comes up, I just want to hug him. I'm pretty sure he's my favorite.

And my only issues remain minor, such as a need for more Scarlet, because she's just plain awesome and badass (but unfortunately, I understand the necessity of her absence -sorry, still no spoilers).

I could have done with a little more insight into Dr. Erland's PoV, especially when he started putting puzzle pieces together at the end.

Things I'm looking forward to in the finale:

I liked the introduction of Princess Winter, and I'm excited to get her story.
Can't wait to see what Luna is like!
Although I'm super nervous about how well Cinder will find Lunar revolutionaries. The team will have to be very sneaky to pull off any sort of "revolution" on enemy territory.

The Blonde Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.5/5
Amazon Buyers' Rating: 4.8/5

That's it for Cress, for other Lunar Chronicles reviews, click here for Cinder and here for Scarlet.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. 

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner. 

Almost as a rule of trade, sequels are not as good as the first in a series. 
That is not the case with the Lunar Chronicles.

Anyone who read my review of Cinder knows that I was blown away by the characters, the world, and the story, and this sequel did not scrimp away from any of those details, either.

I'm a sucker for a strong heroine, and I got that in Cinder, and I was delighted to meet the kick-ass, no-nonsense Scarlet in this book. She is strong and defiant, but she's not perfect. She's one-minded, stubborn, and impulsive, all of which gets her into some serious trouble, but it also makes her three-dimensional and real.

I don't think I have a bad word to say about this novel. I'm infatuated with the characters, the tension and drama is constantly rising in stakes, the world-building is great -I love it all.

Normally I end up shying away from fairytale retellings; they just don't go well, in my past experience. But Meyer has surprised me twice, and I have full confidence she will do it again in Cress. The original story is fully recognizable in the current situation, but the story being told is so original and unique that it reads like a new tale. 

I am a little confused as to the reasoning behind the "wolf-soldiers" and their real purpose in the long-run of the story, but if I think of "moon" and "animal," my mind goes to either owls (not very ferocious or terrifying) or wolves (both scary and strong). So in my head, the connection between these wolf-hybrid people and Luna make sense.

Overall Impression:
    I loved this book. I love Meyer's writing style, and I will continue to follow The Lunar Chronicles through the final installment of Winter. I'm excited to see what's still to come.

The Blonde Rating: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.3/5
Amazon Buyers' Rating: 4.7/5

Check out my review for Cinder, and [soon to come] Cress.

Thanks for reading,
The Blonde