THRONE OF GLASS (Throne of Glass, #1): Review

Hello, all! This post should technically be a September wrap-up, but I’m going to skip that this month, as I haven’t made much of a dent in my TBR. :/ So I’m posting a review instead. Enjoy!


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Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 7, 2013
Genres: young adult, fantasy
Pages: 404
Format: Hardcover
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Rating: ★★★


This is going to be another one of those not-so-helpful reviews. This book was fine, but, for me, it wasn’t fantastic. I actually don’t remember that much about it.

Wait, I take my first statement back. Maybe this review will be more helpful than I thought. Because I can’t remember much about this book, which means I don’t have many concretely specific details. But that also tells you a lot about my reading experience.

Given all the hype, this book is a surprisingly generic fantasy. The characters, the kingdom, the contest–it’s all stuff I’ve read before. And given how much people rave about this series, I was disappointed by Throne of Glass‘s mediocrity.

Granted, I may not remember much about the book because I’ve read the other four, too, and I read this a long time ago. However, having read the other four, I can confidently say that this series is engaging–just not in this book. Maas begins coming into her own as a fantasy writer in Crown of Midnight, and, by Heir of Fire, she’s hit her stride. It just takes time, and these books aren’t short, especially by the third one.

My verdict? If you’re interested in giving this series a try, read Throne of Glass without setting your expectations too high. If you happen to love Throne of Glass, though, that’s excellent. Because, in my opinion, the books only get better and more sophisticated from there.

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CRUEL BEAUTY (Cruel Beauty Universe, #1): Review

I know I’ve been absent a lot lately; school has been drowning me. In the meantime, here’s a review! I hope to be back regularly soon!


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Cruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty Universe, #1) by Rosamund Hodge 
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28, 2014
Genres: young adult, fantasy, mythology, retellings
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
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Rating: ★★


My review of this book will likely be (unacceptably) brief, because there’s not much for me to say. Just a fair warning.

I read this book a while ago, and I can barely remember anything about it. All I really recall is being fascinated by some of the elements of the world: a parchment sky, a world ruled by demons (one of which is ironically called the Gentle Lord), a mischievous, deadly house filled with almost as many secrets as its master himself. As individual ideas, these were unique and unlike anything I’ve seen in YA  fantasy. But none of them were very fleshed out when put together, which made everything seem disconnected and underdeveloped. If you’re going to give me a unique world, you need to give me the whole thing, not just tidbits of it.

Nyx has the potential to be an intruiging character, but she came across more as snarky than bitter to me. As interesting of a character as she could be, she alone is not enough to carry this novel. Her relationships with Shade and Ignifex (yes, there is a love “triangle,” if you can call it that) are incredibly superficial; they consist of clinging to Shade and engaging in “witty” banter with Ignifex, the latter of which is so underdeveloped I never really saw him as a love interest in the first place. He read like a reluctant cardboard cutout of a villain.

Also, I don’t remember much about the twist–only that it confused me a lot and left me thinking one word: anticlimactic.

I’m not very familiar with Greek mythology this novel is supposedly based on, so perhaps  I cannot fully appreciate this adaption. But, to me, Cruel Beauty read like a hodgepodge (I’ll refrain from making an author-related joke here), that’s more unsatisfying than it is original.

NIGHT (The Night Trilogy, #1): Review

1617Night (The Night Trilogy, #1) by Elie Wiesel
Published by Hill and Wang on January 16, 2006 (first published in 1958)
Genres: memoir, nonfiction, historical
Pages: 120
Format: Paperback
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Rating: ★★★★★


This is not really going to be a review, per se. Because I don’t feel this is a novel that can be rated on the typical scale, seeing as it’s somebody’s story, a part of somebody’s life. And I feel strange trying to rank or rate that.

This is not really going to be a review because I’m not rating its prose, its atmosphere, or its storytelling component. All of those elements are here, and they are fantastically written, but this book is not here as entertainment. Night is a reminder–the still, small solitary voice that echoes in the wide, dark room of our world. And as Wiesel tells his story of being kept in a ghetto, of surviving Auschwitz with all its shadows and flames and hunger, of marching in the snow with a bleeding foot, it’s impossible not to listen.

We live in a time where events like the Holocaust and the terror of WWII are reduced to pages in a history textbook and slides on PowerPoints. For those of us who never experienced such events ourselves, it is terrifyingly easy to forget the pain and suffering that occurred. But Wiesel spreads awareness by sharing his experiences very intimately, without exploiting those experiences.

This book is not propaganda. It is a testament–and a warning to the world, told through the eyes of a teenager who was persecuted solely for his heritage. It’s a story that’s impossible to forget, which is crucial if we want to prevent such things from happening again. This just as heart-wrenching as it is important. It’s a difficult read, but a vital one. Because shame on us the day we ever forget.

THE BOOK THIEF: Review

1118668The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books on September 18, 2007 (first published September 1, 2005)
Genres: young adult, historical fiction
Pages: 550
Format: Paperback
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Rating: ★★★★★


I worry my review of this book won’t do it justice. How do I adequately describe to you the magic of Zusak’s words, the atmosphere he creates–the emotions he makes you feel–if you haven’t experienced all these things yourself?

Death narrates this novel, and he is cynical and weary of his job by the time World War II breaks out. Death is everywhere, lurking in many places, seeing the colors of so many different souls. And yet something about a little book thief named Liesel Meminger catches his interest. Through Death’s eyes, we see Liesel’s story in its full, tragic scope, and we see all the people she interacts with: the Jewish man named Max her extended family hides, the older couple trying to give a home to a girl who’s lost everything, the boy named Rudy who dreams of being Jesse Owens and only wants one kiss from Liesel. In many ways, it’s the story of a community, and Liesel’s place in that community as the violence and evil of WWII encroach ever closer.

It’s hard for me to explain to you the impact this novel had on me. I can write long, long reviews for other books, but when it comes to my favorites, writing reviews is near impossible. The very best books are truly experiences, and how do you explain that kind of life-changing phenomenon?

But I’ll try: In less than two days, I finished all 550 pages of this book and sobbed at the end. Everything about it–the writing style, the characters, Death’s recounting of and personal comments about his job and Liesel’s story–left me completely breathless. The Book Thief remains one of my favorite novels of all time, if not my very favorite. I’d give it seven stars if I could. Please read it.

DON QUIXOTE: Review

335567Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, translated by Walter Starkie
Published by Signet Classics on October 1, 1965 (first published January 16, 1605)
Genres: historical fiction, classics
Pages: 1056
Format: Paperback
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Rating: ★★★★


I’m not sure how accurate my rating of this book is for several reasons. Firstly, I read this book a year ago, which means it’s been a while since I’ve revisited what I’ve read. Secondly, this book was very, very long (the longest book I’ve ever read), and so some of my reactions while reading it will likely fall through the cracks of my poor little brain. (What can I say? Reading 50 pages of small, small type every day for 11 days just to get through this sucker will change a person.)

Thirdly, I’m pretty sure I read this incorrectly.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s no one “right way” to read a book. Every reader, just like every book, is different, and no two people will interpret the same book the same way. But I tend to begin classics expecting them to have a clear, linear plot progression and to follow the same clipped, standard formula so many modern books do today.

Yet I’m realizing now that’s not very realistic. These formulas probably didn’t exist in the seventeenth century, and I think what makes classics so timeless is that they’re more about their messages and what their stories symbolize than the stories themselves.

So, long story short, I need to change my perception and my expectations when I read classics, because they offer more than what they seem to give at first glance.

Don Quixote is about a normal guy in seventeenth-century Spain who starts reading so many books about knights, he believes he is one. Gifted with this new “revelation,” he sets off from his home to restore order and justice to the world–all while inadvertently adding to his own fame, unaware that his adventures are all make-believe.

This story is long. It rambles; many of the characters (Quixote included) wax poetic musings about love and loss and the glory of knighthood. In addition, there are many additional stories featured in this novel; if Don Quixote or Sancho Panza is being told a story, you’d better believe the readers will be hearing the unabridged version of that story, even if it has no relevance to the plot.

But maybe, one of my friends has suggested to me, that’s the thing: maybe all those deviations from Don Quixote’s tale are intentional. Because this isn’t really about Don Quixote’s “knighthood adventures.” It’s more about the people he meets and the lives he inspires with his contagious idealism and his thirst for justice (in a more abstract, romantic sense of the word). His behavior is quixotic (and yes, that word was actually inspired by this book), true, but he’s hopeful, and it transforms and brings joy to so many people.

I didn’t read it that way initially, and so I’ll admit that this was one of those books I appreciated more fully only after I finished it. It’s a long haul. But if you want to laugh about poor Sancho Panza and his attempts to please his “master,” Don Quixote; if you want a traditional, romantic hero who is truly pure of heart (sometimes to his extreme detriment, heheh); if you want damsels who aren’t actually in too much distress and stories about shepherds who fall dangerously (and seemingly pointlessly) in love, this is your book. But in order to appreciate it fully, you’ll have to commit to its length first.

JELLICOE ROAD: Review

2999475Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Published by HarperTeen on August 26, 2008
Genres: young adult, realistic fiction, contemporary
Pages: 419
Format: Hardcover
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Rating: ★★½


This book has moved so many. But all it did was confuse me.

I loved Finnikin of the Rock, so I wanted to check out more of Marchetta’s books, and I’d heard lovely things about this one. Unfortunately, everything about it was a mess for me: the plot, the setting…I was just so turned around.

So apparently the people at this boarding school of sorts are involved in territorial wars that were started years ago, but nobody really knows why the wars continue, and what their point is? The logic behind these territorial wars was poorly-explained, and I got lost in all the seemingly nonsensical rules involved in the war. My confusion made it difficult for me to picture the setting vividly because I was devoting too much time to trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

In addition to the territorial wars, Taylor, our MC, is also struggling with the disappearance of Hannah, who found Taylor on the Jellicoe Road years ago and has been a supportive constant in her life ever since her mother abandoned her. As Hannah’s absence is prolonged, Taylor begins probing into Hannah’s past…and learns more about her own.

It turns out Hannah’s past is actually much more closely connected to Taylor’s than Taylor ever could have imagined, and we get snippets of this past throughout the book. However, the way these snippets are interwoven with the main plot (whatever the heck the main plot was, anyway) makes this aspect of the book just one more layer of confusion, and the final twist was so vaguely explained that I actually had to look up a summary of the twist because I’d read it three times and was still confused. Thus, there was never any payoff for me.

I can see glimmers of good intention in this book, however. There are some touching, well-written moments where we see the impact of Taylor being abandoned (by more people than just her mom), and where we see her trying to grow into her own identity. I liked those moments. But, unfortunately, the vast majority of this book was me just furrowing my brow, leaving me confused by way more than just the hype.

THE COLOR PROJECT: Review

22892448The Color Project by Sierra Abrams
Published by Gatekeeper Press on July 18, 2017
Genres: young adult, contemporary romance
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
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Rating: ★★★★½ 


Before I read this book, I made a prediction. I’m normally terrible with predictions (unless we’re guessing the twist from Insurgent), but I was crossing my fingers and hoping I’d be right.

My prediction was this: that The Color Project would would feel like a Sarah Dessen novel, but with more heart.

Let me clarify what I mean by that, because I’ve said before (in my review of The Truth About Forever) that Sarah Dessen’s novels have more heart than your average mass-print YA contemporary. To some degree I still stand by that: Dessen is not afraid to touch on issues like chronic illness, the messiness of divorce, how a loved one’s actions can turn your life upside down, death of family members. Most of her characters deal with some serious topic such as these. But, in retrospect, I don’t feel that Dessen takes these issues home. Her books tickle the heartstrings like any Hallmark movie, but they’re too Hallmark-y (and similar, goodness gracious) to have a deeper, prolonged impact, though there’s certainly potential for such impact.

So when I say I was hoping TCP would be a Dessen novel with heart, I was hoping Sierra Abrams would address hard issues and have them hit home. I wanted intense and emotional and real. My prediction was that I’d get all three.

I’m pleased to say my prediction was correct.

I met Sierra sometime last year at a book signing, and I found out she was publishing a book through staying in contact with her on social media. So I know a little bit about this book’s journey and some of the inspiration behind the scenes. It’s hard to self-publish–mainly because you’re your own best publicist–and be successful. It’s even harder to self-publish your debut and get it right; a lot of “normally”-published books can’t even do that.

It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. Here, Sierra proves it.

I’m amazed by the life of this book. It’s a vibrant, pulsing thing–full of giggles and wide smiles and some incredibly heartfelt moments. This book doesn’t just ask for your attention while reading–it demands it, because it’s that engaging and that intense.

I loved Bee. So much. I’m not necessarily in the same position she is, but I can relate to her so well, and her voice just exudes off the page. She, too, is awkward and self-conscious, but she’s intense and sensitive by nature, and big-hearted by design. She’s my kind of girl. The writing style reveals some of her little mannerisms, like how she talks to herself a lot–sometimes to encourage, sometimes to shame herself. (Who doesn’t talk to themselves from time to time?) She’s just such a real character, so full of love for life, and her personality was too passionate to be ignored. It was so cute to see how Bee reacted to meeting Levi and being around him, and how Levi reacted to her. I was constantly grinning.

Speaking of Levi: wrap him up–I’ll take two! This boy (or, as Bee calls him, “the Boy,”) is adorable. He’s chivalrous, he’s respectful, he’s sensitive, he’s generous, and he’s stubborn, but in the good way. You’d think he’d quickly become the Manic Pixie Dream Boy (and there were some moments where he read more like a character than an actual person), but Levi’s just as real as Bee, and just as intense in his own ways. Their chemistry together–both the way it was written and the way it played out–was spectcular and realistic, even the conflict. It got cheesy during a few moments, but eh, cute couples are inevitably cheesy. They’re still my #relationshipgoals. 😉

Now on to the darker parts of this novel: the family tragedy. Bee’s experience with her family is based off the author’s own experience (key word being “based”), and my heart ached for both the author and her characters as we went through the uncertainty and desperation tragedies like these always leave in their wake. I won’t spoil anything, but this part of the book hit hard, and, despite never having something like this happen to me, I could easily sympathize with Bee and her family. There were many touching, tear-jerking moments.

This book is real (goodness, I’ve used this word a ton in this review) and honest–in so many heartwarming ways. Expect it to leave you laughing, crying, and grinning ear-to-ear with from warm fuzzies. When asked to find the balance between cutesy romance and meaningful, heartfelt moments, this book passes with flying colors.

Much thanks to the author for providing an ARC for me to read and review. I’ve been looking forward to this book for such a long time, so thank you for the opportunity! It more than delivered. 🙂