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text 2015-02-28 15:22
Starting: Wildwood Dancing
Wildwood Dancing - Juliet Marillier

I do believe that I am experiencing a book hangover upon the completion of the Shadowfell trilogy.  It kind of crept up on me and now all I can think about is reading another high fantasy or something... specifically something written by Juliet Marillier.


And so Wildwood Dancing it is!  I chose this book as part of my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge, so I might as well get started on it.


I'm so stuck in Shadowfell's world right now that I couldn't even concentrate on reading Zodiac--it probably doesn't help that Zodiac is proving kind of boring so far.  So hopefully Wildwood will help me out of this temporary, short-term slump?  Hopefully?


I mean, I've been sitting here playing Facebook games for the past two hours because I can't make myself stop thinking about Shadowfell...


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review 2015-02-28 02:01
Thoughts: The Caller
The Caller - Juliet Marillier

The Caller -- Juliet Marillier

Book 3 (Final) in Shadowfell trilogy

2014 Release -- Knopf Books

Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Romance



I'm caught between calling it 'Awesome!' and saying that there was still something left to be desired about The Caller. But ultimately, I enjoyed the heck out of this last book in the Shadowfell trilogy and loved the hell out of both Neryn and Flint and even the minor and not-so-minor supporting characters.

There were only a few things in the broken world of Shadowfell's kingdom that had me questioning logic... but then I would turn around and find a way to justify what I had thought didn't make any sense. Just as well, since there were also a few things about the story's progression that felt predictable as well, but that I said "whatevs" to and continued to read and enjoy the book without analyzing it.

And so in the long run, I just ended up deciding to throw my objectivity out the window and just give the book a completely biased rating based solely on how much I loved the book, the conclusion, and the series in general, the world, the culture, the back-history... pretty much everything about this book was pretty damn awesome!

On a side note, I noticed that my rating kept climbing higher and higher with each book. Keep in mind that this has more to do with my influenced enjoyability as I got to know the characters, the setting, the world, the Good Folk and their ways, and Neryn and Flint and Tali et al, as the story progressed. Sometimes when you become invested in a world and its characters, it's hard NOT to finally fall completely in love with them.

Because the endless traveling and long-drawn out days of Neryn waiting and waiting and waiting were an ongoing theme in all three books; however, while they felt uneventful and monotonous and long-winded in Shadowfell, they started giving me a sense of excitement as the last two books progressed.

It's strange how much leeway you're willing to give certain similar writing styles and repetitive themes and predictable story progression if you just so happen to be steadfastly in love with a book. Yea. It's a thing.

The conclusive war against the oppressive King Keldec and his psychotic queen and manipulative councilors is finally drawing near as the seasons change. The Midsummer Gathering is right around the corner and Neryn must continue on with her training in spite of the tragedies and concerns flowing over from where we last left off in Raven Flight. Because Tali has been seen in public at the Midwinter Gathering, she can no longer accompany Neryn to seek out the last two Guardians--just as well, Tali is needed at Shadowfell to finalize the rebellion's last plans in the place of Regan who has lost his life on a technicality mission gone wrong.

Now traveling with Neryn is Whisper, an owl-like Good Folk who is able to transport her from one place to another, saving precious travel time in order to finish her training before the Midsummer Gathering. Along the way she meets new allies and friends who prove just as significant in the ending outcome of the rebellion. But more obstacles surface as Neryn learns of the frail state the Good Folk of the East are in, then following is shown a gruesome parade of Good Folk by the King's Enforcers, that can only mean that Keldec has found Caller for his own twisted greed and use.

The tides of the rebellion may have changed now unless Neryn can find a way to turn everything back around.

I like that each book of Shadowfell has ongoing twists and turns and secret surprises as the story progresses. And I like that with each new obstacle, Neryn only becomes stronger, more determined, as well as much more steadfast in her belief of the rebels' cause. Despite not being the warrior woman that Tali is, whom I missed in this book, by the way, Neryn has her own brand of strength and resourcefulness and tact.

It's slightly inconceivable that one young girl was able to do all that she did in The Caller and make such a big influencing change among the human folk and the uncanny Good Folk just by being present, but I'll live with it. It gave rise to some interesting story progression, that's for sure; and it took the story in the direction it needed to go.

The endgame was a little too neatly packaged, to be honest, but as a big fan of Happily Ever Afters and satisfying endings, I'm not complaining.

The Caller also became very 'Flint'-significant, more so than the first two books had been. I've always been very 'meh' about books written in 1st person POV, but I accept them as they are anyway. When a book starts taking on multiple POVs, alternating between 1st and 3rd, though, I get a little wary. Fortunately, the transitions were smooth enough that it didn't bother me, and at the same time we get an insight into Flint's mind and his actions, which was not bad at all.

Did I mention that Flint still comes off as kind of swoon-worthy despite his continued plunge into misery? Well, he kind of is. And even though the romance in the Shadowfell series is fairly backseat, there's still enough mention of it here and there to continue solidifying just how strong the bond between Neryn and Flint has become after all this time. It's nice to see a developing romance that didn't start from instalove, that doesn't become a handicap for our characters, that doesn't end up the main priority of the couple's lives, but still managed to feel significant, strong, and exude warm and fuzzy feelings whenever the two of them were allowed their rare moments alone together.

Final Thoughts: The Caller was definitely full of significant progression, with a new turn of events each time we think a chapter in Neryn's adventure has come to pass. There is little time to dwell on past events as a new one unfolds almost immediately with our characters constantly moving forward until the final stages of the rebellion come to light.

The conclusion to this book as well as the series is well-rounded and satisfying, but purposefully leaves an open-ended "there are still many things to do for the future of Alban" out there. However, in the end, it IS a final ending and I doubt much more will be said about Neryn or Flint or Alban. The world of Alban and it's histories are rich and extensive, but not overwhelming. The characters were created and developed excellently, each with their own personal stories, each with their own purpose even if it's not evident in the present setting.

Juliet Marillier definitely created a wonderful world in Shadowfell, the type that I wouldn't mind revisiting again and again, as even the minor characters seem to have untold stories that could become an adventure of their own. Her writing is smooth, beautiful, descriptive, almost magical... what more is there to ask for?

There are... parallels that stood out for me. And maybe I'm just looking too hard or seeing things where they really aren't.

But the beginning of the series--the constant traveling with not much really happening--was reminiscent of The Hobbit, wherein I recall telling people that the first 50% of the book is traveling and walking and world and story build-up. That's fine. That's how most high fantasy adventures are anyway. But then there was the ending which also reminded me, once again, of Tolkien and it made me... well, I didn't how what to think about it. How Neryn and Flint are boarding a boat and everyone of their friends are standing around, bidding them farewell. I mean, it's not like it's an exact replica of the ending from Lord of the Rings movie where Frodo leaves on a boat... but it's there.

(spoiler show)

Maybe it's just me. Not that it influenced how much I enjoyed the series though, so it's a moot point. 

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review 2015-02-27 03:08
A Random Bullet List of Thoughts and Stuff: Scarlet
Scarlet - Marissa Meyer

Scarlet -- Marissa Meyer

Book 2 in Lunar Chronicles series

2013 Release -- Feiwel & Friends

Young Adult, Science Fiction, Futuristic, Romance

Based on Little Red Riding Hood



I didn’t write a review for Cinder, mainly because I read it very quickly and just couldn’t think of anything to say about it to the point that I chose to just let my rating sit there and proclaim my like for it--I figured that was good enough.


As for Scarlet, it’s kind of sort of part of some Reading Challenges to write a review, or something like a review, for this book.  So that’s why this post exists right now.




Surprisingly, I expected to like Scarlet a whole lot more than I liked Cinder if only because our titular character, Scarlet, sounds like the typical kickass heroine I love to read about.


And while that was certainly true, there was just something about Scarlet (the book) that didn’t quite hit the spot for me and I realized that I happened to like Cinder (the book) more for enjoyability’s sake.  Why?  I’m not certain I know.  But I think it might have to do with the quieter and and less eventful, less exciting narration of Scarlet.  Don’t get me wrong, there is immense story progression and lots of excellent character development (specifically with Cinder).  This second book of the Lunar Chronicles just seemed to have a quieter tone to it despite the many, many things that go on… and yes, also despite all the bloodshed.



The book picks up where Cinder left off and begins a new chapter to the adventure with the introduction of Scarlet (the character).  While Cinder is being held prisoner in New Beijing and planning her escape with fellow prisoner, Carswell Thorne, Scarlet is going through her own stressful time with her grandmother gone missing and everyone around her acting like general assholes.  She then finds out that her grandmother had been kidnapped because of her knowledge of the missing Princess Selene.  Coming across Wolf, a mysterious street fighter with an underlying viciousness about him, the two set off to find Scarlet’s grandmother.


Meanwhile, Cinder and Carswell Thorne are making their escape and planning Cinder’s next line of action, deciding to head to France in order to find Michelle Benoit, Scarlet’s grandmother, also because of her knowledge of Princess Selene.


Meanwhile redux, Queen Levana is still on a mission to find anyway possible to make life much more miserable for newly coronated Emperor Kai, the people of New Beijing, and for everyone on Earth in general.  With Cinder’s escape, her inflexibility pertaining to the treaty alliance, as well as Kai’s refusal to marry her, the Lunar Queen pretty much has enough reason in her twisted mind to go to war with Earth.

I have several random bullet point thoughts I’d written down and wasn’t sure how to organize my thoughts properly, so I figured why not just draw up a list of unorganized items.



So here we go:


  • About the story itself, as I’d mentioned, Scarlet had excellent progression and development.  But on a likability level, Cinder had more “pull” to attractiveness… if that even makes any sense.


  • I absolutely loved Cinder’s development between Book 1 and Book 2.  In Cinder, I thought that, despite her toughness, Cinder was still a bit of a pushover.  I mean, I get that she didn’t really have much in the form of choices in her life being a cyborg owned by someone and all.  But if we could have had a Cinder and her current personality in Book 2 living in the shoes of the Book 1 Cinder, I wonder if things wouldn’t have been more interesting.  In Scarlet, she’s ALL tough without the meekness and it’s pretty badass.


  • On that note, alongside Cinder having grown more in spunk and snark, I feel like there is more personality in the characters of Scarlet (the book) altogether.  Everyone seems more fun or more insightful or more inspiring.


  • The book’s pacing was smooth, though I didn’t have that physical need to keep reading at all times…  I’m not sure what that says about the book itself though.  O.o


  • Scarlet is pretty kickass… but that seems to be all there is to her.  She’s strong and she’s strong… and she’s resourceful.  And she’s strong.  And she’s just genuinely fully-developed kickass.  Her lack of faith in other people aside, she doesn’t seem to present too many flaws.  And that, unfortunately, makes her just a smidge boring, though I still thought she was pretty badass as well.



The next three items are about Wolf.  If anything, I think Wolf (second to the Cinder-Thorne comedy duo), is really the one who caught my attention.  As a literal “Alpha”, he doesn’t really exude much in the sense of typical broody alpha-male characters in fiction.  In fact, I found his brand of broody alpha male characterization kind of refreshing:


  • Wolf reminds me of an innocent child despite the fact that he is far from childlike.  Being in Levana’s army since he was young really deprived him of the growth and development he would have experienced as a normal young male growing up.  And so it seems he’s experiencing a lot of things for the first time, and I love how it fascinates him so.


  • Wolf’s reaction to everything is like a newborn babe taking his first steps.  It’s actually kind of endearing, even.


  • Wolf is that quiet, subdued nice guy you would always want on your side; silently considerate and altruistic without really trying, but at the same time hiding a dangerous, yet protective fighting animal underneath.

Oh, so many layers to Wolf that are just so subtle and quietly there.



As for other characters:


  • Carswell Thorne… is amusing.  I like his strange sense of goofiness with a nonsensical form of humor.  He’s laughing and you’re not, but somehow it’s funny in a weird way--you just don’t want him to know you think his humor is catching.  It’s a bit wayward and a bit hard to follow; something that, now that you think about it, feels like maybe it’s what was missing from the Lunar Chronicles world.


  • Queen Levana makes me shudder.  She seriously scares the hell out of me.  For reasons I do not even comprehend, and for obvious reasons.


  • Prince Kai… is boring.  I didn’t care much for him in the first book because he was always the standard ‘Prince Charming’ type without breaking character…  And even now he still doesn’t break out of that mold after becoming Emperor.  Even with all of his conflicts and his struggles… well, he’s predictable.


  • Finally, I absolutely, a hundred percent LOVE Iko!



Final Thoughts:  So there it is.  Random bullet list of thoughts with a short somewhat of a summary.  As I’d mentioned in another review somewhere, I’m not a hundred percent in love with the world of Lunar Chronicles, but I still find that it is very creative and very well-built, and has a very colorful culture.  The stories and the characters are attractive and there’s a sense of FEELS at random places that come and go so quickly you don’t really have much time to think about it except to bask in the afterglow of all those FEELS.


It’s a thing.




This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):


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review 2015-02-26 01:17
Thoughts: Raven Flight
Raven Flight - Juliet Marillier

Raven Flight -- Juliet Marillier

Book 2 in Shadowfell trilogy

2013 Release -- Knopf Books

Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Romance



In a strange way, Raven Flight reminded me of an adventuring, single-player RPG. Specifically, I had thoughts of the Zelda games as I read about Neryn's adventure throughout Alban in search of the Guardians.

First, you've got the ultimate 'Final Boss' you must defeat; but before you can defeat him, you must journey through to different places and improve upon your fighting skills as well as acquire the different knowledge, means, precious items, treasures, etc. that are needed to fight the ultimate battle. You journey away from home and learn that you have the ability, that you are the one chosen to help free the lands. You then reach a point where you finally accept and comprehend (even if very little) the role you must play in this war. Then you are told by some prophet or some random higher being, that there are several trials you must accomplish, knowledge that must be acquired, treasures to seek... whatever it is. Then finally, you gather all of your strengths and use all means you have learned to defeat the 'Final Boss'.

I suppose the only difference so far is that Neryn doesn't have smaller, less significant, yet necessary 'Bosses' at different areas to defeat along her way. But if she did, that would be pretty neat.

I didn't pick up on this idea until after I started reading Raven Flight. I'm still not sure if it's the right comparison to make, but the thought came to me and it stuck.

The rebellion against King Keldec has taken a turn with a deadline in the midst and a secret weapon on the rebels' side. Neryn must now hurry across the lands of Alban to seek out the "Big Ones", or the four guardians of north, south, east, and west. As the Master of Shadows has mentioned, Neryn still has a lot to learn about her canny gift of being a Caller and in order to do so, only the Guardians can teach her.

Neryn, with a reluctant Tali as her guard, first travel to the west to see the Hag of the Isles before heading north to wake the Lord of the North. But their journey is a dangerous on with Enforcers about and common folk ready to betray any stranger at the sight of anything unnatural.

Meanwhile, the Good Folk, having agreed to aid in the rebellion's efforts, have already spread word from area to area. Uncanny beings of big and small are well versed in the goings on of their Caller as well as the rebellion itself. Though some are reluctant, the Good Folk do not hesitate to aid Neryn's journey through the lands with small bits of advice here and there, or simply just trivial gestures. Neryn is well on her way to learning and honing her skills as a Caller, though she still has one more Guardian to meet, as well as one other Guardian to find again.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's an adventure of a quiet kind, but there's an underlying tone of building excitement as the story progresses. Neryn's development is immense, though I would say that she was already quite well-developed to begin with. Tali stands out most of all as her character comes upon her own growth and transformation from being the harsh leader tasked with babysitting an amateur Caller, to acknowledging Neryn's strength and seeing her as an equal for their cause. Flint gets little time in this book outside of snippets here and there, but his presence is very much felt--though I can't say that much happens in the sense of character development for him since he continues to live his double life as a rebel spy and continues to drown in the misery of all he must do and all the responsibility on his shoulders.

The story progression feels like it's pacing forward nicely, although really, the only things that have happened is Neryn meeting the Guardians, learning that she already has what it takes to be a Caller, learning that she's already quite adept at using her gift, and then learning ways to better improve her skills. A lot of time passes by as Neryn is tested again and again, seemingly to further tout her claim as a Caller. A lot of time passes as she continues to struggle with her conflicted feelings about whether or not she should even use her gift in the first place and whether or not she can use her gift properly.

While it's a good virtue to have in a hero, sometimes you DO wonder why Neryn is still so hesitant and why it continues to take so many days just for her to figure out certain obvious tacts upon meeting the Guardians.

But anyway...

Final Thoughts: Adventures are my favorite types of fantasy stories and Raven Flight certainly hit upon all the perfect notes of an high fantasy adventure. Now that the setting is much more developed and much more matured from the events of Shadowfell I feel like there's a smoother progression in this second book for all the same ideals. The story certainly picks up more in this sequel than the pacing had been from the first book, which is rare considering the fact that sequels usually don't impress much.

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text 2015-02-24 15:00
Top Ten Tuesdays: Heroines in Fiction

Top Ten Tuesdays is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.




I'm big on character-driven plots and stories.  While it is possible for me to be frustrated with a book that has a great plot and good writing, but terribly developed characters, I've found that I often readily forgive a book it's monotonous story progression or crap writing if I happen to like the characters.  I'm not saying I fall in love with the book because of the characters, because I don't lie to myself about these things:  a badly written book is a badly written book, and a plot-what-plot? story holds nothing over me.


I'm just more forgiving of a badly written book if I happen to like the characters.


And sure, one person's favorite character could be another's arch-nemesis, so a well-written, well-created, well-developed character is all relative from one reader to another.


But because I'm a character loving reader, I tend to put a lot of stock on the types of characters presented to me in books.  In some strange, twisted Ani-logic, because I'm a woman, I also tend to be more critical of my own gender in fiction--I know, I've been trying hard not to be, but I keep slipping and getting on top of a bunch of soap boxes I should probably put away.  


I have certain types of heroines I automatically love or develop girl-crushes on, or simply admire and respect.  There are heroines who are fine the way they are, even if I don't love them to death; but I don't get frustrated with them either, and that's pretty important to me.


But then there are always those heroines who just don't sit well with me no matter what, and to this day, I'm still not quite sure what my trigger is.


Nonetheless, this week's Top Ten Tuesdays is for the Heroines in Fiction Whom I Love.  No doubt there are plenty of them out there, and a lot of my personal favorites tend toward the strong, sassy, smart-ass, snarky, or quietly scheming evil genius types.  I also have a soft spot for younger heroines with prodigal skills and uber-level genius.  And, of course, I sometimes will lean towards a simple heroine who just has great development or who has a simple skill she happens to be good at.


There are also the bitchy heroines with their own sub-types that can be conflicting as to whether or not I like them.  And there are the occasional strangely outlandish and almost crazy heroines who happen to draw my attention.


(On a tangential note, I tend to throw things when there are heroines of the ditzy, purposefully clumsy, can't do anything to save her own life, but who is supposedly a strong and independent type.) 



Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Books

(Or you could pick movies/tv)



Looking through my rough draft list mere hours before posting this piece, I realized that I have too many favorite heroines in fiction as well as not very many who really stand out among the crowd.  So I chose a select few here who have always been personal favorites, and then chose a few who are recent favorites.


Believe me, this list had to be chiseled down by quite a bit.



Some Favorites Since Long Ago:


Dashti from Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Aza from Fairest by Gail Carson Levine


These are two of my most favorite young adult fairy tale retellings, and also part of that first batch of young adult novels I'd read during my college days when reading time was sparse and precious.  I loved both Dashti and Aza from their respective books because I feel like they DO represent good strong examples of resourceful, witty, and capable female heroines from young girls to look up to.  It also helps that the stories are adorably sweet and fun.



Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling


I'm sure no explanation is necessary for this one.  She's Hermione Granger.




Nagato Yuki from the Haruhi Suzumiya series by Tanigawa Nagaru

Rahzel Anadis from Hatenkou Yuugi by Endou Minari


I have mentioned Nagato Yuki more than once before as one of my favorite fictional heroines.  This hasn't changed and I'm sure it won't change anytime soon.  As for Rahzel, I really almost forgot about her until I was thinking, "Hey, what about other anime/manga heroines?"  And then I remembered how much I loved that Rahzel was one in many, many anime female leads I absolutely loved for her snarky witticisms, her nonsensical random tangent sense of humor, and her strength, resourcefulness, and her ability to take care of herself even without the use of her usual crutch, magic.



A Few Favorites of Most Recent:



Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza from the Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson

Ismae from Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Caymen Meyers from The Distance Between Us by Kasie West


These recent additions to my favorites list could be fleeting, but these young women stand out for their own reasons.  Both Elisa and Ismae are strong and intelligent in their own rights and able to get the job done and save the world without the world being all about boys.  As for Caymen, I never really got a handle on her aside from the fact that she's witty and sarcastic with a brand on dry humor that I absolutely love!



Jane Perkins aka "Sweet Baby Jane" from Over the Line by Cindy Gerard

Crystal "Tinkerbell" Debrowski from Whisper No Lies by Cindy Gerard


When I wrote my review for Over the Line, I had mentioned that I had mentally placed Janey Perkins onto a list of female characters that I immediately respected and admired.  Well, since that's the case, I don't see why not add her onto the list of Top Tens--she's got a really mature, level-headed personality, throws the charms on as a rockstar, and can kick her own bodyguard's ass.  That's not bad.  And as for Tinkerbell, I just liked that she was a tiny force unto her own, barely needing someone to rescue her when she's in a bind, and able to follow and lead, defer to the leader as well as take charge, and improve upon her faults and admit when she's wrong without any drama.




By no means are these the only heroines I love in fiction and honestly, they my not be the top picks either, because I never really thought of this topic too much.  I mean, this is like asking me to choose ten favorite books out of my entire favorites list, which is also unfeasible.


In fact, here are some Honorable Mentions:  (one of them is even from a recent TV series rather than a book)



Alana Gore from Tempting the Bodyguard by J. Lynn

Brooke Parker from Love Irresistibly by Julie James


Alana Gore is an atypical type of female main character.  She's got a somewhat successful career, doesn't need a man, and cusses like a sailor.  She also takes a bullet for her man.  But she then ends up needing a man to "complete" her, so she's only an Honorable Mention.


To be fair, Brooke Parker is the same type of heroine as every other Julie James female character written: sassy, snarky, quick-witted, mature, intelligent, talented, and ambitious.  And also to be fair, I don't so much as like Brooke as I love the coupling of Brooke Parker and Cade Morgan, really.



Addison "Addie" Coleman from Pivot Point series by Kasie West


Addie is a straight up nerd.  She's into books and she says things and does things that just makes you cringe in embarrassment for her teenage self, but also love her for daring to be different in a sea of girls who are only interested in boys, clothing, and make-up at that fragile high school age.  Instead, Addie is into nerdy stuff like comic books, books. and the like.  Of course, she's a pretty girl with cynical thoughts of "I'm Plain Jane and I don't know why guys would like me" even though most of the guys end up liking her anyway.



Cheon Song-yi played by Jeon Ji-hyun in My Love From Another Star


Somehow, I feel like Song-yi should be at the top of my list rather than an Honorable Mention, but I had wanted to keep this list restricted to books, then I thought of her later into writing this post, and then I decided that I was just too lazy to re-list the entire thing.


Also, just in case anyone is curious, as a big K-drama fan, I do have a LOT more K-drama series female heroines I'm in love with, but if I had to list them all, this Top Ten could go on for a while.  So I'll just have Cheon Song-yi represent them all, no?


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