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review 2015-09-09 02:09
Rocked my world
Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

There is hype surrounding this book. The hype is not a lie. Six of Crows is truly an amazing read that won’t fail to grasp your attention and leave you begging for more. I started by reading this book slowly (since it was a buddy read with the awesome Jasprit) but on the third day, I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t concentrate on any book that wasn’t Six of Crows. I had no desire to concentrate on such a book. I just wanted to know what happened next. I wanted my ships to sail. I WANTED EVERYTHING. And surprisingly enough, I got it. This book delivered on all my expectations if not more.

But that isn’t surprising (even though I just said it was). This book features, thieves and is set in a fantastical world. Obviously this book and I were meant to be. In fact, screw social conventions, I SHIP MYSELF WITH THE BOOK.

I am going to start by stating the only thing I didn’t like about this book.  I didn’t like that we didn’t get Waylan’s point of view. That’s it. As a reader who doesn’t always enjoy multiple POVs, I actually wanted ANOTHER POV aside from the five we were already getting. Basically, Bardugo pulled all of those point of views off. It never felt unnatural or messy. The shifts flowed well and each character had a unique voice (even though the book was told in third person.) What I am saying here is that Bardugo is a genius.

I’ve only read Shadow and Bone from the Grisha series but that never affected my reading of Six of Crows. It may be set in the same universe but it’s set in a different location so there were several differences between the books and I enjoyed that. I love being in this universe because it’s so artistically developed but I also liked that this series has almost nothing to do with the Grisha series.

This book follows the story of six criminals. A convict, a sharpshooter,  A runaway, A spy, A heartrender and a thief AKA Matthias, Jesper, Waylan, Inej, Nina and Kaz. Kaz is their leader but he is also the leader of my heart (okay now I am just being cheesy. I CANNOT HELP IT.)

Kaz is the most precious thing ever. He is a great leader and what he seeks most is vengeance for his brother. He may seem cruel on the outside but he has a hidden depth that will enamour you and make you want to kiss it all better (although he wouldn’t let you get that close to him.) I love that he is so badass but he also cares about his crew. He is clever and even when it seems he isn’t making the right call, he probably is. 

Matthias is surprisingly easy to like. He may do some things that make you want to shake him but deep down he is a person who will keep his word and isn’t so far gone that he cannot tell right from wrong. I loved his POVs and I also loved his relationship with Nina.

Nina is a  character who is also very easy to like. We see that at first she has a very carefree attitude but underneath all of that she is a Grisha solider. She can hold her own and also happens to be badass. She met Matthias a year before the events of the book and their acquaintainship ended when Nina got him sent to jail. However the sparks are still very much there and it was so much fun to watch them dance around each other.

Jesper and Waylan also happen to be fantastic characters. As I mentioned earlier, I was a little sad that Waylan didn’t get his POV because I wanted to see how he was handling everything. He has a privileged past but he ran away from home after a falling out with his father. He had a lot of trouble taking in some of the actions of his colleagues (can a bunch of thieves be considered colleagues?) but he has hidden depths and we get to see him shine during some key parts and see him become more than just a privileged child.

I really liked Jesper because he is charming and very easy-going but we learn that there is much more to them. We get to see his self-doubt and the guilt he struggles with. I am really looking forward to being reunited with Jesper in the sequel so I can see his character develop even more!

Inej, the last member of this team, is full of win. She is a badass spy and like many of her fellow teammates, she has a complicated past. One that holds her down in some ways but also makes Inej, Inej. All villains/superheroes need backstories that have made me them the way they are today. Without her past, Inej wouldn’t be the badass spy she is today, one who is very complex and very fun to read about.

The characters in this book are SO SO well developed and I just want to give all of them a massive bear hug since I love them all so much. They are a diverse group (YAAS) and they will win your heart over.

As some of you might now, I may or may not really really like books that involve crime, which was why I was looking forward to how the heist in this book would unfold. It was seemingly impossible heist but we also have a cast of clever criminals who won't stop until they have their moolah.

This is a cleverly written book that will make you flail, gasp, ship (oh the shipping in this book is so so great) but most of all, it will make your heart soar with joy because of all the awesomeness. This is easily one of my favorites of the year (like Shadow and Bone was many years ago) and I NEED it to be 2016 so I can have the sequel in my hands and devour that monster too.

Note that I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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review 2014-02-16 05:40
All the Truth That's In Me
All the Truth That's in Me - Julie Berry

This book was nothing short of stunning. Compelling. Unique. Even Ms. Berry's authors note at the end is eloquent & full of emotion. There are so many things about this novel that would normally be a complete turn-off for me... But they all came together so beautifully and perfectly that I couldn't put it down. I'll be mulling Judith's story over for a long while. Full review to come.

UTA: A few days later, and I'm still just as impressed by this book as I was when I finished it. I've never read anything like All the Truth That's In Me, and I'm so glad I picked it up. It reminds me of Jellicoe Road (one of my all-time favorite novels) in that it's really tricky to get into (in this case you don't know the time period, location, who the narrator is or who they're speaking to) but if you give it a chance, the payoff is SO SO great. About 1/3 of the way in I gave up overthinking the second person narrative and shifting timeframe, and just absorbed Ms. Berry's sparse-yet-rich prose and it was such a fulfilling read. I was utterly captivated as Judith's story unraveled. Part historical fiction, part thriller, part romance, part family drama, part adventure it's really difficult to assign it to a specific genre. There are so many aspects to the novel and Berry masterfully weaves everything together - all the little details, and shifting timelines, etc - with stunning prose. 

This novel was a rare treat, and I am so glad I put it on my TBR list. All the Truth That's in Me will most certainly be a reread later on, and I will be seeking out Ms. Berry's other novels as well. 

“Did we risk our lives to defend a just society, where guilt must be proven and not assumed? Or are we no better than the oppressive kings from whom our fathers fled?” 

“If I thought I could never love you more, I didn't understand you well enough.”

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review 2014-01-03 03:16
Lips Touch: Three Times
Lips Touch: Three Times - Jim Di Bartolo,Laini Taylor

Taylor's writing is exceptionally beautiful. Her prose is just a style unto its own, and Lips Touch is no different. Having first read (and loved) Daughter of Smoke & Bone as well as Days of Blood & Starlight, I found this book - published before her others - a bit rougher & less polished in terms of the story development. All of her books have a visceral element of creepiness, danger, and gore. I love that she's not afraid to go there. 

This first story was short, but had a nicely succinct arc to it and the ambiguous ending added perfectly to the already high creep-factor. Despite being brief, Goblin Fruit was has some of the most quotable prose & visceral descriptions. Kizzy & her wayward Jack... 

“Kizzy wanted it all so bad her soul leaned half out of her body hungering after it, and that was what drove the goblins wild, her soul hanging out there like an untucked shirt.” 

“Cats and ghosts both partook of the saucers of milk and that was okay. They consumed different parts of it: the cats its substance, the ghosts its essence, and none went to waste.” 

“Kizzy was so busy wishing she was Sarah Ferris or Jenny Glass that she could scarcely see herself at all and she was certainly blind to her own weird beauty: her heavy spell-casting eyes too-wide mouth wild hair and hips that could be wild too if they learned how. No one else in town looked anything like her and if she lived to womanhood she was the one artists would want to draw not the Sarahs and Jennys. She was the one who would some day know a dozen ways to wear a silk scarf how to read the sky for rain and coax feral animals near how to purr throaty love songs in Portuguese and Basque how to lay a vampire to rest how to light a cigar how to light a man's imagination on fire.” 

I didn't care too much for the second story, Spicy Little Curses, and maybe this is where the book fell short for me? I don't think there was anything wrong with Taylor's writing or story-building here, it just didn't suit my tastes.

“An idea fell like a seed and over the next weeks it went on growing like a fig vine lush and conquering twining round her old beliefs and covering them in new growth until they were as invisible as a tiger in a thicket and just as deadly.” 

The third, and by far the longest, of the 3 stories was the last: Hatchling. Once again, her prose and careful world-building are nothing short of amazing. It was probably the resolution of the fairy tale (it seemed like one, yes?) that got me. Taylor builds her stories with such careful layers, her beautiful prose pulling you in to her world... and then 2/3 of the way through I found myself thinking "what??" Still, the story was engrossing, enchanting, creepy, imaginative, gory (the cats!!), and beautiful, but the last part of it just lost me. I think I needed a better resolution for Mab.

“Is that all souls are for? For when we die?" 
"No. They're for living, too.” 

Lips Touch might not have been my favorite of Taylor's three novels, but it was still a worthy read. If you like fairy tales that are rough and gritty, if you like truly unique stories and beautiful beautiful prose, then her books are not to be missed.

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review 2013-10-28 13:03
Allegiant - Veronica Roth

A LOT of feelings. So many emotions. My 4 stars (rather than 5) are not for the ending, which I thought was actually very well done, but for the content around the middle. For the (many many) overall themes & incredibly astute observations about life & love & the world we live in, Ms Roth gets all of the stars.

“You don’t believe things because they make your life better, you believe them because they’re true.”

“And as I stare out at the land, I think that this, if nothing else, is compelling evidence for my parents’ God, that our world is so massive that it is completely out of our control, that we cannot possibly be as large as we feel."

“There is a difference between admitting and confessing. Admitting involves softening, making excuses for things that cannot be excused; confessing just names the crimes at its full severity.”

“I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me- they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.”

“Just as I have insisted on his worth, he has always insisted on my strength, insisted that my capacity is greater than I believe. And I know, without being told, that's what love does, when it's right-it makes you more than you were, more than you thought you could be. This is right.”

“We are not people who touch each other carelessly; every point of contact between us feels important, a rush of energy and relief.”

“She said that everyone has some evil inside them, and the first step to loving anyone is to recognize the same evil inside ourselves,so we're able to forgive them.”

“To me, when someone wrongs you, you both share the burden of that wrongdoing - the pain of it weighs on both of you. Forgiveness, then, means choosing to bear the full weight all by yourself. Caleb's betrayal is something we both carry, and since he did it, all I've wanted is for him to take its weight away from me. I am not sure that I'm capable of shouldering it all myself - not sure that I am strong enough, or good enough.”

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved for the sake of something greater.”

"Be brave."

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review 2013-10-08 08:40
Liesl & Po
Liesl & Po - Lauren Oliver

This is a challenging review to write because while I enjoyed every minute of Liesl & Po and felt a warm sense of comfort upon finishing it, I've had time to reflect further & find that there's some overall elements that don't truly merit 4 stars. 

On one hand, Oliver earns every single star for her beautiful prose & what I found to be a very comforting vision of life after death. Her version of Heaven (Beyond) and limbo (The Other Side) were conjured so gently & imaginatively. Like many of us, I have an almost crippling fear of death but if it's anything like the way Oliver writes it, I'm not half as scared as I usually am. The whole journey with Liesl, Po, Bundle, Will, and the secondary cast of characters was just really really lovely and unrushed and both melancholy and hopeful.

"The chances I will see him again are next to nothing," Po said. The ghost did not want the girl to get her hopes up. It might not even recognize Liesl's father if it saw him again; by then, Liesl's father might not recognize himself. He might have begun to blur, letting infinity tug on him gently from all sides, like sand being pulled by an eternal tide. He might have already begun the process of becoming part of Everything. He would begin to feel the electricity of distant stars pulsing through him like a heartbeat. He would feel the weight of old planets on his shoulders, and he would feel the winds of distant corners of the universe blowing through him." 

Also, I absolutely adored Po's animal companion named Bundle. I guess if I have to imagine what it's like after I die, I hope I have a Bundle, flickering ahead, Mwark!-ing gently at me while turning circles, and wrapping his essence around me when I need comfort.

On the other hand, after I've had a few days to reflect, I find that while the plot is rather formulaic (sweet young girl is orphaned after her father's death & left in the hands of her evil stepmother. She escapes, ghosts appear, mix-ups occur, coincidences happen, friendships are made, and challenges are met), the lack of deeper characterization bothered me some. It's narrated in 3rd person and while it gives the prose a luminous quality (given the subject matter), it sort of prevents any deeper exploration of any of the characters. Don't get me wrong, the good ones are very likeable & sympathetic, and the bad ones are easy to dislike, but I'd have enjoyed knowing more about Liesl & Will & Po's feelings. 

There were also a few key elements left unanswered & I found that's what I was focusing on as I reflected on the story in the days after finishing it. The unanswered things bothered me more than the lack of characterization, actually. For all the fleshing out of the afterworld that Oliver did, I wish she'd given herself more space to round out a few of the more curious mysteries in the story.

Overall, there's really no big message or hidden meaning in the book. It's just a really lovely adventure about people dealing with loss, easing loneliness, and finding their way forward. And sometimes, especially in a middle-grade book like this, I think that might be enough. Oliver herself has said that this book was a way to heal after the death of a dear friend.

“Additionally, Liesl and Po is the embodiment of what writing has always been for me at its purest and most basic--not a paycheck, certainly; not an idea, even; and not an escape. Actually, it is the opposite of an escape; it is a way back in, a way to enter and make sense of a world that occasionally seems harsh and terrible and mystifying." (from her author's note at the end of the book). 

“People need other people to feel things for them," she said. "It gets lonely to feel things all by yourself.” 

“She liked the word ineffable because it meant a feeling so big or vast that it could not be expressed in words. And yet, because it could not be expressed in words, people had invented a word to express it, and that made Liesl feel hopeful, somehow.”

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