Cress by Marissa Meyer (5 stars)
A lot of fun with a great cast of characters. Sci-fi fantasy fairytale retellings done well. It doesn't get much better.
The Demon's Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Demon's Lexicon (4 stars)
The Demon's Covenant (5 stars)
The Demon's Surrender (4 stars)
GAH THIS SERIES. Lots of kissing and also angst, but oh the emotions. These two brothers couldn't rip my hearts out anymore, I swear.
Seeking Persephone by Sarah M. Eden (4 stars)
So much cuteness! Think Beauty and The Beast meets a slightly Georgette Heyer Regency romance feel.
Delilah Dirk and The Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff (4 stars)
A charming graphic novel, complete with lovable characters and beautiful illustrations. The atmosphere and settings were also lovely, and not something that is generally seen in the literary world here, or at least, not wherever I'm looking.
Joan of Arc by Mark Twain (4 stars)
A well-written classic actually deserving of that title. Definitely Twain's best, out of those that I've read.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (5 stars)
Just really brilliant and full of important points to ponder.
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (4 stars)
Not as good as the first book in the series, but still a good installment and lots of fun hanging out with Lockwood and Co. Oh, and all the ghosts too.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce (5 stars)
One of the best children's books I've ever read, and it helps that it's a bibliomaniac's dream come true.
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman (4 stars)
Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick (4 stars)
I imagine a conversation went like this when pitching this book:
Publisher: Well, Ms. Patrick the Russian Revolution idea is interesting. But we have to have something to compare it with.
Publisher: New trend in YA. Everything has to be compared to something else.
Patrick: Like Hunger Games?
Publisher: Waaay over done.
Patrick: Okay, what about Dr. Who?
Publisher: Are you serious? Dr. Who meets the Russian Revolution. That is even ridiculous for our company. Here, watch some TV I’ll talk to you in a few hours.
Ten days later which equals ten minutes in publishing land.
Publisher: So, have you came up with a mesh up for us.
Patrick: Yes, uh, Material Girls?
Publisher: Material Girls? Is that that bad Hillary Duff knock off of Sense and Sensibility that takes place in LA and has her sister cast in it (God, I love nepotism).
Patrick: Yep, that one.
Publisher: I love it.
MJ: I don’t love it.
To be fair, there’s nothing involving Material Girls in the plot synopsis. The comparison is only mine to make. But if you’ve seen that movie, you’re getting a good idea what Tsarina is about. Throw in a little Stockholm Syndrome, a McGuffin, and you got this book.
The only thing it really had in its favor is the concept and the setting.
However, the synopsis mentions the Romanovs. Other than a cameo at the beginning, you don’t get any Romanovs. Instead, you get the Duff sisters wearing pretty dresses and in this book essentially causing the Romanovs deaths by being stupid.
But don’t worry, there’s a new boy in town.
Handsome Leo who’s a brute for about 280 pages of the book.
Yeah, I really have problems with Stockholm romances. Especially when the so called love of your life died about thirty pages ago. Really? You know having a Stockholm romance already puts the book on shaky ground. That scene had me raging.
Though, given the fact that Natalya was already a frustrating character, a frustrating character who had little to no redeeming characteristics.
I really think that Patrick was trying for a riches to rags vibe with character development. But at the end, I didn’t feel like I sensed any character development from this character. She’s still the same selfish twat like she was at the beginning of the novel. And I don’t think her relationship with Leo (The Stockholm Induced Love Interest) helped.
However, sour characters and a romance that makes the early Disney princess’s romances look develop has nothing on how the Russian Revolution is distorted in this book.
I’ll be honest. Even though I had to do multiple projects and papers over the Russian Revolution, was coerced to reading Animal Farm, and watched the historically inaccurate animated film a dozen times in my youth, the subject matter can easily get confusing. Patrick’s novel doesn’ t make it that much better.
I think part of it is that I couldn’t sympathize for either side. I couldn’t see their sides of things. The Whites were portrayed as being like the Duff sisters and the Reds were just portrayed as murderous fiends.
And then there are the mystics…
Like with the animated movie, this book decides to go with semi-evil mystics. Though I’ll give it kudos for not having a zombie-ish Rasputin walking around. Just his…never mind for spoilers.
To be honest, I think Rasputin and the mystics always sort of get a bad wrap when it comes to fiction about the Russian Revolution. Never mind, that he played really no role to the tsar’s downfall he’s just an easy target-I don’ t think the beard helps. But I really don’t see why such a big deal is made out of them when there’s so many other historical figures to discuss.
I don’t know…it’s just I feel like the history itself is interesting enough where parties don’t need to be added or changed to the story.
And that might’ve been the worst thing about this story.
The whole faberge egg plot really didn’t work for me either. It really felt more or less like a McGuffin quest. The so called powerful object really wasn’t even that powerful.
I don’t even really know what it really did by the end of the book. Oh, I was told but I kept waiting for the stupid egg to show me the money…
The book never did.
I think for people who are wanting to know more about the Revolution or even expecting a fun Anastasia-ish themed novel, they’re probably going to wan to avoid this book. I think the best way to describe Tsarina is that Nelle was playing with Russian Revolution era Barbies.
Overall Rating: D as in disappointing.
If I were to make a list of books that I was greatly disappointed by before I even finished half of it, this would be high on the list. Granted, the main reason why it took so long for me to finish was because I took out an ebook copy from the library to read during my vacation, during which I had hardly any free time for reading.
That aside however I doubt I would've finished reading the book in a few days, mainly because it dragged on and on and on and without anything to keep the interest fueled.
If most of the Russian nobles behaved liked Natalya did at the time of the Russian Revolution then I daresay they deserve what they got. She was such a ridiculously flat character despite the attempt to make her try to see both sides of the story and her attempt to mediate between the Red and White position, but the whole thing was just groan, groan, groan. As soon as Leo appeared in the story it was predictable what his role was, how his relationship with Natalya would turn, and how Natalya and her friend (who was so unmemorable I can't recall her name) would end up finding the differences between them and part ways. I didn't care much for her romance with Alexei - again, it felt flat and forced. I found it hard to believe they actually loved each other that much, despite the constant reminder every few pages that kept telling me so.
It was a predictable and disappointing book, in short, where the only character that I enjoyed was Leo, and even then it was only certain aspects of his personality that I admired. Otherwise this didn't live up to the expectations I harbored after reading the very promising summary. I found it easy to skip several paragraphs at a time and still keep up with the plot.
The only reason why I give it a 2, despite feeling that this is more of a 1-star, is because this book still somehow managed to convey the atmosphere of Imperial Russia, which is one of my favourite time periods to study, especially after the very in-depth look we took into Russia in the 20th century in my history course this year. My love for the historical aspect is the only reason why I give this book a 2-star rating.
This wasn't the beautifully crafted, clever book with a gripping plot line, a romance worth saving, and a clever heroine. It was bland, predictable and, at times, the whole story about the egg felt a tad too ridiculous even that it makes one want to pull Rasputin back from his grave to give him a lecture on irresponsible magic casting.