Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I LOVED this book. Once I read the synopsis, I had to get my hands on it.

 After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Before I started this book, I’d read a few reviews that were mostly negative, so I was bracing for disappointment. However, it was amazing! Haters be damned! Don’t listen to them; this book was great!

 A discrepancy that the negative reviewers brought up was the legitimacy of the statement that she was the country’s best assassin. I guess they didn’t believe she could really kill with her bare hands. Oh, how the reviewers underestimated her just as the men in this book underestimate her! There was event after event that proved how good she was! She could drop a grown man in a matter of seconds, and she could keep up with the pack during all of the challenges. However, Celeana was really emotional, but I LOVED that about her. To have the ability to kill but to also love and laugh, cry and scream — it was so believable. People do what they must to survive.

The characters in this novel are all complex and delightful to read. I enjoyed the relationship between Celeana (or Lady Lillian, her alias at court) and the Crown Prince, Dorian. They had so much in common. My favorite thing about their relationship is she didn’t fall for him right away. He was known as a bit of a player and Celeana wasn’t interested until their compatibilities seeped into the cracks of the wall she put between them.

I enjoyed the tension in Celeana’s relationship with Chaol, her trainer and Captain of the Royal Guard. They had a love/hate relationship, but with each victory and each overcome obstacle, they began to trust each other and a relationship was born.

I even want to mention Nox, one of the thieves. Personally, I was rooting for him and I was a bit disappointed with how it all ended between Celeana and him. However, it was all so fun to read and so exciting! Even Celeana’s relationship with the Princess Nehemia was intriguing. This book was well-paced, and the relationships developed over time leading to an amazing story.

There were a few things that stuck out to me in this novel. Initially, I started reading with a negative picture in my head and the third person narrative was a blaring eye sore. (I hate reading third person. I like to know what the main character is thinking and feeling at all times.) However, once I got into the book, I didn’t notice it anymore and the third person was a great way to show the differing views between characters. Another slight issue I had was the characters playing pool in the Castle. I adored these scenes between Celeana and Dorian but for some reason Billiards just seemed too modern to be in this time. (Even though it’s dystopian and it’s anywhere and nowhere at the same time.)  I even did some research and apparently billiards came about in the 15th century so Maas’ inclusion of pool in the story isn’t so unusual at all. Huh, you learn something new every day. 🙂 The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the cover, it seems too dated to me. I don’t like the girl and the cover is a bit cheesy.

If you like adventure, action, romance, and books involving kings and their courts, read this book. There is even a fantasy/magic element that I thought was integrated very well. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and even though the ending was open-ended, Maas brought everything together in the end leaving the reader satisfied but still ready for more. I cannot wait to see what happens next. The next book is yet to be titled and is expected to be published in 2013. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one!

Releases and Recommendations

It’s Tuesday! If you read my previous post you’ll see that I reviewed Bared To You by Sylvia Day. This week, I’m anticipating the release of the sequel, Reflected in You, which will be released Tuesday, October 23, 2012.

Gideon Cross. As beautiful and flawless on the outside as he was damaged and tormented on the inside. He was a bright, scorching flame that singed me with the darkest of pleasures. I couldn’t stay away. I didn’t want to. He was my addiction… my every desire… mine.

My past was as violent as his, and I was just as broken. We’d never work. It was too hard, too painful… except when it was perfect. Those moments when the driving hunger and desperate love were the most exquisite insanity. We were bound by our need. And our passion would take us beyond our limits to the sweetest, sharpest edge of obsession…

Okay, so the synopsis is dramatic — but I love dramatic! I’m really hoping for tons and tons of character development in this book. I really want to fall  in love with the characters this time. I’m giving Sylvia Day another shot since I wasn’t completely sold on her previous book, so I have high expectations. Hopefully, she’s had time to adjust and push her characters through the “popular”  plotline. I’m looking for her characters to shine without the help of similiarities to the Fifty Shades series.

Bared To You by Sylvia Day

WARNING: CONTENT FOR AGES 18+

This is going to be a hard one to write. This is one of those books where the subject matter is a little risqué, so you try to hide it in public when others peek at the cover.  I have SO much to say about this book but it’s also one of those risky reviews, where you put it all out there.

 Here goes.

 Raise your hand if you’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. Most, if not all? I thought so.

 (Not alienating the people who haven’t. Just clarifying that Bared To You is marketed to the Fifty Shades Fanatics, which I have a problem with — I’ll get to that later.)

I’m a fan of romance. Since I can remember, it’s been my thing and as I got older I was introduced to the erotic genre which fascinates me, not to mention keeps me thoroughly entertained. 😉 (You ladies know what I’m talking about!) I love reading genuine love stories with drama and passion but stories that also put meaning in that passion. If a book is nothing but meaningless sex, I lose interest and it becomes the trash that people accuse it of being.

With that said, Bared To You by Sylvia Day was good, not great, but good.

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness…

He was beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white-hot. I was drawn to him as I’d never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily…

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private wounds… and desires. The bonds of his love transformed me, even as I prayed that the torment of our pasts didn’t tear us apart…

I had a huge issue with how this book was marketed. The cover art resembles that of the Fifty Shades of Grey series (obviously so, do they have no shame?) and it has also been discussed and advertised as something Fifty Shades readers would want to read next. It shares the same type of storyline where a girl falls in love with a possessive, attractive billionaire with mysterious issues. However, I would not put this book in the Fifty Shades category; it’s more like one shade. Bared To You is MELLOW compared to Fifty Shades. If you enjoyed the BDSM in Fifty Shades, there isn’t any in this book. The love story between Eva and Gideon is weak compared to the solid relationship between Anna and Christian.

I feel horrible because I can see Sylvia Day cringing in anger with every reference to Fifty Shades people make when talking about HER book. I’m sure her intention wasn’t to make another Fifty Shades. It was to create her own story, which is nothing like Fifty Shades! Hence, I’m pissed it’s marketed to be almost exactly like it, incorrectly influencing readers to believe otherwise.

If you’ve read Fifty Shades, you might not like Bared To You simply because Fifty Shades has set the bar really high and you’ll go in with high expectations. Sadly, this book doesn’t meet those expectations. However, if you’ve never read Fifty Shades, you might seriously enjoy Bared To You.

Like I said before, this book has a similiar plot to Fifty Shades but it also has a unique twist. It concentrates on the issues both Eva and Gideon have from being abused and how they deal with them. I would caution readers who’ve been abused who are interested in reading this novel, just as Eva says herself; one has to be careful of triggers and this book is full of them. However, the cruel reality of the abuse in both Eva and Gideon’s history is what makes this story so compelling and melts the hearts of readers.

There were a lot of random things I thoroughly enjoyed about this book. I loved Eva’s bisexual roommate Cary. His story is intriguing; I want to learn more about him. I loved the safe word Eva and Gideon chose, even more I enjoyed the way it was used. I really liked Eva’s boss, Mark. I guess I just really enjoyed the supporting characters.

I really wanted to be in love with Eva and Gideon’s story but I felt like the relationship was too insta-love with Gideon being a huge asshole and Eva being “that” girl who falls in love too fast. Gideon’s blunt come-ons were not attractive and Eva’s response was predictable and sometimes pathetic. However, once I forced myself to look past the insta-love and “pretend” there was plenty of build up in their relationship, it was more enjoyable to read.

One of the biggest disappointments in the novel came from Day’s writing style, particularly in the sex scenes. The purpose of erotica is the sex scenes so they have to be good. Day’s word choice in each scene was extremely repetitive and sometimes too vulgar. She used words like cleft, pucker, and spurt. I’m sure my face physically wrinkled in distaste with each reference. In other words, Day’s sex scenes are not “pretty,” they elude to bodily functions more than the act of passion. It created a huge disconnect for me with the novel because the writing was so distracting. For someone who enjoys sex scenes, I couldn’t wait for them to be over in this book. However, I did enjoy how Day portrayed that the underlying issues in Eva and Gideon’s relationship forced them to communicate through the physical, which added validity to the story. (Even though it’s a messed up way to work through a relationship.) I enjoyed that difficult aspect and the delicate balance between consent and being used.

Even though a majority of my thoughts are negative, this book has a lot of potential. It ended in a subtle way with open-ended storylines foreshadowing a lot of drama in the next installment, Reflected In You, which comes out October 23, 2012. I’ll continue to give this series a shot simply because without reading Fifty Shades first, I might have enjoyed it more without the distracting parallel plotlines. I’m willing to give Day another chance.

Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London

I really like the cover for Darkness Before Dawn by J. A. London but there is so much more inside than the standard, run-of-the-mill Young Adult Paranormal Romance that it depicts. I was swept away in this story and I loved every minute of it.

 Only sunlight can save us.

We built the wall to keep them out, to keep us safe. But it also makes us prisoners, trapped in what’s left of our ravaged city, fearing nightfall.

After the death of my parents, it’s up to me–as the newest delegate for humanity–to bargain with our vampire overlord. I thought I was ready. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the monsters. Then again, nothing could have prepared me for Lord Valentine . . . or his son. Maybe not all vampires are killers. Maybe it’s safe to let one in.

Only one thing is certain: Even the wall is not enough. A war is coming and we cannot hide forever

I devoured the 300+ pages in less than a day; I couldn’t put it down. I love, love, LOVED this concept of a human delegate being presented before a vampire lord, and it was executed very well. So well, that I was completely blown away.

 I had all of these assumptions and expectations (assumptions made on the cover, I suppose?) because I could see early on how it would sort of play out. Yet, I was completely surprised. The pacing in this book was amazing. It allowed for the perfect amount of character development and build up before everything explodes into this heart-pounding frenzy!

I stand here speechless and awestruck at London’s ability to establish connections between Dawn and Michael, and Dawn and Victor, (LOVE TRIANGLE ALERT!) and make it so compelling and believable. I really wanted to scoff at the young, human girl falling for the powerful vampire but London pulled it off so well. I was so invested! Both Victor and Michael were drool-worthy and formidable candidates to be Dawn’s significant other. Between the two of them, Dawn’s relationships range from comfortable intimacy to roaring passion making it a very juicy, delicious read.

The biggest weakness in the whole book lies in Lord Valentine. He was so ruthless, murderous, and…just plain mean, but I felt like he was swept under the rug in the end even though he’s a pivotal part of the story. I’m not sure what I wanted, maybe some closure?  The only other issue I had is the synopsis eludes to a full-out war in this story. It doesn’t really deliver but the book does set up the plot for one, maybe the next book?

I would highly recommend this book. I’ve been under insatiable booklust lately wanting to read more and more, but Darkness Before Dawn has satisfied my craving. The next installment, Blood-Kissed Sky, won’t be out until December 2012. I will be eagerly awaiting its arrival.

No Proper Lady by Isabel Cooper

 I was drawn to this cover. It reminds me of both a romance novel and a paranormal novel, and after reading the synopsis, I had to give it a go — set in 1800s England and includes time travel and demons? Yes, please!

 It’s Terminator meets My Fair Lady in this fascinating debut of black magic and brilliant ball gowns, martial arts and mysticism.

England, 1888. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and and no one has any idea that in a few hundred years, demons will destroy it all. Joan plans to keep it that way. All she has to do is take out the dark magician responsible—before he summons the demons in the first place. But as a rough-around-the-edges assassin from that bleak future, she’ll have to learn how to fit into polite Victorian society to get close to her target.

Simon Grenville has his own reasons for wanting to destroy Alex Reynell. The man used to be his best friend—until his practice of the dark arts almost killed Simon’s sister. The beautiful, half-naked stranger Simon meets in the woods may be the perfect instrument for his revenge. It will just take a little time to teach her the necessary etiquette and assemble a proper wardrobe. But as each day passes, Simon is less sure he wants Joan anywhere near Reynell. Because no spell in the world will save his future if she isn’t in it.

 I loved the concept of a kick ass heroine traveling back in time to save the future. It was hilarious to see Joan interact in Regency England. I loved that Cooper dumped a sarcastic, independent fighter into a time where women are seen as delicate and quiet. Simon was a well-balanced hero. He wasn’t necessarily badass but he had a few tricks up his sleeve. I tend to like the good guys more anyway.

 It had a paranormal element that included spells, chanting and demons. It was all very interesting and well thought out which made it believable. It was neat to see such urban fantasy-esque details set back in time. However, it was strange how quickly Simon was okay with Joan being from the future and how quickly Joan adapted to society in 1800 England. The contrast is very stark and that wasn’t too believable to me.

 There was definitely a romance element which dominated the novel more so than the paranormal element. I was surprised at how long Cooper made the reader wait for some steamy action. It sure built the anticipation.  Although the passion was brief and a long time coming, Cooper makes it worth the wait. I enjoyed her lack of cheesy lines in the love scenes. However, it wasn’t as mind-blowing as I’d hoped, it was very average. If it wasn’t for the paranormal elements, the story would be seriously lacking as just a romance. Regardless, I loved that there was a happy ending. (Personally, I need a little more sigh-inducing happily ever afters in my reading. Everything I’ve been reading has been really dark lately.)

 This was a good read. However, I wished it had gone deeper. The plot was intriguing, the characters were awesome but it only went skin deep. I felt like I only knew the characters at a surface level which is unfortunate with the amount of face time each character has with the switching point of views. I wasn’t as caught up in the story and I wanted to be. The lack of connection felt like an invisible barrier keeping me in my own time, on my couch, instead of wandering through England trying to save the world.

Although I don’t read many books like this, it was definitely a nice change. It brought the dystopian elements of Young Adult Fiction that I love and combined it with the romance and history of a Regency novel. It had some flaws but they can be easily overlooked because the story is so enjoyable.

Releases and Recommendations

It’s Tuesday!

This week, I’m anticipating the release of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater which comes out TODAY, September 18, 2012.

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I’m really intigued by this book. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Stiefvater. I love her writing; it’s beautiful, but her plots are slowgoing. I’m hoping for more action in this book and it all seems so mystical. No matter how painful the pace, Stiefvater’s prose keeps me coming back for more. Can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry

There has been a lot of buzz about Katie McGarry’s Pushing The Limits. I’m not usually a fan of contemporary fiction but lately I’ve been craving it. Paranormal allergy season, maybe? I’ve been anticipating the release and hoping it would be everything everyone said it would be.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

 I hate to say it, but it didn’t live up to the hype. It was a really good, gripping story but I wasn’t blown away and I wasn’t consumed into Echo and Noah’s world. Initially, the mystery of both of their stories really draws the reader in but once we get to know each character the rest of the story is so predictable it’s no longer compelling. With that said, I did actually enjoy it.

 I LOVED Echo’s issues: her complicated family, being self-conscious about her scars, and just trying to pull her life together. She was a normal girl who had to deal with tragic circumstances which made her relatable. She could’ve been anybody.

 Noah was that stereotypical bad boy with a soft side. We actually see a lot of his soft side in this book. I would argue Noah is more sensitive than Echo, which is surprising. It makes me wonder if McGarry is secretly one of those people who doesn’t like emotions and carves her female characters along those same lines. I really like Noah.  However, his internal dilemmas seemed to have really simple answers and it was annoying  that he didn’t see them until the very end.

Echo and Noah together were electrifying. They had awesome chemistry; it was reminiscent of Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. It’s very PG-13 but their attraction to each other sizzles off the pages. I was definitely not disappointed with that aspect of the story!

 This book was very satisfying in the end because we actually get answers. We get to see what really happened to Echo, and Noah comes to terms with his situation. It was an open-ended happy ending and anyone looking for a contemporary drama with a nice ending, this would be the book for you. This book seemed very formulaic and cookie-cutter but maybe that’s why I usually don’t go for contemporary fiction; it’s always boy meets girl, they fall in love, they break up, they get back together. I like to mix it up a bit with the unexpected, that’s probably why I lean more towards paranormal plotlines. However, it is what it is: A really good contemporary story with a lot of chemistry and teenage angst. I’d recommend it to people looking for a good love story.