Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR #1) by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR #1)
by Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads Link:

Recommended to Stacy by: Every blogger on the internet
Recommended for: fans of Sarah J. Maas, action-packed romance, and    1st-person POV stories
Read from May 04 to 21, 2015 — I own a copy, read count: 1

3.5 stars

Don't get me wrong, I liked A Court of Thorns and Roses (aka ACOTAR) by Sarah J. Maas - 3.5 stars is a positive rating; there were so many things to love, as there always are in her books. But there was one major element in this book that drove me so crazy that it tainted the reading experience to the point that I couldn't give it more than 3.5 stars.

Things I loved:

- the heart-wrenching, emotional writing: this is one of Sarah J. Maas's strongest talents! She utilizes her writing to reach into your chest, rip your heart out, and feed it to you, still warm, dripping, and beating. This book has a lot of emotional struggle, and I loved going through that with Feyre.

- using intelligence instead of magic. Feyre is just a regular girl: she's not magical; she has no special abilities; she's just like me - plain and ordinary. Yet when she has to face challenges, she uses her brain (most of the time) - there is an exception here and there where she gets "special" help from her friends, but for the most part, it's just her using logic to find a way out of the situation. And I really like that - a girl using her brain.

- steamy scenes!!! That was one thing that I missed most in Maas's Throne of Glass series. I mean we sort of get that broom closet scene, but it's just alluded to, not described in salacious, luscious details the way it was in ACOTAR. Kudos to Maas for going there - those scenes were very well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

- multiple male characters (Tamlin, Lucien, Rhysand, oh my!), but no love triangle (yet?). I'm not a fan of love triangles because they tend to take up plot time that could be better spent in action and/or steamy scenes. But the male characters were all there, and the tension was still compelling. And even though Rhysand and Tamlin were enemies, it wasn't a choice, per se. Feyre knew which man she wanted; there was never any doubt. But Rhysand and Lucien both helped to complicate the story line without making it about her choice between them. I am hopeful that love triangles will not appear in later installments, although there is definitely possibilities for one (or more), and that would be a bummer.

All of these factors were reasons to enjoy the book, and if it were just these factors, I'd probably give it 4 or 5 stars, but there were two major factors that ruined the love for me.

1. The pacing and build-up in the first 2/3 of the book was a bit slower than I'd prefer. I think this is because I knew something big was coming, and I just wanted to get there. Also, I think because I already knew the Beauty and the Beast plot line, I could anticipate the relationship that Maas was kindling. We know Beauty and Beast get together, so I knew what was coming in regards to the relationship. But the action was awesome. The last 1/3 of the book is non-stop action, so the pacing in that section was great. And even though there are bouts of action in the first 2/3s, the lulls were a bit too drawn out. Now, I must preface this by saying that life impeded by ability to read this more quickly. I think that had I been able to read it straight through and not have to drag it out over three weeks, I might not have noticed any problems with the pacing. But because life only allowed me to read this in short bursts over a longer period, I wanted to get to the action sooner. But this complaint would have only brought it down a half of a star, at the most, because when the action did come, it was nail-bitingly amazing (as always)!

2. The second complaint is what killed it for me - I have learned that I loath first-person point of view (POV) in action books!!! In contemporary love stories, maybe I could tolerate it, but in action books, it doesn't work for me. I get it: readers like to be in the character's head; they like to know the deep, down thoughts and feelings that sound awkward coming from an omniscient narrator. However, third-person limited (ala Harry Potter) still allows us to into their inner struggle without ruining the possibility of a negative outcome. See, in 1st-person POV, the narrator can't die because she is the one TELLING THE STORY!!! It kills the suspense. There she is, hanging in the balance, on the verge of dying or being killed, but the whole time, the logical side of my brain is screaming "SHE CAN'T REALLY DIE! SHE'S REPORTING THE PLOT, AND THERE ARE AT LEAST TWO MORE BOOKS LEFT!" In The Hunger Games, the 1st POV didn't bother me as much, even though Katniss was in danger of dying every other scene. I don't really know why it didn't irk me; probably because I hadn't read anything else quite like that before, and I was too distracted by the constant complicating action to pay attention to the POV. In Outlander, 1st POV didn't bug me because I was too diverted by all of the amazing historical research, steamy love scenes, and sublime diction to even think about Claire dying. And Diana Gabaldon switches to multiple POVs in book 2, Dragonfly in Amber, and all of the other POVs are 3rd person, so it doesn't bug me as much. In Divergent, however, much like in ACOTAR, the 1st POV drove me CRAZY!!! Veronica Roth even had to resort to changing the POV out of nowhere in book 3, Allegiant, because 1st POV limited her options when it came to the survival of Tris. And don't even get me started on how much I hated 1st POV in Karen Memory. I already ranted enough about the 1st POV problems in that book. The protagonist can't really die if she is the one reporting the story - there's always some convenient, illogical way around the main character dying, so it kills the suspense involved with fearing that the author might really "Kill her Darlings." Action/Fantasy/Dystopian/Sci-Fi authors should just stop using 1st-person POV all together. JUST. STOP!!! Stick to 3rd person: allow yourself the option to switch perspectives, build honest suspense, and kill your protagonist, if you want. 1st-person POV should be left to contemporaries or romances where you know there is no chance at all of killing off your main character. 1st POV works in love, but not in death, so stop. Stay in 3rd POV and make all of us looney lit majors happy. I realize that this is probably something that only someone like me would notice. I have spent my whole educational life studying literature and theory, and it has ruined me from enjoying well-written books that have only one minor issue. However, for me this POV issue is downright irksome, so much so that my mind constantly begrudges it the entire time, thereby ruining the entire reading experience. I wish I could turn of that voice that I was forced to develop during my years studying literary criticism and author's purpose, but I just can't. Therefore, when my brain latches onto a problem, like an impossible POVs, it haunts me through the whole book.

With that said, I will never quit on Sarah J. Maas. I will still read anything and everything she writes because I do adore her characters, her world-building, and her action scenes. But this one book (and possibly the whole series if it remains in 1st-person POV) wasn't my favorite. Hopefully you will be able to ignore the impossibilities that 1st POV create so that you can enjoy it more thoroughly. It's still a well-written, creative book, and I still recommend it, but I just wish it had been written in 3rd-person POV.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Book Review: Timeless (Parasol Protectorate #5) by Gail Carriger

Timeless (Parasol Protectorate, #5)

Timeless (Parasol Protectorate #5)
by Gail Carriger

Goodreads Link:

Recommended for: Fans of Ms. Carriger, Victorian England, or the Steampunk genre
Read from April 18 to May 06, 2015 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Awwwww....I am happy and sad, all at the same time. Happy because I absolutely adored this series, especially this 5th installment, Timeless. But I'm sad because it's over! Alexia Tarrabotti has become one of my all-time favorite characters - she is bold, courageous, witty: all the characteristics I wish I could be. I will miss living vicariously through her and her wild adventures. And even though there is the 4th Finishing Series book, Manners & Mutiny, to be released, and even though the Prudence duology is a sequel, neither of these books have Alexia as the protagonist, and I already feel an ache in my heart for the loss of not having more to read about her.

And while my 5-star rating for this 5th book is a bit generous (maybe it's a 4.5), I cannot bring myself to give it any fewer stars since it is the culmination of such a wonderful series. As some reviewers have mentioned, this 5th book was somewhat different from the previous four. It was a bit more somber with fewer witty one-liners, but the emotional roller-coaster was equally as enjoyable as the previous four books:

Things to love:
  • The setting in Egypt was foreign and fascinating
  • The God-Breaker plague's expansion was such an intriguing concept that I really had to work mentally to wrap my head around it.
  • Prudence was the most adorable addition to already lovely cast of characters. She already has such hutzpah as a toddler that I can hardly imagine how she will be in her later years, as will be described in the spin-off.
  • The development of Biffy's plotline. I am hopeful that he and his story arc will continue in the Prudence books, which I plan to start right after I finish the other books I am currently reading.

I am still perplexed by Alessandro Tarabotti and what his back story really involved. Much is revealed about him in this 5th installment; however, there are so many unanswered questions! I plan to read the novella, The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn't, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar, and I am hopeful that some of my questions will be answered, but I truly believe that Ms. Gail Carriger, could write an entire series about his adventures, and I would gobble up that series in a heartbeat! Carriger make several references to Alessandro's travel journals, and what I wouldn't give to get my grubby hands on those to see the sorts of ludicrous shenanigans that are described therein.

There is just so much to love about this world and the characters that Carrgier has created within it.

Ms. Gail Carriger leaves many story lines untied, which hopefully allows for copious spin-offs from this same world. I want to jump through the pages of these books and stay in this picturesque, Steampunk, Victorian wonderland forever. So even though some reviewers are frustrated by the cliff-hanger quality of some of the subplots, the open-endedness of these make me hopeful for further editions.

I recommend this series with reckless abandon: if you are not reading it, you are missing some of the best world-building and character development that I have ever read. These books remind the reader of the joy that is supposed to come from reading. Yet, they are not fluff books - there is detailed historical research and well-developed theoretical concepts that make them mentally stimulating to read. They are romance, adventure, Steampunk, Victorian, alchemy, history, philosophy, and anthropology all rolled into one. And for all these reasons, I will miss this series dearly. But I am slightly consoled by the fact that I know Ms. Carriger will continue to write about this world for years to come, which will provide me with endless opportunities (I hope) to return to this world as often as I can.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Book Review: Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager (Outlander #3)
by Diana Gabaldon

Goodreads Link:

Read from January 11 to April 21, 2015

This series is not for everyone; however, for me these are immensely enjoyable reads. I must acknowledge the fact that I am listening to them on audiobook, and as I wrote in my review of Outlander (which you can read at, much of my enjoyment of this series comes from the superb reading of Ms. Davina Porter, who narrates the Audible versions. However, Ms. Porter is but the voice that brings life to the words and plot of Diana Gabaldon. Therefore, while Ms. Porter enhances the series immeasurably, the bulk of credit for my enjoyment ultimately goes to the author herself. For me, my love stems from the detailed research, constantly-evolving action, complex characters, and suspenseful structure.

In Voyager, the third installment in the series, I found myself scoffing at the impossibility of events, and yet, at the same time, I was unable to stop listening for need to see what might happen next. The whole plot is completely improbable: no one travels through time and half-way around the world and yet somehow manages to run into the same acquaintances over and over again! However, the story is so intriguing, and the action is so suspenseful, and the writing is such sheer perfection, that I don't care that the plot is impossible! I adore it anyway! Of course there is this little voice that lives in the back of my brain that keeps whispering, "There is NO WAY IN HELL that this could ever happen!" But I just repeatedly beat that little voice into submission, binding it and gagging it, until I can't hear it anymore. Whenever it breaks free of its bonds and begins to denounce the probability of this book, I just insist "If this improbability is wrong, I don't want to be right!" And then, in the spirit of Black Jack Randall, himself, I beat that voice down again, tie it up, throw it into a dark prison cell, and toss away the key! I don't care that the plot is completely impossible, I love it anyway!

I find myself guessing some of these impossibilities before they happen (e.g., I TOTALLY knew the identity of Mrs. Abernathy before the book revealed it), but then I'm still gasping in shock when my ludicrous predictions are actually confirmed. I'll say, "It can't be (blank)" and yet I'll still be surprised and dumbfounded which (blank) actually happens!

And the action in this third installment was so constantly evolving and escalating, that there were times that I couldn't even keep up with it mentally. I had to keep editing the movie in my mind because Gabaldon kept wrenching up the intensity, especially the scenes at the seance and also at the end during the sea storm.

And the ending of this book is another cliffhanger...will cannibals really appear in their "brave new world"? I'll just have to keep listening to find out.

I cannot really recommend this series without reservations: as I said at the beginning, it's not for everyone. Some people will detest the violence, scoff at the unlikeliness of certain events, and/or shudder at the sheer length of the books (this installment is 870 pages, but book 4 is more than 1000 pages!). But if you love historical fiction, accurate and richly-detailed research, and a series that will last for an extended amount of time, then you should definitely read this. I have loved it so far, and have already started listening to Book 4, Drums of Autumn. It is a long haul to stick with the series through to the end, since I am getting on the bandwagon so late in the game, but since I'm listening to it, and therefore can read other books on the side, I'm very much enjoying the time I get to spend with Claire, Jamie, and others.