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ashleywithrow

The Never-Ending Bookshelf

I was born with a reading list I will never finish.

Currently reading

Daughter of Dusk (Midnight Thief)
Livia Blackburne
Empire of Shadows
Miriam Forster

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir

Holy jumping Jesus!  This was phenomenal!  I loved every aspect of this book.

 

The opening sequence sucked me in immediately and I was lost in the world of this book from that point forward.  I became totally invested in the characters and loved following this journey with them.  I am truly impressed with Sabaa Tahir.

 

Elias was a wonderful character.  He was strong and powerful while still holding his humanity.  Unlike some lead characters he wasn't a total ass the entire time and then suddenly tried to become likable.  He was torn throughout the book in a realistic way that made him more likable and relatable. 

 

Helene was a great female character.  Most female characters are written as weaklings and treated as props to move male story-lines forward.  Hel, however, was solid and independent.  Even when her feminine side is being shown it doesn't weaken her characters strength and doesn't undermine how dangerous she can be.

 

Laia was a fantastic character for me.  Her behavior was relatable and fit the story-line and her history well.  I thought the connection between her and Elias was well written and didn't overshadow the overall plot.  The connection with Keenan seemed one of survival rather than true feeling for Laia.  They were similar so they connected but her connection with Elias is far more interesting for me.

 

Keenan, Izzi, and Cook were all worthwhile characters for me as well.  Commandant is terrifying in a way that Marcus could never be and was a great addition to the cast.  I honestly cannot think of a character that I didn't like or that didn't belong in the story.

 

The Augurs!  Wow....what a creepy bunch of super powerful beings.  I loved the weaving of supernatural elements throughout the plot and the Augurs were a huge part of that.

 

I am really hoping this becomes a series.  Immediately after finishing this I started to wonder about the next steps for these characters.  I would absolutely read any follow up that Sabaa Tahir produces.  

 

Fantastic work!  

The Eternity Cure

The Eternity Cure - Julie Kagawa

I liked the follow up here to the first in the series.  It was a great continuation of the characters and their development.

 

I loved Jackal.  He is such a smart ass and a total pain but he provided great comic relief for the rather serious tasks the characters were dealing with.

 

Sarran is, quite possibly, the creepiest character I have read.  At least, creepier than any I can remember.  He is a great villain with a solid backstory that explains his actions and thoughts.

 

Zeke grew on my a bit more in this installment than in the first book.  But he is still a little too "good" for my liking.  

 

Usually the second book in a series bores me to death.  There typically isn't enough plot development to hold my interest as the author is usually setting up for some massive finale in the third book.  However, this was well done.  The book carried its own plot and allowed for character development without a ton of conversations to give us backstory.

 

I like where Kagawa is going with this so I will definitely be continuing the series.  

 

The ending here nearly made me cry too....which is pretty impressive on its own.  

Uglies

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

So I am not going to totally rip this.  But it is something I am not going to spend any more time on.

 

I never got into this.  I am about 50% of the way and couldn't care less about the characters or the plot.  I thought the premise would be strong enough to hold me but it never even got me going.

 

In reality the premise seemed weak and the world-building was not there to support the plot.  I honestly feel like I know nothing about the world or the characters at this point.  Normally I would feel some connections to at least one character or feel absorbed into the plot.  None of that is happening.

 

Too many books and too little time are gonna do this one in for me.  DNF at roughly 50%.

The Immortal Rules

The Immortal Rules - Julie Kagawa

I was very pleased with this.  I didn't think the overall direction of the book was that new (following a character as they turned, etc.) but I think the execution was well done.

 

I loved the world building though.  I liked the whole idea of vampire cities ruled by vampire princes and humans being caught in the middle of it all.  It was interesting to see how Kagawa built a world with vampires as the ruling class and how she managed the interactions between humans and vampire.

 

I liked Allie quite a bit.  I understood her and her actions, even though some were harsh.  I thought she was a well written character that was easy to follow through the journey.  

 

I was a little peeved with Zeke though.  He was far too perfect for the world that Kagawa built.  No one, and I mean no one, gets to be 17 in that environment and is that precious.  It just doesn't happen.  They either become hardened/jaded/etc or they die.  That character, though integral to the plot, was a bit of a bummer for me.  And the interactions between Zeke and Allie seemed a bit forced.

 

However, this book was saved and gets a full 4 stars for the other great characters.  Jackal was a fun villain and I am hoping the series continues with that.  Kanin was a great tutor to Allie but I am more interested in his history and exploring that path farther.  Luckily that seems to be where we are heading for the rest of the series.

Gathering Darkness

Gathering Darkness - Morgan Rhodes, Michelle Rowen

So.....hmm.

 

I think my review is split between the first and second halves of this book.  But to start...I have enjoyed this series thus far (otherwise, why continue?) but I am sensing a pattern.. In each installment I find myself struggling through the first part of the book and then diving into the second part.  This was very similar.  It seems as though the plot meanders along for a long time (so that I am almost ready to DNF) but then picks up and keeps me going.  Perhaps this is the authors style, or just me being picky, but I find it makes me question whether to continue.

 

Anyhoo -

 

The first portion of this book dragged for me (shocking, I know!).  I had lost all connection to the various characters in between installments and it took me a while to get it all back. I was surprised to find that the characters I liked before were not the one's that drew me back in this time.  At first I was underwhelmed by Magnus and didn't much care what happened.  I was invested in Jonas and totally on his side.

 

Throughout this installment, though, I found that Jonas annoyed me.  He seemed to be far too weak and too much of a simpering attention-whore to really grab my attention.  I was drawn to Magnus throughout though.  I think his development was a real surprise for me here.  I wasn't expecting to like him, side with him, or even want him to live!  But by the end it was his perspective, and interactions with Cleo, that kept me interested while the plot developed.

 

Lucia is still not really much of anything for me.  She is a little too prototypical for my liking and doesn't really seem to have any growth or personality to her.  Maybe that will come later in the series....but I am running out of patience.  The "twist" at the end of GD for her was unsurprising really.  But we'll see how it develops later.

 

Cleo, well she is just ehh? for me.  Not really anything to get excited about except for her interactions with Magnus.  He is probably the only reason why I will pick up the next book in the series.

 

All in all though, after a few days of thought.  The plot picking up and the lovely character that was Magnus was enough to give this a solid 3 stars.  The other 1/2 star is purely for the development of Cleo/Magnus and how enjoyable their interactions were.

Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes - Sara Raasch

Started 4/10/2015

Finished 4/11/2015

 

If how quickly I finished this is any indication.....this was a great book.  I was completely sucked in from the get-go. 

 

Meira is a wonderful character.  She is smart, strong, willful.  I loved her through and through.  I wasn't even annoyed with the love triangle aspect of the novel because it made sense.  Mather was a great character as well.  It will be interesting to see how he develops as the story progresses in later books.

 

Theron....what to say about Theron.  I absolutely fell in love with him.  He is wonderful....and I think a much stronger match for Meira than Mather.  I liked his vulnerability....and what seemed to be real understanding of the situation Meira was in.

 

Sir was an odd character for me.  I liked him but I never really got a clear picture of him in my head.  He was always just this strong (occasionally overbearing) character in the periphery.  

 

I loved....loved....loved the world this is set in.  The idea is fabulous and well written.  The magic, its usage and power, the segregation of the kingdoms is well thought out and rolls well throughout the story.  

 

I am absolutely looking forward to continuing this series.  Sara Raasch has impressed me quite a bit.  I would recommend this to anyone and everyone (even if you aren't big into fantasy) as the book is wonderful.

The Dark City - Relic Master Series

The Dark City #1 (Relic Master) - Catherine Fisher

Started 4/08/2015

Finished 4/09/2015

 

I don't really know where to start with this one.  I never got absorbed into it.  Never fell through the rabbit hole and lived in the world.  

 

The writing was acceptable.  Nothing was overly flowery or burdensome.  The pacing was good.  Really there wasn't anything overtly wrong with this that makes me not really care for it.  I just don't.

 

I never invested in the characters.  Raffi and Galen were just boring for me.  Carys was moderately more interesting but had no real depth.  The Sekoi were interesting for me but were a very small part of the book......certainly not enough to make it worthwhile.


The story itself.....not much to it actually.  Sure a lot happens.  The characters move about, have their adventures, reach the conclusion, etc. etc.  But nothing really happens. Even though the "twist" that is coming in future books wasn't revealed I feel like I already know where this is going and it doesn't really interest me. 

 

The Watch is a murky bad guy group for me.  There are very few details about them to really sink your teeth into.  And what is given is lacking in any real clarity as to what is going on.  It is unclear why the Watch hates the Order, unclear what is really going on, unclear what the characters motives are.  Really.....this whole thing is a mess if chaos with no real conclusion.  Even for part of a series I expected some portion of the tale to come to a satisfying end....even if the main plot is left in a cliff-hanger.  It sorta did with the crow....but then it sorta didn't.

 

Not my cup of tea......or shot of whiskey.  I will not be continuing the series.

Feast or Famine

I find myself with an ever growing reading list...with tons of books I really want to read.  And then.....not reading anything for weeks or longer.  Then, just as suddenly as I stopped, I am reading voraciously. 

 

I have a terrible habit of reading myself to exhaustion.  Going through so many books, so quickly, that I simply cannot read another without an extended break.  I go from reading constantly to not reading at all.....I won't even have a "current" book that I slowly work through....just nothing.

 

Meanwhile, as I am not reading anything, I will be adding new books to my to-read shelf.  It's almost as if I would rather read the blurbs and maintain the promise of an exciting read than actually read the book. 

 

It's a strange habit that I a trying to break actually.  I would much rather be reading books at a slower pace than not at all.  I sometimes find myself in a book hangover which I am OK with.  Sometimes you just need a minute before you can move on.  But the longer stretches of time without an active read just seem to be wasteful of me.

 

Just my random thought of the day!

Jinni's Wish

Jinni's Wish - Marie Hall I am loving this series. The characters are so fun to revisit as adults. I thought this was a super sweet story and was a quick read. It's not my favorite thus far but still a fun read. I am looking forward to continuing the series and meeting all the other characters.

Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising - Leigh Bardugo I enjoyed this book and was able to get through it pretty quickly. I liked to progression of Alina and Mal, both were forced to accept the reality of their situations which was nice to see in a YA novel.

I did have a little issue with the happily ever after being worked in. I liked the final climax of the series and thought the relationship between Alina and the Darkling was appropriate. I liked the relationship between Nikolai and Alina as well. I think I was a little disappointed with the fact that the two characters, Mal and Alina, ended up not following through on the path that was set. This whole series revolved around the reality that they weren't going to get a HEA and then they did. To me it just felt forced, like a realization set in for Bardugo that a YA audience would want the HEA so she gave it to them. I would have much preferred an ending where sacrifice is not always rewarded by getting everything you wanted in the end regardless. An ending where the sacrifices are made because there is no other choice and life moves on regardless of your dreams.

It's not that I wasn't happy with this book or the series as a whole. I just would have preferred a more grown up ending for this tale. I think both characters could handle it.

I did appreciate the handling of the Darkling. Making Alina somewhat sympathetic toward him was smart and kept me invested in him as more than the bad guy. Nikolai was just awesome.

Midnight Thief

Midnight Thief - Livia Blackburne

Started 4/07/2015
Finished 4/08/2015

Kyra - is not the typical helpless heroine I am used to seeing. I like that she has a skill set suited to her backstory (no amazing unexplainable skills). She is a valuable contributor to the people around her, not just a pretty face that needs constant saving. I do feel that she is somewhat naive about the politics of her world and the people she is dealing with but that is not unusual for a character of her age.

Tristam - he seems to be the atypical knight in shining armor. He is heroic, noble, honorable, and puts duty before self, yada, yada, yada. I am not truly impressed with the character as of yet. I do like that he is not an automaton, he feels true emotions about the loss of Jack and makes, what seems to be, a legitimate decision as a result. His behavior toward Kyra seems a bit forced. It may be that I have not seen enough of his perspective to connect with him but it all seems a little bland.

Malikel - here is a character I am interested in. It is unfortunate that he is a side character that is used to move the plot for Tristam. I find myself wanting to know more about his history and activities than I do for Tristam. I am hopeful that his character will be flushed out more as the story flows.

Willem - this guy is as slimy as they come. A true politician, which is not a compliment. He is not an active character and only pops up when needed to move the plot but when he does it is instant tension.

Demon Riders - and here is the main reason for this book. These guys are awesome. This character set is the reason I kept reading this. I actually wish there was more of them in the book, especially the kittens, but I suppose that will come later.

The Assassin’s Guild - James is a rather typical bad guy for me. He is, naturally, handsome and charming and everything a bad guy needs to be to get the heroine to trust him. Of course there are googly eyes between Kyra and James, though thankfully they are brief and, I feel, more a result of proximity than insta-love. She begins to see through him rather quickly which spares me the annoyance of this little romance.
The remaining characters are murky for me. None seem to really stand out, not even Rand, though Bacchus makes an effort to be big and brooding. I don’t have a clear picture of any of them as they are all secondary to James. He is the Guild, not them.

Plot - The plot is compelling but not totally immersive. I was aware of how far I was moving through the book rather than being lost in the world. I like the action throughout. It is well paced and doesn’t bog down in the minor details. I have lost track of the amount of time that is supposed to have elapsed occasionally but it is not a huge detriment to the book. The connection between the Guild and the Demon Riders was intriguing and played well throughout the plot. Kyra’s connection to the demon riders seemed obvious after her first encounter. But I still enjoyed the interaction between her and Pashla. I am hoping for more interaction between the clan and Kyra as the series continues.

I like the writing. It isn’t over the top or too flowerly. Blackburne doesn’t nitpick the details too much which can slow books down and begin to feel like a textbook. The pacing is well done with enough quiet moments to learn about the characters while not becoming an introspective journey through anyone’s mind. The world is solid. There isn’t much beyond Forge, but this isn’t high fantasy or sci-fi that would require massive world building. The “magic” elements in this fantasy are very subtle which makes them more believable for the world. For all the talk of Griffins and such the only real oddity is the demon riders. The world doesn’t seem suited to outright wizardry so the choice to limit the magic to such a level was smart on Blackburne’s part.

Red Rising

Red Rising - Pierce Brown This was great. Darrow is wonderful to read.

Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Cinder

Cinder - Marissa Meyer I liked this more than I thought I would. It was a cool take on a traditional story.

I liked that the elements of Cinderella were incorporated into the story but the plot moved in its own direction. The basic premise is there but the character of Cinder and the world she lives in are all the work for Meyer. Rather than being a retelling that simply changes or updates a few points in the tale, Meyer takes the characters and completely revamps them.

I especially liked the sci-fi elements that were added in with the cyborgs and very real life situations like dealing with a pandemic and war. In the traditional telling Cinderella was very much about the personal relationships between a few characters without much thought paid to the grander implications. I liked that these characters expressed obligations to bigger ideals than their own feelings. It made them seem a truer representation of the way people would react in those circumstances.

I am definately continuing the series.

Firefight

Firefight - Brandon Sanderson This was a solid second book for the series. I did like Steelheart more but that may just be personal preference.

I thought the trajectory of the characters was well plotted and timely. There really wasn't anything dragging the book down and it had a great pace.

I liked Megan better in the first book but she was still ok here. I think, by comparison, Regalia was less interesting for me than Steelheart was. He seemed to be a fuller character and Regalia seemed to be a side note to Prof and Tia.

I liked that David actually reconsidered his positions similarly to how a real person would have. Once faced with the reality of Epics that didn't fall into his narrow world-view he started to doubt and adjust his goals with the new information. Prof seemed so intent on utter destructions that it wasn't a great surprise where the book was headed for him.

The only real surprise for me was the reveal about Calamity itself. That adds another layer to the series that I am interested in seeing worked out in the next book.

All in all, a good effort. Much better than the typical second book in a series!

The Young Elites

The Young Elites - Marie Lu I really enjoyed this. The whole perspective was new for me. The idea of focusing on the villain was a great approach to a story that could have been bland and done too many times.

I loved Adelina. She was broken and flawed and not some perfect, beautiful angel in hiding. She had real emotions that a normal person would feel after the childhood that she had. I loved that she didn't pretend forgiveness and virtue but recognized the darkness inside and reveled in it.

Enzo got on my nerves some throughout the book but overall I thought he was a good character. He helped to explore Adelina more by pushing some boundaries and making her feel different things. I loved the character of Raffaele but I wasn't too surprised at his behavior in the end. It seemed to be leading that way as her trust for him grew. The other Young Elite characters never really popped for me, probably because the time was focused on Adelina and Enzo. I hope that these characters are developed more as the series progresses.

Teren. What can I say about Teren. I loved him. He was a great nemesis for Adelina and her sister to have. He was properly evil and twisted and had everything the story needed. The connection to the Elites and to Enzo just made him better for me. It explained his actions so well to compare his life with Enzo and the paths each took after the blood fever.

I am really looking forward to the next book!

The Gospel of Loki

The Gospel of Loki - Joanne Harris I just couldn't get into this. Maybe it was the craziness of the holidays or I am just burnt out...who knows. I love Loki but this book just didn't grab me at all.