A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed with this book after how much I enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses. In an effort to make this as clear as possible (and not focus solely on the good or bad), let me give you an idea of the great…and the questionable, as I see it.

What I liked:

  • Azriel, Cassian, and Mor. All three are a great addition to the current cast. It was easy for me to develop feelings for Cassian and Mor right off the bat. Azriel took a bit longer, but only because he talked so little. It was hard to get a read on them. The friendship between the three of them is superbly written as well.
  • The use of Elain and Nesta in this book. They weren’t left out completely or thrown in too often. They had just the right about of time to showcase their personalities and make them truly enjoyable and worth caring about.
  • The clear direction of the story. You have no idea how much I like a book that tells me what the goal is early on. Sometimes I like to know where we’re headed, rather than wander aimlessly from magical land to magical land. In that way, this book was super satisfying.
  • The relationship between Mor and Feyre. I love to read a female friendship that does not consist solely of disagreements and distrust. Mor and Feyre legitimately love and trust each other, and they did right from the start.
  • Lucien. I consider myself lucky to get even a speck of Lucien content. What a thoroughly well-written, compelling character. I want a book focused totally on him, please.
  • The end. Oh my goodness, did that surprise me. I am truly impressed by the note Sarah left us on. Despite the meh-ness of certain parts of this book, the final scenes actually make me consider continuing the series.

What I disliked:

  • Feyre’s disagreeableness. I understand her getting overwhelmed and upset at times, but her near constant sniping at Rhys got old, fast. You can only say something nasty or storm off (and then regret it five minutes later) so many times before I lose interest. I wanted to love her again, as I did in the first book, but I found myself more annoyed than understanding of her.
  • The sex. Good lord, some of it was just not necessary. Sorry, but ACOTAR did it better.
  • Making [a previously likeable character who I won’t mention here] such a bad guy. It’s entirely possible that I’m mistaken and the twist was planned before the first book, but the way it was written felt like such a forced way to push Feyre in a certain direction romantically.
  • The word “mate.” I might vomit if I ever have to hear that word again.

There’s a little taste of my thoughts on the book. It was more good than bad for me, but I definitely had a number of points that had me going “ick.” Will I read the next? I’ll have to think about it. It took me months to finish this one, so with any luck I’ll have the next book read in no longer than five years’ time 🙂

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

This is the most fun I’ve had reading a fantasy book in a while. Heck, it might be the most fun I’ve had reading any book in a hot minute. The characters, the writing, the story, the everything is so utterly unique compared to books I’ve read in the past.

While ACOTAR is not without flaws, it puts its best foot forward in almost every aspect of compelling storywriting. One place I really found it to shine is in its character structure and development—particularly with my favorites, Lucien, Rhys, and Feyre.

Character arcs are oftentimes my favorite part of a story, though a really good one can be difficult to find. Maas was able to take each of her characters, including those that are going unlisted, and form them into something special and completely their own. She even made me love the main character, a feat completed successfully by very few writers, sometimes not even by myself.

Also—does anybody else get a strong Loki vibe from Rhys, or is that just me?

I decided to make a short podcast review to go along with the written version, where I go more in-depth with my thoughts on the characters, story, and writing of one of the most popular young adult books today. Tune in and let me know your thoughts on the ACOTAR book/series!

Girls Don’t Want Boys, Girls Want Malina

Just a couple days ago, I finished reading Ruin and Rising. The reason it took me until now to post a review is only because I needed a minute to process what I just read. Also, I was busy crying. Many times. So let’s start where it makes sense. It’s a five-starrer.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you saw my reviews for Shadow and Bone or Siege and Storm, you already know I’m a fan of these books. But this one was simply ridiculous, in the best way possible. It’s been a long time since a book has ripped my heart out of my chest, crushed it, then put it back in place and made me so happy I can’t stop thinking about it. That is the power of Leigh Bardugo.

Ruin and Rising so exceeded my expectations I can hardly put it into words. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a fair try.

I’ve never been one for love triangles (or whatever was happening with poor Alina) or much for romance in books at all. I loved Wylan and Jesper in Crooked Kingdom, along with a select few couples I’ve read about throughout the years. But Mal and Alina are it. I have no better way to describe it; they are just it.

For a book boy to actually outdo Nikolai in the making-me-love-them-endlessly department is quite a feat, considering he is practically the perfect character. But that’s exactly what Mal did. And I’m really quite confused over all the reviews from people saying they hate Book Mal. Granted, I haven’t watched the show yet, and Show Mal might be even better. But even in the books, he’s a solid 10 for me. Are we sure we read the same story?

Then, there’s the Darkling. He really put his all into being not only a villain but also a generally horrible individual. He’s easily one of the best bad guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. I truly hated him from start to finish, which is exactly the point, right? Aleksander carried his weight, for sure.

I know I’ve already doted on her in previous reviews, but Alina is just such a compelling character, I think it’s worth mentioning yet again. Needless to say, Leigh Bardugo has a way with character writing that I’ve seen among very few authors. I instantly develop strong feelings toward almost everyone—at least everyone who’s important. No room for blasé MCs around here.

In favor of complete honesty, I will admit Ruin and Rising took a long time to pick up for me. The beginning, with the Apparat and all the underground living, was so boring I found it hard continuing the book. It felt like it was never going to end. I let the poor thing sit on a shelf collecting dust for I don’t know how long contemplating whether I really needed to read it, and if it would end up ruining the two great books that came before it by being painfully dull.

Fortunately, I did pick it back up, and it more than redeemed itself, earning a five-star rating I give out about twice a year to a very special book or two. And I owe my praise almost exclusively to Mal and Alina. Who would have thought?

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Well, Patrick Ness has done it again. I can’t even begin to describe my feelings for this book without first saying that I am utterly in love. The characters. The story. The structure. The writing. The different POVs. It’s all one big chef’s kiss, and an utterly perfect end to a perfect trilogy.

Let’s start with the characters, because that’s one of the places where these books really shine. In Monsters of Men, I somehow developed even more conflicted feelings regarding the mayor. I mean, I like him, but I’m also scared of him, but I’m also intrigued by him, but I also hate him, but I still want to trust him for some reason. He’s easily one of the best written characters I’ve ever read in any book. He’s utterly fascinating.

Next up: the story. My favorite part of Chaos Walking’s story is its originality. Usually when I read a book or a series, I can connect certain aspects, sometimes even many, back to one or more previously written stories (which makes sense, since all ideas have to come from somewhere). However, I really don’t see Patrick Ness’ story ideas elsewhere. The universe, the dynamic between the general populations of men and women, the individual characters and their key traits and their journeys—it’s so unlike anything I’ve read before.

This leads to the writing, which is another place where these books really stand out from all others in their genre. English teachers, beware. There are a whole lot of incomplete sentences in this book, even ones that use…periods at the end. And enough em dashes to sink a ship. All of which only lead to a more dynamic story. The action scenes in Monsters of Men are unlike any other, drawing me in completely until I feel like I’m inside the scene, experiencing the story.

Now, many of the things I’ve previously listed can be applied to all three of the Chaos Walking books, but the POVs in the final installation are completely their own. The Knife of Never Letting Go has one POV. The Ask and the Answer features two. Monsters of Men ups the game even more, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect strategy. It is clear the author knows exactly whose viewpoints his readers want to hear throughout the story.

The one teeny, tiny part of this book I have to admit isn’t my favorite is the romantic aspect. Todd and Viola, individually, are fantastic characters I have been rooting for (almost) since the moment I met them—Todd was kind of a jerk at first, so I took a minute to warm up to him. But I did, in time! My problem is that I don’t really care about their relationship in a romantic way at all. I loved them as friends, and I enjoyed the first book in particular because that’s what they were. Friends. As the books progressed, however, they became more and more romance based, and Todd and Viola began acting like they’d known each other forever, not for the short while they actually had.

But I digress. Monsters of Men was simply another beautiful installation in the fantastic series that is Chaos Walking. If you ask me, it is the perfect end to a perfect trilogy.

1984 by George Orwell

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I am utterly horrified and in love with this book. What an incredibly creative and unique work of fiction with some crazy parallels to modern life. Let me begin by saying I’m not the biggest George Orwell fan in the world. One of my high school literature classes assigned Animal Farm, and it was, admittedly, not an experience I look back on with fondness. I quite literally hated that story. I still get chills in my very core thinking about it. (Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, bit I didn’t like it, okay?) Perhaps one day I’ll grow out of my Orwell-induced fear of pigs and communism, but that day is not today.

That being said, I have to say that 1984 surpassed all of my expectations by being enjoyable at all, and went beyond that by actually making fall in love with some of the characters and have some really in-depth thoughts on the world—both the fictional world in the story, and the real world in which I live.

I love a lot of books, but very few make me think about the world around me in such a profoundly new way. That is probably the main reason this book hit four-and-a-half stars for me. One element I found particularly disturbing was the way everyone was recorded, watched, and analyzed at any and every moment. For this reason, the main character, Winston, spends quite a bit of time doing his best to hide from cameras. When he is around them, he spends his time perfecting his expressions as to reveal nothing the government might find suspicious. Beyond the fact that it sounds like a generally horrifying situation, I realized that I would be completely doomed if someone were looking at my face 24/7, waiting for me to do something out of the ordinary.

I make strange faces all the time. I would be as good as dead in that world. In that respect, Winston is an incredibly impressive fellow, for sure.

As for the parallels I notice within modern society, the main one I pull from the story is the idea that society tells us certain thoughts are right and certain thoughts are wrong. Whether your ideas concern something serious or the fact that you do or don’t like a fictional relationship, people seem to find joy in collectivizing themselves against a common “enemy” that they deem as incorrect and, therefore, harmful—even if all that person did was, for example, say they like something that isn’t generally deemed popular. That was a mouthful, but hopefully you get my drift. I’m basically just saying that mob thought is definitely a thing in almost every facet of life, and that people love to hate others for the things they think.

Which is a super weird thought considering all of us have an unpopular opinion or two.

I digress.

Another part of the story I loved was the fact that I truly cared for the characters, even the main female character, who I was at first sure I would hate, and whose role won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t read 1984 yet. But you know when you read a book, and you can just feel that the author put no thought into a certain character and added them as an afterthought? Or when all the characters feel like they are there only to advance the plot, not to play their own unique role? I never felt that with these main characters. I can tell a lot of thought was put into them, shaping them into unique individuals I haven’t seem the likes of in anything else.

The reason I was so surprised with this was that I merely didn’t expect it, considering the publishing year. I often find that older books do use characters only to advance the plot, because that’s just how a lot of stories were written (and there’s nothing wrong with that, in the right story). That being said, 1984 was only stronger for it’s use of characters that matter to the reader, as well as its compelling plot.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a thought-provoking piece of fiction, or anyone looking for a change of pace from literally any modern books they’ve been reading. I cannot stress how incredible this story is.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The only sensible way to start this review is to acknowledge that Children of Dune was a wild ride from start to finish. It is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read in the recent past.

At the very base level, there was a huge change in how much I cared about these characters in this book compared to its predecessors. While I loved Dune and Dune Messiah–I would not have kept reading the series if I didn’t–I certainly read those books more for the plot than the individual characters. With this third installation, however, there is just as much to love about the characters as about the story.

Perhaps what I liked most was that there were more understandable human thoughts within their heads. Even with characters like Leto, Jessica, and Alia, who are far from ordinary humans, I felt I could understand their motivations and what molded them into the individuals they were.

Yet another aspect of this book I love even more than those that came before it is the understandability factor. This is purely personal opinion and comprehension, but I found this book a whole lot easier to keep track of. I’m not quite sure what it was–since it took place in just as many different locations, with different people, as the others–but there was something about the writing within Children of Dune that made everyone and everything exceedingly easy to keep track of.

Admittedly, there were a couple chapters within the first Dune installation that had me at a bit of a loss as to what I was supposed to get out of them–their point. I never felt that once during this book. Everything served a purpose, and I feel I have a fair understanding of what purpose it all served.

I also found myself greatly enjoying the excerpts that begin each chapter. I’ve always thought the setup of Frank Herbert’s books is incredibly creative and makes the Dune stories stand out from the rest. But I developed a new appreciation for them with this book–especially with the name change at the end, though I won’t go further into detail lest you be reading this to decide whether or not the book is for you. I can tell you though, it came as a bit of a surprise!

Have you ever read or found yourself interested in the Dune series? Will you be watching the film this year?