September 5, 2020

Mortal Heart: A Rambling Review

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

This has been the first book that I've become absorbed in since the pandemic hit, really. I've been in a reading slump of some variety, where nothing grabbed my attention enough to distract me from the news. While I did think Mortal Heart was a bit drawn out towards the end, and the introspective musings of Annith a tad repetitive, otherwise I was heartily glad to be whisked along on Annith's journey, as she discovers how to stand up for herself and those she loves. 

Of all three protagonists in the series, I think I found Annith to be the most relatable. She is not as assertive as Ismae or as wild as Sybella; rather, she is someone used to following the rules and not making waves. She has honed it as a defense mechanism, but as the walls of her cage tighten around her, she realizes she must break free of them before it's too late. That is what sets her off on an adventure that involves a very swoon-worthy (if a tad on the "emo" side) love interest, a reconnection with her old friends Ismae and Sybella, and a whole lot of secrets being revealed. (Which, I pretty much guessed at -- or they at least crossed my mind as possibilities -- way before they were revealed.) 

I did find the political plot line here rather boring, and the focus is far more on Annith's personal journey in terms of self-discovery and character development than the war going on between France and Brittany. Nevertheless, it does all come to a head eventually, and the resolution is not one I would have guessed. I do wonder if the Duchess will live to regret the decision she made...

Also, I remain confused about some questions of world-building. Spoilers, highlight to read: Are the hellequin already dead? I spent most of the book thinking they were -- and were stuck in the hunt as some sort of 'purgatory' before they earned their way to the afterlife -- but then a bunch of them actually died at the end, so... *blinks* 

Overall, I think my favourite in the trilogy remains the first, Grave Mercy, both for the introduction to the world and for the dynamic between Ismae and Duval. But this one is a close second, and probably had the protagonist I was most able to connect with.

4 shooting stars.

September 3, 2020

Mr. Rochester: A Rambling Review

Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

I enjoyed this glimpse into Rochester's mindset and retelling of the classic from his perspective. We get a lot of backstory that makes his character more sympathetic, while not feeling out of place with what Charlotte Bronte gave her readers in the original. I do think that the first part of the story, detailing his childhood and young adulthood (before he meets Jane Eyre) was more interesting (if slow-moving), since we are already familiar with what happens once he and Jane cross paths. Perhaps because of this, the author doesn't go into that much detail about their interactions, which left their romance and Rochester's emotional development feeling like it lacked something; I didn't connect with it the same way I connected with the original.

While Sarah Shoemaker sticks quite closely to Bronte's story, there is one subplot that is new. I don't think it clashes with the original, although in the end I'm not sure how much it adds (spoilers, highlight to read: the storyline involving Gerald Rochester... in the end he dies along with Bertha, and all of his scheming comes to nothing). I do like, however, that it provides more explanation for events in the original story that were not accounted for (spoilers: it makes sense that Rowland might have taken advantage of Bertha and then refused to marry her, and that Edward would have been offered up to marry her instead).

For those people who don't understand the appeal of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, I would highly recommend you pick this book up! And for those who love him already, you will probably enjoy getting to spend some time with this character during his most formative years.

4 shooting stars.

July 28, 2020

Short & Sweet: The Bridge Kingdom

The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

An utterly absorbing, unputdownable read. It's been quite a while since I've been so completely sucked into a world and storyline, but these characters and the premise -- a princess marries a king, but is secretly a spy trying to bring down his kingdom -- just won me over. The kingdom politics and relationship dynamic between Lara and Aren really reminded me of The Winner's Curse series(in a good way). It looks like The Bridge Kingdom was released by an indie publisher, and you can tell that some more editing would have helped tighten some sections up and get rid of typos. I also found the modern slang jarring given the "traditional fantasy" sort of setting. But the characters, storyline, and world-building made up for these detractions in spades. I wish I could pick up the next book in the series right now!
4.5 shooting stars.


April 19, 2020

Short & Sweet: First & Then

First & Then by Emma Mills

I actually quite enjoyed this one, more than I thought I might. I do think that it's less a retelling of Pride and Prejudice than very loosely inspired by the story, as well as other Austen books. (I mean, for one thing, Devon doesn't have any sisters!) 

Nevertheless, I liked Devon's voice and I felt like her character and perspective were very relatable. It took me quite a while to warm up to Ezra -- his dynamic with Devon starts out as less open hostility than Darcy and Elizabeth's, and more just sort of lukewarm apathy, so there wasn't a whole lot of unresolved sexual tension between them initially -- but eventually I came around to him. I also liked seeing Devon become closer to her cousin Foster and really develop a sense of protectiveness for him. 

Overall, an easy, "warm fuzzy" sort of read that portrays high school in a rosier light than a lot of YA contemps do, and yet manages to still feel authentic.

4 shooting stars.


January 18, 2020

2020 Reading Challenges

It is time again to sign up for reading challenges, so here's what I'm thinking I'll be doing this year:

As usual, I've signed up for the Goodreads challenge -- 40 books seems to be a good number for me to achieve and surpass, so I'm keeping that the same as the past couple years.

#StartOnYourShelfathon, hosted by The Quiet Pond -- this is a year-long readathon to tackle all the books sitting on your shelf, collecting dust! I think this is new to 2020, if I'm not mistaken? You can "collect a star" for each book you've read, and keep track on your star map. It seems pretty flexible, as participants can set their own goals for how many books they'd like to read. I think I'm going to set it at 25 books, and here are some of the ones I'd really like to get read this year:

- The Hate U Give
- Shadow Study
- Mistress of Rome
- The Last Summer
- The Book of Lost and Found
- Sweet Damage
- In the Shadow of Blackbirds
- Ultraviolet
- The Ballroom
- Elantris
- Paper and Fire
- Sorcerer to the Crown
- The Last Magician
- The Bear and the Nightingale
- Deafening
- The Clockmaker's Daughter
- The Winter Rose
- Maid of Wonder
- Close Enough to Touch
- Down a Dark Hall
- How to Find Love in a Bookshop
- Mr. Rochester
- Frenchman's Creek
- Doctor Death
- Bath Tangle
- The Woman Who Heard Colour

I completed my goal for the Finishing the Series challenge last year (hosted by Celebrity Readers), finishing 4 series! I have plenty more that I either need to finish or give up on, so I'm joining in again with this challenge. I'll still be aiming for the lowest level, C-List Series Finisher, 1-4 Series.

Some sequels I've got hanging around on my shelves that I have not yet read:

- Mortal Heart
- Outpost
- Enshadowed and Oblivion
- Reached
- Gemina

I did really well last year on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge (hosted by Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy) last year, so hopefully I can do the same in 2020! Here's the checklist for the challenge:

I like to pick a sort of "quirky" challenge that has some different sorts of categories, so this year I'm going with the 2020 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge (hosted by Gregory Road).

I think I'll start with the "Baker's Dozen" level -- one category from each of 13 topics. I'm not sure yet which categories I'll end up reading from, but here are a few examples:

- A book about lies
- A dark fantasy book
- A book by an author you always read
- A book about twins
- A book about a teacher
- A book whose title could be a Country song
- A book with binoculars on the cover
- A folk/fairy tale retelling in a non-western setting
- A story about a widow or widower
- A book that inspires you to go for a walk
- A book about a treasure hunt
- A book about nomads
- A book with a map on the cover
- A book with a narcissistic character
- A book about your parents' generation
- A book by a woman of colour

What 2020 reading challenges have you signed up for?

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