Fairest by Marissa Meyer

22489107THIS. BOOK. (!!!)

If you have read/are reading this series, this novella is a must read. I have completed the entire series and I am so glad that I went back to read Levana’s story. The book is numbered “3.5” but really it takes place before any of the series take place, when the main characters of the series (Cinder, Winter, etc.) are being born and Levana is first rising to power. It does cover a long time span, I suppose, and ultimately, it leaves off during the book series.

Here is what you really need to know about <u>Fairest</u>: It is the story of how the ‘villain’ of the Lunar Chronicles (Marissa Meyer’s 4 book series) becomes the villain. As always, Meyer’s writing is beautiful as she describes Levana’s sordid childhood as the bullied younger sister. She grows up and falls in love with a man who never loves her back, and is barren her entire life. In a nutshell you can see why she’s bitter. Other things we learn (very generally, without giving any details): how Levana got her scars and why she wears her glamour, why Lunars decide to unleash a devastating disease on earth and how it originated, why Levana is so seriously twisted, and much, much more!!

Honestly, I cannot understand how the author crammed all of this information into a mere 222 pages. I never felt like I was bored or restless, I was just so interested in the characters and the story. Also, the audiobook is great for this as well. I definitely recommend it!

Book soundtrack: “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

13578987This book has been on my TBR since it first released I’m pretty sure. I remember seeing the description and thinking “Wow, that sounds really neat!” I remember buying it as a Kindle daily deal at some point quite a while ago and just never got around to reading it until now. There has been so much hype lately around Leigh Bardugo, I just couldn’t put it off anymore and I’m glad for that because I really enjoyed the book.

So just in case you are one of the people left in the world who still has not read Shadow and Bone, the book is centered around our orphaned heroine Alina. She is a map maker in the king’s First Army along with her best friend, Mal, who is a soldier in the army as well. The author does a pretty good job with the world building, as the world is meant to more-or-less parallel/alternate Russia. However, in the middle of it all is The Fold, a dark epicenter filled with winged beasts called the Volcra, that will show mercy on no one. When the Army travels through The Fold, Alina must save Mal’s life and unknowingly calls upon a light within herself that turns out to be a rare Grisha power. The Darkling, and many others, take notice of this gift and whisk Alina away to the Little Palace. Here she settles into what should be a life of comfort, but in stead is hard training and (spoiler) meetings with the Darkling, who is filled with secrets.

36315977That’s about all I can say plot-wise without going into bigger spoilers. Regarding my character impressions thus far, I will say that I am not 100% impressed with Alina but I am not disappointed. Orphan-to-Princess/Powers isn’t my favorite trope so that might be part of it. I definitely don’t dislike her though, I’ll say that. She’s just not my Katniss (my favorite heroine ever). Mal–the best friend–is pretty ok as well. Thus far he is pretty stubborn and he was a little “I didn’t notice you before but I see you now” and to me he loses points for that. The winner of the book, however, is the Darkling. I love dark characters with secrets. I’m sorry, guys. Other examples: Jean Claude in the Anita Blake books. The Darkling has the good one-liners, the moves….oh man, I’m sorry, but if we’re making him the villain, he’s my favorite villain because….yeah. Just, yeah. Its all up in the air as to what direction the series is going to go at this point and I am definitely reading on!

Book Soundtrack: “Over” by Portishead

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“The Best Kind of Magic” by Crystal Cestari

There is so much that I loved about this book!! ‘Windy City Magic #1’ felt like a cozy mystery for teens and it was my JAM!!! Or you could look at it as Urban Fantasy/Romance for teens just the same. A couple of my little pet peeves showed up and made my eyeballs twitch a bit, but overall, I can’t wait for the second book! Or third or fourth! Let me first give a brief synopsis, and then I’ll cover my opinions:

25436641The Best Kind of Magic gives us a tour of all kinds of magic in the Windy City of Chicago. We see goblins, fairies, leprechauns, werewolves, vampires, sirens, and of course, witches. Amber Sand is a not a witch. Her mother is, but Amber is a matchmaker, meaning that she can look into people’s eyes and see their true love. One day, the mayor’s son (who is also the most talked-about boy in school) comes in to visit Amber at her mother’s shop, Windy City Magic, and requesting her help in finding his father’s missing girlfriend. Thus begins an adventure with romance, humor, bad guys, a twist and a turn and a to be continued in book 2!! (not a cliffhanger! This book wraps up nicely…..mostly.)

The first thing I liked about this book was the genre feel. I am a sucker for a cozy mystery, I enjoy paranormal romances, and then put those things in a YA format….have I died and gone to heaven?! Almost too good to be true. I loved it. I wish there was more of this writing out there. So with this genre comes the characters. There was a good mix of humans and paranormals. I liked how Amber and her mother, and even their coven, had a certain struggle with Amber’s matchmaking talents. It was a very different and clever spin on the traditional “coming of age story” that you usually get in YA books and I really liked that. Amani (Amber’s best friend) has her own struggles with her magical gifts of being a precog. Their friendship in the book is wonderful, by the way. I just saw a meme the other day that went something like this:

Friend: Oh, I’m so sorry, what can I do?
Best friend: 1/2 price shakes at Sonic. Get your butt in the car, I’m driving!
sonic-milkshakes
That’s the kind of friends Amber and Amani are. Partially because of their mystic powers and partially because they are comfortable and secure in their own selves (which other high school students find “weird” and “different” of course), the two friends are outcasts and have a very close friendship. Back on track. Charlie is a human and he does a great job taking in everything in the PRN world. You almost wonder every once in a while if he and his father have trace amounts of supernatural in their blood somewhere. Of course, the biggest wrench in the story comes when Amber sees that Charlie’s match is not her, but could she be wrong? That’s why we’re eagerly awaiting book 2!

Ok, I will speak of my one biggest pet peeves that occurred in this book: immature language. I hate when authors frequently use immature language. If you want to call it that. To me, its almost Valley Girl…rich snob…Pretty Little Liars…I barely hear kids talking like that and I work in a private high school myself. Granted, not in Chicago, but in Northern Illinois within 60 miles of Chicago. I do not hear students commonly using the words “natch” instead of natural (I’ve never heard that), or “cas” for casual (I have heard this, but not frequently). In the first 100 pages of the book when we are first meeting the characters, this kind of abbreviated language is EVERYWHERE. It DEFINES Amber’s personality and sense of humor. Toward the middle, it fades out and she is more just sarcastic and witty with Charlie but in the beginning, we are NOT talking to a lowly girl. I just didn’t see her as having that much of a consistent attitude. Ivy, the blonde cheerleader mean girl? For sure. But Amber? No. I hated that. I like to read full English words and sentences. Maybe that’s the adult in me reading a YA novel so excuse this paragraph if so. But I’m just saying. I HATE abbreviated teen-speak. Ugh! Not appropriate for books, IMO.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Soundtrack: “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas

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“The Library of Fates” by Aditi Khorana

I was a little skeptical about this book because the author’s first book, Mirror in the Sky, received ratings that were quite low on Goodreads (3.29 as on 7/9). I decided to give this book a try because I was offered a free ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program, the cover is beautiful, and YA book companies were making quite a buzz about it. I am SO glad I gave it a go. Now I am on the bandwagon and recommending that everyone mark the release date of July 18th on your calendars and go buy it and read it on that day!!

32930680The Library of Fates opens with a really neat story called The Parable of Trees. (I, personally love trees and nature so I was hooked in a second!) Then we get into the rest of the book with our main character Princess Amrita, who lives an easy, sheltered life in the kingdom of Shalingar. Until the day that the Emporer of Macedon–known for being a brutal man–comes to finalize the terms of their arranged marriage and Amrita loses everything. She flees the palace and sets off on a journey that will completely transform not only her, but all those she loves.

What I really loved about this book is that most of the things that I expected would happen did not. I would think to myself “She’s going to abandon the plan to go to X and go to the Library in stead. I mean, that’s the title of the book.” But nope! The plot absolutely did not happen how I thought it would, and I loved that!!

The characters surprised me around every turn, and part of the beauty of it all was how magic and folklore was seamlessly woven into the story. There were so many elements to it and they weren’t so complex that I was bored or confused like in some fantasy books. It was a really good balance so as to make it just mystical enough to be really beautiful and special. Plus everything came out full circle in a really great way. I just loved it.

So overall, I enjoyed it enough to where I was given a free e-copy and I will probably purchase my own hard copy for my shelves. I know it won’t be for everyone, but that’s my take on it. It was a pretty quick read at 354 pages. I devoured it in about 2 days and could have read it faster if I didn’t have a lot of things going on. But this is one I could see myself reading again, and I don’t see myself forgetting anytime soon.

Listening to: “The Gateway” by Ahmad Ebadi

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