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Backlist Briefs: Mini Reviews for CITY OF BONES & THE CHILD

Backlist Briefs:  Mini Reviews for CITY OF BONES & THE CHILDCity of Bones by Cassandra Clare
four-stars
Series: The Mortal Instruments #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on March 27, 2007
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 485
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...

Review:

I think I’m probably the last person on the planet to start reading the Mortal Instruments series, but finally decided on jump on the bandwagon as part of this year’s Beat the Backlist challenge.  I was looking for a fun and entertaining vacation read and City of Bones, the first book in this series, really fit the bill.  It’s a bit of a brick at 458 pages, but Cassandra Clare’s writing style is so fast-paced that I breezed right through the book in just a few sittings.

The worldbuilding was probably the biggest attraction for me in City of Bones. It was a fascinating journey to follow the protagonist, Clarissa Fray (Clary), as she learns about the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders, a fantasy world that has been hidden in plain sight in NYC around her all her life.  The author does a fantastic job of weaving into her tale pretty much any kind of supernatural character you can imagine.  There are vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies, demons, and of course the Shadowhunters, who are warriors tasked with ridding the world of demons.

Aside from the fantastic worldbuilding, the characters were also a huge draw.  I was a little slow to warm up to Clary at first (I’m not even sure why honestly), but I immediately became sympathetic to her when her mother goes missing and Clary is attacked by a demon in her own home.  I especially warmed up to Clary as she began to interact with the Shadowhunters, especially Jace, who is handsome but kind of an arrogant jerk at times. (I do have to give Jace bonus points though since he is willing to help Clary find her mom.)  The author writes some hilarious banter between Jace and Clary, as well as between Jace, Alec, and Isabelle, some of Jace’s fellow Shadowhunters.  They were a fun group and I especially liked how they all had each other’s backs even in the most dangerous of situations.  Clary’s friend Simon added some entertaining nerdiness to the dynamic as well.

Even though most people have probably already long since read City of Bones, I still don’t want to give away any spoiler, so I’m just going to say that the mystery of what has happened to Clary’s mother and why Clary suddenly finds herself attacked by demons really takes the reader on a journey filled with wild and crazy plot twists.  There was never a dull moment and I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish.  I’ve read complaints that the story borrows from the likes of Harry Potter, Star Wars, and more, and while I did see some resemblance, it didn’t bother me and I still enjoyed the story overall.  The star I took off is primarily because I smelled an unnecessary love triangle brewing.  4 STARS.

 

Backlist Briefs:  Mini Reviews for CITY OF BONES & THE CHILDThe Child by Fiona Barton
Also by this author: The Suspect
three-half-stars
Series: Kate Waters #2
Published by Berkley Books on December 14, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Fiction
Pages: 448
Also in this series: The Suspect
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

‘An engrossing, irresistible story about the coming to light of a long-buried secret.

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The Child’s story will be told.

Review:

Fiona Barton’s The Child is a compelling story about what happens when a long-buried secret unexpectedly rears its head and threatens to shatter lives.  It follows the story of what happens when construction workers who are demolishing a house uncover the skeleton of an infant.  For most, since forensics indicate the skeleton has been there for decades, the tragedy is barely a blip on their radar, but for three women, the discovery practically turns their lives upside down.

Emma is haunted by the discovery of the skeletal remains because she fears her darkest secret is about to be revealed for all the world (and especially for her mother Jude) to see.  Not unlike Emma, Angela sees the infant’s death as a reminder of the worst thing that has ever happened to her but is also somewhat hopeful that the discovery could bring her the closure she has never gotten over the years.  And then finally, there’s Kate, a journalist who makes it her mission in life to find out who this infant is and how she ended up buried in someone’s backyard decades ago.  I thought the author did a wonderful job of fleshing out each of these characters as well as their motivations for paying such close attention to what happens every step along the way as the skeletal remains are investigated in hopes of identifying the infant.

The main issue I had with The Child was the fact that even though I was interested in why each character reacted the way they did to the discovery of the remains, I can’t say that I really connected with any of them.  I felt like a bystander watching everything play out and waiting to see whose life would be the most turned upside down as the events unfolded.  Aside from not really connecting with the characters, I also felt like the plot, although very interesting, moved very slowly at times. It was very easy to set the book down and just come back to it whenever.

Overall, The Child is still a very solid mystery that, even with the pacing issues, I still wanted to know all the answers to.  And if you can hang around until the end, Holy Plot Twist, Batman! I totally did not see the ending coming!  3.5 STARS

four-stars

About Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare was born to American parents in Teheran, Iran and spent much of her childhood travelling the world with her family, including one trek through the Himalayas as a toddler where she spent a month living in her father’s backpack. She lived in France, England and Switzerland before she was ten years old.

Since her family moved around so much she found familiarity in books and went everywhere with a book under her arm. She spent her high school years in Los Angeles where she used to write stories to amuse her classmates, including an epic novel called “The Beautiful Cassandra” based on a Jane Austen short story of the same name (and which later inspired her current pen name).

After college, Cassie lived in Los Angeles and New York where she worked at various entertainment magazines and even some rather suspect tabloids where she reported on Brad and Angelina’s world travels and Britney Spears’ wardrobe malfunctions. She started working on her YA novel, City of Bones, in 2004, inspired by the urban landscape of Manhattan, her favourite city. She turned to writing fantasy fiction full time in 2006 and hopes never to have to write about Paris Hilton again.

Cassie’s first professional writing sale was a short story called “The Girl’s Guide to Defeating the Dark Lord” in a Baen anthology of humor fantasy. Cassie hates working at home alone because she always gets distracted by reality TV shows and the antics of her two cats, so she usually sets out to write in local coffee shops and restaurants. She likes to work in the company of her friends, who see that she sticks to her deadlines.

City of Bones was her first novel.

About Fiona Barton

In Barton’s own words…

“My career has taken some surprising twists and turns over the years. I have been a journalist – senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where I won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards, gave up my job to volunteer in Sri Lanka and since 2008, have trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world.

But through it all, a story was cooking in my head.

The worm of my first book infected me long ago when, as a national newspaper journalist covering notorious crimes and trials, I found myself wondering what the wives of those accused really knew – or allowed themselves to know.

It took the liberation of my career change to turn that fascination into a tale of a missing child, narrated by the wife of the man suspected of the crime, the detective leading the hunt, the journalist covering the case and the mother of the victim.

Much to my astonishment and delight, The Widow was published in 36 countries and made the Sunday Times and New York Times Best Seller lists.

It gave me the confidence to write a second book ,The Child, in which I return to another story that had intrigued me as a journalist. It begins with the discovery of a newborn’s skeleton on a building site. It only makes a paragraph in an evening newspaper but for three women it’s impossible to ignore.

The Child will be published in June 2017 and I am embarking on my next novel. My husband and I are still living the good life in south-west France, where I am writing in bed, early in the morning when the only distraction is our cockerel, Titch, crowing.”

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SIEGE & STORM and GEMINA

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SIEGE & STORM and GEMINASiege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Also by this author: Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)
four-half-stars
Series: Grisha Verse #2
Published by Henry Holt and Company on June 4th 2013
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 435
Also in this series: Shadow and Bone
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Review:

Siege and Storm, the second installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse trilogy, is a much darker book than its predecessor, Shadow and Bone, and I loved every page of it.  The Darkling is back and he has a few new tricks up his sleeves with which to terrorize Alina and anyone else who resists him.  He’s more determined than ever to bend Alina to his will.

Speaking of Alina, she faces many challenges in this second book, the Darkling playing a starring role in many of them, and she faces each challenge head on, becoming ever more powerful along the away.  I found Alina to be a much more appealing character in this second installment, not just because she rises to the occasion and becomes a total badass but also because her character develops a bit of a dark side along the way.  She is really feeling the allure of her growing power, and the more she has, the more she wants.  The plus side is that her power could possibly be strong enough to defeat the Darkling, in spite of his new tricks. The downside is that her hunger for power, as well as her growing obsession with defeating the Darkling, puts a tremendous strain on her relationship with childhood friend and potential love interest, Mal.  Things get awkward, to say the least.

The awkwardness between Alina and Mal was a bit of a drag, but thankfully the addition of a fabulous new character kept me from getting down too much.  Sturmhond is a pirate and an inventor of sorts and he is just the most charming character ever!  Imagine Carswell Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles in pirate form.  He’s full of fun stories and witty banter, and just when you think you have him figured out, he springs an entirely new and unexpected identity on you.  I thought the Darkling was my favorite character, but I have to rethink that now that Sturmhond is in the mix.

Siege and Storm takes us from the lavish worldbuilding and the set up of Alina versus the Darkling straight into full-on adventure, dangerous mind games, and epic battle scenes, all of which culminate in a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. I’m so glad I already have a copy of the final book in the series because I need to know who comes out on top!  4 STARS

 

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SIEGE & STORM and GEMINAGemina by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Also by this author: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)
four-stars
Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 18th 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 659
Also in this series: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Review:

Each time I start reading a book from The Illuminae Files, my initial thought is that I’m not going to like it.  I always worry that I’ll find the book’s structure to be gimmicky and that it will distract me from what is actually taking place in the story.  And each time I’ve been dead wrong.  I love everything about this series and not only does the book’s structure not distract from the story, but it actually enhances it and makes it feel all the more authentic, like you really are sitting there reading a case file about an incident aboard a space station.

When Gemina opens, we meet our two new main characters, Hanna and Nik, polar opposites with seemingly nothing in common aside from the fact that they both live on Jump Station Heimdall.  Hanna is the pampered daughter of the ship’s captain, while Nik is a member of a prominent crime family.  Although they have nothing in common, one view Nik and Hanna share is that they are on the “most boring” space station in the universe.  But all that is about to change… Heimdall is the station Kady Grant and what’s left of the Hypatia crew are fleeing to after the events of Illuminae, the first book in the series. The Hypatia is trying to get news of an invasion that killed most of the residents on the planet Kerenza, including proof about who was behind the invasion.

Once we meet Hanna and Nik, it’s off to the races on a heart-pounding adventure as those responsible for the deadly invasion have dispatched an elite strike team to attack Heimdall.  Their mission:  to ambush and destroy the Hypatia, thereby destroying all evidence of their murderous actions on Kerenza.  Once they get aboard Heimdall, they immediately round up all of the station’s residents and lie in wait for the Hypatia.  Guess who they missed though?  You guessed it, Hanna and Nik.  The burden of saving their station, the Hypatia, and possibly the known universe falls on the shoulders of these two young people.  Nothing like a race against the clock to help two people bond…

Oh and did I mention the snake-like alien predators that have somehow gotten loose aboard the station who are picking off residents one by one?  No?  Well, yes, as if they didn’t have enough to contend with, there’s that too. So needless to say, Gemina is an action-packed, thrill ride full of danger and suspense and I thought it was absolutely brilliant!  4.5 STARS

four-half-stars

About Amie Kaufman

Amie Kaufman is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Illuminae (with Jay Kristoff) and These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, and Their Fractured Light (with Meagan Spooner.) She writes science fiction and fantasy for teens, and her favourite procrastination techniques involve chocolate, baking, sailing, excellent books and TV, plotting and executing overseas travel, and napping.

She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, their rescue dog, and her considerable library. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.

About Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff is a #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy. He grew up in the second most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of.

His LOTUS WAR trilogy was critically acclaimed in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, nominated for the David Gemmell Morningstar and Legend awards and won the 2014 Aurealis Award. Jay’s new series, the SciFi thriller THE ILLUMINAE FILES, was co-authored with Amie Kaufman. Book 1, ILLUMINAE, became a New York Times and international bestseller, was named among the Kirkus, Amazon and YALSA Best Books of 2015, became a finalist for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award and won the 2016 Aurealis Award and an ABIA Book of the Year award. ILLUMINAE is currently slated to be published in thirty five countries, and film rights have been acquired by Brad Pitt and Plan B Entertainment.

Jay’s new fantasy series, THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, commenced in 2016. The novel was an international bestseller, won the Aurealis award and earned Kristoff his second Gemmell nomination. Part 2, GODSGRAVE, was published in 2017, and won the series its second Aurealis award. A new YA series, LIFEL1K3 has also been acquired by Knopf/Random House Kids, and commences publication in early 2018. A new series with Amie Kaufman, THE ANDROMEDA CYCLE, begins in 2019 with Knopf/Random House Kids. Jay is as surprised about all this as you are. He is represented by Josh Adams at Adams Literary.

Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 12,000 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell. He does not believe in happy endings.

About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the Six of Crows Duology and the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising), as well as the upcoming Wonder Woman: Warbringer (Aug 2017) and The Language of Thorns (Sept 2017).

She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

She would be delighted if you followed her on Twitter, elated if you visited her web site, and fairly giddy if you liked her selfies on Instagram.

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SHADOW & BONE and LITTLE & LION

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SHADOW & BONE and LITTLE & LIONShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Also by this author: Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)
four-half-stars
Series: Grisha Verse, #1
Published by Henry Holt and Company on June 5th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 358
Also in this series: Siege and Storm
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.

Review:

I originally skipped over Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse Trilogy in favor of reading the much-hyped Six of Crows duology, which is set in the same Russian-inspired fantasy world.  I adored the Six of Crows books so much that I just had to go back and read the Grishaverse Trilogy because I loved this world and wasn’t ready to leave it behind.  I’m so glad I did too because Shadow and Bone, the first book in the trilogy, was a truly wonderful read.

I loved the complex cast of characters Bardugo has created.  First, there’s Alina and Mal, orphans who were raised together and who may or may not have romantic feelings for one another.  Having tested negative for Grisha powers when they were children, Alina and Mal are clearly underdogs in the war ravaged nation of Ravka and I became invested in their journey immediately, especially once their journey takes them across the dangerous Shadow Fold.  A life-threatening incident on the fold changes their lives, however, because it reveals that Alina actually does possess dormant Grisha abilities.  Not only are her abilities powerful, but they could actually be the key to setting Ravka free.

I already knew a bit about the Grishaverse from Six of Crows, but I loved seeing the magical system in more detail and the lavish worldbuilding as Alina and Mal are brought to the Little Palace so that Alina can learn to master her powers under the teachings of my absolute favorite character, the Darkling.  As much as I liked Alina and Mal, the Darkling was really the highlight of the first book for me.  I’m a sucker for a complex, morally gray character and that most definitely describes the Darkling.  On the one hand, he’s quite charming, but on the other, he’s manipulative, deceitful, and basically just flat out horrible.  There are moments when he seems to really care about Alina, but most often, he only seems to be concerned with how he can harness her power for his own needs.  Watching the Darkling go head to head with Alina were some of my favorite moments of the novel.

Shadow and Bone was a quick and highly entertaining read for me because once I got started, and especially once I met the Darkling, I was hooked on trying to figure out what he was really up to and how Alina and her powers fit into his plans.  I’m also glad I waited to read this until all three books had been released because a major plot twist at the end of this first book had me reaching straight for the second book.  Love this series!  4.5 STARS

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SHADOW & BONE and LITTLE & LIONLittle & Lion by Brandy Colbert
four-stars
on August 8th 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 327
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.

Review:

Little & Lion is one of those books that going into it, you think you’re getting one thing, but what you end up getting is so much more.  Not only did I get the beautiful and moving sibling story that I was hoping for, but I also got a wonderfully diverse story that explored many important and relevant topics, such as sexuality, mental illness, racism, and much more.  In that way, Little & Lion packs a big punch.

I loved how Colbert portrayed the sibling dynamic between Suzette (nicknamed Little by Lionel) and her step brother Lionel (nicknamed Lion by Suzette). They are incredibly close, so close in fact, that Suzette was sent away to boarding school when Lionel was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder because her parents knew Suzette would never be able to focus on her school work and her own life because she would be so distraught watching Lionel suffer.  When she comes home for summer break, Suzette can immediately sense a strain in her relationship with Lionel and wonders how he is really doing.  I loved that Suzette was that tuned in to what her brother was going through.  On the flip side of that, I loved that Lionel, even though he is trying to deal with his illness, still tries to do whatever he can to make things as normal as possible between him and Suzette. Little moments like the two of them hanging out in their old treehouse were just so sweet.  They may be step siblings and only related through marriage, but Little and Lion are truly family through and through.

In addition to this wonderful sibling relationship, Little & Lion is also an incredibly diverse book.  Suzette is black, Jewish, and she is also bisexual.  As I’ve already mentioned, Lionel has bipolar disorder.  Suzette’s childhood friend and potential love interest, Emil, is black/Korean and he is also hearing impaired due to Meniere’s Disease, while another potential love interest for Suzette, Rafaela, identifies as pansexual, and Suzette’s best friend is a lesbian.  I was thrilled to see so much diversity, and I especially liked the way Colbert didn’t make it feel like she was just checking off boxes. All of these characters were complex and authentic.  They didn’t feel like stock characters or stereotypes.

My only complaint is that I would have liked a bit more about Lionel.  Since the story is told from Suzette’s perspective, we only see him through her eyes.  As much as I loved the story as it was written, I think it would have been a 5 star read for me if there were chapters from Lionel’s perspective.  Still a beautiful and relevant read though. 4 STARS

four-half-stars

About Brandy Colbert

Brandy Colbert is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of Pointe, Little & Lion, and the forthcoming Finding Yvonne and The Revolution of Birdie Randolph. Her short fiction and essays have been published in several anthologies for young people. She lives and writes in Los Angeles.

About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the Six of Crows Duology and the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising), as well as the upcoming Wonder Woman: Warbringer (Aug 2017) and The Language of Thorns (Sept 2017).

She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

She would be delighted if you followed her on Twitter, elated if you visited her web site, and fairly giddy if you liked her selfies on Instagram.

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for BORN TO RUN and THE PRINCESS DIARIST

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for BORN TO RUN and THE PRINCESS DIARISTBorn to Run by Bruce Springsteen
four-half-stars
on September 27th 2016
Genres: Autobiography, Nonfiction
Pages: 528
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That’s how this extraordinary autobiography began.

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs.

He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as “The Big Bang”: seeing Elvis Presley’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work and shows us why the song “Born to Run” reveals more than we previously realized.

Born to Run will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.

Rarely has a performer told his own story with such force and sweep. Like many of his songs (“Thunder Road,” “Badlands,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “The River,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” “The Rising,” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” to name just a few), Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography is written with the lyricism of a singular songwriter and the wisdom of a man who has thought deeply about his experiences

Review:

I don’t typically read a lot of nonfiction, and it’s even rarer for me to delve into the realm of celebrity memoirs.  But in the case of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, I just couldn’t resist.  I’ve been a pretty diehard fan of Springsteen ever since I first heard and was captivated by the lyrics from “Born to Run” and “Thunder Road.” I’ll admit that I was a little intimidated by the idea of a 538 page autobiography, but it’s The Boss so ultimately I couldn’t resist picking up a copy.

I ended up settling on the audio version and I highly recommend it.  There’s just something magical about listening to Springsteen talk about his life in his own words.  I loved listening to him talk about his childhood and his humble beginnings, as well as when he got further along in his career and became famous.  His passion for his craft, his sense of perfectionism when it came to putting together each album, and his determination to retain as much control over his career as possible were fascinating to read about and really gave a lot of insight into the man behind the music.

My favorite parts of the book were where he got more personal.  Not only does Springsteen reflect a lot on the various demons that he has fought throughout his life, but there are some very moving chapters where he talks about his wife, his children, his relationship with his father, and especially the ones where he recalls his wonderful friendship with Clarence Clemons, legendary saxophone player for Bruce’s E Street Band.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Born to Run for any fan who wants to hear about Springsteen’s life and career in his own words.  It’s a moving and intimate portrait of both Springsteen the man and Springsteen the artist.  4.5 STARS

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for BORN TO RUN and THE PRINCESS DIARISTThe Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
three-half-stars
Published by Blue Rider Press on October 18th 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Autobiography
Pages: 257
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

Review:

I’ve had Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist sitting on my bookshelf for over a year now.  I had just purchased my copy a few weeks before she tragically passed away in December 2016, and having been a fan of hers for most of my life, I was just too heartbroken to pick it up and read it.  Even this week when I finally did open the book, just seeing those old pics of her brought tears to my eyes. Carrie Fisher had a bigger than life personality that always made me chuckle when I watched her in interviews and that personality really comes shining through in The Princess Diarist.

For me, the high point of The Princess Diarist was, interestingly enough, not the actual diary entries themselves, which are included in the center of the book.  The diary entries are entertaining enough and shed a lot of light on how a 19-year old Carrie felt about a variety of topics – her newfound fame, her attraction to men who weren’t good choices, her infatuation with Harrison Ford, etc.  But what I enjoyed most about this book, however, were Carrie’s own reflections as she’s looking back at her 19 year old self nearly 40 years later.  With her trademark wit, she gives some thoughtful yet hilarious commentary about the affair with Harrison, what it was like to be part of the Star Wars phenomenon, and what it’s like to be an aging actress in Hollywood.  She also talks a lot in the later pages about going to cons and meeting fans, signing autographs, and how wild it is to know how important she and Star Wars are to so many people.

It’s a quick and fun read, although not quite what I had hoped for when it came to the diary entries themselves.  I guess, as a Star Wars junkie, I was hoping for behind-the-scenes Star Wars moments beyond just the affair with Harrison.  In that sense, I felt a little let down by the book but it’s still a solid read, especially for any fan of Carrie Fisher.  3.5 STARS

four-half-stars

About Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen is an American songwriter, singer and guitarist. He has frequently recorded and toured with the E Street Band. Springsteen is most widely known for his brand of heartland rock infused with pop hooks, poetic lyrics, and Americana sentiments centered around his native New Jersey. His eloquence in expressing ordinary, everyday problems has earned him numerous awards, including twenty Grammy Awards and an Academy Award, along with an international fan base. His most famous albums, Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A., epitomize his penchant for finding grandeur in the struggles of daily life. He has sold over 64 million albums in the U.S. alone.

About Carrie Fisher

Carrie Frances Fisher (1956 – 2016) was an American actress, screenwriter and novelist, most famous for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for WINTER and OUR DARK DUET

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for WINTER and OUR DARK DUETWinter by Marissa Meyer
Also by this author: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)
five-stars
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 10th 2015
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 827
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mark her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer's national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

Review:

Winter is the fourth and final book in Melissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. In Winter we not only continue the original story that Meyer has created in the midst of her fairytale retellings of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel, but we also get a Snow White retelling added to the mix.  As always, I’m most impressed with the way Meyer manages to seamlessly weave so many retellings into this series without losing any of the originality of the overall storyline.

As the lovely, quirky, and perhaps somewhat mentally unstable Snow White character, Winter is a welcome addition to this wonderful cast of characters that I’ve come to love so much.  I was definitely more attached to the characters I’ve known longer, but I grew to love Winter too and wish I had had more time with her.  What I especially liked about the introduction of Winter was that her presence really served to cast Levana even more firmly into the role of the evil (ummm, psychotic?) stepmother. Have I mentioned how much I loathe Levana?

Speaking of Levana, one of the coolest parts of this final book is that we finally make it to Levana’s home on the planet Luna.  Meyer gives the reader a vivid look into the lives of the Lunar people and the ways they are forced to live because of Levana.  I don’t want to give away anything else about the plot, so I’ll just say that I loved getting to see these amazing characters in action one more time working together to fight against the tyranny of Levana and free the Lunar people from her once and for all. (Even Iko is a total badass and it’s just so much awesomeness!) Because it’s so focused on the resistance and taking Levana down, Winter is truly action-packed from start to finish.  That’s pretty much my favorite kind of read ever, so I loved every page of it.  I’m so sad to have finally reached the end of this series, but I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending.  5 STARS

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for WINTER and OUR DARK DUETOur Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
Also by this author: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)
five-stars
Series: Monsters of Verity, #2
Published by Greenwillow Books on June 13th 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 510
Also in this series: This Savage Song
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn't afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she's good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims' inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

Review:

Victoria Schwab really blew me away with Our Dark Duet, the final book in her Monsters of Verity duology.  Not only was it filled with dark and creepy monsters and the action-packed goodness that I enjoyed so much in This Savage Song, the first book in the duology, but it also literally reduced me to tears by the end.

There’s so much to love about this book, but Kate Harker’s growth as a character is probably at the top of my list.  She is now a spike wielding, monster-killing badass and I adored her even more in this book than I did in the first one.  My love for poor tortured August is still strong in this book too, and I rooted for both he and Kate as they valiantly battled their demons, both literally and figuratively.

Schwab’s worldbuilding and pacing are spot on in Our Dark Duet too.  I love this world she has created – it’s dark and creepy with monsters literally lurking around every corner, which just makes for such an intense and suspenseful reading experience.  The pacing was incredible too as it mirrors what is going on with Kate and August.  It starts off at a steady and even pace as Kate and August are each battling a lot of internal demons, but then once they come together to battle a monster that appears to be even worse than the Corsai and Malachi we met in This Savage Song, the pace increases to almost a frenetic pace.  The second half of the book flies by and is filled with blood, explosions, destruction, and death.  I devoured the nearly 500 page book in 24 hours.

Don’t even get me started on the ending, which just shattered my heart into a million pieces.  Schwab has done it again — Our Dark Duet is truly a heartbreaking piece of writing perfection. 5 STARS

five-stars

About Marissa Meyer

meyer

“One of my first spoken words was “story” (right along with “bath” and “cookie”), my favorite toy as an infant was a soft, squishable book, and I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first realized such a job existed.

When I was fourteen my best friend introduced me to anime and fanfiction—over the years I would complete over forty Sailor Moon fanfics under the penname Alicia Blade. Those so inclined can still find my first stories at fanfiction.net. Writing fanfic turned out to be awesome fun and brought me in contact with an amazing group of fanfiction readers and writers. As Alicia Blade, I also had a novelette, “The Phantom of Linkshire Manor,” published in the gothic romance anthology Bound in Skin (CatsCurious Press, 2007).

When I was sixteen I worked at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Tacoma, Washington, affectionately termed “The Spag.” (Random factoid: This is also the restaurant where my parents met some 25 years before.) I attended Pacific Lutheran University where I sorted mail that came to the dorm, carted tables and chairs around campus, and took writing classes, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature. Knowing I wanted a career in books, I would also go on to receive a Master’s degree in Publishing from Pace University (which you can learn more about here). After graduation, I worked as an editor in Seattle for a while before becoming a freelance typesetter and proofreader.

Then, day of days, someone thought it would be a good idea to give me a book deal, so I became a full-time writer. CINDER was my first completed novel, though I have an adorable collection of unfinished ones lying around, too.

I married my husband in 2011, two months before the release of Cinder, and we adopted our two beautiful twin daughters, Sloane and Delaney, in 2015. Reading lots and lots of bedtime stories is most definitely a new favorite pastime.”

Marissa Meyer in her own words, from www.marissameyer.com

About Victoria Schwab

ve schwab

Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the NYT, USA, and Indie bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and This Savage Song. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured by EW and The New York Times, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and been optioned for TV and Film. The Independent calls her the “natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones” and touts her “enviable, almost Gaimanesque ability to switch between styles, genres, and tones.”

She is represented by Holly Root at Root Literary and Jon Cassir at CAA.
All appearance and publicity inquiries should be directed to either her agent, or one of her publicists:

Harper: Gina.Rizzo@harpercollins.com
Tor: Alexis.Saarela@tor.com