Review: Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen, #0.1 & #0.2)

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four-and-a-half-stars

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Two women on either side of the Silver-Red divide tell the stories no one else knows.

Discover the truth of Norta’s bloody past in these two revealing prequels to #1 New York Times bestseller Red Queen.

Queen Song
Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life.

Steel Scars
Diana Farley was raised to be strong, but being tasked with planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected. As she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital, she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation—Mare Barrow.

I’ll say it now: Cruel Crown was the explosive bomb of beauty that I wanted Red Queen to be. I knew that Aveyard had the gift, but hey, debut novels tend to be shaky.

Although it’s technically just a pair of novellas, Cruel Crown’s well-written contents have propelled it near the top of my favorites list. Reading Cruel Crown, I got everything I’ve ever wanted from a book: real emotions, developed characters, intricate worldbuilding, and the literary knife into my heart that means the author’s actually managed to make me dedicated to her characters.

I went into Cruel Crown like this:

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And came out of it like this…

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I’m not a beach reader, not one who reads books for fun. I read them to see if they make me feel something. Cruel Crown did the job.

My emotions were stabbed, repeatedly, leaving numerous bloody holes behind that still need healing. And that’s exactly what I want from my books; as a reader, I search and search to the ends of the universe for the worlds that will hurt me most.

Cruel Crown consists of two novellas: Queen Song and Steel Scars. I’ll dedicate a piece of the review to each.

Queen Song

My favorite of the two. Queen Song tells the story of Coriane Jacos, Julian’s younger sister who fell in love with the young Prince Tiberias, married him and bore his sweet summer child: Cal. Admittedly, I’ve wanted to know more about Queen Coriane ever since Julian first told Mare about her.

This novella follows Coriane from her days at the languishing family estate to her bloody, untimely end. She and Julian are the last children of the singer line; with that comes great responsibility, so Coriane and Julian move to court with Coriane’s best friend–skin healer Sara Skonos. Coriane is just 15 years old at the time.

At court, Coriane meets the cunning Elara Merandus along with dozens of other High House children (and their equally treacherous parents) who are vying for closeness to the crown.

I’m not going to give anything else away, but let me just say this.

The first few pages made me care about Coriane; the last made me want to rip my heart out, it hurt so much. Queen Song is a dark little story that captivated me due to its harsh sincerity and fascinating protagonist.

Also, before I move on: Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion…but several of the reviews for Queen Song are just irritating. It’s fine to not like a book, but I’ve seen so many complaints that Coriane was a ‘weak’ character, that she deserved what she got, that she was whiny, that Elara was so much stronger than her, etc. There are many things very, very wrong with that mindset.

Coriane is just 15 when she meets Tiberias, and she’s 16 upon marrying him. She was told her entire life that nothing she did was ever good enough. She was depressed to begin with. Her true passions were not encouraged and her family was relentlessly mocked and lied to. Coriane’s grown up with no mother, a disappointing father, and a critical old cousin. Most importantly: she’s still a child. 15, for crying out loud. Those who are calling a vulnerable child weak: Do you know how silly that makes you look?

Do you think fracking Elara Merandus just burst out of the womb with her confidence and strength? She was groomed since the day she could talk. Her house was in HIGH ESTEEM and extremely wealthy, the opposite of Coriane’s situation. She was told that she could do anything from the moment she first practiced her power.

The reality is that a lot of young teenagers struggle with depression. Thousands of them are just like Coriane (minus the supernatural power).

We need to do away with the notion that a female can only be strong if she lets nothing hurt her, if she’s constantly on the offensive, if she works her ass off every day, if she always tries to be the best. No. That’s not how it works. Coriane is strong in her own way, which might not be obvious when she’s compared to fully realized heroines who’ve had supportive mentors and time to hone their abilities.

Calling a young girl weak because she struggles from depression–and eventual madness that was not her fault, but the doing of another–is stupid even if that girl is a fictional character. Every woman is strong. Some just don’t see it yet; they haven’t realized their worth. And I feel like it’s really counterproductive to dismiss a character as weak because she wasn’t bold enough for you.

Newsflash: the strongest people have had to go through a shitload of terrible experiences, wherein they were depressed and hopeless and not as cool, to get to where they are now.

The fact that Coriane never got a chance to do that, because she was MURDERED for night’s sake, makes her story all the more tragic.

So, yeah, call Cal’s mother weak if you want. But I’ll fight you on it till my dying breath.

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Steel Scars

Steel Scars follows Farley and her operations in the Scarlet Guard before she met Mare Barrow. Those who’ve read Red Queen might remember Farley as the badass blonde chick with a fierce determination (and even fiercer scars). Yep, that’s the one.

I’ve taken off half a star because Steel Scars wasn’t a 5-star work. Nothing wrong with the storyline or characters, but I just wasn’t quite as invested in this one.

It was interesting to read about the Scarlet Guard–turns out, this group goes deeper than I ever thought, with locations in different countries and cities plus an admirable secret-keeping system. Oh, and I was delighted to find out that Farley isn’t the Scarlet Guard’s supreme leader after all.

Farley’s character development is more firmly fleshed out. This chick’s not just a bloodthirsty revolutionary; she’s got a past (duh), feelings, and a hunger to prove herself. Farley’s a witty young girl underneath all the bravado.

Steel Scars takes you from Harbor Bay to the Stilts; oh, and you may meet a few recognizable characters along the way.

The Verdict:

I think I’ve made my opinions pretty clear. I do recommend Cruel Crown to fans and/or casual readers of Red Queen.

(If you haven’t read Red Queen, you should peruse that book first–otherwise this novella probably won’t make sense. These are prequels to add more information to a previously explained story, so don’t expect any introductions. Cruel Crown dives right in. It’s really not fair to say that “you had no idea what was going on,” blaming it on the book when you never read its predecessor.)

Try Cruel Crown if you enjoy any of the following literary flavors:

  • sci-fi/fantasy fiction
  • magical powers
  • political upheaval
  • female protagonists

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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Rating-Christgau-three-star-honorable-mention

Rating: 3 Stars

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

I’M BACK, BITCHES–I mean…bloggers. Where have I been, you ask? Working on computer science and eating pounds of fudge while crying, of course. But no need to worry. Since my last post, I have achieved a solid A in all of my courses–all higher than 95 percent. Including my computer science class. *cheers myself on*

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And, in celebration of school ending soon, I’ve decided to slowly get back into the swing of actually reviewing the books that I read.

SO. What better way to kick that off than to review yet another hot book?

A Court of Thorns and Roses. Here we go.


I had high expectations for this book. I’m a rabid fan of Sarah’s other works, and A Court of Thorns and Roses has FAERIES and WICKED SHADOWS and a STUBBORN FEMALE CHARACTER. When mixed together and cooked at exactly the right temperature (with appropriate adjectives and action-packed scenes sprinkled on top), these characteristics almost always equal deliciousness.

But wait, what’s that I taste? Forced romance? Cardboard characterizations? Boring and flowery scenes piled onto more boring and flowery scenes? I never would have thought that Sarah was capable of such mediocrity.

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Review: The Secrets of Yashire by Diamante Lavendar

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2-stars

Rating: 2 Stars

The main character, Brianna, finds herself thrown into a world called Yashire where she is forced to deal with circumstances that are threatening Yashire’s existence. Against her will, she is sent on a journey to restore unconditional love back to the land while also contending with the evil force in the land, Zolan . . . Along the way, Brianna travels with the mystical tiger, Angelos; a huge, whitish-tan tiger with thick black stripes who sings only the purest songs of love, and the wondrous little one-eyed bird named Abiba. . . they travel through fantastic lands filled with magical creatures that could only exist in the wildest of imaginations. . . It is here, amidst the powers and phantasms of the mind that Brianna receives life lessons and virtues to help her. Will one of her greatest triumphs be achieved as she learns to believe in herself? For only then can she truly see all of the wondrous things that life has to offer.

Disclaimers:

  1. I received The Secrets of Yashire from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
  2. This is by no means an attack on the author. She had an imaginative premise and was brave enough to publish this book on her own. 

Even this novel’s summary needs serious work. It was about twice as long as the one you see here. I had to cut it down in the interest of retaining a short and sweet review.

I didn’t know that The Secrets of Yashire was a CreateSpace work until I investigated its Goodreads page more closely, particularly due to my complete disbelief that a book like this could be backed by any serious publisher. It wasn’t.

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Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass, #1)

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4stars

Rating: 4 Stars

In a world without magic, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the vicious king who rules from his throne of glass but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she will be released from prison to serve as the King’s Champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. And a princess from a faraway land will befriend her. But something evil dwells in the castle—and it’s there to kill. When the competitors start dying one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival—and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.


[This Book in One Sentence: An infamous young assassin leaves certain death in a prison camp for a fight to become the King’s Champion, but dark forces inside the kingdom might smother Celaena’s life before she has her chance to win.]

Hey guys! I feel like it’s been forever since I posted a new review. Well, not really…  I did discuss Silver in the Blood less than a week ago. I try to maintain a regular posting balance that isn’t annoyingly frequent. In actuality, I read a new book every two days; in fact, I’ve read three books (about 1300 pages) this week. But I must take time to collect my thoughts, and to ensure that I can deliver a post containing a healthy mixture of book-fueled emotions and objectivity.

Unfortunately, the practice of blogging can be quite angering/depressing/UGHHH. Book blogging involves yours truly pounding angrily on the keyboard to get her point across about HOW MUCH SHE HATED THIS and WHICH CHARACTER SHE WANTS TO MARRY.

Throne of Glass… how can I describe Throne of Glass?

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Review: Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

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2.5Stars

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate… or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

[This Book in One Sentence: In the Victorian era, two high-society girls are taken to their Romanian homeland to learn a shocking family secret that could unravel the very fabric of European society.]

Another book with potential that never even came close to the quality-based finish line.

I was introduced to this novel by the Goodreads new releases page. Silver in the Blood‘s beautiful cover and intriguing synopsis made me take further steps to obtain it–namely, checking it out at the local library! *high-fives the librarian*

Actually, I take that high-five back. Go away, librarian.

….

Silver in the Blood just doesn’t have the literary it factor.

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Review: Seraphina (Goredd, #1) by Rachel Hartman

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4stars

Rating: 4 STARS


Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

[This Book in One Sentence: In a fantastical medieval kingdom with dragons, knights, and courtiers, one secretive girl works alongside a heartthrob prince to rid the city of its bigotry.]

I was at my local independent bookstore (Changing Hands–the best in Tempe) when I spotted this literary gem. Seraphina was clad in its rich purple cover with a portrait of a dragon soaring over a vast medieval city. The cover art interested me enough to take a glance at the synopsis. As it turns out, every element of the story was an ultra-fave: dragons! magic! a clumsy girl with a secret!

Seraphina is an engaging work; the exquisite prose and complex characterizations made me want to jump into the story and become one of the main protagonist’s best friends. I really, really liked it–but I didn’t love it.

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Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (Grisha Trilogy, #2)

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four-and-a-half-stars

RATING: 4 1/2 STARS

Warning, warning! Danger, danger! SPOILERS for SHADOW AND BONE ahead! Avast, there be spoilers! If ye have not read Shadow and Bone and wish to do so, TURN BACK, me hearties!

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.

[This Book in One Sentence: Alina Starkov returns in Shadow and Bone’s thrilling, heart-wrenching sequel; war is brewing, and no one is safe.]

Siege and Storm is the sequel to Shadow and Bone and the second installment in the Grisha Trilogy. Of course, I requested this book from the library as soon as I finished the first one. Upon completing Siege and Storm, I immediately bought it on Amazon after a near-lethal injection of fangirl into my veins. Thanks, Darkling. Thanks for being such a magnificently crafted character. You’re gonna kill me one day. 👿

“I’ve seen what you truly are,” said the Darkling, “and I’ve never turned away. I never will. Can he say the same?”

Siege and Storm picks up where the previous installment left off. Alina and Mal are attempting to build a new life together–away from Ravka and the Darkling’s influence. As Shadow and Bone sadly revealed, the Darkling has much bigger plans for Alina than anyone could have guessed. With Mal’s help, she manages to escape, but not before being traumatized by events that were gory, sorrowful, and could have been stopped.

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Review: Everything, Everything by Nicole Yoon

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2.5Stars

Rating: 2.5 Stars

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Note: I obtained Everything, Everything from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

[This Book in One Sentence: 18-year-old Madeline has a rare illness that can kill her if she ventures outside, but when she meets her new neighbor, she’s willing to sacrifice everything for a taste of true love.]

The sick teen theme (or trope; depends on how you look at it) is an actual trend in YA, which is understandable; the topic brings needed diversity to a culture that is so often focused on ableism. I did not have any problem with the subject matter. However, the words that come to mind when asked to describe Everything, Everything are “contrived,” “silly,” and “sad.” Not a positive trio for a book about young love against all odds. Not even for a novel about a sick girl who finds herself.

Everything, Everything is another creature entirely–one that’s not snarling and angry, nor cute and sassy, nor even kind and sorrowful. If this story were an animal, it would be a toad that seems shiny when you first notice it puttering around in a damp, dull swamp. But this is a toad with a particularly boring and off-putting personality. The falsely shimmering skin surface is its only interesting component.

And so, I feel no pain in critiquing this new publication. More editing and proofreading should have been done. Too late for that now. Here’s the gist of it.

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Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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threehalf

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


[This Book in One Sentence: 18-year-old Cath loves fan fiction, her identical twin sister, and Simon Snow, but these relationships and more are threatened when she starts college.]

Fangirl has been on every fandom-lover’s shelf since its publication. The premise is cute, original, and what’s more, I can strongly relate to Cath’s experiences. When I was in high school, Harry Potter fan fiction was sometimes the only thing that kept me going. (Although… I’m a steadfast Dramione shipper. I just can’t do Drarry; sorry gals.)

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