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Title: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 431
Date read: June, 2017

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king's contest to become the new royal assassin. But Calaena is far from loyal to the crown. Keeping up the charade - while pretending to do the king's bidding - will test her skills in an entirely new way. And it certainly isn't the only point of confusion for the young girl. Because though she's made her choice between Dorian and Chaol, the ways of the heart are never simple.

A lot darker than the first one, that's for sure. But in its own way, I think it was better written (fewer instances of "two months went by where this happened"). I had a very hard time putting it down, and turned straight to the third novel in the series.

I thought the relationships seemed more believable in this one - or more fleshed out at least. I'd seen the so-called 'twists' coming a mile off though.
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Title: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 432
Date read: May, 2017

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament - fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin's heart be melted?

After hearing my niece rave about this book, I knew I had to read it myself :-) And she didn't steer me wrong - it only took me a few chapters to get totally hooked. I loved reading about the training and the tests (although I do wish we'd gotten to see more of the tests "on page" rather than just being told about them afterwards), and though I do understand some readers' complaints that it is rather superficial, that wasn't something I noticed myself until afterwards, so obviously it didn't bother me.

I thought it nicely self-contained, but still liked it enough, that I'll probably continue with the sequels as well.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Sword of Deaths (The Scythe Wielder's Secret #2)
Author: Christopher Mannino
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 263
Date read: April 2016

Susan Sarnio made a choice, and will spend the rest of her life as the only female Death. Last year she was bullied and ostracized. Now, to her complete bewilderment, four Deaths vie for her affection. Yet, something is terribly wrong at the College of Deaths. When a ship carrying scythe metal is attacked, many blame the newly-freed Elementals, but Susan knows the Elementals are innocent.

Shadows from the distant past come to light. Dragons circle the horizon, blood spills, and nothing is what it seems. Susan and her friends struggle to stop a war. They search for the fabled First Scythe, hoping to sway the balance, but who is the true enemy?

While the first book in the series was pure genius, this sequel unfortunately couldn't deliver at all. The writing wasn't nearly as tight and often confusing, with lots of needless repetitions (yes, everybody's hot for Susan - we get it already!), and a plot that didn't really take off until about 20 pages before the end, so we're left with a cliffhanger, and resolutions that won't happen until the next book. I was especially frustrated by the lack of follow-up on what happened to Tom. That was such a brilliant idea, but other than a brief comment from Frank, the reader was just left hanging. Hopefully this will be brought up again in the next book.

The first book was obviously the first in a series, but still nicely contained, leaving the reader eager to read the next book, but not terribly frustrated by a ton of loose threads left hanging. A shame Mannino couldn't repeat that excellent bit of writing for the second book.

I still want to read the last book, in the hopes that Mannino will redeem himself. But I'm no longer as excited about it, as I was before reading this one.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: School of Deaths
Author: Christopher Mannino
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 270
Date read: January, 2016

Can a timid girl from Maryland become the first female Death?

Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.

Caught in the middle of a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths, Suzie must uncover the reason she's been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.

A random pick from Netgalley, which turned out to exceed my wildest expectations. It's Hogwarts for Deaths students with all the charm, intrigues, joys and sorrows one might expect of such a school. It even has its own new ball game similar to Quidditch.

But though one might fear it, "School of Deaths" in no way seemed derivative or like a copy-cat read. It was completely delightful, and I quickly got to care for Jason, Billy, Frank and of course Suzie. I loved the Elementals, and am curious to (presumably) hear more about the dragons in the future.

The book was hard to put down, and I read it in just two sittings over the weekend. People who enjoy books like the Harry Potter series, Rick Riordan's books and others of that ilk will be sure to enjoy this as well. I'm eager to read the next book in the series.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 304
Date read: February 2015

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all.

I'm afraid this book suffered severely from too much hype. It was good, but certainly couldn't live up to my expectation. Mostly I felt like the book couldn't decide which way to go -- was it a story about the "apocalypse" or about the aftermath? Instead it tried to be a little bit of both, meaning that it ended up rich on world-building and low on plot. Even now I'm not sure what the plot was supposed to be... Arthur's life story? Kirsten's life story? How Station Eleven came to be? Eluding the prophet? Getting to the airport? All of the above? None of the above?

It's probably telling that I enjoyed the flashbacks more than the present day events, and as a whole, I found the book well-written, but ultimately too easily forgettable.

The three stars is because the first few chapters and some of the flashbacks had me at the edge of my seat. More of that (=focus on the apocalypse and the early years) and I would probably have LOVED it.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: So Much to Tell You
Author: John Marsden
Genre: YA
Rating: 4/5
# pages: Audiobook ~4hrs
Date read: January, 2015

Scarred, literally, by her past, Marina has withdrawn into silence. Then, at her new boarding school, she is set the task of writing a diary by her English teacher, and finds a way of expressing her thoughts and feelings and of exploring the traumatic events that have caused her distress.

I didn't recognize the blurb about the book, but hadn't gotten very far into it before I discovered that I'd actually read this one ages go, and had just forgotten pretty much everything about it! Never mind, it was still as satisfying a read as I had expected, even though I have the same issue with it now, as when I first read it 20'ish years ago -- it's much too short! But if I recall correctly, that's my problem with many of John Marsden's books - I want to know what happens next, after the final line.

The book itself is pretty traditional YA, but I'd gotten hold of an audio version of it (from narrated by Kate Hosking, who has the most amazing Australian accent, and made the book a delight to listen to. Very fitting to have an Australian narrator for an Australian book, but it was an extra touch I hadn't expected, and which just added to the charm for me. In fact, I ended up finishing the book in just one day, breaking up the listening to just two sittings.

I had no idea it was the first in a series though, and will have to see if I can get hold of the others.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Bird Box
Author: Josh Malerman
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 1.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~8hrs
Date read: January 2015

Most people ignored the outrageous reports on the news. But they became too frequent, they became too real. And soon, they began happening down the street. Then the Internet died. The television and radio went silent. The phones stopped ringing. And we couldn't look outside anymore. Malorie raises the children the only way she can; indoors. The house is quiet. The doors are locked, the curtains are closed, mattresses are nailed over the windows. They are out there. She might let them in. The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall. Soon she will have to wake them. Soon she will have to blindfold them. Today they must leave the house. Today they will risk everything.

Just 1.5 stars. I didn't dislike it, but I'm not sure I would even go as far as to say it was okay.

I had a lot of problems with this book. The premise sounded fascinating - somewhat similar to M. Night Shyamalan's movie "The Happening". In retrospect that should have given me pause, as I didn't care much for that movie either. I guess the best thing I can say about the book is that at least it's not that bad.

The book jumps back and forth in time. That doesn't usually bother me, but here it seemed as if the entire book was a prologue, and that the plot itself - you know, the part where all the questions are answered? - didn't even get started until the last 10 minutes... after which it ended without answering any questions whatsoever.

It seemed as if Josh Malerman found an interesting writing prompt ("Imagine that you have to live your life blindfolded") and then just went with it, without putting too much thought into the explanation of WHY the characters had to live their lives blindfolded - not the deeper reason, anyway. I don't mind unanswered questions in books, but I do mind it when the main premise itself is left a mystery.

I 'read' this as an audiobook (narrated by Katharine Mangold - not the best narrator ever, but not the worst either), which may have swayed my opinion slightly to the negative. I might not have gotten as frustrated by it, if I hadn't wasted as much time on it.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Once a Witch
Author: Carolyn MacCullough
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 292
Date read: September, 2013

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search - and the stranger - will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all.

A quick read, which in the end turned out to be nothing like what I had expected from the first few chapters. I liked it well enough and was interested in seeing it to its completion, but despite the cliffhanger'ish epilogue I feel no real compulsion to read the sequel. I wavered a long time between 2.5 and 3, but ended up with 3 stars because it did manage to throw some twists and turns my way that I hadn't expected. It wasn't bad... just average.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Tomorrow, When the War Began
Author: John Marsden
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 285
Date read: December 2011, December 2016

When Ellie and her friends go camping, they have no idea they're leaving their old lives behind forever. Despite a less-than-tragic food shortage and a secret crush or two, everything goes as planned. But a week later, they return home to find their houses empty and their pets starving. Something has gone wrong--horribly wrong. Before long, they realize the country has been invaded, and the entire town has been captured--including their families and all their friends. Ellie and the other survivors face an impossible decision: They can flee for the mountains or surrender. Or they can fight.

I'd actually seen this in the library 10'ish years ago and thought it sounded interesting, but decided against taking it out when I saw that it was part of a series since I didn't know if the books could stand alone or if the series had been finished. However, a friend recommended it to me back in 2005, so I thought I would give it a shot. I liked it well enough, but wasn't blown away by it, so I never picked up the sequels.

Recently another friend started talking about it again. She'd seen the movie and raved about both it and the books, so I figured it was time to give it a second chance. I don't know what changed, but this time I loved it, and will definitely be continuing with the rest of the series.

I think one difference may have been that I read it in Danish last time and English this time. Even the best translator cannot capture the Australian slang in Danish. I felt much more connected to the story and am eager to see what happens next.

We never think war could ever come to our country, and discovering it so suddenly, like the kids here did, must have been a terrible shock. I can't even imagine.


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