Review: Salt to the Sea

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, theWilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein’s Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloffthe greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours. (x)

My Thoughts:

I’m kind of a sucker for World War II novels, so naturally I had to check this out. But reading this left me feeling more frustrated than anything.

The main thing that frustrated me was that the chapters were too short.  This book had so much potential, especially given the fact that Sepetys was writing about a little known tragedy that took place during the war. There was not enough description of the setting and not enough back story of the characters to make the story really come alive for me.

I was very much confused by the character Alfred and the sociopathic tendencies he displayed. He felt like one of those boys that go on shooting rampages at schools and he just seemed out of place in a historical fiction novel.

I did, however, tear up at places, especially when Klaus got attached to the Shoe Poet as his grandfather. I got really attached to Emilia and wanted to protect her from everything. When she talked about the storks in her hometown Lwow (known as Lviv today), I was reminded of when I was in Ukraine. I also loved the connection Joana had to Lina in Between Shades of Gray and that Joana and Florian ended up raising Klaus and Halinka.

Overall, I enjoyed the characters, but the shortness of the chapters left the whole narrative very much lacking.

(Originally posted on my tumblr)

Review: Lady Midnight

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis: 

“The Shadowhunters of Los Angeles star in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.” (x)

My Thoughts:

I was wary of picking up this book. Cassandra Clare had already written two complete series about the Shadowhunters and I worried that anything more would become redundant.

But this book exceeded my expectations and it actually felt good to be back in the Shadowhunter world.

The Blackthorn children, Emma, and Cristina immediately captured my heart. I adored their personalities and their relationship dynamics. I loved how Julian’s hardship having to be a parent was explored and seeing how he longed to just be a brother to his siblings instead of a guardian. (I also loved how he didn’t go around being an asshole to everyone because of his angst, which is a popular trope in YA unfortunately.) I loved Emma’s drive to solve her parents’ murder.

Lady Midnight was also refreshing in that we’re introduced to a completely new Institute and that the Blackthorn children incorporated Mundane technology into their lives. LA provided a very dynamic backdrop to the plot, from the beautifully dangerous ocean to the grittiness of the city. The children using Mundane technology gave the feeling that the Shadowhunter world was progressing in some way instead of remaining stagnant.

I worried that Emma and Julian’s forbidden romance would be as grating as Jace and Clary’s but it surprisingly wasn’t for me. The only part that irritated me was Julian rescuing Emma and then them proceeding to have sex on the beach. I personally don’t know who feels like having sex right after they nearly drowned.

Overall I think this book had an interesting exploration of love and how far a person would go for the one they love (in both platonic and romantic relationships) and I look forward to how that carries on in the next books.

Favorite Quotes:

“I’m a Shadowhunter. Quip fast, die young.” – pg. 26

“I don’t care what you all want to talk about, it just can’t involve murder or blood. Any blood.”
“But it’s vampire pizza,” Livvy pointed out. – pg. 99

“God I hate rogue necromancers,” said Magnus. “Why can’t they just follow the rules?”
“Probably because the biggest rule is ‘no necromancy’?” Emma suggested. – pg. 156

“She wished for a moment that she had the words to explain it properly: how loving someone more than you loved yourself gave you strength and courage; how seeing yourself in your parabatai’s eyes meant seeing the best version of yourself; how, at its best, fighting alongside your parabatai was like playing instruments in harmony with one another, each piece of music improving the other.” – pg. 178

“I don’t want to die on the Pacific Coast Highway!” Sterling wailed.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Emma’s voice dripped acid. “Is there a different highway you’d like to die on? BECAUSE WE CAN ARRANGE THAT!” – pg. 456

(Originally posted on my tumblr)

Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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Summary: “Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.” (X)

The Star-Touched Queen was refreshing. The fantasy genre has been stuck in fake-medieval-Europe for a long time now, so a fantasy steeped in Indian mythology is a welcome change. Chokshi writes with beautiful prose and is very good at wordplay. I enjoyed following Mayavati as she struggled to make her own fate, instead of being a victim of an ominous horoscope.

This novel had interesting conversations about fate and how to make decisions that affect a person’s life or a person’s country. Sometimes there is no easy choice; you simply have to make one and deal with the consequences that come with it. My favorite conversation was between Maya and Amar about how being given a command isn’t the same as being given only one choice. It was a sharp reminder to think and to try to see things from multiple perspectives before acting.

The thing I didn’t like about this novel is how we didn’t get Nritti’s motivation for revenge until the very end and how the book quickly ended after Nritti’s defeat. I personally like to know the purpose of the conflict and more resolution at the end.

The sequel, A Crown of Wishes, comes out on March 28, 2017. You can read an excerpt here