Mini Reviews: Sea Glass & Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

As much as I liked the first book in this series, the rest of the Glass series is a total WTF-fest. (I’m hesitant to call this a trend in Maria V. Snyder books, but that’s my personal experience with both this series and the Study series.) Excuse me while I rant.

Sea Glass

 

Title: Sea Glass
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Glass #2
Publication Date: August 18, 2009
Category: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
 
After all that’s happened in Storm Glass with Opal’s newly discovered powers, she is no longer trusted by the Sitian Council. No one (not even Yelena) believes her story about two souls swapping bodies, so Opal decides to investigate on her own. I still like this second book quite a bit because the magic is so intriguing, and Opal is still likable despite her growing distrust and cynicism at the people around her. In Sea Glass, Opal’s independence is impressive, but what’s lacking in this book is the continuing relationship developments that started in the previous book.
Spy Glass

Title: Spy Glass
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Glass #3
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
Category: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 

My bad decisions outweighed my good ones by two to one.

Why yes, Opal, I’m glad you realize that. Soooo much WTF-ery in this book! Needless to say, I don’t approve of Opal’s poor decision-making skills. She realizes it of herself too, as she’s constantly groaning about how she’s made “the worst decision ever.” Like probably most readers, my concentration is immediately broken when my OTP doesn’t end up together, but this is so much more than that. People can change, and I’ve read other stories in which my opinion of certain characters changed for the better when I see that they’ve made an effort to change themselves. But based on the history and backstory of the characters in the Glass series (where there’s so much abuse, torture, and death involved), there are certain people that just shouldn’t become intimate with each other. No “I’ve changed for the better” reassurances can solve an abusive relationship, and that’s one of the things I didn’t like about Spy Glass.

Do you believe it when evil characters change for the better?

Review: Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Storm Glass

Gasp, a love triangle that I actually ENJOYED?! (Well, okay, “enjoyed” might be too strong of a word. Maybe “didn’t make me want to tear my hair out” is a more accurate feeling.) This isn’t the first Maria V. Snyder book I’ve read, and this won’t be my last – Storm Glass is action-packed and so engrossing that I just want to keep reading more! The characters, the plot, and the world-building are all fantastic, although there are moments when I didn’t like certain characters or certain events. But at the end of the day, my pros list is definitely longer than my cons list for this book, and I’m excited to find out what happens next!

Read More »

Mini Reviews: Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher

I thought Codex Alera was going to be like a Tamora Pierce series, BUT IT’S TOTALLY NOTTTTT – it’s WAY scarier and more action-packed, and it’s like the usual hero-discovers-magic-and-grows-up series but on steroids. That certain trope has been done over and over again, but Jim Butcher is a beast and made this series into something beyond my imagination. Just a warning, there are topics in this series that are potentially not suitable for younger readers, such as slavery, sexual/physical abuse, and a lot of gore.

I found this series a while back when I was looking for authors similar to Tamora Pierce (because frankly, I have an obsession with her books), and Jim Butcher showed up on the literature map. And because JB writes paranormal stuff too, that’s how I got into paranormal. (And eventually into paranormal romance… are you counting the degrees of separation yet?) Pretty sure that was how I found new books/genres to read before Goodreads and book blogging community came on my radar! Anyway, okay, the books

Furies of Calderon

Alerans have created a special bond with classic elementals (earth, fire, water, air, and metal), called furies, and fifteen-year-old Tavi seems to be the only person in Alera who can’t furycraft. When Alera starts being torn apart due to political conspiracies and the savage Marat tribes are found in the Calderon Valley where Tavi lives, he becomes a surprisingly key player in the chaos. Tavi is the underdog of underdogs, because in this world, him not being able to connect with furies is the equivalent of missing a limb or having a disability. It makes it easy to root for him through this story and onwards, because he just keeps growing! I really liked the different narratives, since it makes me more involved and committed to the political scene and learn how this world works from different POVs, even when it’s from the “bad” guys. The worldbuilding is magnificent, and the action scenes just suck me in.

Academ's Fury

Title: Academ’s Fury
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: Codex Alera #2
Publication Date: July 5, 2005
Genre: (Adult Fiction) Fantasy / Magic / Adventure

After Tavi’s help in the turmoil in the first book, Gaius Sextus – the First Lord of Alera – pays for Tavi’s schooling at the Academy, since going to school was something Tavi had always dreamed of. Him being furyless results in bullying from students (which is why I was reminded of Tamora Pierce books, because there’s always bullying!), but the Tavi we’re presented with has gained a lot of confidence and intellect since we last saw him two years ago (in book years). There’s a new enemy in town – who was actually cleverly introduced in the first book – that is totally creepy and gross because they’re BUGS. 🐜 The Vord is the one prevailing enemy throughout the rest of the series, and I won’t tell you how they attack because you should just go read it and be terrified. (I don’t want to deprive you of the feels!)That, along with the failing health of Gaius Sextus, leads to what seems to be the climax of the series in the next book – war!

Cursor's Fury

Title: Cursor’s Fury
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: Codex Alera #3
Publication Date: December 5, 2006
Genre: (Adult Fiction) Fantasy / Magic / Adventure

If I had to choose a favorite book from this series, THIS ONE is it! Again, two years after the last book, Tavi is a much-improved version of himself. A rebellion is now “officially” happening, and the civil war is on. The head of the rebellion has allied himself with the Canim, another terrifying species that decimates Aleran legions with ease. The First Lord has placed Tavi in one of these legions, and in a way that brings back good memories of Kel in Lady Knight, Tavi starts to show and develop his leadership skills. Throughout this book and the previous ones, other key characters (such as one of the First Lord’s cursors/messengers/spies, Amara, and Tavi’s aunt, Lisana) are brought in with their own narratives, which allows me to see the war from all across Alera.

Nasaug, the Canim warrior leader, via sandara.

Captain's Fury

Title: Captain’s Fury
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: Codex Alera #4
Publication Date: December 4, 2007
Genre: (Adult Fiction) Fantasy / Magic / Adventure

You know what else I like about this series? It’s funny. War-ridden, epic fantasy stories deserve some humor, between all the deaths and gory details. Here’s the opening line for Captain’s Fury:

“My ass hurts,” said Antillar Maximus, Tribune Auxiliarus of the First Aleran.

“My ass hurts, sir,” Tavi corrected him.

This story feels like a brand new adventure, and I think this story arc is a wonderful and exciting extension of the original storyline. The overarching goal and enemy remain the same, but there are issues that Tavi and co. face in a new land, with new languages and cultures. Again, excellent worldbuilding – I see no end of the brilliance that is Codex Alera.

Princep's Fury

Uhhh, EVERYONE DIES. Does this count as a spoiler if I don’t tell you who? I mean, it’s a war, so people will die, right?? 👀 This book, in particular, reminds me of The Game of Thrones, but much easier to digest!

First Lord's Fury

FINALLY, the end is in sight! Unlike some series that fade away in terms of plotlines and character development throughout the course of multiple books, First Lord’s Fury still retains the vigor and the anticipation that’s seen in the very first book in the series. At this point, it is purely a story of Good Versus Evil, and Evil just gets more twisted and disturbing as the story goes on. Like in all the other books, Tavi is only one of several major characters, and we get to follow each of those characters in their final adventures.

Overall, Codex Alera is an awesome, action-packed fantasy series that paints a vivid picture of magic, different species, and an empire in the midst of war. One important part of the series that I didn’t get to mention above is that there’s a lot of great relationships that are developed, between parent and child, subordinate and superior, lovers, strangers, enemies. The stress and desperation in a war-like state makes these relationships invaluable, and I really did cherish those interactions.

 

Have you read Codex Alera?
I don’t know what else to say except AHHHHH GO READ IT IF YOU HAVEN’T.

Mini Reviews: The Books of Bayern Series by Shannon Hale

THESE are the types of Shannon Hale books that I like! (I had a bad experience with her recent one, bah.) Fairy tale retellings that allow us to connect with the young protagonists, with a mix of magic and adventure that feels very natural. However, I feel that the first book is still the best, and the ones that follow are not as engrossing.

The Goose Girl

 
Hale’s The Goose Girl follows the classic Grimm version of the goose girl story fairly closely, except for the magic (which is actually the part that I liked most!). Ani, our goose girl, learns to speak with animals at a very young age, and it’s interesting to see that her magic is part of a bigger system of magic that becomes more clear throughout this story, along with the sequels. Overall, solid retelling, and I liked how it both followed and deviated from the classic version.

Enna Burning

Title: Enna Burning
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern #2
Publication Date: September 15, 2004
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Another aspect of this series that I enjoyed was that supporting characters get a chance to play a lead role in later books. In Enna Burning, Enna – who appears in The Goose Girl – gets some magic of her own. I didn’t like this book as much as the first one, maybe because it is no longer a retelling; the magic from the first book is now the centerpiece for the rest of the series, and I find the magic in the book not as appealing as that of the previous one. There’s only so much you can do with fire (versus speaking to animals!), and the story veers off to a more romance- and politics-based plotline that I couldn’t really get into.

River Secrets

Title: River Secrets
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern #3
Publication Date: January 1, 2006
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
River Secrets is essentially the same as Enna Burning, except with a more entertaining protagonist. Razo is like the third wheel in all the stories so far, so it’s nice to see through his eyes in this story and understand that although he thinks of himself as average or unskilled, that’s not how others see him. There are a couple more twists and turns in this story compared to the other ones, so there is hope for the finale yet!
Forest Born

Title: Forest Born
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern #4
Publication Date: September 15, 2009
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
I love how all the old characters keep coming back again and again, and it’s nice to see that they’re doing well throughout the series! Out of all the characters, Rin is the one that I can relate to the most. She’s a quieter and more sensitive protagonist than the others, who seemed more determined to get things done. Rin, on the other hand, has vague feelings of “wrongness” and very unclear motives. Her story is actually a really fascinating ending to the series, as it brings together several aspects of the previous books that I really liked – the magic, the relationships, and self-discovery.

The Books of Bayern series starts off as a classic fairy tale retelling, and cleverly spins off into a tale of its own. I really enjoyed the magic, as well as following protagonists who take the time to examine their own thoughts and identity. Although I didn’t like the second book as much as the others, I still think this is a solid fantasy series and a fun read. 🌼

Have you read the Books of Bayern?
Do you keep reading a series if you run into a book you didn’t like?

Review: How to Raise the Perfect Dog by Cesar Millan

How to Raise the Perfect Dog
Honestly, this is NOT an excuse for me to use all the puppy gifs! I don’t know if I’m qualified to review this book, since I don’t own a dog. However, I DO plan to own a dog at some point in the (far) future (when I’m out of school), so I think I’m still within the target audience for How to Raise the Perfect Dog! Cesar lays out some simple but important guidelines to how to train your dog from puppyhood onwards, and it’s nice reading about his own experiences, which are interspersed between the lessons. Great reference book that I’ll definitely reread again when my plans to own a dog become more concrete! 🐶Read More »

Review: Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney

Never Have I Ever

So I went into this one thinking that Katie Heaney is going to become my new best friend, but after reading Never Have I Ever, that kind of didn’t really happen. I thought that we’d have similar experiences or thoughts… but we didn’t. I thought that we’d have similar relationship goals (or lack of) and types of friends… but we didn’t. I’m sorry, Katie, but we can’t be friends. 😦

Read More »

Review: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project
Just putting this out there, but I have a “thing” for positive psychology books. My dad and I went through this period when I was in the last half of high school of just reading and sharing articles and books about happiness, and even now, we still send each other articles we find on the Internet about how to live healthier and happier. The Happiness Project is a little different from the science-y and data-filled content that we usually read, but Gretchen Rubin does a great job of integrating data into her experiences in this one-year project. And although I was familiar with many of the references she used, I still learned many new things, and her project inspired me a great deal!
Read More »

Review: The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols

The Ex Games

The Ex Games was a feel-good read that had an awesome battle of the (s)exes, a cool younger brother (well, as cool as younger brothers can get), fun snowboarding tricks, and the usual teen drama. There was a lot of push-and-pull in this story, which is why it totally reminded me of Katy Perry’s Hot N Cold LOL, and I’m probably a little masochistic because I really like the heartaches and the reconciliations that come afterwards with the main couple.
Read More »

Review: The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

I love math analogies, and The Solitude of Prime Numbers is everything I adore plus more. It’s poignant, thought-provoking, and has so much depth that sometimes it’s hard to keep reading because sometimes one particular scene or conversation hits me and I just need to put down the book and go, “Woah.” (Has a book ever made you do that?) Giordano brings up a lot of important issues about self-awareness, mental illnesses, and growing up, and Shaun Whiteside did a fantastic job translating this book.Read More »