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: The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program
This book is 80% romance + 20% sci-fi. I love the premise and the real-life issues that The Program builds upon, but the pacing was a bit too slow for my liking (because of all the romance). But this series is begging me to finish it, and I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS UGH. I’m still trying to educate myself on trigger warnings, but I think it’s good to mention that they seem applicable to this review, as I will touch on depression and suicide in the context of this book.
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Mini Reviews: Gathering Blue, Messenger, & Son by Lois Lowry

The first book of a series is usually the most famous (or infamous) one, and the same can be said for Lois Lowry’s The Giver quartet. Instead of sequels, Lowry calls the next three books “companions”, and that’s how I view them: I can do with or without them, and some of them really enhanced my understanding and appreciation for the world that she’s created, while others are a little too bizarre for my liking.

Gathering Blue
 

 
Gathering Blue is set in a society that does not tolerate physical flaws – with a deformed leg, Kira is the exception to that rule solely because she has the embroidery skills to mend a very important robe. While housed in a nicer place than she’s ever been in before, Kira discovers the secrets that the Council of the village has been hiding from the rest of the people. Like in The Giver, this dystopian world seems normal from the main character’s eyes because it’s the only thing they knew, until they start seeing the cracks and shadows in which secrets are hidden. I thought Gathering Blue was okay because it still had an interesting premise, but it does lack character development and relationship-building. I also thought that it would be connected in some way to the setting and characters from The Giver, and was disappointed when this felt like an entirely new world. It makes more sense after reading all four books, but at this point, I wasn’t too excited after Gathering Blue.

Messenger
 

Title: Messenger
Author: Lois Lowry
Series: The Giver Quartet #3
Publication Date: April 26, 2004
Genre: (Young Adult) Dystopia / Science Fiction

 
Finally, the link between the first two books is made! In Messenger, which is set in the Village that welcomes all rejects from other communities, Matty – Kira’s friend from Gathering Blue – is our protagonist. As the Village starts showing signs of evil (ex. villagers being not as welcoming to new folks and who, for some reason, start becoming less friendly and good in general), Matty plays a key role as a messenger in delivering and retrieving messages from the outside world because he is one of the few people who can go into the woods that surround the Village and not get lost. Characters from The Giver also show up in Messenger, and it’s interesting to see the concept of “magic” come up again. What I didn’t really like is the ending. There’s probably some sort of symbolism in what happened and what Matty and the other characters stood for (ex. good vs. evil, strengths and weaknesses of humanity, etc.), but it requires too much thinking. As a story, it’s abstract, but also somewhat magical – Messenger was also super short, where I would’ve preferred something lengthier with more analyses/reasoning behind certain events.

Son
 

Title: Son
Author: Lois Lowry
Series: The Giver Quartet #4
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Category: (Young Adult) Dystopia / Science Fiction

 
Son is my favorite follow-up/companion story to The Giver. It connects all of the characters and settings in the previous books while also providing new characters and new settings that really complement what Lowry had created previously. In another writer’s hands, this story could’ve definitely become a more modern standalone dystopian piece with full-blown romances and conspiracies and sci-fi/fantasy elements – but in Lowry’s hands, the simplicity and nuances in the imagery and the characters are very characteristic of her writing, and they force the reader to think a lot more (this is a good thing!). Good imagination is key to reading this!

bird

Overall, I think The Giver Quartet is a series that blends science fiction and fantasy in an interesting way. These stories make you think, whether it be analyzing how symbols and motifs play a role or imagining and embellishing the scenery and people in your mind. Lowry provides a simple skeleton on which you can build your own ideas upon, and I think it’s good to have these types of stories once in a while.

Have you read the rest of the Giver quartet?
Have you read any books that combine fantasy and sci-fi elements?

Mini Reviews: The Circle Opens Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Another amazing series from Tamora Pierce, in which all of my favorite characters grow up. *wipes away tears* (Well, okay, they’re still only fourteen, but THEY GROW UP TOO FAST!) This time, Tris, Briar, Sandry, and Daja are off traveling with their teachers (except for Sandry, who remains in Emelan). They’re about to meet their own students, ahhhhh!

The Winding Circle kids all grown up, via minuiko.

Magic Steps
 

Title: Magic Steps
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #1
Publication Date: March 1, 2000
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Sandry meets Pasco, a young dancer who comes from a family of Harriers (otherwise known as the Provost’s Guard, basically policemen… who thinking dancing is no big deal), and takes him in as her student since she was the one who discovered his magic. A murderer is also in town, and Sandry is multitasking with trying to catch the murderer and teach the impatient Pasco. TP’s writing is effortless as always, and I can get the sense of Sandry’s own youthfulness despite her powers. It’s amusing to watch her try to teach Pasco, when he’s not that much younger than her. There are also a lot of funny moments in Magic Steps amidst the seriousness of the murderer situation.

Street Magic
 

Title: Street Magic
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #2
Publication Date: April 1, 2001
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
There are cats in this one! (I love reading about horses and cats!) Briar and his mentor, Rosethorn, travel east of Emelan to the hot and dry city of Chammur where Briar discovers a young stone mage, Evvy, owner of a gazillion cats. There’s a gang war going on in the city that sucks both Briar and Evvy into its mix, and it’s interesting to learn about the culture of Chammur through it. Briar and Rosethorn’s magic is my favorite (most of the time) because they’re plant mages, so I love seeing them talk to plants! đŸŒ± The finale of this book is also very refreshing, as Briar gets to show off his true powers. (I really like it when the four Winding Circle kids use big magic!) We’ll see this trio more in the Circle Reforged series, but I like them as they are here a lot more.

Cold Fire
 

Title: Cold Fire
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #3
Publication Date: April 1, 2002
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Daja always gets the short end of the stick. She and her teacher, Frostpine, travel to the empire of Namorn, wayyy north of Emelan. (There’s something hilarious about smith mages going into the cold…) There, Daja makes friends with a firefighter, and also discovers not one, but TWO mages in need of a teacher. Luckily, it’s Daja and not one of the other three, so she’s patient and mature and willing to look after them, despite some rough times. One thing that I liked about this series is that there are more narrative shifts, where we get to follow the story through someone else rather than the Fearsome Foursome.

Shatterglass
 

Title: Shatterglass
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #4
Publication Date: January 1, 2003
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Aaaand of course Tris would get an older student who can’t handle her age nor her lightning-based magic! Tris and her teacher, Niko, travel wayyyy south to the city of Tharios, where there is a caste system among other differences that irk Tris. (I also love seeing the different cultures from all the places that the Winding Circle kids travel to!) One rule in Tharios is that anything that touches a corpse needs to be cleansed immediately, which makes catching criminals very difficult. Tris and her student, Keth – along with the glass dragon that Keth accidentally created – must try to control Keth’s magic while providing tools needed to capture the latest murderer. It’s interesting how the setup is the same as that of Sandry and her student’s, but they’re two completely different stories.

In all four of the Circle Opens series, I really enjoyed seeing the relationships between the new students and new teachers develop. There’s so much humor in TP’s books despite the serious plotlines, and the worldbuilding is detailed and diverse. How many TP books do I have left to review? I feel like I’m mentioning the same things over and over again, yet I’m not bored yet! (I hope you’re not either… *gulps*)

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!

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Review: Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce

Tortall and Other Lands

TAMORA PIERCEEEE!!! This anthology includes 11 short stories, most of which are AMAZING, some of which are unfortunately not so amazing. Still, this is a great supplement to what I already know about the Tortall universe, although there are stories not set in Tortall that are just as good. However, I know that certain short stories have appeared in other multi-author anthologies, so it kind of sucked when I reread certain stories, especially if they’re ones that I didn’t like as much. I think most (if not all) of the stories made me feel hope and strength, so I’d say it’s typical Tamora Pierce feels for me, haha.Read More »

Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything

My first Sarah Dessen book, and it was amazing and heart-wrenching and soooo good! It made me want to break out into Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly with His Song”, because this book was definitely killing me in the gentlest of manners… I loved the interwoven elements of self, family, and romance, and this is the type of YA contemporary romance that everyone needs a bit of in their lives.Read More »

Mini Reviews: The Circle of Magic Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I’m the happiest thing on two feet right now. And when I’m feeling good, I want to review good books. SO YAY TAMORA PIERCE (again)!!!! 😀 The Circle of Magic is set in a universe as cool and amazing as Tortall-verse – this time, Tammy brings out the magic of everyday crafts (ambient magic), like gardening, knitting, and metalworking. I’m totally in love with the characters, the world, and the simple and strong storylines throughout this quartet. I think 4X the main characters means 4X the emotions, because I’m so invested in all of them, despite (or because of) the Fearsome Foursome’s different personalities and beliefs. Also included here is awesome fanart because urghhh too awesome.

The Winding Circle kids: Daja, Sandry, Tris, and Briar, via Nest of Straight Lines.

To commemorate yet another TP series review, I shall henceforth weave poetic praise for The Circle of Magic. Literally. Because I have nothing better to do and because I love TP. SORRY FOR THE BAD POETRY.
Sandry's Book

The Winding Circle gets new students
With stronger ambient magic than ever seen before.
The story of these four, I’ll never get bored of –
These child-mages are ones I will always adore!

The button-nosed noble who makes thread glow;
The merchant girl who makes the winds blow;
The Trader outcast who works hot iron with bare hands;
And also, the thief who has a soft spot for plants.

At ten years of age, these young’uns are left torn
By devastating natural and man-made disasters,
And it’s only through Winding Circle that they are reborn
And woven together tightly like brother and sisters.

Tris's Book

Title: Tris’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #2
Publication Date: April 1, 1998
Genre: (Middle Grade) Fantasy

But it seems that the weaving was too tight
And their magics were too tangled,
So amidst pirate season, the four try
To save Emelan and also get de-tangled.

Seeing the Fearsome Foursome grow
In magic and into their own selves, I’d
Say I’ve grown to care for them all, although
At the top, Tris and Briar are almost tied!

Daja's Book

Title: Daja’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #3
Publication Date: October 1, 1998
Genre: (Middle Grade) Fantasy

Tying for second place isn’t bad either,
And Daja is just as strong as the others.
Tammy’s great at putting these four
In situations that bring out their best and truest colors.

The underestimated and overpowered
Are often children, outcasts, and commoners.
But Daja is obviously no coward, and
She wins me over with her resilience and honor.

Briar's Book

Title: Briar’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #4
Publication Date: April 1, 1999
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

As with most Tamora Pierce quartets,
(Except for The Immortals) this last book is my favorite –
So much friendshipping involved #noregrets
And now I reread from Sandry’s Book, I’m elated!

Quiet place, via minuiko.

Is there a book friendship that makes you squeal with glee?
If you had ambient magic, what form would yours be?

(Oh look, even my questions rhymed! #naturalpoet 😋)

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. đŸŒŒ

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

Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

Parasite

Typical awesome Mira Grant story, with an amazing narrative and a whole lot of suspense. The only thing I didn’t like: THE CLIFFHANGER. AHHHHHH. đŸ˜« As someone who’s working in public health, Parasite is like the crazy-but-believable cure-all dream that we have for solving all health problems. The grossness of parasites just adds to the disgusted-but-can’t-look-away feeling. 🐛 (Not sure why it’s categorized as “horror” on Goodreads though, since parasites are just icky… unless you Google Image them, which I DO NOT RECOMMEND DOING.) I love the amount of research that has been done to add a layer of detail to the storyline. Our main heroine is pretty kickass, and the plot line is engrossing even when it got predictable.Read More »