Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Brief Interruption...

A brief interruption from book reviews to post some pictures of my cats with books:
Miss Gypsy

Mr. Tiger

That concludes this interruption. Thank you. You may proceed with your regularly scheduled business.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #7: The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

"Imagine knowing everyone in your life would one day have to stop calling you by your name and honor you as their sovereign. It's impossible for that not to erect walls, even subconsciously. But with me that wasn't an issue, and I enjoyed letting Nick be- for perhaps the first time in his life- unremarkable..."

Marrying the prince and living happily ever after seems like a dream. In reality, a relationship with royalty is far more complicated. The Royal We opens on the day before the wedding between ordinary American Rebecca and Prince Nicholas, future King of Great Britain. Our main character, Rebecca, or Bex as she prefers, is being harassed by threatening messages. Her twin sister Lacey bursts in to confess to a mistake, then we flash back to the beginning.

Bex first met Nick when he opened the door for her at Oxford. She left Cornell and her family to study art. She is immediately a part of Nick's circle of friends, but they aren't very close at first. Nick and Bex bond when they run into each other early one morning. Before you know it, they start spending time together in her dorm room, eating Twinkies and Cracker Jacks and watching the American TV show Devour (It sounds like Passions meets Vampire Diaries). They become really close friends, then Bex starts to realize that she actually likes him more than that.

It seems impossible that Nick, future sovereign of Great Britain, could like her back. His ex-girlfriends, and possibly not-so-ex-girlfriends are gorgeous and put together, and everything Bex isn't. His father, Richard, is scary and withholding, and his grandmother is the reigning Queen. Yet, it turns out that he does reciprocate her feelings. Unfortunately, relationships with princes aren't easy. He isn't allowed to tell anyone about their relationship, so they can't be seen together in public. There are still cameras tracking Nick everywhere, and soon tracking Bex too. It only gets worse when Lacey moves to England, supposedly to support Bex. She takes up with Nick's brother Freddie, who never met a girl he didn't want to shag. At first, private moments are enough, but all the tabloid stories, paparazzi, and pictures with old girlfriends make Bex insecure. They are unhappy and they break up.

Bex doesn't react well. She spirals out of control, partying, drinking, and general debauchery. It culminates with her waking up in Paris with her ex-boyfriend Clive, and realizing that she has to get herself together. Bex throws herself into her job, creating a program for underprivileged children called Paint Britain. There's no more late nights out, instead real dates with respectable men. Still, deep down, Bex misses Nick. Maybe, after all this time, Nick is ready to actually be with her.

I love reading Go Fug Yourself and the Fug Girls' books. There are so many shout-outs and inside jokes that it feels like you are in a super special club. The Royal We is (of course) inspired by the courtship of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It provided a lot of insight into what such a high profile relationship must be like. (I don't think that I would be able to take all the scrutiny, but I am always up for a challenge, eligible princes!) Of course, the book is very funny, entertaining, romantic, fun, and all the good things a book like this should be, but it also has some serious moments. It made me cry a lot, but also laugh and squeal in delight. It's just a really good book, it would be a great summer read or beach book, and I hope there's a sequel, maybe with a royal baby?    

I received my copy of The Royal We from Edelweiss, courtesy of Grand Central Publishing. It's available for purchase now.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #6: Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

"The truth is like the waiting jaws of a monster, a more menacing monster than I'll ever be. It yawns beneath your feet, and you can't escape it, and as soon as you drop it chews you to pieces..."

Bones & All tells the story of a very different young woman. When Maren gets close to someone, she gets the overwhelming urge to eat them. The first time was when she was too young to remember and ate her babysitter. Over the years, there were many boys and young men. After every time, Maren's mother packed their things and they moved away. She had to protect her daughter from what she did, what she was.

The day after Maren turned 16, her mother left. The note read: "I'm your mother and I love you but I can't do this anymore." Maren packed up only her things, took the money her mother left her, and set off to try to find her father. She's never met him. Her mother never talked about him, but Maren has a strong feeling that he shares her secret.

On her journey, she meets people like her. There is an old man named Sully who only eats dead people. She also meets Lee, a young man who helps her, protects her, and also eats anyone who offends him. It's about being on your own for the first time, about finding out that you aren't as alone as you thought you were, and about figuring out who you can trust.

I was a little afraid to read Bones & All, but it turned out to be surprisingly free of blood and gore given the subject matter. I liked Maren. Any girl who liked books as much as her can't be all bad. I can see how you can form a lot of metaphors and such from the book, but I'm really not in a philosophical mood at the moment. Maybe a girl who eats anyone who gets too close is exploring the power of her sexuality, or maybe she's just a really hungry girl. I'd like to just see it as a book about a girl who sometimes eats people. It really is a good book. In fact, I ate it right up. (It's okay, I'll see myself out)

I was invited to be a part of the Bones & All Street Team on the Goodreads website. I received an ARC and tote bag from St. Martin's Press. The book will be available for purchase March 10, 2015.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #5: Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross

"If your heart is too big, everyone can see it. They know exactly what will hurt you, and they'll do it, because it gives them power over you. Power. That's what you need. Not love. Love depends on somebody else. Power you can get by yourself..."

You can read my review of Kill Me Softly here.

Kill Me Softly was an introduction to the world of Beau Rivage. Newcomer Mira visits the town where she was born and discovers the strange truth about the inhabitants and herself. Certain people have marks that identify them as cursed. Some are cursed at birth, some are cursed later on in life. The cursed live out a version of the fairy tale that corresponds to their mark. 

In Tear You Apart, we focus on Viv, the cranky girl with the Snow White curse. She was featured in Kill Me Softly, where we saw a little bit of her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, now huntsman, Henley. They are very dysfunctional, constantly fighting. Viv is always pushing him away, then pulling him back in. She can't be around the boy who may one day kill her, but she can't give him up either.

Recently, it seems as though Regina, Viv's wicked stepmother, is speeding the tale along. She has meetings with Henley, and even hires an experienced huntsman to kill Viv if Henley can't get the job done. Henley is at a crossroads. If he lets Viv go, she will eventually end up with her prince. Killing her is selfish, but it is the only way he can keep her heart.

Meanwhile, Viv receives an invitation to a night club in the underworld. There, she encounters Jasper,  her prince. He grew tired of waiting for her to slip into a coma and wanted to meet her. Jasper offers to let her hide from Regina in the underworld. The only problem is that once you stay there, Jasper's father won't let you leave.

I really liked getting the chance to know more characters from Kill Me Softly. In addition to Snow White, we got some 12 Dancing Princesses and Rumpelstiltskin. What really gets me about the book is how twisted the fairy tales get. Princes prefer their Snow Whites and Sleeping Beauties asleep and keep them drugged up. If you've read the Brothers Grimm, you also know how Snow White ends, and I was surprised to see this story end that same way. I liked hearing Regina's side of the story, how she used to think she was the Snow White of her story. Hearing how Viv and Regina used to be really close was also nice, but really sad. I enjoyed the happy ending, though with some reservations of how happy it really is. Maybe that's true for all fairy tales, though.

I received my copy of Tear You Apart from Netgalley, courtesy of EgmontUSA. It's available for purchase now.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #4: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

"If we stop helping people because we're afraid, or ambivalent or whatever, then we lose. Let them do evil. I'll stop them..."

 You can read my review of Steelheart here.

Previously, in Steelheart, we were introduced to the city of Newcago (Formerly Chicago). A star rose into the sky called Calamity, and suddenly normal people developed extraordinary powers. They were known as Epics, and the most powerful of them was called Steelheart. Unfortunately, the Epics were corrupted by their powers. They used them to oppress the powerless, rather than help them.

A group of powerless people fought back. They called themselves the Reckoners. David sought them out, hoping to join their ranks. Years ago, Steelheart had killed David's father in front of him. He wanted the Reckoners to help take down Steelheart and avenge his father's death.

Anyways, long story short (There be spoilers here!):
The Reckoners kill Steelheart. On the way, we find out that Megan, David's love interest, was actually an Epic named Firefight. Also, the leader of the Reckoners, Prof, is an Epic. He is able to transfer some of his abilities to others, which explains most of the Reckoner's fancy technology.
End spoilers

There was also a novella titled Mitosis where the Reckoners fight the titled Epic. It's mentioned in the book, but isn't necessary to understand the story. 

Now, on to Firefight!

What is there to do now that your biggest enemy is defeated? The Reckoners have managed to keep Newcago safe from Epics hoping to take over for Steelheart. Recently, David has started to feel that killing the Epics might be wrong. Prof is an Epic and also a really good person, and despite evidence to the contrary, David is convinced that Megan is also a good person. He starts to wonder if they could turn Epics normal again if they could get them to stop using their powers. Prof dismisses this. He knows firsthand how the powers corrupt, tempt Epics to use them, tempt them to conquer and destroy. According to Prof, killing the Epics is showing them a mercy.

The Reckoners start to notice that several Epics they defeated recently have been sent from Babilar (Formerly Manhattan). The Epic in charge there is called Regalia. She used to be friends with Prof, and now she is calling him out. He thinks that she is provoking him to kill her.

Prof invites David to go out to Babilar with him and Tia (His girlfriend/surveillance person). They meet the other branch of Reckoners: Val, who is crabby (but probably because Sam, her boyfriend/husband just died), Exel, who is plus-sized and doesn't leave much of an impression, and Mizzy, who is bubbly and enthusiastic. Mizzy is pretty intent upon getting revenge for Sam's murder. He was killed by...Firefight, Megan. Things get complicated when David is stalking some local Epics and encounters Megan. He is definitely happy to see her, and he doesn't believe that she would kill anyone. He never gets around to asking about it, though.

Meanwhile, Regalia has brought in Obliteration, an Epic who has leveled entire cities. The Reckoners need to come up with a plan to destroy her, and fast. Of course, things aren't always what they seem when it comes to Regalia, or the Reckoners, or basically anything. There's some twists and turns, betrayals on all sides.

I loved this sequel even more than the first book. It was exciting and there was a ton of action. I liked how David was the same nerdy guy as last time, with his weirdo metaphors all the time. I also really loved this moment:
"You know," she said, "you're not actually bad at metaphors..."
"...because most of the things you say are similes. Those are really what you're bad at."
Seriously, that bugged me throughout the first book. Similes use "like" or "as," metaphors don't, David!

I wasn't sure where they were going to go with the series after the death of Steelheart, but I really liked the questions the book raised about Epics. Not to get into spoilers, but there were some really awesome and exciting revelations here. And, omigod, that ending! I am super stoked for Calamity, and super impatient to read it next year.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #3: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

"In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don't believe that.
The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind..."

Red Queen tells of a world divided by blood, between Silvers and Reds. Silver blood gives the Silvers special abilities. They can read minds, control people, move metal, control fire or water, or do one of many other extraordinary things. Because of these powers, they rule over the Reds. The purpose of Reds is to serve the Silvers. Silvers get the best of life, while the Reds struggle just to survive. When they reach the age of 17, if they aren't apprenticed, Reds are sent off to fight in the endless war the country is waging to gain more territory.

Mare Barrow is a Red who hates Silvers, and expresses that sentiment often. Seriously, it gets annoying. To help her family, she often steals from the rich, though her parents and sister wish she would stop. Her three older brother are already off at war, and she will follow on her next birthday. The great hope of the Barrow family is her younger sister, Gisa. Gisa creates beautiful embroideries, and will likely own a successful shop once she finishes her apprenticeship. Then she will be able to provide jobs to save her siblings from the war.

Mare's best friend, Kilorn, the Gale to her Katniss, was on track to become a fisherman. Unexpectedly, his mentor dies. Mare is desperate to keep Kilorn from being conscripted, so she seeks help from acquaintances who bought her stolen goods. A young woman named Marley offers to help them disappear...for a very high price. The sisters come up with a plan to steal enough money, but are interrupted by an attack from a group called the Red Guard. As a last ditch effort, Gisa attempts to pick a man's pocket, gets caught, and has her hand smashed by a guard. The family's only hope is now destroyed.

Unable to face her parents, a guilty Mare runs off to a tavern. She eventually tries to steal from a young man. He catches her and they start to talk. Soon, she is telling him all about her misfortunes, from Kilorn's conscription to her sister's broken hand. The next day, she is offered a job serving at the royal palace.

Despite her dislike for Silvers, Mare throws herself into her new job. She figures that the boy she met was another servant, and she is thankful to be able to provide for her family. The palace is holding a big event that day, the Queenstrial. The daughters of the top Silver families demonstrate their skills for a chance to marry the heir to the throne and one day become Queen. This is when Mare finds out that the young man who helped her get a job is the heir apparent, Prince Cal. Soon after, she discovers something even more amazing.

While serving drinks, Mare falls into the arena. She actually falls through an electrified barrier that should have killed her. After that, she ends up throwing lightning bolts around. Reds like her aren't supposed to have powers. Too many people saw her to just kill her. What they need is a good lie.

"I cannot slip. Not now, not ever. I'm one of them. I'm special.I'm an accident. I'm a lie. And my life depends on maintaining that illusion..."

Mare Barrow becomes Lady Mareena Titanos, long-lost daughter of a respected Silver family. She is engaged to the younger son, Prince Maven (Though she obviously has a thing for Cal). Her very life and the lives of her family depend on her ability to convince everyone that she is a Silver. If that isn't difficult enough, there is also the added challenge of a palace full of possible enemies. Things are further complicated when Mare enlists with the Red Guard to work against the Silvers and royal family on the inside. She grows close with Cal, then with Maven, and also with her tutor Julian. The recurring theme of the book is: "Anyone can betray anyone," and believe me, there is some major betrayal.

This was one of those books that I wasn't into at first, then I kept seeing it around the web, and suddenly I absolutely had to read it. It was pretty good, but a smidge disappointing. Mare really annoyed me in the beginning. I kept thinking of her as Katniss Everdeen mixed with an idealistic college freshman. She just sees things so black and white, where the Silvers are only the enemy. I felt badly because I constantly felt the need to tell our poor, oppressed heroine to shut up about the Silvers. By the end, I did feel a great deal of fondness for her, so she does grow on you. Despite predicting that it would happen, I was very upset by the big plot twist. So very upset, like almost crying while waiting for a table at Olive Garden upset. Sometimes you just know something will end a certain way, but then you think that maybe it will flip your expectations and not end that way, but then it does end that way and you get really upset because you don't want that ending at you know what I mean? Your experience may differ, but I thought Red Queen was good, but not as great as I was hoping. I'm still interested to see what happens in the second book, as we are left with some major plot developments that could be very exciting.

I received my copy of Red Queen from Edelweiss, courtesy of Orion. It's available for purchase now.