Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hidden Huntress by Danielle Jensen

Hidden Huntress by Danielle Jensen. Angry Robot; 2015. Ebook.

**I received an advanced copy of this book courtesy of Angry Robot Publications and Net Galley**

Hidden Huntress, sequel to Stolen Songbird, is out next Tuesday, June 2nd! Mark your calendars!

After reading Stolen Songbird, I was incredibly excited for the second book. Stolen Songbird was like a breath of fresh air, and I loved it to pieces. Though it had many wonderful and intriguing moments, I'm sorry to say that Hidden Huntress was a bit of a letdown. Now, don't me wrong - it was still a wonderfully written and developed book, but when compared to its predecessor, it just falls a bit short. There were moments when I was fully enraptured in the story, but there were also moments that I felt were a bit too drawn out or just rather unnecessary to the story.

The story picks up with Cecile back in Trianon, performing with her mother like she always planned. But while doing this, she is also searching endlessly for Anushka in order to end the curse that has plagued the Trolls for centuries. Tristan, as this time, is still imprisoned by his father in Trollus, praying only for Cecile's safety. Now, on to the review!

Cecile and Tristan's relationship has definitely had its ups and downs (she was forced to marry him, after all - something neither of them wanted), but is ultimately a truly beautiful and heartfelt relationship. No matter what happens, they always find a way back to one another - even if things aren't always perfect. Now, here's where I had a problem: the playfulness, banter, and chemistry that was evident in the dialogue from the first book is pretty much nonexistent. Those elements that drew the reader in and made them fall in love with the characters in Stolen Songbird are no longer present. This is also unfortunate because, naturally, those were some of the elements that made fall in love with Stolen Songbird and Danielle Jensen in the first place.

The story also just felt monotonous at times. I got annoyed with Cecile or the many minute details that they had to get through just for one simple thing to happen. There was almost... too much going on at one time. Too many plots, names, conflicts, etc. Now, this could be a good thing in a book, but unfortunately it resulted in a slightly confusing and hard-to-follow story. There were some pretty decent and entertaining plot twists, but there were too many, and when there are too many they start to lose their appeal. Despite this, I did enjoy learning more about Anushka's past. She's a wonderful villain, despite any predictability, and has a very complex and interesting backstory.

All being said, I am still excited for the next book, as I have faith that it will shown and make up for the areas in which this book lacked, while also accentuating the wonderful plot and overarching story that Jensen has constructed. Overall, this was a decent, solid book. However, in relation to Stolen Songbird, there is almost no comparison. The wit and spark that made me love the first book is barely present in Hidden Huntress. Because of these reasons, I am giving Hidden Huntress three stars. I debated between two-and-a-half and three, but ultimately landed on three because it was an interesting and well-written story.

Hidden Huntress is out next TUESDAY, JUNE 2ND! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Vintage; 2006. 480 pages. Paperback/Softcover.

Oh Murakami, where do  I even begin? So far, I have loved every book I have by Mr. Murakami. There is something in the way he writes that simply draws me in and holds me tight.

I can completely understand how his style might not appeal to everyone. It's very different, and I can understand the arguments saying that it's slow, boring, or too philosophical; it's understandable. But that's what I love about Murakami. he can write these incredibly stunning novels where at times it feels like absolutely nothing is happening, yet at the same time there is so much occurring. His writing is the ultimate calming presence; it really allows me to just stop, breathe, and calmly read a book. In my opinion, you can't rush through reading one of his books. Rather, you have to savor each word, each glance and movement of a character.

But, I digress, let us move on to this specific review...

Kafka on the Shore, as you can probably guess, was truly wonderful. We are introduced to the main two characters early on: Kafka Tamura, a teenage boy who decides it is time for him to leave home and embark on his own life journey, and Nakata, an elder gentleman who lives a very simplistic life, but is suddenly called away from this normalcy to embark on his own important journey. Along the way, both characters meet a wonderful cast of supporting characters, each with their own unique personality and outlook on life. Nakata and Kafka are drawn together in a not-so-obvious way, and their paths intertwine in an offbeat manner, resulting in the unveiling of a personal discovery of themselves.

As always, the characters Murakami brings to life are extraordinarily dynamic and have extremely unique personalities and ways of looking at life. He creates characters that are at the same very relatable, but also just different enough that we stay intrigued.

Murakami does wonderful work of blending reality with the metaphysical, doing so in such a way that they work hand-in-hand to create a unique narrative that keeps you hooked at every moment.
This novel is extremely blunt, yet also incredibly secretive. There's no shying away from sexuality, violence, or heavy philosophical debates. However, there's always something left unspoken, almost as if the reader is the one that should be left to decide what the true meaning of something is, or why certain things happened. It's an extremely addicting quality, and one that must be executed very carefully in order to be successful. Luckily, this particular instance was very successful. It's a thinking book, and a darn good one at that.

Also, there are talking cats. I think that speaks for itself.

Kafka on the Shore will be receiving five stars from me due to its beautiful prose, extraordinary plot, and delve into the philosophical aspects of life. If you have never had the chance to read Murakami, I highly suggest you do that. Norwegian Wood is also wonderful, and I highly recommend, as well as 1Q84, though it's a bit of a longer read; if you're looking for a short, more simplistic introduction to Murakami then I would highly suggest Norwegian Wood. Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Update: Life has, once again, reared its ugly head and taken up much of my time in the form of school, internships, and general work and duties. However, I have finished what seems to be quite a few books recently, so now I just have to catch up and work on some reviews. A review for Haruki Murakami's (one of my favorite authors, in case you were wondering) Kafka on the Shore will be coming soon, along with a few other fun ones. The past few have been young adult, but I've been reading quite a varied assortment lately, so there will be a bit more variety in the upcoming reviews. :)

A School For Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin. Tor Teen; 2015. 352 pages. Ebook. 

**I received this book as an ARC courtesty of NetGalley**

A School for Unusual Girls will be released next Tuesday, May 23rd!

I was looking forward to this book so much. I even had it listed on my Anticipated Spring 2015 Releases.  Sadly, it did not live up to my expectations.

I don't normally post full summaries, but it was intriguing and promising, so I feel it is necessary to share:

"It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje Hous… She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts..."

The beginning was equally promising; I was enthralled during the opening chapters, and also so excited that I had found yet another great book. Unfortunately, about halfway through I realized it was not going to continue in such a positive fashion.

One of the biggest issues I had with this novel was the pacing. Way too many things happened way too soon with little explanation or reason (I'll get into the lack of explanation after this). As in most books, there is, of course, romance. But this romance happens so fast that I am left holding the book wondering how in the world these two people could so quickly be passionately obsessed with one another. It's one of those "happens at first sight" things, and it is not executed very well. Besides the romance, though, the plot itself just move much too quickly. I felt like I had barely been introduced to characters or plot ideas before something new was thrust upon me.

Now, regarding the lack of explanation. There was too much mystery leftover. I can't even tell you exactly what it is that the girls do or how they are able to do the things they do because it's never explained.  i'm still confused. There are constant hints and foreshadowing about all the mysteries surrounding the Stranje house and the girls that live there, but they are left completely unanswered, which is extremely frustrated. You know how in some books the author leaves certain things unanswered and it really adds this mysterious and amazing element to the story that just makes it 100x better? Yeah, this is not one of those.

On a more positive note, Baldwin does have quite a lovely writing style. There is a nice rhythm to her writing that allows you to keeping turning the pages even though it's not the greatest story. ALong with this, the plot itself is quite imaginative. If executed differently, I feel that this book could have been much, much more enjoyable. The overall idea of having a house for "unfit society girls," who always appear to have some sort of secret, and a major quest for aiding a war is an extremely intriguing prospect. While I am not sure if I will continue the series or not, I do hope that Baldwin can clean up the issues found in this first book for the rest of her releases. 

A School for Unusual Girls will be receiving three stars. It was enjoyable, I'll give it that, but it just didn't hold up. The plot was loose, the storytelling a bit haphazard and rushed at times. Despite that, as mentioned above, it was still an entertaining read, and thus receives three stars. 

Also, as mentioned above, this book will be released next Tuesday, May 19th. If you're interested, don't forget to mark your calendars!