Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury - Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Mist and Fury (sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2016 (Hardcover)
Length: 626 pages
Genre: Adult/Young Adult, Fantasy
Started: June 15, 2016
Finished: June 29, 2016

From the inside cover:

Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court - but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms - and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future - and the future of a world torn apart.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sarah J. Maas expands Feyre's world beyond even her wildest imagination in this seductive and stunning sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Oh. My. Stars.

Abso-freaking-lutely phenomenal.

 I thought A Court of Thorns and Roses was good, but this is probably one of the only times in recent memory where I thought a sequel blew the original away, and whooo baby did it ever.

Warning, spoilers likely to follow...

Feyre has been resurrected by the High Lords and is now Fae, complete with powers from each court. About to marry Tamlin, he wants her kept safe after almost losing her to Amarantha, but Feyre is quickly getting cabin fever from not being allowed to hone her new-found abilities or being able to help Tamlin in court. Desperate and unable to be confined to Tamlin's home any longer, Feyre is rescued in a way by her contract with Rhysand, forced to spend a week at a time at the Night Court with him. He offers to help her hone her powers and to teach her how to read and write, which Feyre accepts. When Rhys tells Feyre of the war brewing across the seas which will surely reach them and the mortal realms, Feyre must decide whether she will forsake Tamlin and the Spring Court to align with Rhysand and the Night Court in their efforts to defend against Hybern.

First off, I will forever thank the author for pairing Feyre with Rhys, I love the two of them together, and this book is either fraught with sexual tension so thick you could cut it with a knife, or incredibly steamy sex scenes that will make you blush (so obviously this is not the kind of young adult novel you'd give to a thirteen year old). The interactions between the two of them are amazing due to the witty, biting banter back and forth.

I also appreciate that the beginning of this novel was mostly about Feyre evaluating her situation and trying to figure out what exactly she wants given her new circumstances. She really examines things and comes to the right decision that is truly right for her.

Amren, Cassian, Mor, and Azriel are freaking awesome, the four of them with Rhys and Feyre make an amazing team (Cassian is my personal favourite).

You must read this, go plow through A Court of Thorns and Roses just so you can read A Court of Mist and Fury.

Thoughts on the cover:
Continuity from the previous cover with a glimpse of Feyre from the side, this time in a blue and black colour scheme, notice the detail of the tattoos on her hand.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Exit, Pursued By A Bear - E.K. Johnston

Title: Exit, Pursued By A Bear
Author: E. K. Johnston
Publisher: Dutton Books, 2016 (Hardcover)
Length: 243 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: June 9, 2016
Finished: June 14, 2016

From the inside cover:

Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She's been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. Now it's her last year and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she'll be a different person. She thinks she's ready for whatever comes next.

But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined:

Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.

Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier's best friend, and that may be the truest label of all.

Heartbreaking and empowering, Exit, Pursued By a Bear is the story of transcendent friendship in the face of trauma.

I saw the title and was immediately drawn to this book, then I read the summary and knew I had to read it. Then upon reading it, I discovered the author is Canadian and the story takes place in Southern Ontario where I live, and love the book just that much more.

Hermione is the captain of her well-renowned cheerleading team in her small town. When she and her team arrive at the same cheerleading camp they have attended for the past few years in late summer north of Barrie, they are expecting the usual things: friendly competition between cabins, pep talks, and grueling training. They didn't expect for Hermione to be slipped date rape drugs and raped. In the aftermath of the rape, Hermione is faced with returning to school, how to function after a trauma she doesn't remember experiencing, and how outsiders view the incident as her fault rather than her rapist's.

I loved how the author approached a really difficult subject. Hermione has a lot of support both in the immediate aftermath of the incident and up to a year later: her coach, her friends, her parents, her teachers, her therapist, the police officer in charge of her case, and the hospital and clinic staff. It was a really overall positive portrayal of the aftermath of an experience that most victims do not always have. Polly is a friend that most readers would kill to have, and I think that is the key element in the outcome of Hermione's story, that she has such a fierce advocate in her best friend that can help her weather the rumours and breakups and panic attacks. I particularly enjoyed that the author did make Hermione and Polly have a confrontation with a reporter who makes a comment about "things she could've done to prevent this," and the girls immediately address the inherent sexism in the comment, replying "if I was a boy would you be asking me that?"

The fact that the story takes place locally made me smile. The camp the cheerleading team goes to is in an area I've personally visited, and all the Ontario universities (including both the ones I attended) are mentioned when the characters are deciding which schools to attend after graduation. The local aspect of the story is just an added bonus to an excellent book.

An excellent book on a delicate subject that's actually explored thoughtfully and positively.

Thoughts on the cover:
Very fitting and dynamic cover.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

Title: The Lie Tree
Author: Frances Hardinge
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2016 (Hardcover)
Length: 377 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction, Thriller
Started: June 1, 2016
Finished: June 8, 2016

From the inside cover:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well-mannered - a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing - like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father's death was no accident.

In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit, in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father's murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies - like fires, wild and crackling - quickly take on a life of their own.

I read the summary for this and knew it was right up my alley, plus the award winner aspect really intrigued me. Thankfully my instincts were right and this little gem of a book really impressed me.

Faith's father is a Reverend and also a budding scientist who's traveled all over Europe and Asia in search of specimens. Faith takes after her father in terms of intellect and natural curiosity, but in Victorian era England, girls are not permitted to engage in scientific pursuits if they want to be thought of as proper young ladies. Faith feels constrained by society's expectations towards her, but has more pressing matters to attend to, like her family's relocation due to scandal, and eventually her father's death. As Faith reads her father's journals and learns about the lie tree, she realizes she may be able to gain proof of her suspicion that her father's death was murder rather than suicide.

First off, I loved all the biblical allusions and allegories in this book. The main protagonist's name is Faith, she has a pet snake, she tends a tree that feeds on lies and produces fruit that when eaten will bestow a truth in the form of a vision. The author includes some great themes of gender expectations and individual versus society as well. This is a great book for discussion and would be a wonderful choice for a classroom across subjects (English, Religion, Philosophy, etc.)

A great story with an intriguing plot, a likeable heroine, great themes and allusions, in addition to being well-written.

Thoughts on the cover:
Very appropriate and catches your interest.