January 30, 2015

Review: The Assassin's Blade (Novellas 3-5) by Sarah J Maas

"You want to hear something ridiculous? Whenever I'm scared out of my wit, I tell myself: My name is Sam Cortland ... and I will not be afraid. I've been doing it for years."
It was her turn to raise her brows. "And that actually works?"
He laughed onto her fingers. "Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. But usually it makes me feel better to some degree. Or just makes me laugh at myself a bit”

The Book Rest - Review for The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J MaasTitle:The Assassin's Blade (Novellas 3 through 5)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: A- (for novellas 3 through 5)
Recommended For: Fans of the Throne of Glass series (obviously!) and fans of The Young Elites and Graceling
Source: Library e-book

One-sentence review: Much longer and more in-depth set of novella prequels that give the reader a much better idea of who Celaena Sardothien from the Throne of Glass series is and where she came from.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

Check out my review for the first half of this novella compilation here.

For fear of giving spoilers, I'm not going to break down the last three novellas individually like I did for the first two. In short, The Assassin and the Desert follows Celaena Sardothien as she spends her summer in the Red Desert to train with the Mute Master of the Silent Assassins. The other two novellas follow Celaena once she returns home. 

These three novellas finally made me feel like this compilation was worth reading! Instead of being short stories like the previous installments, these novellas were so much more in-depth and exciting. The reader continues to learn about Celaena's moral scope of the world in which she lives, but the reader is also able to observe instances that help her shape this scope. Most prominently are lessons about trust, friendship, freedom and forgiveness. There is the same level of action, emotion and information that I was hoping for amongst these three prequels and I am very satisfied that I read them!

For those of you reading these prequels just to learn about Sam: The Assassin and the Underworld is the novella that will bring all the pieces together for you! However, I will say that I'm glad I read Throne of Glass first because I think it gave me a special level of dramatic irony that made these novellas especially exciting to read. Essentially I know what happens to Celaena, but I loved seeing the dots connect and learning who she is and how she got to where the series really begins. Yes, some things dragged on and were slow, but these novellas are definitely worth the time to read to get to know Celaena Sardothien a little bit better!

January 23, 2015

Review: The Assassin's Blade (Novellas 1 and 2) by Sarah J Maas

“Nervous?" he asked, his voice barely audible above the steady slice of his oars through the calm bay.
"No," she lied.
"Me too.”

The Book Rest - Review for The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J MaasTitle:The Assassin's Blade (Novellas 1 and 2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: A-
Recommended For: Fans of the Throne of Glass series (obviously!) and fans of The Young Elites and Graceling
Source: Library e-book

One-sentence review: A great way to better understand assassin Celaena of the Throne of Glass series, but these two novellas are not necessarily imperative to the series overall. 

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

Why has it taken me so long to get into Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series?! It has quickly become one of my absolute favorites. I'll be honest, I think it was the cheesy covers that swayed me from reading sooner, they seem too high fantasy for me. I tend to enjoy books and series with fantastical elements but considering myself a "fantasy" enthusiast just felt too Dungeons-and-Dragons for me or something. However, this series has definitely changed my mind and attitude! If loving high fantasy is wrong, I don't want to be right.

The Assassin's Blade is not technically the first book in the series and it's not the first book I read. I began my obsession with Celaena Sardothien with book one: Throne of Glass. However, The Assassin's Blade is a book consisting of five prequel novellas that I read to better understand Celaena's character before moving forward with the rest of the series. I've decided to give each novella a mini-review because you can definitely read them stand-alone or not at all. Hopefully my reviews will help you decide if they're worth your time.

This compilation centers on Celaena Sardothien, the realm of Adarlan's most notorious assassin and, unbeknownst to most,  merely a teenage girl. Orphaned and trained at a young age by her master, Arobynn Hamel, Celaena trusts no one, not even the assassins in her guild. Each novella follows Celaena on a mission she must complete and gives the reader better insight into her background for the full series.

Novella 1: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord
In this novella, the reader is introduced to many of the assassins who are part of Celaena's guild, including her master Arobynn and the infamous Sam. Arobynn sends Celaena and Sam on a mission to meet with the Pirate Lord. What they think is a simple collections mission turns into a battle of conscience as Celaena and Sam learn Arobynn wants to get into the slave trade.

I admit I mostly wanted to read these novellas to learn about Sam! He is mentioned lightly in Throne of Glass and I had to learn who he is. While my appetite for knowledge was somewhat satiated, overall this novella was a huge disappointment and I could have skipped it. Celaena and Sam are rivals for Arobynn's attention and while this novella does show how their similar moral compasses bring them closer, overall it was dull and I was happy for it to end. The Pirate Lord was very one-dimensional and there was really nothing else to help me through this one. I enjoyed learning about Celaena's heart for the oppressed, but I didn't have any breakthrough moments reading this.

Novella 2: The Assassin and the Healer
The second prequel novella takes place as Celaena is on her way to the desert for her punishment for her actions in the first novella. While staying at a disheveled inn at a poor port town while waiting for her ship, Celaena seeks adventure by teaching a sorry barmaid how to fight for her safety and fight for a better life. There isn't much more to say about this one which is why it's another novella I would have skipped. Again, we learn about Celaena's empathy for the poor, lowly and defenseless. We also see how she is no-nonsense even when helping people. But again, I didn't find anything groundbreaking in this novella. The only way I think I'll be happy I read it is if I run into any of these characters in the future of this series.

If you're thinking you definitely don't plan on reading these novellas at all after my unenthused reviews, don't lose hope because next week I'll be talking about the other novellas in this compilation that bring a lot more hope to whether or not you should read!

January 16, 2015

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

You don't mention death when it's hovering near someone you love. You don't want to attract the reaper's attention.

The Book Rest - Review for These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerTitle:These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Genre:YA Fantasy
Rating: B+
Recommended For: Fans of space adventure romance
Source: Own hardback copy

One-sentence review: This futuristic novel set in space starts as a space ship version of Titanic, progresses to a very lengthy survival story of a guy and girl full of tons of sexual tension on an unknown planet.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

These Broken Stars is a novel set in space written by two authors, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Sixteen-year old Lilac is the galaxy's sweetheart, the daughter of the most wealthy and power space engineer who built the "indestructable" Icarus space ship. On the ship, Lilac meets Tarver, a young major in the galaxy's military who is well known for an act of valor. When the indestructible ship is knocked out of orbit and Lilac and Tarver find themselves in an escape pod together, they must use each others skills to survive and hope to find a way home to their families.

I had a love-hate relationship with this book through and through. I wanted to read it because the authors were having an event and I wanted to go meet them, but when I first started the book it was really difficult for me to get into it. I think I credit this to this book being co-authored. There are just too many words and not enough explanation in those words. I found myself really having difficulty understanding Lilac and Tarver's world, there was little structure and readers are just plunged in. This wouldn't be so bad if I didn't feel like the story moved so slowly to begin with.

That said, I'm glad I finished the book anyway because once Lilac and Tarver find themselves on an unknown planet, things pick up reasonably well and the book becomes a nail-biter at times. I think the romance was pretty cheesy because both characters dislike each other soooo much which makes it soooo obvious how things turn out, but it worked out. I ended up liking the characters more than I expected and really cared about how things turned out for them, which encouraged me to keep reading.

One factor that I'm undecided about is that absolutely anything can happen in this book. This is the future, these characters are on uncharted territory with any possibility of lifeforms or unknown territory, which made the story very fascinating with many opportunities for things to go wrong. However, sometimes I felt the authors pushed this too far and I lost my trust in them (if you read this book you'll know what I mean and you'll have to tell me how you feel!).

It may sound like I had more negative things to say about this book than positive, but I think it's the perfect example of how someone's favorite book is someone else's least favorite book. While I didn't care for the writing style and high fantasy, I did love the adventure and overall story. I think this book is so different that there could be debates on it being the best or worst book. Either way, I found that it was worth the read and I am excited to read the new companion, This Shattered World! It also didn't hurt that the authors were so nice when I met them. :) Did I mention I got to meet Marie Lu, too?!

The Book Rest - Author Event - Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner The Book Rest - Author Event - Marie Lu

Have you read These Broken Stars? What did you think?

January 9, 2015

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

“You’re bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s ON YOU to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”

The Book Rest - Review for Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Marie SempleTitle: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Genre: Contemporary, Comedic Mystery
Rating: A-
Recommended For: Fans of smart, witty, writing with a splash of mystery
Source: Library e-book

One-sentence review: A very colorful, well-written (albeit long) story of a fifteen-year-old girl's plight to find her eccentric and missing mother after a series of strange events.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is one of those huge-books-of-the-year-they-came-out that I missed the boat on but it's cute cover kept calling my name (And don't act like you've never picked a book by its cover!). Right from the start the clever writing and wit reeled me in and delivered a wonderful conclusion to the year as my last book of 2014.

Maria Semple's critically acclaimed novel is the story about 15-year-old Bee's hunt to find her mother after she mysteriously disappears before their family trip to Antarctica. This book is divided into different sections that each consist of clues Bee has accumulated to help her solve her mother's mystery. From emails between her mother and her remote personal assistant to emails between mothers at school who hate Bernadette, Bee has everything she needs to solve the mystery of where her mother went - but can she? Is her mom even able to be found?

This book is really long. That's not a terrible thing because the writing is so well done and it kept me laughing despite the serious content of a missing person. However, if it weren't for Semple's witty writing, I would have probably not finished this book. It takes a really long time to even know the circumstances that lead to Bernadette being missing and some people might not have the patience for that. I took a few breaks reading this book because of it, but all that said, I'm glad that I finished!

This book is so well-crafted that I feel terrible ranting about it's length and the time it takes to get anywhere. It is still entertaining, although the book at the end barely resembles the book that you began reading. The pieces Semple puts together to bring a final product is worth the effort. I especially enjoyed the voices in this book; from the crazy private school moms and Bernadette herself, to Bee's Microsoft exec dad and Bee herself. Everyone stands out so well which contributes to the high entertainment of the novel.

While it's a long book that might not be for everyone's attention span, I'm glad I finished readig Where'd You Go Bernadette because it was a well-written and thoroughly entertaining novel that's unlike anything you might expect. I haven't been reading a ton of Contemporary lately, so that might also contribute to my lack of attention span. ;)

January 2, 2015

2015 Goals

I was an overachiever about a year ago. I was reading 10-12 books a month and figured I could easily read 100 books in a year. But I forgot about this little thing I had to plan called a wedding and this big thing I was buying called a house. So I read 75 books in 2014, which wasn't too shabby given that I had little spare time the last half of the year. It still kept in line with my goal to read more than the previous year (71 books in 2013).

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FAIL. But so close!

I also had all these little goals like completing a TBR Pile Challenge which I failed at miserably (8/12 books... okay, not TOO bad) and blacking out on Book Bingo (which I was ONE New Release away from doing!). I also had these little goals like, "Re-read 10 Book from School" and "Read 5 Book-to-Movie Adaptations and See the Movie!". Ummmm, no. I mean, I think I completed these but I just didn't have time really think about it. 2015 is the year of simplicity...

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I set myGoodReads reading goal to 80, but technically I only need to read 76 to reach my goal. 

Blogging better means a lot of things, but one major goal I want to do is to cross post my reviews at least between GoodReads and Amazon for every review I do past, present and future. I can get really lazy with this. I also want to make sure I create quality content and interact in the book blogging community more. It's one of the biggest reasons I wanted to blog about books, so I need to put the time in. 

Having solid but simple goals make the transition into the new year much more palatable, especially if I'm going to be changing this whole blog around. 

What are your goals for the new year (reading and otherwise)?

Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Be true to yourself. But that's something everyone says and no one means. No one wants you to be yourself. They want you to be the version of yourself that they like.
The Book Rest - Review for The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Title: The Young Elites
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: A
Recommended For: Fans of Shatter Me, Divergent, Legend
Source: Library

One-sentence review: A fast-paced, action-packed adventure that's difficult to put down and has the perfect mix of everything any YA fantasy lover will enjoy with especially complex characterization.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

I've been kind of out of the circle of books lately, so when I found out Marie Lu was releasing the first book in a series I was shocked, elated and grateful that I didn't have to wait long to read it! I put other books on hold to start this book and it did not disappoint.

In true Lu fashion, once The Young Elites starts moving forward, it doesn't lose its speed. As a survivor of the blood fever that affected her nation when she was a child, heroine Adelina is a malfetto and an abomination to her father. Some survivors are rumored to have obtained strange powers through the sickness and Adelina's father will do whatever it takes to provoke anything out of her that will bring him a profit. Adelina's father is not the only one who doesn't like malfettos; the government is also trying to eliminate any of these Young Elites lest they threaten the Inquisition Axis' power. A secret group of Young Elites known as The Dagger Society wants to do just that and when Adelina is thrown in their midst she must decide who the enemy is, it may even be herself. 

This story is primarily narrated by Adelina but also devotes chapters to third-person omniscient perspectives focused on other main characters. At first I wasn't sure about this, but as the book progressed it really helped with dramatic irony and for the reader to know other important things behind-the-scenes. So much happens in this book and it's difficult to know who to trust, so gaining those perspectives made it more interesting to follow instead of being too cryptic. 

Adelina is one of the most fascinating and painful characters I've read in YA fantasy/dystopia. When we meet her she has been so abused and wrecked by her father's resentment toward her that his hostile anger has festered and become part of who she is. She isn't the good/brave/pure Katniss Everdeen and she isn't the treated-like-a-monster-but-really-sweet Juliette from Shatter Me. Adelina has horrible feelings, terrible thoughts and has repressed everything inside. She is realistic and that's why I love her. I think anyone who was abused in any degree by a parent or caretaker can relate to being so affected as Adelina. Furthermore, Lu does an excellent job of allowing the reader a glimpse into her pain and anger but still maintaining her as a heroine we want to get behind. 

The other characters are just as vivid and definitely meet Adelina's match for adventurous cat-and-mouse games and emotional sparring. I especially enjoyed Raffaele and his dynamic between both Adelina and Enzo respectively. Raffaele has a gift of altering emotions and feeling ones energy change so it's not always easy to determine if he is affecting any conversation. Furthermore, he is the best character to utilize knowing his perspective and makes him more complex. 

The end of this book blew me away almost more than I wanted. I'm not sure what direction Lu will take this story, but whenever the next installment is available I'll be ready!

January 1, 2015

New Year, New Blog

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2014 was the best and the worst year of my life. I married my best friend (cheeeeey but true!) and we bought a house. We each also lost a grandparent we were ridiculously close to. And for the first time I'm publicly acknowledging that I lost my job, which very few people in my personal life even know about (surprise, friends + fam who read my blog!). Essentially I went through 4 out of the 5 things they say you should never do simultaneously in a year (and NO, there is no baby coming. At least not in the next 9 months!).

If it seems like my blog is still on autopilot from October when I was going crazy planning my wedding, it has been. I am quite simply just plain exhausted emotionally. But new years breed new attitudes! I've never been out of work like this, but I'm taking this opportunity to make some major changes to this blog.

Over the month of January I'll be transitioning The Book Barn book review blog into The Book Rest bookish lifestyle blog. I still want to center around books and will continue to post at least one book review each week, but I also want to include other areas of my life. Lately I've been cooking and baking and crafting more than ever and it's something I want to share.

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Honestly, I'm not sure how to transition. I don't know if I should delete this blog and start fresh or if it's more feasible to change the url and let everyone deal with their confusion organically. (I do prefer the former because I have a flawless record of posting a review every week for more than 2 years haha). If you're reading this and have ever done a blog overhaul --- do you have any advice? I think that part has been my greatest hurdle for this transition and I have some research to do...!

In the meantime, I started a special Instagram (@thebookrest) for all things The Book Rest and I'd love it if you'd come over and follow me! If you mention you're a blog reader I will enthusiastically follow you back!

If you're reading this, I'm exponentially grateful that you're here. I hope that with this extra time I have on my hands I can make my little space in the blog world more personal and special. And I can't do it without great readers and friends like you!