April 24, 2015

Review: Split Second by Kasie West

I thought I wanted these memories, but now I realize he hardly knows me.

The Book Rest - Book Review - Split Second by Kasie WestTitle: Split Second (Pivot Point #2)
Author:Kasie West
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Rating: B-
Recommended For: Fans of teen YA, especially if you want to bridge the gap between contemporary and fantasy. This series is the perfect segue.
Source: Library e-book

One-sentence review: While the story of how Addie and Laila resolve the chaos wrought from Pivot Point is adventurous, exciting and unpredictable, the writing is so obviously "teen" that I couldn't get beyond it to consider this a solid, recommendable book to just anyone.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

This review contains spoilers for Pivot Point, the first book in this series

I had a love-hate relationship with Kasie West's Pivot Point that mostly ended with love. Although it's still no big surprise that I continued my love-hate with the sequel, Split Second. I also began my experience deflated because I read this book a few months after finishing the prequel so I had forgotten so many details from the original that were not refreshed by the author. Never have I read a sequel with so few reminders of what happened previously, especially considering how much happened! After I was already halfway through the book I saw a Goodreads review from Book Blog Bake recommending to read the last few chapters of Pivot Point to refresh and I highly recommend that!

This novel basically starts soon after the last novel ended: living in a supernatural Compound in contemporary middle America, Addie has the ability to view 2 alternate realities when she's faced with a choice. Her best friend, Laila, has the ability to erase memories. In Pivot Point, Addie asked Laila to erase her memory of the alternate ending she didn't choose because she wants Laila to restore them a few weeks later. What unravels is Addie's attempt to restore the love story of her previous fate while making some difficult discoveries about the Compound from which she's from. 

Hands down, my biggest issue with this series is the writing. It felt so teen to me that I can't decide if the author is excellent at writing in the voice of 16/17-year olds, or not a good writer at all. Regardless, the voice distracted from my experience and I can't give West credit for bridging the gap of teen and adult literature like so many other YA authors I love. There was just something I have to describe as "cheesy" about the writing and while the content was not bad at all, the delivery made me feel awkward. 

My biggest gripe with the storyline is that it feels like there are two arcs: the action leading up to Addie's memory restoration (come on, it's not a spoiler, you knew it would happen!) and everything that happens after. I felt like the memory restoration part was really anti-climactic because, duh, they have to accomplish this- it's the reason we're reading! However, I will give this one to the teens; perhaps a 14-year old reader wouldn't see this coming. I acknowledge that I can't pick on this book for its intended audience too much.

Other than that, the story and the action are really exciting and unpredictable. At first I didn't think I wanted or needed to hear Laila's perspective; she kind of annoyed me in the first book. But the romantic element West gives to her experience definitely showed off her character growth and gave me more empathy for her experience. Similarly, I had all kinds of feelings about Addie trying to recreate her relationship with Trevor and it was so sad to see how difficult it was to make it happen organically like the first time. 

I think the story could have used some editing but overall the action kept me reading despite the overly teen narrative voices. Although I must admit, I wanted to throw the book with those stupid text messages that were at the beginning of every chapter to remind the reader of who was narrating that chapter. THEY WERE SO STUPID. Again, maybe I should stop reading teen books. I don't think I should, but I'll probably step away from Kasie West's. While I definitely think this author can resonate strongly with other readers, unfortunately it's not me.

April 17, 2015

Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

She cried for the girl who had never belonged. A girl who tried so hard, harder than anyone else, and still never had anything to show for it.

The Book Rest - Book Review for Fairest by Marissa MeyerTitle: Fairest
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA Fairy Tale Fantasy
Rating: A-
Recommended For: fans of The Lunar Chronicles and fractured fairy tales
Source: library e-book

One-sentence review: Fans of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles gain satisfying insight into the early life of Queen Levana and pleasantly discover through her complex history that not all villains are born evil and not all evil is black-and-white. 

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

I must admit I was a little bit hesitant when I learned Marissa Meyer had added this book to The Lunar Chronicles from Levana's perspective. Not quite the size of a full-length novel but longer than a novella, I wasn't sure how I felt about an optional addition to a story I already love and respect so much. If you've been reading my blog at all you know that I'm not a big fan of pointless novellas and feel that more often than not they cheapen a series. I didn't feel that way with Fairest, however, and find that while you don't have to read it to understand the series, it is an interesting addition overall.

Fairest spins the story of Queen Levana's teen to young adult years, before she was queen when she lived in the shadow of her selfish, hateful sister, Channary. As a young teen, Levana has a strong crush on Evret, one of her parents' guards. When Evret's wife dies in childbirth, Levana goes to great lengths to do everything she can to force him to love her, including using her glamour to look identical to his late wife. But Levana can never really force anyone to love her and instead of becoming humbled by this, she grows more and more corrupt. We learn about Cinder's birth, her apparent death and this novel sets readers up for the story of the newest Lunar Chronicles character, Winter.

Even though all of the other books in The Lunar Chronicles are peppered with love stories, this is the only one that I might classify being a romance story (despite the lack of true love). This could be somewhat off-putting to readers who value the action packed fantasy of this series, but I think it's important to evaluate the concept that most hate stems from some form of love. Levana's evil and power-hungry attitude stems from her life being completely devoid of love; from her parents apathetic attitude toward her and her sister's torture to not understanding why the man she's crushing over won't return her feelings, Levana is terribly alone in the world. Based on her history of love, she completely misunderstands it, thinking it goes hand-in-hand with power. And while her actions cannot be justified, readers may find that they have a little more compassion for Levana when they see where she's come from. No matter how hard Levana forces people to do things, she never actually gets the love for which she's so hungry.

Another fascinating part of this story is to see how utterly evil Channary is, especially to her sister, Levana. If you're a fan of The Lunar Chronicles you're automatically assumed to be a fan of Cinder, so it's shocking to gain insight into her biological mother's pure insanity. It's shocking to see how humble, brave and good Cinder is compared to those in her family tree and makes me want to re-read the entire series for hints of Cinder's relation to her mother's family.

Similarly, this book has made me especially excited for the final book in the series, Winter, based on Evret's daughter and Levana's step-daughter. Winter doesn't have a huge role in Levana's story, but her history definitely does. I'm sure this background will come in handy when The Lunar Chronicles is complete later this year. For this reason and the others I've mentioned, I have to consider this novella The Book Rest approved. Definitely read it if you love The Lunar Chronicles as much as I do! In fact, I don't think I've ever heard of one person not loving this series, so if you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?

April 14, 2015

YALL WEST - Santa Monica - Day 2

Day 2 of YALL WEST was not as great of an experience for me as Day 1. This was due to a lot of reasons. For one, my husband and I had to drive an hour in the opposite direction in the morning (Santa Monica is already an hour away from us). Secondly, the venue (Santa Monica Public Library) was much smaller and there were a lot of non-YALLWEST people wandering around, which was weird. It was just too crowded and cramped, even though significantly less people were there than Day 1. Finally, I brought my husband with me which was really awesome of him, but he was BORED. HA! At one point I wanted to wait in this horrendous line to spin a wheel for a free book and he said, "I will take you to Barnes and Noble right now and buy you any book you want if we can not wait in that line..." HAHA! I don't recommend bringing someone who isn't as emphatic as you area about books!

Remember how I missed Veronica Roth's signing on Day 1? Well, 2 hour drive or not, I was committed to racing to her line the minute I got to the venue! Unfortunately they cut her line off an hour before it even began, so once again I missed her. Ohhhh well. I wasn't very happy with that last book anyway! #sourgrapes ;)

The Book Rest - YALL WEST - Leigh Bardugo and Marissa Meyer

In the morning, the only other author who I had a book that needed signing was Tahereh Mafi, so I stood in her line. I even made a friend who drove all the way from Arizona!! (Hi Kristi, if you ever find me here haha!). I had my paperback copy of Unite Me, the only book I haven't gotten signed by Tahereh. I mostly just wanted to thank her for Instagramming the hoop I made her, it was seriously so amazing of her. I almost didn't even give it to her, but to see how much she loved it was ridiculously special to me. When I told her she was super gracious and grateful for it all over again and then told me her husband, Ransom Riggs, ALSO posted the hoop!! I had no idea because he didn't know who to tag (and I admit I don't follow him online as religiously as I do Tahereh), so I was just dumbfounded. Awkward fangirl moment, for sure. Of course, I left Tahereh's table to find Ransom's post... gahhh!
The Book Rest - Tahereh Mafi Instagrams my Art!The Book Rest - Ransom Riggs Instagrams my Art!

The Book Rest - YALL WEST - Ransom Riggs
This guy Instagrammed about me, so crazy! Hahaha!
So after that awesome moment, I watched some panels, namely the Fandom panel moderated by Kami Garcia. I was excited to see Katie Cotugno and I had How to Love with me for her to sign, but her signing was hours away. I could tell that my husband was so bored and I was tired from the previous day, so together we found Katie in between panels and she was awesome enough to sign her book for me outside of her signing. Also, my husband swears we know her from somewhere. I WISH. She couldn't have been sweeter!

The Book Rest - YALL WEST - Fandom Panel

Unfortunately we left after that. It was hot, crowded and I needed to eat haha. While Sunday was kind of underwhelming, the whole weekend was epic and it fueled my fire to go to the LA Times Festival of Books next weekend!! I cannot wait!

Anyone else going? Did anyone go to YALLWEST? What was your favorite moment?

April 13, 2015

YALLWEST - Santa Monica - Day 1

I am SO HAPPY that I went to YALLWEST over the weekend. It was most definitely a YA book lover's paradise! I met so many of my favorite authors and got enough of my books signed that it was worth the approximately 5 hours I spent commuting over the weekend ;).

Day 1 was held at Santa Monica High School and I wish the whole weekend had been held there. This was definitely the superior venue. Parking was easy, right across the street from the high school which was such a blessing being that parking in LA is rarely simple!

I instantly spotted Stephanie Perkins and got her to sign my Anna and Lola books (still waiting for Isla to come out on paperback to match my set! #OCD). I took a picture with her, but it's terrible of me so I'll save you. I also snapped a photo of her with Richelle Mead, Marie Lu, Maya Van Wagenen and some other authors, which I will show you...

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Stephanie Perkins, Marie Lu, Richelle Mead

I proceeded to go to Ransom Rigg's Keynote which started with a message from the mayor of Santa Monica. He named Margaret Stohl the honorary mayor of YALLWEST. One of my favorite quotes of the day was from the mayor who said that reading helps us learn that "the way things are aren't always how they have to be." I absolutely loved that!

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Mayor of Santa Monica

Ransom's Keynote was fantastic... although I had basically just heard the same speech a month ago at one of his signings, so I kinda wished I had jumped in Veronica Roth's signing line instead of attending since I would spend the rest of the weekend missing Veronica Roth over and over again. Live and learn!

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Ransom Riggs Keynote

I did manage to get many books signed, though! Including my Marissa Meyer and Leigh Bardugo books. Out of respect for the hundreds of people in line behind me, I did not take posted pictures with the authors. I went to Day 1 alone and I feel like if you don't have a friend to snap a super quick photo and you don't have the nerve to do a quick selfie, you shouldn't hold up the line.

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Marissa Meyer

Leigh Bardugo was by far the best person I met all weekend. She was nice without it being awkwardly fake (which "awkwardly fake" is fine, that's me most of the time! But it's nice when people are real!). She asked who my favorite character from her books is (NIKOLAI!) and we bonded over his one liners, which she wrote a different one in each of my books! I told her how I love embroidering Nikolai quotes and she said she'd love to see my work. I told her I had made something for Tahereh Mafi and Leigh had actually seen it on Tahereh's Instagram! If there was a fangirling moment of the weekend it was learning one of my favorite authors saw my craft that another favorite author posted on her Instagram. I mean, come on...

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Leigh Bardugo

I also just observed signings since the lines were pretty ridiculous. I'm lucky enough that I've already met the authors I observed and didn't need any books signed. Except, of course, Veronica Roth... that elusive little author....

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Veronica Roth

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Marie Lu

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Ransom Riggs and Tahereh Mafi

I sat in on a few panels, including "Strong Female Characters: UGH!" moderated by Veronica Roth and "Writers as Superfans: Cosplay Panel" moderated by Richelle Mead. I would have gone to a lot more, but it was kind of chaotic and I was happy just sticking to one room and watching panel after panel in there, ha!

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Strong Women Panel

The Book Rest - YALLWEST - Cosplay Panel
The costumes were the best part of the Cosplay panel... to bad taking DSLR pictures from my seat was so hard!

I almost stuck around for the Smackdown at the end because it would feature all the authors, but I had an hour drive home, I was exhausted and I had come alone so there was nobody to entertain me.

Tomorrow I'll reveal my experience at Day 2 and later this week I'll tell you what I would have done differently now that I have my first YALLWEST/Book Fest under my belt! 

April 11, 2015

YA for the Not-So-Young Adult

Today, after much debate, I'm going to YALL West, the West Coast equivalent of YALL Fest. YALL West is essentially 2 days of YA book-related panels, dozens of my favorite authors, book signings, food trucks, and "general geeky debauchery." It basically sounds like Young Adult reader heaven! So why did the decision to attend come after much debate? Because I'm not exactly a "young" adult (much to my chagrin).

In fact, after thoroughly crossing the 30-year old threshold, I was feeling some serious guilt over my go-to books. I've become more loyal to my Kindle than ever lest I be seen with a Selection book (gorgeous as those dresses may be). When someone in "real life" finds out I write book reviews they want to know what books I read and I find myself scrambling to explain myself: "Well, I read these books for teens because ummm.... you see, I studied English in college and.... have you ever read Harry Potter as an adult? It's like, good...right?"). Let's not even get started on going to YA book events alone and being the oldest person there besides moms. Don't get me wrong, I have met some great people at book events, but it's an especially awkward situation. 

Ultimately I felt like I should just stop reading YA lit.

But I can't help myself: I thoroughly enjoy too many YA books. Am I alone? 

I decided to examine the many reasons why I read this genre and whether or not reading YA novel is something I should feel guilty about.

First I considered why I read anything at all. For me, reading is my escape. I want to be entertained, gain new perspectives, exercise my imagination and evoke creativity. There is a time when I do read for educational purposes, but since starting my blog I mainly read for entertainment. I don't necessarily think reading for pleasure and reading for education have to be mutually exclusive. I wouldn't have gotten a BA in English if I didn't think reading for education could also be fun. However, I also don't think a book has to be written in Old English to be smart.

Establishing that I read mostly for entertainment, I examined the types of Young Adult books I enjoy reading. Considering I'm such a huge YA fan, I am remarkably picky when it comes to YA books. Those that I choose must be smart, or at least imaginative. I have certain ethical standards about the teen protagonists and won't read books that are simply hormonal and unreasonable romances (i.e. Jessica Sorensen novels). I also shy away from books that are too "teen" for me, illustrating issues only teens can really relate to. This is probably why I don't read as much contemporary YA as other YA enthusiasts. This is not to say such novels are "bad"; in fact, Gayle Forman and John Green are perfect examples of wonderful writers whose content I simply don't connect with the way they were intended for a teen reader. This rubric for reading YA as an adult is not for everyone, this is just my personal tastes I'm mentioning to establish a framework for my discussion.

What is it that makes a Young Adult novel universally loved and accepted by teens and adults of all ages? I think good writing is the fundamental foundation for this, or any book for that matter. A good authror can write for their audience without dumbing the text down, so to speak. Harry Potter is my favorite example of this. JK Rowling doesn't talk down to kids with her writing, she elevates them to a level simultaneously enjoyed by adults. Similarly, themes and characters and plot development can be understood by children, but the experiences each create are not lost on adults either. In fact, as the reader gets older they begin to understand the many layers of a story. Authors that write for younger audiences do their readers a disservice by underestimating them. But authors who can find that magic recipe for writing complex experiences with simple words will find that they can entertain multiple age groups.

Which brings us to content: a well-written Young Adult novel can be enjoyed by an adult if the adult can identify with the story and themes. Being a teenager is actually a fairly universal experience, whereas being an adult is not. This idea is what allowed me to be most accepting of my love for Young Adult literature, without the guilt. Most people know what it's like to be an awkward teen going through hormonal changes and navigating through a complex social system (i.e. high school); whereas not everyone has the same adult experience involving work, college, relationships, getting married, having children or choosing any number of different paths. I think this is why it's easier for someone to relate to a book involving teenagers than a book involving adults: there's more of an opportunity to identify. However, the key is for the author to make the story and themes bigger than "teendom" itself.

Simplified, there are a surprisingly large amount of issues and themes adults can identify with, even through the eyes of characters aged 15-20. Adult readers can identify with not fitting in, first love, surviving social systems and, most importantly, building our own values systems. YA literature allows adults to reconsider the values systems they've built and gauge how these systems have grown, devolved or shifted. We can live vicariously through characters and gain a sense of bravery, adventure, and love that we've lost amid the shuffle of working mundane 9-5 jobs just to pay our bills. I think well-written Young Adult literature helps remind us of where we came from and who we are, all while making adult readers feel like they still have an opportunity to grow.

I thought about the YA books that I love and realized most of them are fantasy and dystopian (The Hunger Games, Graceling, The Lunar Chronicles, The Grisha Series, Throne of Glass, Shatter Me... all series that I feel changed my reading life!).  These books don't really have the traditional high school teen setting yet they still deal with teen issues masked within stories that resonate with adults. The world building contained within fantasy YA is often complex enough to meet the imaginative needs of both teens and adults.

Consequently, adults can be captivated enough by the fantastical nature of a new world and identify with themes of bravery and identity without feeling like they're reading a novel for sixteen-year olds. YA Fantasy characters deal primarily with fighting for what's right, developing abilities, and destroying the evil in their world- which might be themes even more relatable to adults than teens. YA literature is a reminder of the lessons we have learned and the world we have built for ourselves as adults. It's also a reminder of what we still have left to achieve, even if our real-life idea of fighting evil is dealing with a passive-aggressive co-worker.

Today I'm going to be at YALL West to celebrate the stories that I love, to remember the lessons I've learned and to consider the things I had forgotten I want to accomplish. When I consider the things I love most about Young Adult literature- the lessons, the courageous characters, the reminders of who I am through the lens of a teen protagonist - I can't help but be grateful that I've found this form of entertainment that can also be used for personal growth. I may have missed this genre when I was at a more appropriate age, but it still contains lessons amongst its pages that I need to learn or be reminded of.

I don't think it will always be easy for me to be confident reading Young Adult literature and there might even be a time when I grow out of it. But for now I'm comfortable being a post-twenties YA enthusiast. I don't think anyone should be ashamed of what they read, ever.

So today when I'm feeling awkward for being the oldest non-author/non-mom in the room and I'm having trouble identifying with conversations about homeroom and driving school, I'll do my best to fit in to the faction like any good heroine. Based on what I've learned from YA novels, there's bound to be a satisfying conclusion.

April 10, 2015

Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

"I'm the Sun Summoner. It gets dark when I say it does."

The Book Rest - Book Review for Ruin and Rising by Leigh BardugoTitle: Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3)
Author: Leigh Bardgo
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: A
Recommended For: Fans of The Young Elites, Throne of Glass, Red Queen
Source: Library hardcover copy

One-sentence review: This gripping and satisfying conclusion is something you cannot miss and will have you on the edge of your seat as Alina and her surviving group of misfit Grisha (along with Mal), search for the last magnifier, their only hope of destroying the Darkling. 

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

Warning: This review contains spoilers for Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm

While the final installment of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha series did not start off as quick and bold as I had hoped, I promise Ruin and Rising gets on track and delivers a story you can't miss. The story continues much like Siege and Storm started: with Alina and Mal running from the Darkling. Only this time they're part of a team, they have a goal and... oh yeah, they're not quite as romantically inclined (I'm not going to lie, I've been Team Nikolai ever since Bardugo gave us the impression of a YA love triangle, so I wasn't as disheartened by that as most).

The theme of teamwork continues to be present throughout this series and only gains momentum in this conclusion. Alina not only gains trust in others, but she learns to trust in herself. Furthermore, forgiveness is a much more prominent theme in this book: Mal and Alina's forgiveness of each other, Alina's forgiveness of Genya, Alina's forgiveness to herself, and even forgiveness for the Darkling. This element is important because love, mercy and forgiveness prevent Alina from using her power to become like the Darkling. There are elements of trust and forgiveness throughout.

Alina in general is a symbol of light, hope, and positive changes in her world despite her not always feeling like she's fully "good." This emphasizes Alina's many layers of humanity; despite being one of the most powerful Grisha in existence, Alina is still human and maintains such flaws. Conversely, the Darkling represents the dark, but he's also not "all bad". In this book we find remnants of his humanity, especially when he tells Alina his name. The dynamic between Alina and the Darkling surprised me in this book; it gave this series a level of depth that I wasn't necessarily expecting. The Darkling is much more multi-dimensional than your stock villain which emphasizes the idea throughout this series that nothing is black-and-white, or rather dark-and-light.

I must admit, I had some issues with the climax of this book; I was a little disappointed at how the fantasy element was used to solve difficult problems. However, given the ultimate conclusion, I suppose I am satisfied. Bardugo definitely does not leave any loose threads to this finely woven story, the reader won't wonder what happened to anybody. Which makes me very curious to read her next series, Six of Crows, which apparently takes place in the Grisha world years after Ruin and Rising ends. If this series is any indicator, I will follow Leigh Bardugo's stories wherever they will take me!

April 3, 2015

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

“When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable.”

The Book Rest - Book Review of Siege and Storm by Leigh BardugoTitle: Siege and Storm (Grisha #2)
Author:  Leigh Bardugo
Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy
Rating:  A
Recommended For:  Fans of Throne of Glass, The Young Elites, Shatter Me
Source: Library hardback

One-sentence review: I thought I enjoyed Shadow and Bone but Siege and Storm has so much more action, adventure and evokes more feelings than I realized it could, shaping this series into something you definitely don't want to miss!

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

This review contains spoilers for Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1)

In Siege and Storm, Leigh Bardugo doesn't delay in throwing readers right into the action as Alina, a Grisha Sun Summoner, and her companion/best friend/boyfriend(?), Mal, are on the run from the Darkling. Almost immediately they are captured and put on a ship to go back to the Little Palace where the Darkling intends to use them for his dark purposes. But Alina and Mal quickly learn that they have friends in unexpected places, immediately highlighting how teamwork is better than single-handedly attempting to reach a goal, especially when trying to defeat a Grisha as dark and powerful as the Darkling.

There was so much more world-building in this book and access to information beyond Alina, Mal and the Darkling. I was thoroughly impressed by Bardugo's ability to expertly craft a new layer to this story that utilized everything learned from the previous book in the series. Now that the main three players have been established, there is much more time to focus on developing other characters, which also translates to Alina growing and developing priceless friendships.

One of the new characters we're introduced to is Sturmhond who I cannot elaborate on if I want to keep this spoiler-free (and, for the record, my reviews are always spoiler-free unless explicitly stated). Sturmhond has easily become one of my favorite fictional characters period. He is charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and gives enough advice and one-liners to fill a self-help book. His personality also warrants Alina and Mal to be weary and distrusting of him because he's a master of deception. But this only makes him a more interesting and complex character to observe.

The addition of new people and characters also highlights Alina's questions of, "Where do I fit in?" and "Who can I trust?" Even moreso, we find Mal wondering where he fits in within Alina's Grisha world, too. But Alina and Mal cannot defeat the Darkling alone, so they must learn to trust. They must learn to work as a team with everyone around them willing to help. And of course, that doesn't come without its own set of consequences: betrayals, people who fall short of Alina's expectations, people who are sacrificed because of the risk. All of these instances continue the dialogue of what friendship and teamwork is worth for a common goal and what it means to have friends and/or be a friend.

A fascinating element in this series (at least to me!) is the religious connotations. Alina is viewed as a Saint who has been delivered to save Ravka. From what I could gather about Ravkan religion, Saints are effectively gods, as there was no mention of an actual god or gods superior to the Saints. Another religious idea is Alina's trinity of magnifiers which stood out to me (I double-majored in English and Religious Studies, so these things might not matter to others so much). The religiosity of Ravka and its surrounding territories made me ask what this book is saying about religion. While obviously it's powerful, it tends to revere people as gods more than a superhuman god. But people aren't perfect; they can change and be manipulated. They can let you down, they will die. These seem to be issues Alina has with being revered as a Saint and the religious themes would make a great dialogue for any discussion about this book (especially a book club consisting of English and Religion nerds like myself!).

Sometimes great series can hit a sophomore slump, hitting the breaks after the momentum of a great first installment. That is definitely not the case of Siege and Storm. Leigh Bardugo doesn't slow the action of this series and doesn't intend to until its over. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves (high) fantasy YA and even those who just want to get their feet wet in this genre.