Book Review – A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) by Sarah J. Maas

Christmas, revisiting familiar characters, but my least favourite book in the series.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 229

From Goodreads:

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.  

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I was actually looking forward to delving back into the fantasy world of Feyre, but not too far into the novel little things started to chip away at my enjoyment. There is a lot of repetition in the narrative – even using the same words. It became tiresome. So too did the sexual carryings-on between Feyre and Rhysand. Maybe it was meant to be sexy or romantic, but the language choice and the way it was delivered (far too many times in the story) came across as smarmy and icky. I actually said ‘blargh’ out loud many times and skimmed through these scenes. It totally was not cute.

I also balked at all this smelling of each others’ scents… really that’s kinda, well, gross. It was okay mentioned a few times, but when it hits a beat in nearly every chapter about smelling the desire of one’s mate conjures up an altogether unpleasant smell – dude go take a shower and keep your nose to yourself.

The story line of ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ pretty much only deals with the Winter Solstice (their form of Christmas) and touch on the aftermath of the battle with Hybern.

We get a number of perspectives: Feyre, Rhysand, Cassian, Nesta, Morrigan, but mostly the first two aforementioned. The chapters are short and give a little insight into how each character is handling the loss and devastation of the war, piecing together their life and finding joy again to celebrate the Solstice.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere isn’t a lot of character development, but we get a small amount of growth from many of the cast. This was a quaint whimsical story, and I’m not a huge fan of fantasy, but there was something about Sarah J. Maas’ writing style in ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ that was bland. I put this book down many times due to lack of interest, and for a short novel, that’s not a great thing. I found a number of comical moments that had me laughing out loud and definitely lightened the mood and dragged me back into the narrative.

There was too graphic a sex scene for me – it went on for pages. I don’t know – again something about the writing style made me feel uncomfortable and dirty. Not romantic, just smutty. I think it’s the masculine tone of these encounters. The forwardness of both Feyre and Rhysand which I find aggressive and not alluding to images of love and comfort, but of rutting animals and seedy drunken passes in some dive bar.

I don’t know what I was expecting going into this story – There wasn’t anything really to predict other than Feyre’s assembled family coming together for the seasonal gift exchange and party…

So there’s going to be another three books for this series, and frankly, I’m kind of tired of Maas’ writing, the characters are starting to feel laboured, and the repetitive nature of her storytelling does not inspire me. Though she can weave a great plot when she wants to, and I have enjoyed some of her novels in the past… we’ll just have to see what teasers she can deliver to weigh up on whether I will continues to follow Feyre and Rhysand’s journey any further.

Nice to visit the characters again, but the story is a bit pointless. You could skip this book if you wanted to, it doesn’t really add any plot points to the first three novels in the series. I’m choosing not to recommend this one unless you are a hardcore fan.

Overall feeling: Bit of a struggle-bus

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Book Review – A Court of Mist and Fury (#3 A Court of Thorns and Roses) by Sarah J. Maas

A great story, a beautiful romance and lots of fae.

A Court of Wings and Ruin Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 699

From Goodreads:

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.  

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Started off better than I had anticipated. Very impressed. I have to stay I enjoyed this book far more than the previous 2 in this series.

I loved reading Feyre. Although she did feel predictable – I guessed her actions well in advance. But she was ballsy and did not let a man define her (much.) And I liked how the element of family played a strong part of who she is in this instalment. She always wore her decisions, good or bad. It is an admirable quality and helped me connect and invest in her story.

While I loved the relationship between Feyre and Rhys, his character seems to have evolved into a Mr Goody-two-shoes. Where was that scary darkness that he let us glimpse in the first two books? It gave him an edge. So while a great culmination in their story, I was starting to get a little bored with Rhys.

The shining part of this book, as minor as it is, was Suriel. It tugged on my heart strings and even had many tears falling at the beauty of Feyre’s interaction with it in the forest.

A Court of Wings and Ruin Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgMaas is still a fan of overusing the phrase “a mask of…” to describe facial expression and emotion. Almost wanted to turn it into a drinking game. I’m finding frequent repetition of descriptions and qualifiers, which is disappointing because a good editor should have picked these issues up.

I was put off by the overt erotica in some parts – it was fine when it added something to the plot or character development, but the rest just left me feeling… itchy. The graphic content felt like it was included to service Sarah J. Maas’ opinion on the ultimate sexual relationship – how a male should put the woman’s needs first. And left the whole experience a little contrived.

There was a focus on gender within the narrative, and people being coupled off, which while cute and expected in YA, I was hoping for a little more grit and daring. Especially in a fantasy genre where you can push the envelope a bit further.

The second half of the book was much easier to read than the first half – I guess the story arc with Tamlin bogged things down for me. Focusing more on political manoeuvring than action. Though I understand it a necessary part of the overall storyline. As we needed to see some sort of resolution between these two.

Mass’ writing style, especially when setting a scene, painted the landscape with such rich language I was truly impressed.  There was a lot too it. A lot happened. The pace just kept driving forward. Though there were some spots where it felt a little slow. As a lot went down, the cast grew, transformed, challenged, I really can’t comment too much about them without giving away any spoilers – but enough to say I really enjoyed the journey of all the secondary cast members. With such a wide and varied collection of characters, it was easy to track and identify each one.

Have developed a great fondness for this collection.

A Court of Wings and Ruin’ is a big book – I frequently got aching hands trying to hold this slab of paper up. The typesetting and formatting is of a comfortable size and layout so that not too much is cramped on to one page and you find yourself re-reading a line of text. Love the cover art and how it ties into the previous two novels. But it is reminding me that I’ll read books over 600 pages in e-book format so that they are easier to hold.

What started out as a Beauty and the Beast re-telling grew into an epic fae fantasy I’d recommend to lovers of this genre, Romance and female warrior protagonists.

Overall feeling: Brilliant ending!

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A Court of Wings and Ruin Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Masterful writing from Maas.

A Court of Mist and Fury Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 624

From Goodreads:

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 cleaved in two. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ after loving the start of the series ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ (a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ re-telling) so much. And I jumped into the first few pages with excitement.

What I was confronted with was a little unnerving: a graphic sex scene. Maybe I’m a bit of a prude, but I like my intimate encounters to be personal and romantic, titillation shot through a soft focus lens. This one was all hard banging and rough, it felt violent and reminded me of rape.  Though, I liked how Feyre was empowered throughout. It was definitely not to my taste. I’m still not sure what it added to the story exactly. Need and want can be set up in other less confronting ways, and any aspersions to Tamlin’s nature had already been expressed. So straight out of the gate, my happy feelings for this sequel plummeted a little.

A Court of Mist and Fury Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI certainly did not expect this to continue and my excitement wane so quickly. I stumbled over the story, putting the book down many times – it plummeted me into a mini reading slump. Not because the writing was bad, or that there wasn’t anything interesting going on… the build of the story is so slow that the pacing dropped off for me and I had to take a break, several times, and completed another five novels over the duration of reading ACOMAF. Such a disappointing thing to admit to after a fun experience with ACOTAR, and such high praise for Sarah J. Mass’ writing. Admittedly I am not a huge reader of high fantasy, but read enough to be considered widely experienced. I just wish this book had a larger impact on me. Especially from a prolific author.

Of note, however, was Feyre’s journey to empowerment. We really see her grow, test out her powers, mental strength, and challenge her emotions. The character development in ACOMAF lifts my opinion back up, though not quite as high as for its predecessor.

I liked the cheekiness of Rhysand in ACOTAR, but loved his equal mindedness in ACOMAF, he felt like a stable voice of reason in the new world of the Fae Feyre has to navigate. He also grounded me as a reader given the uncertainty in the world and its characters.

A phrase that was overused and annoying towards the end of the book – everyone “had a mask of…” to conceal their true feelings, pulling me from the narrative repeatedly. I hope Maas comes up with some new adjectives or descriptions in the latter books for this series.

Given that I gave the book a rest for a bit, it will come no surprise when I say ACOMAF felt long, though, the action and pacing picked up in the second half. We finally got to see some interesting things happen in plot, and I was hooked again even after the first half being a struggle.

I really loved the ending, another cliff-hanger, and can’t wait to find out what happens in the next book – I just hope it doesn’t lag as much as ACOMAF. Amazing storytelling from Maas as always, but not the easiest read.

A point of contention for me with the hardcover edition, dark blue ink of the cover kept staining my fingers. So it maybe needs to cure a little or have a different finish.

Overall feeling: Didn’t quite meet my expectations, but enjoyable nonetheless

A Court of Mist and Fury Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

A Court of Mist and Fury Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ by Holly Black

The double edged sword of having Fae folk as neighbours.. it can only be delicious and terrifying.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough? 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I bought this after reading ‘The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’ – Holly Black’s writing is fun, dark, and she’s great at developing a character; so I was expecting all of that in ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ and was not disappointed.

I’m not big on fantasy, but the setting of this novel was in a modern day urban locale, with a small town sharing a forest with Fae Folk. They’ve reached a sort-of pact, and know all of the Fariy Lore. So, I found it easy to relate to the story, and wasn’t distracted by lengthy world building.

The writing style has an omnipresent eye, bucking the trend of a first person narrative, as we follow brother and sister, Ben and Hazel, both who are fascinated (as are much of the town of Farifold) with a beautiful boy in a glass coffin, Snow White-style.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHazel is warrior child from the get go, she wild and brazen and not afraid of the folk. Imaginary games of being a huntress, dispatching the bad Fae becomes a real life duty for Hazel. It’s her secret double life outside of being a regular fun-loving school student.

Likewise, her brother Ben assists in Hazel quests using his ability to entrance all with music, like a Pied Piper, a gift bestowed on him by the Fae. Ben is compassionate and tortured, like every true artist. Having Ben identify as gay only added delicious layers to his story.

Jack is Ben’s best friend (and Changeling – a fairy youngling, replacing a human child and left for the family to raise, however the ruse was discovered and the human baby recovered, though Ben was kept as a punishment. Looking completely human and identical to human baby Carter, he was raised as a part of the family.) Jack loves without discrimination and has a foot in both worlds. Of course, Hazel would have a crush on him. I loved the way his character developed in this story most of all.

Severin the horned prince in the glass coffin – and Ben’s love interest still manages to be in the centre of the storyline even though he is asleep. The stories everyone makes up about who he is, and how he came to be entombed in a magical glass box is fascinating.

A surprisingly fast read that is paced well. ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ always kept me interested and engaged. The story dealt out some surprises, but overall, fairly predictable – though that did not detract from my enjoyment. With such a rich array of characters and a fantastical world juxtaposing over our own, it ticked all the poxes for me as an enjoyable weekend read. I think the only thing that could have made it better was a heavier dose of darkness and menacing tension – then I would be completely satisfied. Though having said that it would have lost that innocent lyrical tone befitting the Fae so well.

Loved the physical presentation of the hardback copy. Deckled edges, mat and embossed dust jacket and beautiful typesetting throughout the interior. And did I mention the stunning cover art?

Overall feeling: One word – Cute.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Beauty and the Beast turned Fae – Yes Please!.

 A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 416

From Goodreads:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

This is the first novel from Sarah J Mass that I’ve read, and I have to say I was impressed.

Not being a fan of fairy-tale re-tellings, but am finding this genre to continually grow on my bookshelf – ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses,’ puts an original spin on the Beauty and the Beast fable.

Outstanding story telling – although there are a few moments, one at the start and one near the end, that felt a little too convenient and were made to happen for the sake of the story line (and to fit into the original fairy tale mould). Which is what ultimately knocked this down half a point for me; I guess because the writing and character development had so far exceeded my expectations that these contrived plot points were glaringly contrite. But that is the worst of my criticism.

It has been years since I’ve gotten lost in a fantasy world. I’m usually reading contemporary, science fiction or supernatural. But Maas got me hook, line and sinker…

Feyre is obstinate and challenging from the first page – and we really get to believe her assumptions, ‘know’ that she is right. And then it slowly gets pulled apart like a slowly unravelling jumper. I loved her fierce independence and will to stand up on what she feels is right. Feyre is the type of character that spurns me to continue reading page to page – and that’s without the action and intrigue of her story.

A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Tamlin is a great beast. Scary, complex, intelligent and handsome. Most incarnations of beasts are superficially frightening, but Tamlin is righteously terrifying in all his glory. And, as the story goes when he’s softened and tamed by Belle (Feyre) we get to see more of his beauty. Don’t think he’ll become any less infamous though.

The adventure has only just begun. It’s obvious upon completion this is not a stand-alone, and I am very excited and eagerly awaiting the next instalment. So, in the meantime, I will catch up to many of my bookish buddies and fill in time working my way through the Throne of Glass series.

‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ left me feeling a little shell-shocked by the end. We really get put through the ringer. It’s fast paced adventure makes the 400+ pages a breeze and Maas’ beautific writing style pull you into a magical world and make reading effortless.

Even though we all know the story of Beauty and the Beast, this story still manages to surprise. Definitely adding this to my favourites list and it is listed in my Top 5 Favourite reads of 2015. Highly recommended, even if you are not into fantasy, this will blow your mind.

Overall feeling: *uplifting music*

A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Faerie Tale

Faerie Tale Book Review Cover by Casey CarlisleGoodreads:

Successful screenwriter Phil Hastings decides to move his family from sunny California to a ramshackle farmhouse in New York State. The idea is to take some time out, relax and pick up the threads of his career as a novelist. Good plan, bad choice. The place they choose is surrounded by ancient woodland. The house they choose is the centrepoint of a centuries-old evil intent on making its presence felt to intruders.

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What an amazing world Raymond E. Feist paints, melodic, mysterious and enrapturing.

For some reason this book reminded me of ‘Pet Cemetery’ by Stephen King, moving to a small town, curious children exploring the woods about the house and getting into trouble, ominous scariness lurking… you get the picture.

Source: deviant art - dragoroth

Source: deviant art – dragoroth

This was the first book into the world of Raymond E. Fiest for me, and I have to say, he has a vivid and unabashed style. It may get over-descriptive at times, but I was never bored or skipping pages ahead. ‘Faerie Tale’ is sufficiently spooky and disturbing in parts, and magic and fantastical in others. It still stands the test of time, holding it’s own despite being written over twenty years ago. This is no childhood story re-telling as of the likes of ‘Cinder,’ or ‘Beastly,’ Feist has created his own story based in mythology and cultural history.

I am not one to get overly terrorised by scary books – it takes a lot to get me worrying what’s under the bed or tapping at the window – usually having something to do with the unknown, believability and a great build up in the mythology or world building: and ‘Faerie Tale’ has it. Many nights I had my legs neatly tucked safely under me, away from hooked claws and chitinous legs which may lie waiting in the shadows. The pacing is a little slow, given Feist’s over-descriptive manner, but he builds great suspense. The novel can get a little graphic too: so be prepared to get uncomfortable or grossed out. Additionally, given the slower tenor to the story, the ending did feel abrupt in comparison, but well executed.

The family on which this tale is centred, The Hastings, are slightly stereotypical, but have their own flaws and quirks so they feel real and flesh out the story. The Father, Phil’s reactions to the events that take place in the novel are realistic and add legitimacy to the fantasy, which is needed to juxtapose the experiences of his twin boys, Sean and Patrick. Without giving away the plot, you see a great deal of loyalty and family bonds being tested, which is a great change from rescuing damsels in distress 😉

With more than one Antagonist, the main being Erl King, a nasty faerie leader, who is conniving and terrifying, really makes you fear the dark places. He is supported by the Magi – a human sect intent on aiding the Kings desires. They all weave a bloodcurdling and thrilling ride for the Hastings family.

Source: tumblr a-touch-of-magic

Source: tumblr a-touch-of-magic

A pleasant break from the recently released spate of Young Adult reads, I’d definitely recommend ‘Faerie Tale’ for those who love great escapist novels that buck the trend of star-crossed lovers.

Faerie Tale Book Review  Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

 Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle  

© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.