Book Review – ‘Shadow and Bone’ (#1 The Shadow and Bone Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

A unique magical system set in historical Russia, this tale of a girl with special powers blasts competitors out of the water.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 358

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.

Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destroy the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two.

I did the mad rush to quickly get the book read before the television series was released – and thankfully managed it so that I could indulge in the series. It was a great kick in the pants for some motivation because this book has been sitting on my TBR shelf for years!

Shadow and Bone’ definitely lived up to the hype I’ve heard all of these years. Fantasy had fallen out of favour with me a while back, which is why I let this sit for so long, but it has re-ignited my interest in the genre. Leigh Bardugo has created a fantastical world of powered individuals called the Grisha, a dark cloud cutting their country in half called the Fold created by a powerful Grisha known as the Darkling. With warring countries, and a battle for power between the royals, church, and the Grisha this Russian landscape proves a formidable one for protagonist Alina and her childhood best friend Mal.

There is a bit of an overused trope here – the orphan who has a secret formidable power to save the world – but it is done so well that I didn’t mind it in the least. Alina is intelligent and there is a slow burn of her coming into her confidence and expanding her knowledge about the Grisha. A country at war provides a dynamic backdrop as Alina and Mal travel into the Fold where Alina’s Sun Summoner power first shows itself under attack from the monsters in the shadows.

There is some admirable character development for Alina in ‘Shadow and Bone.’  Though Mal comes in and out of the narrative and seems to be the same reliable and loyal friend Alina has always known, so I didn’t see much growth for his character. We get a sense that Mal could be a love interest, as too do we see the leader of the Grisha, the Darkling. I really loved how Alina investigates the world of the Grisha and tries to hold her made family of her and Mal together. There are some great reveals in ‘Shadow and Bone’ that help set a cracking pace. I devoured this novel in two sittings and it felt effortless. Leigh Bardugo’s writing style is breezy and melodic setting a beautiful tone, and you don’t see the twists and turns coming until they are upon you.

This book comes highly recommended and I can see why – I definitely agree this is in the top of my favourite reads in the fantasy genre to date. The concept of the amplifiers, though interwoven seamlessly into the story was the least plausible for me in this magic system. The idea of groups of powered Grisha, and the variations within those groups is truly fascinating. I’m sure we’ll get to explore much more in the following sequels.

I had a wonderful experience with ‘Shadow and Bone’ and am keen to jump into book two, ‘Siege and Storm’ right away.

Overall feeling: Magical!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars’ (#2 Empress of a Thousand Skies) by Rhoda Belleza

A disappointing sequel.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 359

Empress

With a revolution brewing, Rhee is faced with a choice: make a deal with her enemy, Nero, or denounce him and risk losing her crown.

Fugitive

Framed assassin Alyosha has one goal in mind: kill Nero. But to get his revenge, Aly may have to travel back to the very place he thought he’d left forever—home.

Princess

Kara knows that a single piece of technology located on the uninhabitable planet Wraeta may be the key to remembering—and erasing—the princess she once was.

Madman

Villainous media star Nero is out for blood, and he’ll go to any means necessary to control the galaxy.

Vicious politics and high-stakes action culminate in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of the universe.

Where ‘Empress of a Thousand Stars’ kicked off the action fairly early, ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars’ took a little time to find it’s legs – which is disappointing because of the cliff-hanger the first book concluded on – and the situation that ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars’ commenced on – there was no need for my interest to wane, but I was continually putting the novel down every 4-5 pages. I think Rhoda Belleza needed to pay closer attention to her character motivation and development, make them more compelling if the action was not in the forefront, because. Frankly, when not faced with certain death, both leads were a little forgettable.

On the surface ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars’ has everything to make this a captivating read: plenty of action and a clipped pace, lots of interesting characters, misinformation and miscommunication, politics and backstabbing, rebellion and drama all in a setting of a distant galaxy and spaceships… not to mention a royal linage. However, this book was laboriously difficult to read. With constantly switching perspectives, frequent telling instead of showing, and SQUIRREL!! I really wanted to like ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars,’ I cut it a lot of breaks, but for some reason this series took a nosedive for me after the debut.

It took me quite a long time of pondering over the above issues to figure out why I wasn’t engaged with ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars.’ Was I just not in a reading mood? Did I have reader’s burn-out? Did my tastes suddenly change mid series? Really, I was surprised. I love science fiction and really enjoyed ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies,’ so why was my reading experience such a polar opposite for this sequel. There is plenty of action to push the pace forward, so why was I putting the book down so frequently after a few pages, or a chapter here and there? The answer – this is a plot centric novel. It didn’t give you enough time to sit with the characters, live in their skin and get a feel for their character and motivation. Instead it was a brief description (telling the reader) the protagonists’ sentiments, and then they were too busy reacting to some drama, explosion, attempted assassination… SQUIRREL! The action is great, but if you are not connecting with the character it doesn’t mean much, just a read bit of emotionless writing.

I can feel the potential in every line of this novel, and I’m uncertain if there were different editors that worked on this sequel as from ‘Empress of a Thousand Stars,’ because the underlying tone was slightly off. Maybe it was rushed to publication by the whole team to capitalize on the success of the series launch? Who knows, but the end result is that I really did not enjoy this as much as ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies.’ It look me over a month to read the book. And a few weeks after that to figure out why I was so distracted.

The plot is pretty great, I honestly felt like I was lost in a Star Wars saga.

We kept getting set up for a murder, or kidnapping, some cliff-hanger at the end of a chapter from a characters perspective, and then switch to another protagonist only to have that cliff-hanger immediately spoiled. I think this was another aspect dulling the experience for me. There was no anticipation, the surprises ruined immediately. There was only a glorious twist at the end that I did not see coming.

On the whole this was pretty meh for me. Though I do want to re-read this at some point in the future and readdress my review just to see if my opinion stands, because I’m really surprised I did not enjoy this more.

On a side note, there were grammatical errors in the last few chapters, like the editor had gotten tired and not seen the task through to the end. I really feel like the editing team let down this concluding novel for the ‘Empress of a Thousand Stars’ duology.

If pressed right now, I’d say skip this series… but will revisit my opinion once I get around to a re-read.

Overall feeling: Disappointing.

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies’ (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) by Rhoda Belleza

A light sci-fi fantasy that took me on a wild ride.

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 314

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Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

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This was better than I was expecting after the first few pages. I’d been recommended this through a number of blogs I follow and with it popping up in recommended books on both Amazon and Goodreads – so I caved. That first chapter I was not holding out much hope… with a whole lot of jargon, strange places, and weird names dumped on the reader I started to get that overwhelming feeling like when you read high fantasy. It’s all so foreign, and I just wanted something to relate to. But it ended after that; it was just dipping your toe into the pool thinking the water is cold, but after stepping in your body adjusts and your floating weightless in a new exotic world.

The next thing that grabbed me was the pacing. It was like every chapter had a cliff hanger of some sort. There was action from start to finish. I pretty much read this entire novel in one sitting.

The one irk I had with ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies’ was the world building – chiefly that of the plausibility of the solar system, broken into four quadrants, every planet populated with life… umm, the physics and science of the universe proves that this is not possible. But, once I got over that and settled into the drama of it all, I really found a pace with ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies’ and really enjoyed the story. It reminds me of Star Wars, but on a smaller scale. It’s got that childlike impossibility and imagination woven into a tapestry of comedy, love, and soap opera.

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Told in dual perspectives (apart from the last chapter) from Rhee (Rhiannon Ta’an) a survivor from an assassination attempt to wipe out the royal family; and Aly (Alyosha Myraz) a dark skinned soldier and television star. They both get caught up in murder schemes, a chase, fight for survival, and exposing the truth to lead a rebellion against a nefarious faction trying to replace the royal families rule over the solar system. There is a mix of naivety, grit, competence, and luck as the pair follow their own paths, cross, divert, ending in some major twist and turns.

For the most part the main plot is fairly predictable, Rhoda Belleza does not try hard to hide clues early on in the text, so many of the reveals are more a confirmation of intellectual guesses; but there were a couple of twists that took me by surprise. The best part though that detracts from this ease of foresight, was the action and pacing. Honestly, the writing style of Belleza had me totally gripped. I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes in the future – if it is a more realistic or plausible setting, she could knock it out of the park.

This is the debut in a duology of novels, and does not really end with a solid conclusion, rather ‘dot, dot, dot… tune in next week and see how our band of heroes get out of this one!’ So I was quick to jump online and put an order in for the concluding novel ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars.’

I’d definitely recommend this to those who love light sci-fi, fantasy, and YA. If you’re in to hard sci-fi you may find this a little ridiculous. A surprising read that gave me a fun day of reading.

Overall feeling: Yay for space operas!

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Her Royal Highness’ (#2 Royals) by Rachel Hawkins

Everything Adorable and Cute.

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 274

From Goodreads:

Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?  

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I knew I would get an entertaining read, though I must admit ‘Royals’ (or ‘Prince Charming’ as it’s been newly re-packaged & published) wasn’t the usual fare I’m used to from Hawkins. But ‘Her Royal Highness’ managed to raise back up to the standard I’ve come to expect from her.

Protagonist Millie, a studious, slightly awkward and budding geologist identifying as bisexual gets ghosted by her girlfriend. Bumping into her later, reunited with her ex-boyfriend (and Millie’s best friend). It’s then Millie realises she has nothing holding her back and goes ahead with an application to a Scotland boarding school… where she gets an upstart of a roommate. Who just happens to be a royal.

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Such a cute premise for a story, and I ate it up. I would have liked to see a bit more complexity in the plot, it did feel a little simplistic, but I guess that it fits in with the demographic for ‘Her Royal Highness.’ This is very predictable, like every rom-com involving a prince or princess, but with a female/female romance. But that’s what you want from a romance… and ‘Her Royal Highness’ delivers.

We get snippets of Daisy and crew from the first novel in this series popping up towards the end, which gave me a smile.

It was fairly well paced and kept my interest and I completed this novel in two quick sittings.

I’d recommend this for the younger end of the YA demographic. It’s got all the squee moments of a Disney movie. A more mature reader may find this meagre, but it is a fun wish-fulfilment contemporary with diverse characters that has become a guilty pleasure read for me.

Overall feeling: Makes me want to hug a pillow.

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) 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 – ‘Royals’ (#1 Royals) by Rachel Hawkins

The new breed of royal mixing up aristocracy…

Royals (#1 Royals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 296

From Goodreads:

Meet Daisy Winters. She’s an offbeat sixteen-year-old Floridian with mermaid-red hair; a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Daisy has no desire to live in the spotlight, but relentless tabloid attention forces her to join Ellie at the relative seclusion of the castle across the pond. 

While the dashing young Miles has been appointed to teach Daisy the ropes of being regal, the prince’s roguish younger brother kicks up scandal wherever he goes, and tries his best to take Daisy along for the ride. The crown–and the intriguing Miles–might be trying to make Daisy into a lady . . . but Daisy may just rewrite the royal rulebook to suit herself.  

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I loved indulging in the princess fantasy, though, to be honest, it’s my least favourite title from Rachel Hawkins to date. The characters were a little stereotypical, and well… expected. The story didn’t seem to go anywhere either, just a lot of stuffy royals raising eyebrows at the common folk invading their turf. But having completed the debut of this series, with all the introductions out of the way and the scene set – it could get interesting in the sequels.

I missed the sassy independent female lead that Hawkins is famous for. Daisy is moody and mouthy in comparison. I liked her, but missed the witty banter, silly puns, and almost slapstick comedic moments that I’ve gotten used to. Instead it was a bumbling foreigner that wasn’t particularly humorous. I really felt for Daisy, at how much she was having to accommodate for her sister and the royals – and was additionally put out at how the ‘grown ups’ didn’t have the kahoonies to stand up and manage their family optics themselves, instead of relying on a handful of teenagers, and lets face it, the majority of them over-privileged and under-disciplined, to save face in the public eye. It all left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Ellie was a sap, if somewhat adorable as an older sister. I wasn’t really sold on her, though she did redeem herself by the end of the novel.

Seb was an annoying twat from start to finish – he has some serious growing up to do – why he hasn’t been shipped off to do some military service and gain some perspective, I don’t know.

Miles, the stereotypical brooding male lead – nuf said. It didn’t really work for me. There’s so much more you could have done with the tight-lipped gentile society and its customs, that ‘Royals’ felt like an ill-researched cop-out. Yes, it was still sufficiently entertaining and scandalous. But I wanted a bit more culture, politics, tension, and difficulty for this read.

I was also expecting a bit of a plot twist – Hawkins has been great at those in the past, but apart from one very minor reveal, this was very predictable and somewhat flat. Maybe its overexposure to scandal in the tabloids and saturation of celebrities and royal families alike, but ‘Royals’ did not feel unique, or have anything that set it apart from gossip sites.

I really hope the sequel to royals is way better or I’ll lose my faith in this new series completely.

On a side note I’ve seen the repackaging of this series… the covers are definitely more appealing but nothing overly exciting. But G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers have also renamed ‘Royals’ as ‘Prince Charming.’ Hope it doesn’t negatively affect sales and fans.
#1 Royals Prince Charming #2 Royals Her Royal Highness

Overall feeling: Disappointing. Surprised to see this caliber of book come from Hawkins.

Royals (#1 Royals) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Royals (#1 Royals) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

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The new series by Rachel Hawkins is definitely funny and cute… though not the best of her’s I’ve ever read. Should be interesting to see where she takes this series. I’ve seen that the covers have been redesigned *sigh* now my hard cover is not going to match the rest of the trilogy. I hate it when that happens…

Book Review – ‘My Lady Jane’ by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

A fantastical romp through history…

My Lady Jane Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Historical

No. of pages: 491

From Goodreads:

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

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My Lady Jane’ was lyrical, humorous, melodic. Though not so much in the writing style. Don’t expect copious these and thous as expected in the historical setting of the novel. The narrative is decidedly modern and relatable. I was amused the entirety of the novel. It has sassy female characters helping to deconstruct the battle of the sexes and equality for women oodles before it’s time. Not to mention the magical element of characters suddenly transforming into one animal or another. It was all pulled off with charm and grace that befalls royalty – with all the political intrigue and macabre plots of assassination that comes in tow.

It strongly reminded me of ‘The Princess Bride’ and ‘Ella The Enchanted.’ Both with tones of whimsy, fun characters, and an interesting plot.

Jane is the epitome of every head-strong bookish heroine I’ve ever come across. She is stubborn and sticks fast to her beliefs – even in the face of certain death (which she may or may not see coming.) I love how she believes that books hold the answers to everything… a girl after my own heart. Even with the Victorian/Edwardian social pressures of being married off and being owned by a husband, Jane’s attitudes are years ahead of her time, making her obstinately endearing. The predicaments she finds herself in, dangerous or not, due to her pig-headedness and romanticism of life is something I myself do on a daily basis. So to say I related to Jane on a molecular level is not farfetched. And yes, I am a ginger too J

Edward, the king, is a man on the verge of an awakening – to that of the feminine whiles. Those of his cousin Jane, and the various women he meets on his journey. I remember at University, discussions on how history has been written primarily by white men in power and their perspective. Women and people of colour are often forgotten or villainised. If history were to be rewritten by women, I feel it should capture the spirit much like that of ‘My Lady Jane’ All those untold stories of female heroism and plotting and planning behind the scenes. Edward gets to experience the prejudices of class, gender, race (Edians) and have it shape him into a different person… I totally loved this.

My Lady Jane Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgG was adorable. Who doesn’t love horses. And cute guys? G (Gifford) was both rolled into one. While I found his ‘curse’ on the surface preposterous, it was in fact the source of great comedy. I think it also kept G in a state of innocence and adolescence longer to enable him to grow and develop as a character with Jane, rather than in the male aristocracy. He was in effect, mostly untouched by the prejudices of that era, and we see him go through an awakening similar to that of Edward.

My Lady Jane’ looks like a chunky book. And I have to admit, being classified with the historical fiction tag turned me off somewhat, that I had neglected to start reading for some time after its purchase. It was the continual positive reviews I saw popping up on my feed that finally did me in to give it a read… My idea of historical fiction is the likes of Chaucer and Jane Austin, where the language and social custom ooze from the page, where the tome is rich with subtext and symbolism – ultimately making it a little dense and difficult to read. You need to pay attention with these sorts of books. ‘My Lady Jane’ is nothing like that. It’s light, funny and has hints of fantasy.

Given this light tone of the narrative, I felt the novel for the most part was predictable – who would create a dark conclusion to such an upbeat novel – that is just nasty! This was like an entertaining rom-com, and I did not mind that things turned out the way I hoped they would – it gave me great satisfaction.

I almost cheered aloud when I read those famous words “Off with her head!”

My Lady Jane’ exceeded my expectations, granted they weren’t high, because I was anticipating an entirely different style of read, and while not exceptional, it definitely had me laughing and smiling. I engaged with the characters and was eager to see what was going to happen in the next chapter. A light Sunday read.

I may have rated it higher if the angst was dialled up slightly, and if I got that nervous energy in anticipation leading up to the climactic event of the novel. But the build was more subtle and the light comedic tone continued throughout – so not a big loss, but it softened the punch for me.

Some of the jokes felt like Dad jokes – but I always laugh at Dad jokes, so they appealed to my nature.

Looking forward to the next instalment of The Lady Janies ‘My Plain Jane’ due for release sometime in 2018 dealing with Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte. Bring it on!

Overall feeling: Surprisingly fun

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 Crown’ by Kiera Cass

The aloof princess cracks…

The Crown Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 278

From Goodreads:

When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

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This book is by far the my most favorite of the Selection series. Though the story is not as complex as the initial trilogy, ‘The Crown’ pulled more emotion from me than I expected. It is a guilty pleasure, a soppy romance, and was great escapism.

Its predecessor ‘The Heir’ left me a little despondent, I did not entirely like Eadlyn. She was cold, stuck-up, and a part from moments of a childish temper, fairly flat and boring in nature. But her journey through ‘The Crown’ made her endearing to me. It brought out her caring and compassionate side. The suitors (or bachelors) managed to drag emotions out of her and open her eyes up to the society she is slated to rule.

I was in a little disbelief at the ease in which the men vying for her hand left the competition towards the end, with little theatrics or heartbreak… it felt manufactured. I applaud the inclusion of Ean and Hale’s fate. It came out of left field but added another dynamic and commentary on Illéan society.

There are a few expected plot twists, and many unexpected. It was a nice surprise. As I’ve said about the entire Selection anthology, much of it feels derivative and trope-driven. But if you like a large helping of sugar with your reading this will go down smoothly. Like a B-grade horror film, or a cheesy Hallmark movie, ‘The Crown’ is entertaining and hits the bullseye for its intended market. There’s a heavy dollop of girlie fashion, food, and cute boys to gush over.

I read the book in a day and it was easy to get swept into, especially with storylines and characters we’ve known throughout the series getting involved in the culmination. A fun snippet of nostalgia. It was an effortless read, and only something I’d recommend to staunch fans of this series.

Overall feeling: Sugar-sweet-teen-girl-fantasy

The Crown Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Crown Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 Heir’ by Kiera Cass

The next generation was more like a poorer cousin.

The Heir Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Dystopia, Romance

No. of pages: 342

From Goodreads:

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she’d put off marriage for as long as possible.

But a princess’s life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can’t escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.

Eadlyn doesn’t expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn’s heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.

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I was curious to see where Kiera Cass would take this series with the next generation… I have a love/hate relationship with these books, issues with the characters and their attitudes, but love the complexity of plot and tabloid allure. However, ‘The Heir’ failed to deliver on all of these counts.

I did not connect with Eadlyn as much as I did with America. I found Eadlyn entitled, and we never get to find out – due to the nature of the narrative – if she indeed has a worldly view as expected of her in the role of monarch. Her ‘work’ is always alluded to but never completely explained. It left me thinking Eadlyn as shallow, protected and scared. It builds great tension, but left me not all that invested in her future. I put it down to how she was written – educated, aloof and separate from everyone else. Eadlyn herself mused on this, how she had intentionally isolated herself in order to become a better ruler – it also made her hard to relate to, cold, and somewhat bitchy.

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There was also a lot less going on in this novel in comparison to the Selection trilogy. We were aware of the caste systems, the politics and the plotting and planning of all the characters involved. In ‘The Heir’ we lost most of that and instead were dealt up a dish of Eadlyn’s self discovery. I wanted more about the rebels, more conniving politics, more entwined storylines – like The Selection.

Even though this effectively re-booted the story line, it left me with much of the feeling of a middle book in a trilogy, setting things up, moving the story forward a small amount, but resolving little.

The ending was brilliant. A cliff hanger I did not see coming. Not in a million years. It is the one thing that has me wanting to read the next in the series. Plus, I feel as though I’m going to get more of what I want from this new generation of royals.

It was an easy read, but I ended spreading it out over a week, consuming the last half in a day; as I mentioned, there didn’t feel like there was enough going on to hold my attention. It was fun, and enjoyable, but a little flat. Though not the best book of the series, it certainly has set things up for an explosive ending and I can’t wait to find out what is going to happen.

We get glimpses of Maxon, America and Aspen, and many of the other characters from the first three books: it was entertaining to see how they had grown over the last few decades. There was less explained about the world and political landscape than I would have liked, and Kiera Cass seemed to spend a lot of time describing clothes more than anything… But the Selection series has been a guilty pleasure of mine, though I find many faults in the characters and tropes, the novels are undeniably compelling to read. I just can’t stop. So Cass must doing something right.

Overall feeling: A bit of a yawn.

The Heir Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Heir Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

Wrap up – The Book of Ivy Duology by Amy Engel

A dystopian and heroine with a lot more gumption.

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This is by far one of my favorite dystopian series. It’s gritty, realistic and not afraid to venture into the dark side of humanity. It is a real survival story.

Our protagonist Ivy is practical, strong and we see her start to question those around her and form her own opinions. So many times we get a waif, or a character bred for a situation who neglects to question if what they are doing is right until it’s far too late in YA. Ivy has the inner strength and intelligence to view her world with open eyes.

This series has been compared to ‘The Selection’ series and ‘Cruel Beauty;’ but it is only in premise. Ivy has been selected to be married off to the leader’s son, but her family are a rebelling faction and are priming Ivy to assassinate the boy. Bishop, her hapless victim, is everything you’d expect coming from the cushy life he’s had… and then not. He’s got his head on his shoulders and is compassionate. I really liked how both our main characters do not fall into a trope.

I’ve read in some reviews that this is an instalove romance – but I strongly disagree. Their age (sixteen) is brought up, and so is their sensibility knowing that they are not ready for a marriage, let alone an intimate relationship with someone who is basically a stranger. Their approach in a practical one. Their friendship develops organically, and has got to be one of the better developed coupling I’ve read in this genre.

There is a lot going on in their society, and the world outside of it, and both the main characters have been sheltered somewhat, and it was fascinating to see them uncover truths and cope with the burden of that knowledge. Some decisions wield heavy repercussions, and both Ivy and Bishop are not immune to them.

There are moments of violence and manipulation. It is raw, but dealt with responsibly. And the in world they live in, it’s unavoidable, and I’m greatful the author took us down these avenues instead of glossing over the uglier aspects of humanity.

Where ‘The Book of Ivy’ is more a political struggle, ‘The Revolution of Ivy’ is a physical one for survival. Both rated four stars from me and is a solid, engaging read. I can’t recommend this series more.

On a side note – if you don’t handle cliff hangers well, then I’m pre-warning you – the first book has a doozy, so if you hate waiting, get these together to alleviate any angst 😉

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

The Book of Ivyhttps://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/book-review-the-book-of-ivy-by-amy-engel/

The Revolution of Ivy’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/book-review-the-revolution-of-ivy-by-amy-engel/

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.