Book Review: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass
By Sarah J. Maas

My Edition:
Paperback, 404 pages
2012, Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408832332

Celaena Sardothien is the most badass assassin in all the land, though aside from her title of “Adarlan’s Assassin” we’re given little evidence of this. Young, achingly handsome Prince Dorian, with his piercing sapphire eyes, and his equally young and devastatingly handsome captain of the guard, Chaol, drag her from the depths of a salt mine where she’s been slaving away for a year. The King will hold a tourney, comprised mostly of criminals who he gives almost free reign of his castle to, in order to choose a champion to do his dirty work. Can Celaena eliminate her competition to regain her freedom, tactfully handle the oodles of compliments she receives from two sexy men, and pick which sexy man she’ll fall in love with, all while embarking on a side quest from an ancient ghost?

If you can’t already tell, I wasn’t a fan of this book (and I realize I’m in the minority on this), so if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s the short version: the characters were cardboard cutouts and walking clichés, the dialogue was clunky and full of our heroine and heroes constantly interrupting important conversations with thoughts of how attractive they find each other, and the plot had too many elements with no real focus. I feel like Maas wasted an opportunity to actually portray a badass young assassin and instead wrote a half-assed love triangle set inside a castle and called it a fantasy novel.

Here are a few highlights from my Twitter:

Started a YA novel. Page two and I’m hearing about how beautiful our heroine is 😧

YA adventures continue: page 6, a handsome youth appears! Page 8: another boy! This one “achingly handsome”!

Special snowflake eyes, glimmering golden hair, thin: our heroine is a strikingly lovely, highly skilled, totally average teen! Even when she’s so thin she’s skeletal, she’s still so beautiful!

Yes, I too, often remark mid conversation on someone’s looks when it’s not at all relevant to what I’m discussing.

Confirmed by our hero, our heroine is still beautiful even when sweaty! Thank gourd!

Our heroine is wild and has “impossible anger.” What even does that mean?

Hero B pauses his thoughts of important political intrigue to think about our beautiful, strong but secretly fragile, heroine.

Guest tweet by @redstarreviews: he ponders how her inner brokenness draws him to her while her rough sarcastic exterior confuses his emotions….

I struggled to gather my thoughts on this book. I know it is part of an incredibly popular series and while I don’t read YA as often as I used to, I do still enjoy the genre. Throne of Glass could have featured an intimidating, strong-willed female lead delivering some serious ass kickings. Instead we’re beaten about the head with Celaena’s title of “Adarlan’s Assassin” (re: the best in all the land at only eighteen) but aside from a few fleeting scenes, readers are never given any real taste of her skills or even her past. I at least wanted to know about who she’s killed in the past! Mass failed to impress me with her lead character, to make me feel invested in the story and to excite me.

The majority of the book follows the “tell, don’t show” format. We’re constantly told how beautiful the three young heroes of our love triangle are, what they’re wearing, and how attractive they find each other. Snore! While romance isn’t my genre of choice, if it had at least been well written, I would have considered this book to have some redeeming quality. But the characters lacked personality and their “relationships” lacked depth.

Celaena wavers between a petulant teen starved for the attention of the sexy men who are actually her captors and a tough girl who occasionally thinks of murdering people and escaping. She wants to be seen as a serious threat, but she also wants to be invited to royal parties and play dress up. She wants to hide in her room and read, but really she’s just lonely and wishing she had friends! None of her thoughts or actions solidified her personality for me. Dorian and Chaol are just pretty faces that waver between not trusting an assassin (as they shouldn’t, if she were actually a threat) and wanting to smooch her.

The dialogue is clunky and unrealistic. As I mentioned in some of my tweets, our characters often stop serious conversations to remark, mentally or aloud, about how attractive they find each other. Celaena also fails to exhibit her strong, independent personality with gems like this:

(A competitor tells her that he thought she’d have run off. Celaena “trembles with rage” and Chaol tells her to save it.)

“I’m going to kill him,” she breathed.

“No, you’re not. If you want to shut him up, then beat him. He’s just a brute from the king’s army – don’t waste your strength on hating him.”

She rolled her eyes. “Thank you so much for interfering on my behalf.”

“You don’t need me to rescue you.”

“It still would have been nice.”

Ok what!? Chaol says it lightly, but yes, she shouldn’t need rescuing. ALSO RESCUING FROM WHAT? Ahem – sorry. But seriously, her competitor did nothing but comment that he thought she’d have abandoned the competition. Its conversations and actions like that which stopped Celaena from being a convincing character.

The whole competition aspect of the story didn’t make sense either. I could see no reason why the king would have two dozen or so people competing for the position as lead assassin and allow them (many of whom were known criminals) free reign of his castle and attendance to royal parties. Because there were so many characters and so many weekly skill tests, most of them – characters and tests alike – are skimmed over, draining any tension from this story line and leaving Celaena a lot of down time (for parties and pining over cuties!)

On top of all this muck, there’s a side plot involving the ghosts of dead royalty, faeries, outlawed magic, and evil beasts. Maas spread herself too thin trying to tackle too many subjects and instead left them all feeling haphazard and unfinished.

If you read my whole review – I applaud you! I just had too many thoughts on this book and unfortunately, none of them were pleasant. I can say the cover art is gorgeous though – it’s certainly a beautiful looking series!

You can find Ms. Maas on the internet.

Book Review: Indigara

By Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Hardcover, 195 pages
2007, Firebird
ISBN: 9780142409220

Jet Latter and her robo-dog Otto are dragged by the family to Ollywood, city of dreams, when her sister’s film career takes off. Jet is bored and feels ignored, so she sets off to explore the city alone (well, except for Otto, of course) and finds the strange underworld of Subway. But Jet and Otto soon discover, there’s another city, even deeper than Subway, where the magic of film becomes a reality.

I’ve been neglecting my quest to read more Tanith, so on impulse I grabbed this off my shelf. What fun! I’m not sure if this is considered middle-grade or young adult, as Jet is fourteen and there’s no love interest (not that all YA fiction revolves around a love story, but let’s face it, many do), but there is a bit of spicy language and it has a sort of coming of age theme. The writing is simplistic and the story short, yet Tanith packed in a technology-ridden future world and a vast, fantasy realm.

The story is told from both Jet and Otto’s points of views, interspersed with movie-like cut scenes, outtakes and set descriptions. The latter sections were mainly used to capture moments where Jet and Otto weren’t present or to set the scene for a new location, and they gave a lot of depth to the story, while also providing a writing device I’ve never encountered before (at least, not that I can remember). Jet is a quick-witted girl and I liked the humanity (er…dogmanity?) Tanith infused into Otto.

I read this in a day, chuckled a few times, and was once again fully immersed in the rich, bright world Tanith created. I love her fantasy works, but I have to say, I enjoy her sci-fi work just a bit more. There’s something about the different ways she presents the future that I really enjoy being a part of.

Tanith fans can certainly spare a moment to read this book, and I think pre-teen and teen readers with an interested in a sci-fi/fantasy blend  will love it as well.

Book Review: The Ables

The Ables
By Jeremy Scott

My Edition:
Paperback, 368 pages
2015, Clovercroft Publishing
ISBN: 9781940262659

Imagine sometime after you’ve turned twelve, your family moves to a new town just before school starts up again. Your dad then tells you it’s time to have “the talk” and you panic – not the birds and the bees, gross! – and takes you to a corn field at the edge of your new town. But as it turns out, this talk isn’t what you expected – your dad tells you that you’ve moved to a town full of people with superpowers, that he has superpowers and that you’re actually starting to develop your own powers! You’re telekinetic like your father, so you can move things with your mind. Now imagine how being blind is going to impact your powers. In fact, your new school, full of other kids with superpowers, has placed you in the special education class with other children they feel are disabled, despite having powerful abilities. Philip Sallinger is both more powerful than the average human boy, yet considered less powerful by his peers due to his blindness. He and his new friends must come to terms with their new abilities and also with the stigma of being classified as disabled. On top of all this, a strange figure arrive and starts to stir up trouble that Philip and his friends can’t seem to stay out of. They must find a way to overcome their difficulties and work together to save the town. 

The Ables gives a fresh take on superheroes that I thoroughly enjoyed. Scott adeptly handled the social stigmas of having a disability and mixed them with the excitement anyone would feel upon discovering they have powers. Sure, Philip and his friends have superpowers, but their peers do too, and they consider being blind a disability, especially when your power requires visual knowledge of an object to judge it’s weight and lift it with your mind. Philip never previously considered himself disabled, despite being blind, but has to deal with some discrimination from others with powers who feel he and his friends cannot act in the same way other heroes can. Philip and his friends are highly determined, funny and flawed, making them believable and likeable characters.  I especially enjoyed the way they learn to mix their powers to overcome some of their disabilities.

As one of the creators of Cinema Sins (as the seal on the cover will tell you), Jeremy’s ability to nitpick and point on sins in movies is wonderful and hilarious. I feel I have to sin the book *ding!* for the monologuing villain, but it’s all in good fun. In the superhero world there’s something classic about a villain who feels the need to spend time doling out exposition rather than just annihilating the heroes. Overall, it really didn’t bother me and at least lent some depth to the villain. I also felt that considering the children were going to school just for heroes, there should have been training courses to assist them in developing their newfound powers, but there was nothing of the sort. There are also a few minor editing and typography issues *ding!* that occasionally pulled me out of the story, but only for a moment and there weren’t enough of them to make me mad.

Overall, this is a solid debut novel. I do wish some of the other students and their powers were given more of the spotlight, as the story mainly focused on Philip, Henry and Bentley, but perhaps we’ll get to know them more in the next novel that I’m sure Scott will be writing (and that I’ll be sure to read once it comes out). If you’re looking for a fun superhero novel to fill some time this summer, check out The Ables.

Book Review: Red Rising


Red Rising
By Pierce Brown

My Edition:
Paperback, 382 pages
2014, Del Ray
ISBN: 9780345539809

From the back of the book: His wife taken. His people enslaved. Driven by a longing for justice and the memory of lost love, Darrow will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies…even if he must become one of them to do so. For the first time, Red will rise.

What I liked:
I’ve seen very positive reviews for Red Rising in the online book community and since I enjoy sci-fi I figured I would love this book. Well, there are parts of it I really enjoyed, but I’ll say right now, I don’t think this book lives up to the hype it’s getting. The beginning of the book was everything I wanted it to be – a dystopian society, Darrow and his fellow Reds toiling in the mines of  Mars, harvesting a certain element so the other colors could use it to make Mars habitable. It was clear something happened in society to separate them and now everyone is born into a certain color, much like a caste system, and each color has its own jobs in society. Darrow is a helldiver, the most dangerous job in the mines, and I was interested in learning more about life in the mines and lives and duties of the other colors (Greys, Coppers, Whites, Golds, Purples, Pinks, Greens, Blues, etc).  I even liked Darrow – he was headstrong, over-confident, bold, but very loving and family oriented. Unfortunately this was a very small portion of the book and my enjoyment of the book faded to…indifference and occasionally annoyance.

What I didn’t like:
I don’t know how much of the plot I’m allowed to talk about before people start considering it a “spoiler”. But in order to talk about what I didn’t enjoy about this book, I need to mention that Darrow gets accepted into “The Institute” where the best of society goes to train and earn even higher positions in society. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word institute, I think of a school or college of some sort. What I got instead, what a drawn-out  Hunger Games meets Percy Jackson, teens-against-teens battle, where the adults might help or hinder you as they please. I don’t want to go on a long rant about this, but I think the last two-thirds of the book veered sharply from the first portion and that’s where it lost me. I don’t want to read about kids running through the woods, using their resources to battle and conquer and sometimes kill each other to earn control of everyone else. I know dystopias are still trending and that my chances of running into the same old story are high, but I didn’t expect to get that with Red Rising.

The members of the institute are split into houses named after the Roman gods and each house has its own proctor. Throughout this power struggle, which took place over several months, the proctors could help or hinder students or groups as they pleased, because they have the means to do so. Darrow must become the leader of his house and conquer all others in order to win the game and earn a high place in society. Honestly, I just wasn’t interested in the politics, the betrayals, the fighting. I soon forgot this book was even based on Mars because with the exception of a few comments about the different gravity, there was nothing that made this battle feel like it was on another planet. The constant references to the Roman pantheon made it feel like a sinister version of Camp Half-Blood, and of course the fighting and killing and interference from the proctors had a very Hunger Games feel. I don’t normally think about other books when I read something, in fact, I try not to compare a book to others in its genre, but I could not get these thoughts out of my head.

My other big issue was the writing style – Brown really loves his similes. It took me a little bit to realize it, but once I did, it seemed like every other page had a description like “hair like spun gold,” “voice as cold and brittle as ice,” and “face like hammered bronze.” I eventually lost the ability to picture what he was trying to describe because each new character was granted a strange simile, rather than any real descriptive clues. Normally I don’t mind phrases like these, when used sparingly, but this book was over saturated with them…like a cookie gone soggy with milk.


My main issue with this book is that I was expecting something different and instead was giving another dystopia where adults pit teens against each other because they can, mixed with a power struggle between the “upper” and “lower” classes.  The battle for power in The Institute seemed to drag on endlessly and I reached the point where I was just ready for the book to end. I do still plan to read Golden Son, though I’m in no great rush, because I’m hoping Brown will turn back to what intrigued me in the beginning of the book. I think this series has potential if Brown can present something unique going forward.

Book Review: Level Up

Level Up
By Gene Luen Yang
Illustrated By Thien Pham

Not My Edition:
Hardcover, 160 pages
2011, First Second
ISBN: 9781596437142

From the back of the book: Struggling with bad grades, a video game addiction, and his father’s death, Dennis Ouyang is on the verge of dropping out of college when four adorable angels appear and take charge of his life. But nothing is ever what it seems, when life, magic, and gaming collide. 

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Book Review: Homeland

By Cory Doctorow

My Edition:
Paperback, 396 pages
2013, Tor Teen
ISBN: 9780765333704

Homeland takes place a few years after Little Brother – after Marcus has had to drop out of college and is struggling to find a job. He runs into Masha at the Burning Man festival and she hands him a flash drive, containing thousands of files full of dirty government secrets. She makes him promise that if she goes missing, he has to release the documents. Marcus then gets a job with a local politician who promises change – then Masha goes missing. But if Marcus releases the documents right away, the world will know who did it and he could also cost his employer the campaign. Once again, Marcus is being shadowed by dangerous people and has to decide what to do with the documents before they’re taken from him.

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Book Review: More Than This

More Than This
By Patrick Ness

My Edition:
Signed Hardcover, 472 pages
2013, Candlewick Press

From the back of the book: A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is this possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. What’s going on? Is it real? Or has he woken up in his own personal hell? Seth begins to search for answers, hoping desperately that there must be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife…

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Book Review: The Walled City

Image from NetGalley

The Walled City
By Ryan Graudin

My Edition:
ARC e-book, 448 pages (Hardcover)
2014, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316405058 (Hardcover)
Expected Release Date: November 4

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From NetGalley: There are three rules in the Walled City [Hak Nam]: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run. Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there traffic drugs or work in brothels–or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.

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Book Review: Little Brother

Little Brother
By Cory Doctorow

My Edition:
Paperback, 380 pages
2008, Tor
ISBN: 9780765323118

Marcus and his three friends cut school early to play their favorite online/scavenger hunt game when the San Francisco Bay Bridge gets blown up in a terrorist attack. Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, they’re picked up by the Department of Homeland Security and imprisoned for days. When Marcus is released under surveillance and warned never to speak of what he endured, the city is on lockdown and every citizen is treated as a potential threat. Bristling at the lack of their rights and freedoms, Marcus and other teenagers start an internet revolution to outsmart the technology of the DHS and take back their city. 

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