Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

40220795Read the book that started the phenomenon. Sarah J. Maas’s New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series has taken the world by storm.

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

 

REVIEW: Enjoyable if you don’t take it seriously | ★★★☆☆

I feel like the main character Celaena Sardothian being given the label “the greatest assassin” is a huge insult to the term “assassin” and I really resent the book for that. She has the behavior, attitude, and mentality of a modern-day teenager because she is a teenager (although not supposedly in modern-day), and actually, there’s nothing wrong with that. But she’s as immature as teenagers tend to be, and to label her an assassin just to make her look cool is bringing down the coolness factor of the word “assassin”. The way she reacts to and views certain things are quite normal for a teenager but somewhat laughable for an assassin. There was a part where I actually laughed out loud because she was upset that she was not invited to the ball. This “greatest assassin” is upset that she was not invited to the ball. LOL! I wish there was this angle of “she was a trained assassin but is just now learning how to be a teenager” coming-of-age theme just to make her immaturity a bit more believable. We could also maybe get flashbacks of her past kills from time to time. But we get neither of these and instead we have an immature assassin at best.

The romance is a bit bland because instead of it being the “forbidden romance” between assassin and prince, it felt more like two teenagers being attracted to each other where I’m more inclined to let them enjoy their youth (so stop being overdramatic and just go for it!), than to feel any kind of weight or stakes for this kind of romance. I guess this is supposed to be a love triangle… and I’m actually rooting for the other guy — who, by the way, seems a bit young and inexperienced for a “captain” (yet another term whose coolness factor is brought down).

The tournament itself is also problematic. We have elimination tests that are set so far apart, and they’re not even that elaborate. And we are informed of some of them in hindsight and kind of dismissively. And in between these tests the participants are required to train — but why would established assassins, murderers, thieves, etc. need to be given time to train? It would have been much more believable if this whole thing was like a young assassins academy or something and they are on their way to graduating by performing these series of elimination tests. Also, the action is really lacking, which is weird because introducing a main character as an assassin usually implies a lot of action.

There is also a mystery plot where people in the castle are being killed horribly. To avoid spoilers, let me just say it ended up to be underwhelming for me.

Now that I’ve given my negative points, I’m gonna start with the positives.

The cover art looks good. That’s all!

Haha, kidding. From the get go I realized that this book is on the less mature side of Young Adult, so I decided not to take it so seriously and try to enjoy what I can.

Removing the assassin aspect to it, Celaena is not exactly unlikeable. Although I never felt that she was cool, I feel that she is a relatable character (for teenagers, not assassins) who can stand on her own. I love that she enjoys reading and is resourceful. More often than not, her connection to Chaol, Dorian, and Nehemia are enjoyable to read and I find these friendships believable. Dorian is not particularly interesting, but Chaol and Nehemia are. I never really believed him as a Captain, but Chaol feels like that honorable dependable buddy for both Celaena and Dorian. Nehemia is probably the most intriguing character in this story and that’s all I’m gonna say about her (to avoid spoilers).

The pacing of the story was also good. There were only few moments that felt dragging or too fast. The writing was very accessible and although not perfect, it was quite decent. And it played a huge part on why I enjoyed the book in spite of my frustrations with it. Another thing that kept me glued to the story is the intrigue behind the magical lore.

In the end, despite having major problems with it, I still managed to enjoy this book, with the hope that the next ones are better.

Review originally posted on Amazon.

Theonite: Planet Adyn (Book 1 in the Theonite Series) by M. L. Wang

42946515Joan is at her happiest when she uses her powers – stirring air currents, creating fire, and levitating metal objects – but she learned at a young age that no one in her small-minded suburban town was prepared to accept her abilities. Since that painful revelation, she has hidden her powers, isolating herself from others, even keeping her own parents at a distance.
However, all that changes when a boy named Daniel Thundyil transfers to her school and she begins to suspect that he is concealing powers of his own. Burning with curiosity and desperate to end her loneliness, Joan makes it her mission to get to the bottom of this boy’s secrets. What she doesn’t realize is that Daniel isn’t just another Earthling with uncanny abilities; he is an inter-dimensional traveler from a world of super-powered beings. And the moment she started prying into his life, she put herself in the sights of the godlike evil that follows him from his dimension.
Now, the most powerful girl on Earth faces a choice: will she retreat back to the safety of her life in hiding or brave the storm for a chance at truth and friendship?
For Daniel Thundyil and his crime-fighter father, Robin, adventures in exotic places are nothing new. The two of them have chased criminals all over their own planet of super-powered beings. But this is the first time a mission has brought them to a parallel dimension, and something about it doesn’t sit right with Daniel. Questions gather like storm clouds: Who is this villain they are hunting? Why won’t Robin reveal his name? As the sky darkens, Daniel and Joan start to wonder who is really being hunted.

 

REVIEW: An endearing coming-of-age superpower story | ★★★★☆

The portrayal of Joan as a child with superpowers is quite endearing because we get to see how she grows as a child with superpowers, how she harnesses them, and how she realizes that she must hide them. Ultimately, she meets a boy Daniel who seemingly has abilities too and we get to see how she deals with that. I enjoyed the book because I really like the main character a lot. We do get a glimpse of action, but I’m left wanting for more. I do wish for a lot more showing than telling in terms of Daniel and his father Robin’s background but it seems well thought out and intriguing. This is definitely a promising series.

Review originally posted on Amazon.

Reflections by Briana Morgan

35034255“Rama would trade almost anything for the chance to become someone else, even for a little while.”

In the small, rural town of Aldale, West Virginia, Ramachandra “Rama” Ganeshan wants nothing more than to avoid dressing rooms for the rest of her life. After a brutal assault destroys her confidence and self-esteem, she yearns to be someone else . . . someone pretty, popular, and loved—until multiple girls in town are found murdered.

After stumbling across her beautiful classmate’s body and a terrifyingly familiar face in the murderer, Rama encounters a group of shapeshifters who know more of the killings than they let on.

Only by earning the shapeshifters’ trust and becoming one of them will Rama be able to help serve justice.

But first, she must learn to love herself and confront her painful past—and find the courage to investigate the violence.

 

REVIEW: A decent read | ★★★☆☆

The struggles of young Ramachandra in dealing with trauma and her own self-esteem felt realistic especially for a teenager like her. I like that the intrigue of mystery and magic is added in as well, which makes the concept quite interesting. I wish though that the fantasy elements in this story were used more and explained more, further justifying its purpose. Overall, it is a decent read. I love the touches of Indian culture and the Additional Resources at the end regarding sexual assault.

Review originally posted on Amazon.

Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony by Kent Wayne

34114908While Crusader Kischan Atriya fights to keep his life and sanity, his mentor Chrysalis Verus undertakes a perilous journey across the wilds of Echo. Their separate paths intertwine in the unlikeliest of places and across all borders, both psychic and physical.
.
.
.

REVIEW: Glorious mech and “magic” | ★★★★☆

This third installment is a more in-depth exploration of the world of Echo as well as the psyche of our broken hero Atriya and his enlightened mentor Verus. Both the sci-fi and supernatural elements in this were enjoyable to read, most especially the intense action. A few philosophical elements were also inserted here, and I especially enjoyed Verus’ interaction with the “Flow-riders” as well as Atriya’s conversation with the Regent.

Verus’ journey in the desert was a change of perspective and change of pace from the previous book’s fast-paced action which centered on Atriya. She does eventually encounter some action herself, this time with manipulation of Kaia (which is somewhat akin to magic) rather than advanced military tech like Atriya. Gribbles the Tokage lizard added a little bit of quirk, and that scene with Gribbles and Atriya was completely unexpected but enjoyable to read nonetheless. I’ve seen documentaries about dolphins and orcas lifestyles and intelligence, which really fascinated me, so a particular scene with the dolphins was quite endearing.

Intriguing as Verus was, the highlights of this book, though, were definitely Atriya’s scenes. From him sleeping in such a horrible apartment to his epic battle in the Wastes with his Exo, I was with him in both slow scenes and intense scenes. I was genuinely full of dread when I came across the term Enhancile (what? again?? now???), and was internally screaming for him to stop boosting when he kept doing so (have you not learned from Cityscape 87?!). The world-building continues to be excellent and the way Atriya navigates it is thought-provoking. The sci-fi elements and military jargon are so cool to read as well and I especially like the terms Judge, Jury, Enhanciles, Enforcers, Crusaders, Specters, Harvesters, Orbital, Ascension, Regent, Dissident, Kaia, “approaching shatter”, and how they are used within this world (“Wraiths” not so much, but we’ll see). The epilogue in the hospital was especially heartbreaking because I know a lot of people are suffering that way in the real world.

It’s so ironic that Verus considers Atriya as someone incredibly important, while Atriya himself is questioning his own purpose and survival.

(Some things I didn’t like were when the narration gives descriptions of specific real-world things which are not part of the current timeline of Echo because it takes me out of the story and reminds me that I’m reading a book where apparently the author is a fan of this and that. It makes me think of the author rather than the story, and therefore takes me out of the story. Like maybe describe a pose as something cool or majestic rather than saying she looks like a samurai; or describe the music as something empowering or energizing rather than saying it came from Pacific Rim, “an Old Earth classic”. Basically I’m not fond of these Old Earth references, although I do like that Atriya is old-fashioned, with his revolver and such. Note that I love Pacific Rim and the soundtrack, but some of my friends did not, and it didn’t do as well as it should have in the box office so I don’t think it will be a “classic”… see? I’m thinking these things when I really didn’t need to when reading this story. Good thing there were no references to Evangelion or Gundam or anything like that, then my mind will go to emo fifteen-year-olds piloting mech LOL. This also goes for directly naming the specific martial arts styles that Verus uses as the fight is still ongoing. It is impressive indeed but you can’t be thinking of the specific name of the fighting style your friend is using while you are in a life-and-death situation. That only happens in anime! But then, I’ve never been in a life-and-death situation so what do I know? The phrase “spooky action at a distance” also took me out of it because that’s what Einstein called quantum entanglement, and I felt that it wouldn’t take me so much out of it if the narration had just mentioned “quantum entanglement” instead. My brain got interrupted in the middle of the story because it reminded me that Einstein was wrong about quantum entanglement. I can’t be thinking about Einstein while reading a book that had nothing to do with Einstein. But anyway, this is just me. Other readers might love all these references. And with that, I’ll end my nitpicking. Also, sorry for nitpicking.)

Overall, definitely a compelling read. On to the next one!

Review originally posted on Amazon.

Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes by Kent Wayne

51t2xvzk2bcl._sy346_Most of us change gradually—over the course of decades. For Crusader Atriya, it will happen in a single, agonizing day. On the edge of a decaying cityscape, Atriya struggles to hold onto his identity as he faces death from both enemies and allies alike. In the process, his old self is torn away, and he catches a glimpse of what he may one day become.

Twelve hundred years ago, humanity left Earth to settle on Echo. Despite hopes for a golden age, an era of darkness fell. Government and corporations merged into the Regime. The military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement. Over half the planet is covered by crumbling cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in Atriya, but before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

 

REVIEW: A thrill to read! | ★★★★★

Whew! I actually finished this right after reading the first book (Echo Volume I: Approaching Shatter) and it actually felt like a complete package like that. In any case, this entire second book is action packed and such a thrill to read, from start to finish. Can’t wait to read the next installment! Hang in there, Atriya!

Review originally posted on Amazon.