22489107Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.5) by Marissa Meyer
Published: January 27th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 256

Mirror, mirror, on the wall.
Who is the Fairest of them all?

Pure evil has a name, hides behind a mask of deceit, and uses her "glamour" to gain power. But who is Queen Levana? Long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, Levana lived a very different story—a story that has never been told . . . until now.

New York Times –bestselling author Marissa Meyer reveals the story behind her fascinating villain in Fairest, an unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes a special full-color image of Levana’s castle and an excerpt from Winter, the exciting conclusion to The Lunar Chronicles.
“Love is a conquest. Love is a war.”
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Queen Levana Blackburn of Luna is easily the most intriguing character out of the Lunar Chronicles. Fairest offers the chance to discover her backstory, and see things you've never seen before. As a loyal fangirl to Meyer's writing, it didn't take very long before I started reading this book. It therefore didn't surprise me that I enjoyed every page I read. Be careful: this is a story about how an innocent girl turned into a vicious and ruthless leader, and does what it takes to get what she wants. In other words: it's heart-wrenching.

Because of this book I got to see a side of Levana I'd always dreamed of seeing. When the book starts out she is a weak, naive and sensitive little girl with dreams too big for this world. She dreams of love and being loved. We all know she eventually ends up being the ruler we are all familiar with, yet her character development throughout the novel is simply fantastic and wonderfully done. There are reasons behind her behaviour I didn't expect to encounter in a lifetime. It was fantastic and not-so fantastic to see. Even after all the insane things she does, Levana remains that kind of villain I adore. Clearly she is the kind of character one either loathes or loves. As it's love for me, I loved being in her head to read her thoughts and feelings. After a while I couldn't help but pity her, and I know I'm not the only one.

Besides Levana, there was nothing but love for all the other secondary characters. Even Channary, who I have an extremely complicated love-hate relationship with. For God's sake, she was the most cruel being there is and I cannot imagine the amount of lives she'd destroyed. I could never understand the things she did, and quickly labeled her as the complete psycho who was still, in a twisted and sick way, a captivating character.

As Fairest takes place before the events of Cinder, we now see what caused Levana's hatred for both Winter and Selene and witness the relationship they had with her. Levana's motivations for causing the supposed death of Selene made of course no sense, and I now wonder what could have happened to Winter after being taken in Levana's custody. All in all, the appearance of the two young princesses in this book added another layer of foundation to Meyer's world, and therefore made my love for The Lunar Chronicles grow even more. As if that was even possible.

Even characters I'd never heard of before Fairest, made it quickly into my heart. Solstice was a mysterious and definitely a compelling character. It's like I almost experienced Levana's jealousy towards her, but especially her love for Evret. I don't know what to feel when it comes to these two. There were a lot of scenes in this book that dealt with their complicated relationship. So much I eventually became more stressed out and anxious than Levana herself. All the way through she kept trying to make their relationship work she eventually drowned in their so-called love. Quite depressing, yet absorbing to read.

The story of Fairest has to be the best thing about this book. Although a lot of scenes were already known, I loved how those played out before my eyes, and gorgeously written at that. On the other hand, this novel contained a lot of other background stories from Levana's life I had no clue about. Some even brought actual tears to my eyes and made Fairest a beautiful read.

In a nuthshell, Fairest was exactly the kind of book I needed in the anticipation of Winter. It tore my heart out and made me feel all kind of emotions, but I don't regret anything.

20345368Bridge of Snow (Winner's Trilogy, #0.5) by Marie Rutkoski
Published: January 28th 2014 by Tor Books
Pages: 14

Ignore the stirrings of war. Let the carriage to a royal ball wait. There is a story to be told: of a starless night, a mother and her sick son, and a mortal who falls in love with the snow god, and will do anything to have her...
“She looked at the boy. He knew her weakness for storytelling. And it was, after all, only a story. Still, she wished he had chosen a happier one.”
Oh, wow. As if I didn't have a love for fairy tales already, Marie Rutkoski wrote an extraordinary tale about love and loss which I couldn't help but adore. Her beautiful writing style shows through, and made me experience more emotions in fourteen pages than I usually do with actual novels.

Complete with heart-wrenching flashforwards and one of the most important life lessons of them all, Bridge of Snow is highly recommended for those who loved The Winner's Curse.

23276983The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Curse, #2) by Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 12th 2015 by Bloomsbury Children's
Pages: 368

Lady Kestrel's engagement to Valoria's crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust ...

While Arin fights to keep his country's freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth.

Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking Winner's trilogy.
“If you won’t be my friend, you’ll regret being my enemy.”
Thank you Bloomsbury Children's for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

I don't think I'll ever be able to explain in detail how different The Winner's Crime from the previous installment in Rutkoski's trilogy, The Winner's Curse. Though it's still the same story, the tone of this book is so much darker and involved a lot more conspiracies and back-stabbing. At parts I loved with while others were lacking. It actually turned out to be an okay read for me, but I can't shake off the feeling of knowing there are still great things to come.

The flaws I first mentioned in my review of The Winner's Curse had a lot to do with the pacing and the course of the story. There is nothing wrong with the story on its own. I loved it. In my opinion the first book felt like it was the absolute base the trilogy needed to continue, and that the second book would do very well in enriching both the world and the story. It absolutely succeeded in doing so. The overall tone of this book was much darker and throughout the book there was a sort of atmosphere where anything could happen. The stakes were almost at their climax and kept building upon each other as the story progressed. There was no such thing as certainty of what could possibly happen next. Also the world developed in a way I would not have expected. A sneak-peak is given to discover a completely different area of Rutkoski's world which had nothing to do with Herran or Valoria, and therefore it was something thoroughly enjoyed reading.

The pacing in the first book is nothing compared to the one in The Winner's Crime, and I don't necessarily mean it in the most positive way. I had my reasons for not being annoyed too much by the slow pace, as most fantasy novels require patience in order to completely become invested with it. At one point in the book, my patience shattered in tiny pieces and flew all over the place. There wasn't anything that made me want to finish it in one sitting. Skimming the book wouldn't do much good either, as with Rutkoski's books it's necessary to be fully concentrated. That it also the reason why I took almost an entire month to finish it. In some ways I could say the pace ruined a great deal of the book for me, but there were always other aspects that made it so great again. Such as certain characters.

Now I seriously loved how the two main characters were put in completely different environments, and thus had to deal with way more serious topics than other ones -- like their love affair -- we'd seen in the first book. Kestrel, for example, remains as cunning as ever. Even now when she's in a completely different position, she still knows how to play and even beat her own game. She was sometimes faced with difficulties such as outsmarting the emperor towards the end, but that was one refreshment I adored. It became more and more difficult for her to act wisely, which led to taking decisions that threw the book in a completely different direction. In other words, it could have been my only motive to read on. I may have been frustrated with her when taking risks, as it was already clear from the start there had to be consequences. Then again, I couldn't help myself but to love her.

Arin isn't a character to my heart. No matter how hard I try, I don't think I'll ever be able to connect with the guy. He acted so superiour when he was supposed to be a slave. You could already guess I grew more frustrated with him, as he sees himself as a king now more than ever. In the end I found myself simply not caring what he did, where he went or what risk he took. I'm not too sure if I'll ever end up loving him, because for now it's still a no. I'm therefore more than glad when it turned out the romance aspect of the book had faded to a minimum. I didn't buy their love in the first book, and it didn't improve with the little love scenes they had.

I don't know what to think of the ending. It surely left me in a state of shock and broke my heart. I wanted to scream at my e-reader, simply because that was a marvelous plot twist I hadn't seen coming in a lifetime. Now I cannot even predict in the slightest way where the last book may be going. All I know is that I'm up for a final book filled with political intrigue, back-stabbing and secrets to be revealed.

16069030The Winner's Curse (Winner's Trilogy, #1) by Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4th 2014 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Pages: 355

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

“Arin wondered if she would lift her eyes, but wasn’t worried he would be seen in the garden’s shadows.
He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.”
Actual rating: 3.5 stars

The Winner's Curse is a very difficult book for me to review. Clearing my thoughts out hasn't been easy as I needed a moment to progress everything that has happened. Now that I did, I can honestly say I loved this book on so many levels, even with a little flaw here and there.

To start off with a flaw, both the plot and the pacing didn't really pick up until halfway through, and even then there wasn't much action to be found. Despite the slow pacing, it is one of the main things one must remember when reading a book like The Winner's Curse. A "high-fantasy" novel isn't obligated to be action-packed. Especially when there are so many other aspects that replace the missing action with ease. One remarkable example? The world.

I quickly fell in love with the simple yet outstanding world Rutkoski had created. It was clear where she got her inspiration from as the world definitely had the feel of the ancient Roman empire, yet with a hint of 1600s to it. It just felt like a combination between fantasy -- but with no magic to it -- and historical fiction, something I always appreciate. In a way, there's nothing really extraordinary about the world, believe me. A war between two nations and slavery has been done before, mainly in our history itself. However, the fact of putting those elements together marked my love for it. The result of it are the dominant and overthrowing Valorians who will stop at nothing to gain world control, and the Herrani who once were a prosperous race but now suffer at the hands of the Valorians. Rutkoski fleshed out an entirely new world as a foundation for the sequels. That is where another issue pops up: the world building didn't convince me. I now feel like I only got the base and nothing more. It wasn't enough fleshed-out to completely lose myself into Rutkoski's world. Hopefully the world building will only get better as the trilogy progresses.

Kestrel is one of the few heroines I ever encountered, where I immediately felt a strong connection with. Her life pretty much depends on the choice of either getting married or joining the army to fight next to her father. Therefore my connection with her already grew from the very first page with every wise decision she made. To explain her in a few words: she's arrogant; she's sassy; she's noble at the right moments. But most of all: she's not a bold, nor a strong female heroine and clearly lacks on physical strength. It seems to me nothing but logical that her strength would lie somewhere else, and I was right. Kestrel is a girl who thinks before she acts. All the way through she stands up for her beliefs in what is right and doesn't stop if she wants to fight back. I just love that.

Like Kestrel and every other character you'll encounter in The Winner's Curse, our antagonist Arin is not your usual character. From the moment you meet the guy it was already clear his intentions weren't going to be innocent. That is why him being a slave never grew on me. He's much more developed than you first think he is, and he quickly went from being a slave who cares for nothing to a man who stands up for his race and their rights. His countless secrets revealed themselves as the book progressed, and I could never know if I actually liked him or not. I still don't. What I do know, is that he still is a very interesting character. He's smart, cunning and very observant when it comes to his surroundings. He knows how to play his own game and I honestly can't wait to see which results it would bring along in the future.

I only thing I know I didn't support while reading The Winner's Curse, was the romance between Kestrel and Arin. I loved that they were star-crossed lovers and the chemistry between them was palpable. What I still don't understand is how they eventually went from being forced enemies to lovers. I feel like I missed what made their love happen, what their reasons were for falling in love with each other. Now it escalated without any reason to, and mainly felt like a plot-device.

Simply put, The Winner's Curse blew me off my socks. There are so many different things I loved, and I don't even speak of the wonderful characters. Though my love for this book hasn't reached its climax, I have a feeling the sequel, The Winner's Crime, will.

20829994Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan
Published: August 19 2014 by Disney Hyperion
Pages: 336

A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week.

So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. "If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that."
“Hermes played a little Mozart and some One Direction, and Apollo cried, ‘I must have it! The girls will go wild for that!”
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods is Greek mythology at its finest. What's not to love about the return of the fabulous Percy Jackson's point of view? I can honestly say I missed his voice more than anything. He's that quirky, smart and sarcastic character you can't help but fall in love with. After the final book in The Heroes of Olympus, titled The Blood of Olympus, I  was desperate for more Percy since he didn't appear very much in the final book. This book however, was so well done. Percy's voice and personality shines through in Riordan's writing style, for example the frequent use of em dashes and parentheses. It once again adds something to Percy's point of view, something I now love more than ever.

Percy's sense of humour and sarcastic remarks are always appreciated, even in the bloodiest and most gory scenes of the book. Especially in those cases, because it always lifts up the mood of the book and never comes across as serious lecture or an encyclopedia. Instead of just summing up facts and info dumps like I kind of first expected it to be, I loved how Riordan always created multiple stories that fit perfectly in the chronological order of the book, so readers can enjoy it even more. Like that I never had the impression of actively learning something unless I was trying really hard to remember all of the names.

Other than that, I think the author did a terrific job in portraying the lifestyles of the gods. The combination of stereotypes and remarkable differences was highly enjoyable and brought a new layer of depth to the world of Percy Jackson. We got a sort of a sneak peak into the everyday lives of the Greek gods and what they fill their immortal lives with. Though most of the gods are different and have a well-developed personality of their own, they all seem to have some particular things in common. A well-known and frequently used example in this book is how they all are unable to avoid love affairs and all sorts of drama. At least something that fits in tv-shows like Gossip Girl or The Bold and the Beautiful. Secretly we all fall easily for a healthy dose of drama, just as it was given in this book.If they actually give Riordan permission to turn it into a tv-show one day, let me know.

I adored all the stories I read, although some more than others. Keep in mind that everyone, myself included, has a preference when it comes to the gods. That is also why I automatically loved stories involving certain gods, whilst stories of gods I rather dislike I will enjoy a bit less. Unless those gods are being made a fool, then I will adore the story with all my heart. So yes, there were stories I didn't really care about or ones I didn't think mattered very much. I did learn to love some gods like Hephaestus because of this book, and especially because of their stories. Like him, they really are different when they have a story of their own to tell, not to appear for a few minutes to help demigods on a quest.

To at least say something about the illustrator of the book, I didn't think this book would have been as perfect as it is now. Rocco's drawings were simply a great addition. They fitted the story and Riordan's descriptions so well. Some were even so beautiful I felt like I could stare at them all day long. A great example of that is the drawing of Persephone's kidnapping. One word: gorgeous.

Uncle Rick remains one of my favourite authors of all time, and it has been proven once again. As if he couldn't do something else to make me love him even more. Because Percy Jackson's Greek Gods remains in the Middle Grade genre, he made a very smart decision to sort of sugarcoat stories and put in all sorts of hidden life lessons. I'm personally not the biggest when of sugarcoating, only when it's necessary. To me, writing a book about the ancient Greek myths which should be appropriate for kids is a valid reason. There's already enough sex, rape and violence as there is, and in my opinion it was really smart to still mention it, yet in a way you know what it's about but don't get it thrown in your face. The hidden life lessons may seem a bit repetitive when a teenager reads them. Maybe we all know as a teen it's bad to use drugs and that you should tell someone when you encounter harassment, but it can be great for younger children. Another reason why Riordan deserves all the applause he can get.

In a nutshell, Percy Jackson's Greek Gods brought back all the Percy Jackson feels. It's only now I realise I'm not ready to say goodbye. In fact, I don't think I'll ever be able to. Reading this book made me gain more knowledge of the Greek mythology than I ever did in the five years since I've become obsessed with it. There will always be more to learn, but for now I'm not prepard to learn every god out there, nor any family trees. The Greeks already made that aspect of their mythology as complicated as it is. I just had so much fun reading this book, I can barely wait for the next installment. Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes, my body is ready.

20743633The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Branwell
Published: January 29th 2015 by Definitions (Young Adult)
Pages: 320

Japanese teenager Sora is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future.
"And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this..."
Thank you Definitions (Youg Adult) for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.

Actual rating: 2.5 stars

The Last Leaves Falling is a very unique novel. It stands out and because of that, caught my eye almost immediately. Reading a story about the life of a seventeen-year-old dealing with the Lou Gehrig's disease, is something special I've wanted to read ever since all the attention started coming up. So as original as this novel might be, it was never really my cup of tea.

First of all, there wasn't much connection or bonding between me and the main character, Sora. Or should I say, none at all. His life was devastating and heart-breaking, but it never touched me or made me pity him. The only characters I really felt with were his friends. I loved their aspirations, they chasing their dreams although they also have struggles of their own. They were much more interesting to getting to know than the protagonist himself, who was in my opinion just a really boring character. I will never understand how it's like to live with a disease like that, so I also will never be able to understand his motivations, his actions or his words. But for all I know, he wasn't a very interesting character to me.

The Last Leaves Falling book dealt with themes much too serious and much too dark for my liking. Do notice I like, even love, some darkness in a book every now and then. I love how authors can choose such difficult and serious subjects to focus their book on and do it right. I'm not saying this isn't the case here, because I know sure Branwell didn't write this book on a day. There are so many things that prove her research was done very well and she took a lot of time in making sure the ALS wasn't sugarcoated in her work. But despite it involving another disease and not something like cancer, it felt a lot of times like just another cancer story. Don't hate me for this, yet I really thing it did. I didn't have the feeling of reading something really different and outstanding, which resulted in reading several pages with not much interest.

The lack of connection with Sora as a character had much influence on the story itself. It wasn't as calamitous it first appeared to be. I also don't know why or how, but I thought it was straight-out depressing at times. There is a certain hidden theme in this book which I didn't expect to encounter, and was really surprised to see how much impact it had in the end. People who have read it will understand me when I speak of a scene in the book that was too much for me. As oversensitive as I already am, it went over the edge. I suddenly had a great dilemma whether to continue reading, because at that point I had no intention anymore to. I'm glad I did, simply because the ending has to be mu highlight of the entire novel. It was perfect. I didn't expect it at all to end in that way, but my feelings were all over the place.

All in all, my feelings about The Last Leaves Falling are very mixed. I'm still rather confused on what my exact opinion is, if I actually enjoyed it or not. There were so many disappointing aspects but also others I really liked. If you however, enjoy the premise of a book that deals with very harsh themes and if you're not a very sensitive person, I really think this book will turn you into a sobbing mess.

22614886Until Midnight (Alienated, # 1.5) by Melissa Landers
Published: December 23rd 2014 by Disney Hyperion
Pages: 112

Don't miss the *free* romantic holiday story that connects Alienated and Invaded!

Cara and Aelyx only have one day to spend together before he returns to earth and she travels to Aelyx's home planet, L'eihr. Homesick and worried about the upcoming year apart, Cara is desperate to make these final hours count. Worst of all, Cara is missing Christmas, stuck on board an alien spaceship. When Aelyx learns that Cara is forgoing her favorite holiday, he tries to recreate Christmas in space by researching traditional earth customs…but a few things get lost in translation.
That was her Christmas gift to him--to both of them, really.
Warning: slight spoilers for Alienated.

In the anticipation of Invaded, the sequel to Melissa Landers's Alienated, I quickly decided to pick up this short and lovely novella. Until Midnight takes place between the two novels during the Christmas holidays. I had come to a point where the need of reading something Christmas-related was too high, and was therefore the main reason as to why I read it. I just felt like reading something which would bring along a warm and cosy feeling, and I wasn't let down.

Until Midnight was exactly the kind of story I pictured it to be, and the one I needed. It contained the adorable scenes, filled with the romance between Cara and Aelyx I loved in Alienated, and thus something I always appreciate. Aelyx's lovely gesture made me grin and swoon for a boyfriend like him. Even though he failed miserably at first sight, I do believe this is the case when instead of saying "You tried", along with a pat on the back, this guy deserves something much more than that. His attempts at making Cara happy made me happy and laugh through the whole book.

This is the kind of novella everyone must crave for during the winter, but Landers also never fails to keep us with our feet on the ground. There was a constant tension between the human race and the L'eihrs in Alienated, however now more than ever. In my opinion, it was nicely placed between all the cuteness and the romance. It does set the tone for Invaded, where the stakes will be higher than ever and not a single fault will be left unseen, but for now it felt not that necessary. For now I'm just going to leave it here. If you're up for a bunch of romance, this is the type of book you'll need to read in this chilly winter.

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