Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review: Exiled by Jasinda Wilder


Exiled by Jasinda Wilder
Book Three of the Madame X series
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Rating: 1 star
Source: eARC from NetGalley

***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***

Summary (from Goodreads):

My name is Madame X.

My heart is torn in two.

And now I have to choose...

Caleb is everything to her: lover, caretaker, the man who gave her life meaning when she had none. But as she seeks the truth about herself and her past, she discovers that unravelling Caleb’s web of lies might very well be impossible.

Logan is everything she never knew she wanted: freedom, joy, and a passion she couldn’t anticipate. But is Logan’s love enough to save her from herself, from Caleb, and from the tumultuous truth of her past?

Caught between two equally compelling and seductive men, X must make the ultimate choice. But there’s more at stake than just her heart...

What I Liked:

Nothing. Moving on. 

What I Did Not Like:

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SO MANY SPOILERS.

Seriously, I held nothing back.

Honestly I never should have read this series. I knew there was a love triangle before reading Madame X (book one), but I never would have read the series if I had known how bad it was. I have really enjoyed Wilder's books in the past, and I love Berkley's romance novels, so that I thought this series wouldn't be too bad.

Books one and two were fine, and I liked them... but I really disliked this book, and I'm half-tempted to change my ratings of books one and two. I liked those two on the foundation of certain expectations for the conclusion novel. The conclusion novel (this book) was terrible for me, so those books don't seem as good anymore.

If that makes sense. 

Spoilers ahead, just so you're aware. Throughout this whole series, X (or Isabel, her real name), has been having sex with both Caleb (the man who rescued her years ago when she was in an accident that left her physically harmed and with no memory) and Logan (the man she meets in Madame X and falls in love with). This bothered me but not too much, because her and Caleb having sex seemed mechanical, detached, like a chore. It didn't seem real for either of them... until this book.

Several things here that I'm mad about: 1) that Isabel had sex with Caleb at all IN THIS BOOK. She made a choice, in book two! She chose Logan! But in this book, in the first chapter, she "falls back under Caleb's spell", and they have sex. Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Even she knows it's wrong, after the fact. During, she's loving it.

What's worse is that that time is different - Caleb just opened up to her about his past... and then they have sex. Uuuuuuugggghhhhh. Seriously, Isabel?

What's even MORE worse is how understanding Logan is, when Isabel tells him. He makes excuses for her, and tells her that it's okay and it doesn't matter and it's not her fault. Um, what? She wasn't raped. She didn't say no. She didn't push Caleb away. HOW are you making excuses for her?

That leads me to my next problem -- Logan seems way too perfect and understanding. He seems one-dimensional and so, so fake. How are you okay with the woman you love having sex with another man WHILE you're in a relationship with her? Making excuses for her too? He seemed way too okay with all of that.

Which leads me to my NEXT problem -- I don't really understand how Logan loves Isabel that much. I don't understand the basis of this powerful love. It didn't really matter to me in books one and two, because it seemed like their relationship was slowly growing, and Logan wasn't really moving heaven and earth for Isabel (not really). But he almost dies FOR HER, and he's totally okay with her having had sex with another man and then returning to him... 

Look I'm a fan of monogamy, so I'm sorry if my tastes are getting in the way of my judgment of the book itself. If none of these things bother you, then you'll love the book.

Another thing, the big thing, that made me hate this book is that Isabel finds out that she's pregnant in this book. And of course, there is no way to know whose baby it is - it could be either man's. And guess freaking what -- Logan doesn't care if it's Caleb's or Logan's. I... I do not understand adults. If I knew that the baby my girlfriend is having (or had) is another man's, especially a man who took advantage of her, seduced her, practically raped her, I would not be able to look at the kid. No child asks to come in this world, but at the same time, Logan seems way too selfless in being totally okay with taking care of a child that could be that monster's.

Here's the icing on the cake -- Isabel finds out that she is having twins. And yup, you probably can guess what happens next: one of the babies is Logan's (with pale blond hair), and one is Caleb's (with dark hair and brown eyes). SERIOUSLY?! Jasinda Wilder, really?? Do you all know the statistical probability of that happening? It's almost zero. I wanted to burn the book when I read that. I get it, babies are human beings and deserve to be loved, blah blah blah. If I were Logan, I wouldn't be that understanding, and I wouldn't be able to look at the kid with love in my eyes. Maybe I'm selfish? But I wouldn't want to see the kid of that rapist/monster. 

In a way, I understand why Wilder wrote that into the story. She wants Isabel to have something to remember Caleb by, to show how far Isabel has come from meeting Caleb, or something. But statistically speaking, you really can't just drop heteropaternal superfecundation into a book. Especially after magically dropping in twins. That's so similar to deus ex machina and that phenomena is a poorly literary tool.

Caleb turns into a crazy person in this book too - he kidnaps Isabel, almost shoots Logan again, fakes a car bomb. I don't know how Isabel still harbors some kind of positive feeling toward Caleb. Stockholm Syndrome or whatever. HOW was Caleb a love interest? Was anyone ACTUALLY #TeamCaleb? He is abusive, manipulative, disgusting, not to mention a pimp and a whore who sleeps with hundreds of women within a month. *vomits* Why did I read this series. Why.

I hate love triangles, but against my better judgment, I read Madame X. And I thought I liked it. I thought I liked Exposed, it seemed like love-triangle-y things were disappearing (plus the Caleb-Isabel sex decreased significantly and seemed more rape-y. NOT that rape is good, but it showed that Isabel started to see Caleb for who he was and what a monster he was). This book? This book showed that Isabel loved a rapist, a john, a pimp, a monster, for some dumba** reason. And Logan loved her for it. Someone explain to me how his fake a** was okay with everything, like it took him ZERO time to get used to Isabel going back to Caleb and having sex with him (again... and again...), and Isabel giving birth to a Caleb baby and a Logan baby. Yikes.

Finally, this book could have been condensed into, like, 50 pages. Not much happens. The author should have skipped all the fluff and the panic attacks and the coddling and just jumped to the "choose me or me!" scene. She should have skipped the babies, too. Or made them both Logan's. Or made both Caleb's (somehow, I might have preferred that to one and one. Actually, I would have preferred no babies at all). 

In hindsight, I was a dumba** for ever thinking I would like this series. Book one hooked me, book two was good because Isabel seemed to finally hate Caleb, but book three ruined everything (including books one and two). 

Would I Recommend It:

Nope. I recommend absolutely none of these books in this series. I didn't even want to write this review because I was so irritated with this book. If you have no issues with polygamy and heteropaternal superfecundation, go for it. No judgment from me.

Rating:

1 star. This is the third book in a row that has received two stars or less from me... someone please point me in the direction of something good. This book was sickening and just awful. I have a paperback copy of each of the books in this series, so if anyone is interested, please let me know. I want them out of my house!


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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Stacking the Shelves (#187)


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!


So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, July 17th to Saturday, July 23rd?


(all links to Goodreads are provided!)


In the mail:


Various cool swag items

OMG! Thank you so much, Michelle! This was an amazing trade and I love everything. <3



What an amazing surprise! I loved Dreamer's Pool and Tower of Thorns. Thank you, PRH!



YAAASSS! Thank you, Random House!



Thank you so so so much, Jenefer! I love buttons so much... maybe too much. :D This was a wonderful trade!


From NetGalley:



I love Tessa's books! PMB novel for the win. :D


From Edelweiss:



Eep! Tessa Dare is one of my favorite HR authors, and I loved MacLean's previous book in this series! Such a good week for Avon books. :D


For Review:



From First to Read! I can't wait to read this one.


From Kel:


AHHH! Thank you so much, Kel! You may have seen my Twitter feed, but Kel and I got to meet in person on Friday. She was heading south to D.C., and decided to stop in Baltimore and meet up. It was wonderful! And she surprised me with fancy goodies - such a wonderful surprise! <3333




And that's my week in books! I had a fantastic week, in life and books. =)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson


The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
Book Three of the Remnant Chronicles
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Rating: 1 star
Source: eARC from NetGalley

***NO DIRECT SPOILERS, BUT THERE ARE VAGUE NOTES AND SUCH. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK. POTENTIAL INSINUATION-TYPE SPOILERS.***

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous - what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson's combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

What I Liked:

I'm writing this review in lists, people. Usually I do this in paragraphs but I am too infuriated and frustrated by this book write now. This section is my "What I Liked" section, otherwise known as the reasons-why-I'm-not-giving-this-book-zero-stars, in this case.

- Technically, the ending IS a HEA. You'll see below my full thoughts on the ending. But technically, technically, we have a HEA. Lia, Rafe, Kaden, Pauline, and other major characters get a happy ending. I liked Rafe's ending, though I wished for more for him.

- The love triangle is gone - ish? It is. But then, the romance is pretty much gone in general, so there's that. More on that below.

What I Did Not Like:

- Lia is a complete and utter b***h in this book. Honestly, I don't know how I liked her in the previous two books. She certainly wasn't this bad in those books, I can tell you that. Lia turns into this raging crazy person. I think Pearson wanted to make Lia seem "bada**" and commanding and alpha female or whatever. It came across as CRAZY. And rude. And hurtful. For about 75% of the book, Lia is HORRIBLE to Rafe. And then in the last 25% of the book, she's horrible to him in a different way, more subtle. She literally does nothing to fight for their relationship.

Let me stay on this topic for a little bit. Lia treats Rafe so badly in the first 75% of the book. It's like she isn't grateful for him saving her life... over... and over... and over. She uses him, and she makes demands and expects him to do all of these things when SHE KNOWS he has duties in this or that. 

Did I mention that she doesn't fight for their relationship? It's like she loves him but doesn't care enough to fight for the relationship, when things get tough. HE fights for them, but not her. You know why, partly? Her "gift" tells her to do this, or do that. The magical book of Venda that she has with her has all of these fancy prophecies, and Lia is trying to follow them down to the T.

Honestly, I have a lot of disdain for prophecies, and protagonists that put so much stock into them. Lia has no regard for her own destiny. For a girl that tried to escape her fate by running away from her wedding, Lia is quick to jump right back into letting someone (i.e. the book of Venda, and her "gift") control her.

- Obviously I hated the romance. The love triangle is gone, thank goodness. But Rafe and Lia still aren't in a good place, and it's mostly Lia's fault. Rafe is under so much pressure and stress, as a new king (yup, he's the king of Dalbreck now), and it's like Lia doesn't care, or doesn't understand, or both. The romance in this book is AWFUL. I do not recommend reading this book if you expect swooooon. Because it never happens. Lia is cruel to Rafe, and Rafe has to do certain things within his duty as king, and honestly he deserves so much better than her. She wants to be Queen of Venda? By all means. But it's too bad that Rafe loves her so blindly.

In that regard, I dislike Rafe. He loves Lia SO blindly. Rafe is my favorite character and I really felt for him in this book - having to step into the role of king so suddenly - but ugh. Love is so blind.

- I didn't like Kaden, but even I thought his end of the romance deal was poor. It's like the author wanted to force a romantic plot for Kaden. It felt fake and totally forced and not genuine. There was potential for a good hate-to-love relationship. But the author doesn't write it well. 

- BORING. This book, especially the first, like, 40%, was SO incredibly boring. WHY is this book nearly 700 pages long?! It could easily be like, 400 pages, and still would need cutting down. So many unnecessary pages in the beginning of the book - especially since BARELY ANYTHING HAPPENS, except Lia whining, complaining, and being a super-b***h.

- I got to a certain point where I literally dreaded continuing. That point occurred well before the 60% mark, but I stopped reading the book at the 60% mark and didn't pick it up for almost a week. I dreaded picking it back up. There were so many things that were happening that were especially awful, ridiculous, and stupid. Look, I try to separate my intense emotions from my objective opinion of the book, but when you're feeling dread at the thought of picking up a book, and your stomach hurts just thinking about it... there is something very wrong with the book.

- This brand of "girl power" was so bad. I already touched on this, but I didn't like what Lia evolved into, in this story. She's such a b***h! Making demands to everyone, like she owns everything. Especially in DALBRECK, to the DALBRECK KING -- no. Let me explain something: you want to write a medieval-type fantasy novel? You can't have a Princess of X trying to command people/soldiers/royalty in the Kingdom of Y. That just doesn't happen. Lia needed to learn her place, but she is so tunnel-visioned by her "gift". Suddenly she's infinitely smarter and better than everyone because she has a "gift"? That's what it seemed like, in this book. 

I think the author was going for bada**ery but it was an epic fail, at least in my opinion. I hated Lia for, let's see, ALL OF THIS BOOK. I was no longer rooting for after, hmm, chapter one. Look, I'm all for feminism, but in no story would I like a heroine like Lia (at least, what she is, in this third book). 

- The ending, in terms of the romance. It is SUPER open-ended. This book is in serious need of an epilogue. It's not open-ended in a triangular way, but it's abrupt and open-ended.

- The ending in general. In terms of kingdoms and wars and whatnot, the ending wraps up. But it's so abrupt. The Great Big Battle occurs after the 90% mark, and it's so abrupt. And cliche/unsurprising... there are no elements of originality in that last battle scene.

- The speech that Lia gave that stopped and saved everything (at the Great Big Battle). You want to know how the fighting stopped? Lia suddenly developed magical oration powers and captured all of the bloodthirsty solders' attention with her speech. "Brothers, sister!" Yeah NO. That would not have worked on me. In the heat of a battle, I would not give one flying f**k who is getting on whatever podium or rock or hill and starts giving some empowering "let's work together" speech. Ummm, no. That b***h would get an arrow straight through her.

- The presence of the supernatural is SO deus ex machina. I feel like the author used the supernatural "gift" that Lia has to explain way too many things. Feelings, visions memories - okay, maybe. But it just did not seem believable. You cannot explain away EVERY single event with the "gift". You can't have the plot moving because Lia heard a whisper that they should do this, or that. Literally every single one of Lia's decisions are made because of her "gift", and she expects everyone to follow her blindly. Look, I'm all for divine/supernatural powers, but you really can't have your main character so dependent on them. Especially those prophecies -- well, you already read my opinion on prophecies.

- The writing was kind of awful. Seriously, what even happened to this book?! The first two books were really intriguing and engrossing and I liked them so much. This book seemed rushed and poorly written, like maybe it was outlined very well but written with difficulty. Or something. I don't know. All I know is that it was a MESS.

Would I Recommend It:

I do not recommend this book. Even if you've read books one and two, just stop there. I know that if I were reading this review, I would be like psssshhhh, is it really that bad, I'm going to read it anyway! (I was a HUGE fan of books one and two, despite the love triangle.) And there will be many people that will read this book anyway. But I'm here to say that I do not recommend that decision. 

Or, try borrowing this from the library. Maybe don't sink $20 on a book that might end up being 700 pages of agony and fury and irritation. Trust me, I do not know what happened to this book, but the author really dropped the ball here.

And if you haven't started the series at all... maybe don't. Skip it. Overall, it's not THAT good, or original. I can list plenty of better YA medieval fantasy stories, just ask! Honestly, after reading this book, I'm questioning why/how I even liked this series in the first place. My memories of books one and two are replaced by all this rage I have for book three!

Rating:

1.5 stars. I really wish I hadn't ever read this series. I rarely say that but yup, I'm saying it. I'm sorry to the author, publisher, publicists, etc. I'm grateful for the review copy, as always, but I did not enjoy this book. But I will always be honest. If there is one thing I've learned, it's to never hide your negative opinion of a book behind your initial/previous excitement for it. I wish all readers who attempt this book the very best. 


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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige


Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige
Book One of the Stealing Snow series
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Rating: 2 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she's not crazy and doesn't belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn't what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid--her true home--with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she's sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she's destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything...including Snow's return to the world she once knew.

This breathtaking first volume begins the story of how Snow becomes a villain, a queen, and ultimately a hero.

What I Liked:

Meh. Maybe this book was over-hyped for me, but it definitely did not deliver the epic fantasy retelling story that I was expecting. It fell flat for me, in more ways than one. It's weird because I personally haven't seen too much hype surrounding this book, but I have seen fellow reviewers talking about it, and I know it was a big title at BEA. But, meh! Maybe not for me.

Snow has been stuck in a mental hospital for years. Her dreams are nightmares and her scars up and down her arms are something to behold. But she doesn't think she's crazy. She hates popping pills to make her tired or dull or calm. One day, after a small episode of a sort, a new orderly appears, and tells Snow that she needs to leave and find the Tree. Bewildered, Snow gets a perfect opportunity to escape. Entering into a new world, with the help of the fake orderly (Jagger), Snow finds out that she is a princess, and the subject of an important prophecy that calls for her taking the throne of Algid, or aiding her evil father's power.

I didn't dislike or particular like Snow. At the mental hospital, she accepts pills and follows orders, despite the niggling feeling that she doesn't belong there. Outside of the mental hospital, she does not let herself get pushed around, and she questions everything. I didn't really connect with her, but I think I like her as a protagonist.

Part of Snow's motivation to find the Tree, after she escapes from the hospital, is to get her friend Bale back, who was taken into the Tree. Snow has no idea where to begin looking for Bale, But to find him, she must learn how to use her magical abilities. Think of these abilities as those of Elsa, from Frozen. This IS a retelling of The Snow Queen!

Snow is taken in by the River Witch, who explains Snow's heritage to her, and begins training her. Snow lives with Gerde, a protege of the Witch, and Kai, Gerde's brother. Gerde is happiness incarnate, always cheerful and upbeat. Kai doesn't seem to like Snow at all, and is very curt with her. Kai ends up being a love interest... one of several.

While I didn't particularly enjoy this story (see more below), it wasn't too boring and I had no trouble reading it, start to finish. I didn't really like it but I also didn't absolutely hate it. It will probably appeal to others, especially since it's a fairy tale retelling (those are very popular these days!).

What I Did Not Like:

Honestly, the writing was not great at all. I don't know how to describe some of the terrible writing phenomena that I read. It felt like scenes were occurring way too quickly. Like, we go from the asylum to the Tree to Algid waaaay too quickly. And then all of a sudden, Snow is training. And then she's kissing a boy and has feelings for him like two days after she meets him (that's Kai). And then she's taken away to another castle, which seemed so random. I guess it felt like there were a lot of random scenes jumbled together, and they didn't fit well.

I also feel like most of these characters have no common sense, Snow included. It's like she was doing EVERYTHING in her power to expose herself for the King to find her. She goes into a market, has her fortune told, and surprise, it lines up with the prophecy perfectly. But she exposed herself there. And then she's constantly trying to wield her power and she's terrible at that, and has the subtlety of an elephants (I love elephants though!). She doesn't think things through. She makes ridiculous deals with a Robber Queen, and then JOINS the Robbers... this occurred way too quickly (just like the rest of jumbled plot), and it made no sense to me. No common sense whatsoever!

Did I talk about the romance? Well, there are not one, not two, but THREE love interests, and all three of them are in the running and totally present in this book. Bale, the boy who was stolen and who Snow is trying to rescue. Jagger, the fake orderly who is really a Robber (yup, under the Robber Queen), but is loyal to Snow and falls for her. And then Kai, the surly boy who falls for her too. The ending of this book leaves all three boys with a fair shot so... no.

This love... shape is aggravating (I hate anything with more than one love interest) but I honestly just didn't care about the romance, so it didn't bother me as much as it normally would (like I really just do not care). I felt detached from this story, and from Snow, so I just don't care.

Well, that's part of it too. The sense of detachment I had from this story... meh. I probably won't continue with the series.

Would I Recommend It:

I honestly can't recommend this book. Yes, it's fantasy, it's a fairly tale retelling, it's like Frozen but somewhat darker. But we have a protagonist with little common sense. a weird romance structure happening, and terrible writing style. While this book should have appealed to me, on paper, very little of it actually did. 

Rating:

2.5 stars -> rounded down to 2 stars. I'm wondering if that's too harsh... but then I need to keep asking myself, did I actually like this book? Not really. In fact, I probably will forget all about it by next week. So, 2 stars it is. Sorry (not sorry)!


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Swoon Thursday (#182): Splinter by Sarah Fine


- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting


This week, my swoon is from Splinter by Sarah Fine!



"Dammit, Mattie. I hate apologizing."

"Now there's a shocker."

"But I think I'm gonna have to do it again."

"Why?"

I gasped as is lip descended on mine. This kiss wasn't the soft, sweet touch I had felt in the tent; there was a strength to it, a command, that made me rise to my tiptoes and tilt my head back, offering him more. My fingers curled into his biceps, my fingernails digging into his skin as his tongue slid along mine. His arms were steel around me, one hand on my ribs, one clasping my chin, anchoring our mouths together. He was in charge, and I was totally good with that, because he was totally good at this.

When I reached up to slide my fingers into his hair, though, he caught my wrist and pinned it to my body, keeping me wrapped up tight. Contained. Tied up just like he'd tied me to that cot tonight. Under his control. And instead of being disappointing, it was somehow more erotic, frustration and curiosity and trepidation and need all mixing together, melting my insides with its heat. I could feel his growing arousal pressed against my back. I craved each second of it.

- eARC, 36%




I enjoyed this sequel much more than book one, which was great! Mosaic, the final book, could not come soon enough. =)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (#186): Starfall by Melissa Landers


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


This week, I'm featuring:


Starfall by Melissa Landers
Book Two of the Starflight series
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Princess Cassia Rose fled her home world of Eturia to escape an arranged marriage to a bloodthirsty prince and prevent a coup, she had no idea her sudden departure would spark a war. Now after two years hiding as a lowly ship hand, she finally has the chance to return home and make peace, but not in the way she imagined. Shackled by bounty hunters, she is violently dragged back to account for her crimes. Her only solace is that the Banshee crew managed to evade capture, including Kane Arric, her best friend... with occasional benefits.

Meanwhile, Kane and the rest of the crew of the Banshee, including Solara and Doran, are planning a desperate rescue mission. But when they arrive on Eturia, they find Cassia ruling her home planet, having imprisoned the rogue prince who would have overthrown her family. Deep down, Kane knows that Cassia can't rule her world and be with the bastard son of a business man, but he's also sure she returns his feelings, and that makes the circumstances all the more painful. When the outer realms are threatened by the dangerous Zhang mafia, Cassia, Kane and the rest of the Banshee crew rally to protect the population from widespread enslavement. The reunion forces Cassia to consider who her true family is and if she can live without the boy who has been there for her through thick and thin.




I loved Starflight and cannot wait for this sequel! I've had such great success with Landers' YA books. =)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review: Splinter by Sarah Fine


Splinter by Sarah Fine
Book Two of the Reliquary series
Publisher: 47North
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***

Summary (from Goodreads):

Mattie Carver has relinquished the world of magic, with all its dark temptations. In six weeks, she’ll marry Ben Ward and claim the safe, small-town life she craves. But Mattie’s talents as a reliquary—someone able to smuggle magic within her body—make her a valuable commodity, even to those she trusts the most. Forced out of retirement by a painful betrayal, she must seek the help of the man she’s tried desperately to stay away from: Ben’s estranged brother, Asa.

Asa, a sensor and magic dealer, may have saved Ben months ago, but he’s complicated Mattie’s life beyond imagining. Trailed by lethal mobsters through Chicago’s seamy magical underbelly and an eerie traveling carnival, Mattie struggles to endure the priceless magic she’s holding and her feelings for Asa. Once, she thought she’d chosen her path. Now the only option may be to succumb to the destiny that’s choosing her, and hope she’s strong enough to survive.

What I Liked:

I didn't like Reliquary as much as I'd hoped, which is pretty surprising, if you know me and/or have followed my blog for some time. I've read twelve of Fine's thirteen published books (the only one not read being Burn - which I have!). I'm a huge fan of Sarah Fine and her books, so I was so disappointed when I read Reliquary - more so because I didn't like the book (not just that the book wasn't good).

That being said, I am pleased to let you all know that I liked Splinter A LOT more than I liked Reliquary. The issues I had in book one were present but no longer issues to me. I liked Mattie more, I hated Ben more (which is good!), and I liked the direction and progression of the romance more. I am NOT giving Splinter a more positive rating because I felt bad about giving Reliquary a not-so-great rating. Absolutely not - I refuse to feel bad for not liking that book as much as I usually like Fine's books. Splinter was better than Reliquary, and much nicer to read.

Splinter begins months after the end of Reliquary. Mattie and Asa parted ways, in which Asa disappeared, and Mattie went back to Ben. But it's been months since Mattie's been healthy. She's been sick, physically and emotionally, and no one can figure out what is wrong with her. Is it magic? Is it her heart, trying to tell her something? Her relationship with Ben just isn't the same, despite continuing to plan a wedding that will happen in six weeks. But when Ben makes a dangerous decision that forces Mattie back into the magic world - back to Asa - Mattie will have to open her eyes and decide for herself what she wants to do with her future.

I have to look at Mattie in a different light, after reading this book. She seemed a little... weak? In book one. I didn't like that she hid when things got too difficult, and that she refused to make big decisions. She's not a control freak but she does like to have control, and yet, she proved herself incapable of making certain decisions, in book one. I like that, in this book, Mattie fully realizes and recognizes this flaw of hers. She begins to really understand just how much she hides, takes cover, pretends, avoids, and ignores. In this regard, Sarah Fine wrote Mattie's character development beautifully. Yes, Mattie likes to pretend that everything is okay. Yes, it's annoying and painful to read. But yes, it's something human and very real. I dislike Mattie's indecision (on SO many things), but I understand her better.

That being said, this book dealt less with a Mattie/Asa connection dynamic, and more with a Mattie-discovering-herself type of angle. Don't get me wrong, Mattie/Asa is a huge part of this book, their relationship ever shifting and developing, pushing and pulling. But I like that the author writes this story in a way that Mattie really sees herself and her current state of affairs. By the end of the book, I was finally on board with Mattie and her life choices.

Asa, oh Asa. If I wanted to give him a hug after Reliquary, I really wanted to hug him after this book. My heart broke for him in so many scenes. Ben is with Mattie in this book, as they run from various mobsters in the magic world, and so Asa has to see Ben with Mattie. I mentioned that Mattie and Ben's relationship is not in good shape - but Ben is constantly trying to get Mattie to forgive him, and Mattie is indecisive and too trusting, as always. So I felt so bad for Asa, even if Mattie and Ben weren't being physical or lovey-dovey with each other. Asa is so selfless and never makes demands of Mattie. He's moody at times, but he always wants to what he can to make her happy, even if it's walking away or shutting her out. That is so selfless, as Asa is throughout the whole book.

I might as well talk about the romance... I'm more happy with it, in this book. Fine kind of turns Ben into a crazy person, though a sane crazy person. Ben thinks he is doing the right thing for him/Mattie, but he ends up doing one terrible thing after the other. Good intentions, bad results. Mattie is so in denial for a good 75% of this book, not wanting to believe that Ben has hurt her. Ben created so much pain in her life... he needed to go.

Asa, on the other hand, is stubborn, angry at times, grumpy, and charming, and selfless. You can tell at the beginning of this book that he doesn't want to want Mattie like he does, but he never stopped. He lets Mattie be, despite hating that she is with Ben. I like that Asa doesn't force Mattie to make a decision about anything, despite how much it frustrates him (I'm talking about the magic world, relics, and yes, their relationship). 

Mattie and Asa are the better couple, especially after how toxic Ben was, in this book. The steamy scenes are pretty much at a minimum in this book, but I suppose that's good, because Mattie and Ben are still planning a wedding in this book. A somewhat spoilery note - the pair really lose their way. They're planning a wedding but haven't had sex since Reliquary (i.e. for months). I honestly could not wait to see Ben get shot or fall off a cliff (neither of those two things happen).

In terms of the story, I could not read fast enough! Seriously, I finished this book really quickly. There was a lot of action and high stakes, with Asa being a constantly wanted guy, and Mattie on the move with dangerous things. Mattie was sick for most of the book and you'd think that would slow down the story, but it didn't!

Overall, I'm very, very pleased with this book. It was much better than Reliquary for me, and I'm glad I decided to keep going with the series. 

What I Did Not Like:

I think this is a huge part of the series, part of the story, part of Mattie's journey, but I still hate it: I hate that certain things are done to certain characters that they have no control over. This story's world deals with four types of magic, and having or wielding that magic gives you control over a person in a certain way (like pain, or lust). In Reliquary, Ben used a lust stone to get himself off, and get Mattie aroused (how. is. this. OKAY WITH HER. See? She's pretending. She's avoiding. It's not okay!). The loss of control happens in this book, though it's not too bad... still it, made me uncomfortable.  

Would I Recommend It:

If you were like me, and didn't really enjoy Reliquary, I still recommend giving Splinter a chance. Sarah Fine has never let me down and I had a feeling that I would enjoy the rest of the series more than Reliquary by itself. And my gut feeling was right! This is a heavily adult series, despite the lack of steamy times. There is other VERY visualized content. And beware, there is a weird somewhat-love-triangle in this series (which was most of the reason why I hated Reliquary), but it's pretty much gone in this book. Within the first two or three chapters, that was obvious.

Rating:

4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. MUCH better. I felt bad for not liking Reliquary, and so I had high expectations before reading Splinter. Even with those high expectations, I really enjoyed this book! This is definitely not a pity rating (I don't do those). I'm hoping for more Mattie/Asa and more steamy times in Mosaic. We shall see!


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