Friday, July 25, 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Ruin and Rising 
by Leigh Bardugo
Read: June 17 - 18, 2014
Published: June 17, 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.
Source: Hardcopy Purchase
Category: Fantasy, Russia-like, Magic, YA

Series: The Grisha Trilogy #3
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 

NOTE: Ruin and Rising is the third and final book in the Grisha Trilogy. See my reviews for Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm. I've tried to keep this review spoiler free for the series. 

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.


Recently I have started dreading series finales, because several of my most anticipated 2014 conclusions have turned out to be major disappointments. Thankfully, that did NOT happen with Ruin and Rising. In some ways this ending was what I expected it to be, but it also surprised me and managed to far exceed my expectations. In short, I loved it. 

I'm not sure exactly how to review this story, so I wanted to talk about three elements that interested me.

1) Themes of redemption and consequences are strong. In Ruin and Rising we see characters face consequences for their past actions and find redemption…or not. I  I know we're all wondering about The Darkling here, and with him, I most enjoyed that that he is humanized in this book. From a character who cultivated his mystique in Shadow and Bone, we truly get to see him as a person with desires and motives by the end of the series. His character continues to fascinate me, and he remains one of my favorite story arcs in this series. But The Darkling is not the only character confronted by things he's done. Alina, Mal and Genya, especially, have memorable scenes featuring this theme. 

2) I never saw this series as having a love triangle. I can't say too much here without spoiling the series, but I always thought that Alina was clear about who she wanted. Even though she didn't always think that would work out for her. She did have different options presented to her at times, and everything isn't always straightforward. However, this is a series that I'm glad I didn't avoid, because I feared the romance elements. I thought they worked well into the series, and I was happy with the way it played out in the last installment. Alina made the right choice for her. 

3) We see Alina make friends. One of the big elements of this series is how alone Aline thinks she is with her singular abilities. Especially, when others are happy to put her in that role, and constantly demand things of her because of it. It is also one of her connections to The Darkling, because he too understands what it is to have unique and vast power. But in Ruin and Rising, Alina becomes part of a team of people with a mission. She endures heartbreaking moments and is forced to make some difficult and surprising choices, but through it all, she finds support, guidance and hope from others. Alina is so different from the isolated and unsure girl she was when we first met her in Shadow and Bone, and I've very much enjoyed watching her evolution through the series. 

For me, Ruin & Rising wasn't a particularly loud conclusion, but what I love most about this book is the fact that the more I think about it, the more complex it becomes, especially the characters and themes. And the more I see how well the entire series wraps together in ways I didn't understand before I got the final piece. 

Love Triangle Factor: I'm going with None. But some might say mild. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Series Conclusion - but more Sturmhond please! I hope he's featured in the next book. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things I Dislike About Love Triangles (5)

See HERE for previous posts

I Don't Like

The moment when a heroine tries to appease both Teams and love interests, by telling the Other Guy: 'I love you but I love him more,' which is only slightly worse than 'I love you, but I'm in love with him.' 

I'm not sure the Other guy appreciates hearing either of those statements. Neither do I. She shouldn't have been leading this poor boy on for so long in the first place. 

Does this bug you too? 
What's something you dislike about love triangles?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

Free to Fall
by Lauren Miller
Read: July 4 - 5, 2014
Published: May 13, 2014 by HarperTeen
Source: Library
Category: YA, technology, sci-fi, standalone

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository

What if there was an app that told you what song to listen to, what coffee to order, who to date, even what to do with your life—an app that could ensure your complete and utter happiness? What if you never had to fail or make a wrong choice?

What if you never had to fall?

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results. Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school. Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

This is the second book this year that I very nearly passed by completely, but has become a favorite once I picked it up. The synopsis for Free to Fall did not interest me in the least when I first saw it. Big fail on my part, because I ended up loving this book so much. The themes are eerily applicable to today's society, and the romance is lovely and angst free. Plus it's a standalone, which is a rare treat this year. Especially in a book with sci-fi themes.

Rory lives in a future not that's very far away from now when people are even more addicted to their devices (if that's possible). Especially Lux, an app that directs all of your decision making. It tells you when to leave so you won't be late for school, what to eat (and what to avoid) to maintain a healthy lifestyle, what you should wear for the current weather conditions and anything else you can imagine. Rory is very happily living life following Lux, and everything gets even better for Rory when she's accepted to attend the prestigious Thedan Academy, a boarding school located in western Massachusetts. 

Thedan isn't exactly everything Rory imagined - in both good and bad ways. She faces mean teachers, a suspicious roommate, family connections, a secret society, and her own doubts about whether listening to the inner voice in her head is as wrong as her society says it is. She also meets North, a boy from town who refuses to use Lux, and further challenges everything she thought about life. 

North is a tattooed, mohawked dropout who has secrets of his own. On first glance, he is definitely not Rory's ideal match, nor she his, but they have one of my favorite romances of the year. One of the best things about North is how much he supports Rory. He also encourages her think and reexamine her ideas without being pushy or judgmental about it.

In places this book is a mystery, an exciting thriller, a comment on our society, and an adorable romance. It made me think so much about how much we unconsciously let corporations direct our thinking, and rely on them to make our lives easier. This story is about trusting your instincts, taking risks and not being afraid to live life, even though you might fail, as well as how much we miss when we're plugged into our devices and not the world around us. 

There were a few moments where Rory lagged behind me in figuring something out, and a bit of relationship drama near the beginning. But North and Rory's relationship in the second half of the book is sweet and steady, and that more than made up for the beginning. 

Free To Fall is one of the most thought provoking and timely books, I've read this year. I'm so glad that I didn't miss out on this excellent story. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

The One Plus One
by Jojo Moyes
Read: July 9 - 10, 2014
July 1st 2014 by Pamela Dorman Books (US edition)
Source: UK edition purchase
Category: Contemporary romance, families, England
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository

One single mum
With two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it's hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn't. Because you have to . . .

One chaotic family
Jess's gifted, quirky daughter Tanzie is brilliant with numbers, but without a helping hand she'll never get the chance to shine. And Nicky, Jess's teenage stepson, can't fight the bullies alone. 
Sometimes Jess feels like they're sinking . . .

One handsome stranger
Into their lives comes Ed Nicholls, a man whose life is in chaos, and who is running from a deeply uncertain future. But he has time on his hands. He knows what it's like to be lonely. And he wants to help . . .

One unexpected love story
The One Plus One is a captivating and unconventional romance from Jojo Moyes about two lost souls meeting in the most unlikely circumstances.

Jess Thomas works two jobs to support her children and still feels like she's barely treading water. She watches their triumphs and struggles and is determined to help them succeed, but sometimes she just doesn't know how she can possibly make anything better. 

Two years ago, Jess's husband Marty left and he's not done anything to support them since then. Her stepson Nicky is being horribly bullied at school and spends the rest of his time hiding in his room. Her daughter Tanzie is a star at maths, but Jess is not sure she can afford the better school that could give Tanzie the edge to succeed. When Tanzie is invited to compete in a maths competition in Scotland, Jess believes this could be the leg up her daughter needs. But she's not exactly sure how she's going to get all of them there. 

Ed Nicholls is the wealthy founder of a tech company, who is currently being investigated for insider trading, because of one very idiotic decision. Banned from his job for the foreseeable future, he's been spending his time at his holiday home on the coast, which Jess happens to clean. Though he and Jess don't exactly get off to a great start, somehow he ends up offering to drive her, her two kids and their large dog to the competition. Besides, he doesn't have anything else to do at the moment. Put these characters together in one car and a lot can go wrong, but along the way, magic happens, and a beautiful story unfolds. 

Jojo Moyes has an incredible ability of making her readers fall hard for her messy, complicated, flawed characters. Even when they do very stupid things, I cannot help but love them, get caught up in their lives, and feel their emotions along with them. This book was funny, heartbreaking, hopeful, and it made me extremely happy. 

The slowly building romance between Jess and Ed is also a highlight. At first these two struggle to understand each other, and they do not appear to be a good match at all. But over time, we get to see how well they actually do fit together, and in many ways need the other. And I'm not at all talking about Jess needing Ed's money. What I mean is that as each begins to trust and support the other through all the crazy things they face on their trip, they gain confidence and become better versions of themselves. Sometimes all it takes is someone else believing in you, or being there for you when you need them, and Ed and Jess find that in each other. 

The One Plus One is one of those stories where everything that can go wrong does. But it makes the book all the more hilarious and heartbreaking. The road-trip-to-a-daughter's-competition-with-a-chaotic-family aspect of this story reminded me a lot of Little Miss Sunshine, which is a good thing, because I love that movie. But this book truly stole my heart. Jess, Ed, Nicky and Tanzie, I adored all of them, and I wanted so many good things for each of them. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things I Dislike About Love Triangles (4)

I Don't Like 

When a heroine who was plain and couldn't get a date at her last school, is suddenly irresistible to so many guys at her new school that she is unable to choose between them. 

With so many options, how can she not get herself into a love triangle. Right?!?!! 

Please no.

This repetitive storyline needs to disappear. 

Does this bug you too? 
What's something you dislike about love triangles?
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