Tuesday, August 9, 2016

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken by Kiersten White

First in The Conqueror's Saga

5 stars

“On our wedding night, I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke of our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”

Lada is born to the famous Vlad the Impaler. She’s destined to live the unfulfilling life of a woman and fall in line to a husband, but Lada wants none of that. She’s brutal, strong, and violent- she will take down anyone or anything that stands in her way. Her brother Radu is the beautiful one and suffers their father’s contempt. Lada and Radu find themselves prisoners of the Ottoman Empire. When I think of And I Darken there is a lot of information flowing through my mind, but all of it seems to be spoilers. This novel essentially has nothing happening while everything happens. It’s a great candidate for Game of Thrones level of plot and intensity. There isn’t a lot of plot because the majority of what goes on is plot intrigue and underhanded lying, spying, and maneuvering to have the cards fall in the right place.

“She hated the way roses smelled, their sweetness too fragile. She wanted a garden of evergreens. A garden of stones. A garden of swords.”

I’ve never read any of White’s novels before and I had no clue what her writing would be like going in. I know that she has written books more on the younger, lighter side of the YA spectrum. Surprisingly, this novel is dark, not overtly dark because death and war were a constant thing of the past and it blends well. The writing isn’t particularly amazing, but the pacing was intense and the overall flow of the novel was addictive and hard to put down. This novel is told in dual points of view and it is done excellently. The characters are very different from one another, but the POV shifts never take away from the story.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 5

“A dragon did not crawl on its belly in front of its enemies, begging for their help. A dragon did not vow to rid the world of infidels, and then invite them into its home. A dragon did not flee its land in the middle of the night like a criminal. A dragon burned everything around herself until it was purified in ash.”

What sets this novel apart from so many YA novels that are being published are the characters. Oh, I love these characters so much. They are absolutely well done. Our two center characters are a brother-sister duo, which is something I have yet to come across in a novel (I just personally haven’t read one before this novel). I love the juxtaposition of these siblings- Lada is fierce, ugly and ruthless and in contrast Radu is gentle, beautiful, and quick-witted. Everything one sibling lacks in personality the other makes up for. They are two very different people, but they complement each other so well that they become one whole being. I loved Lada’s fierce protectiveness over Radu and to an outsider (and even Radu) it seems as if Lada hates her brother, but she makes choices that protect him in the long run and keep him safe. The growth that these characters experience in this novel is amazing. We are with these characters from birth to about the ages of seventeen or eighteen and there is so much expansion that has occurred within who Lada and Radu are. These characters are so strongly developed and fleshed out. They are what makes me love this novel so much. They are the core of the story and I loved every second of being introduced to these characters.

Lada is also so badass that she has easily become one of my favorite heroines and Radu has become one of my favorite heroes. The best thing is that these characters are also both antagonists and I just love moral ambiguity. Radu, especially towards the end, becomes the harsher of the two for a while and he can be quite scary. Another thing I want to mention, is that I love Lada’s resentment to being born a female and how she refuses to acknowledge her feminine side. It’s very different from most historical heroines who are usually demure and docile, but Lada is ready to sling some knives and kick some ass.

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 5

There is a love triangle in this novel, but it is also not a love triangle. Mehmed befriends Lada and Radu during their stay in the empire and he is the young prince. As the story progresses, my ship rides strong and I hope that the sequels bring me the marriage that I want (but I also know that it is completely against Lada’s character *sobs*) because that ending.

I also love that this novel tackles a gay man in a historical time. It’s so fascinating and I enjoy reading about this silent turmoil within this character.

I do enjoy Mehmed’s character. He’s very fleshed out, but I can’t distinguish him outside of Lada and Radu’s friendship because it seems like he is such a good friend that he doesn’t have lives outside of that and when things pop up to prove that he lives outside of his friends it’s always a little jolting because it is so easy to forget.

Character Scale: 5

Swoon Worthy Scale: 4
The Villain- I’m going to go out on a limb here, Lada and Radu are villains. I love it; they quietly dismantle the Ottoman Empire on multiple occasions and would probably be beheaded. Yes, there are people working within the empire wanting to assassinate Mehmed, but they don’t feel concrete to me as a threat. Also that whole fight scene at the end was well-done and the reveal was abrupt as to who is behind the evil, but I’m curious to see if Lada and Radu will just go bat shit in the future because I’m all for it.

“There are other ways to beat someone than with fists.”

Villain Scale: 5

I would love to go into depth about my love for these characters, but I don’t want to spoil how amazing the process is. This isn’t a book for everyone because it is swamped in characterization, history, and court intrigue and I understand that these aspects are not appealing to everyone. If you are intrigued by And I Darken and have yet to pick it up then I highly recommend doing so! Also if you’ve read this let’s discuss!

Plotastic Scale: 5

Cover Thoughts: I LOVE this cover so freaking much. It is everything I want and it’s purple. (Lord, I’m so eloquent.)

Thank you, Netgalley and Delacorte Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Are you a fan of And I Darken? If not tell me why, because I would love to discuss! Let me know down below in the comments! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

4.5 stars

Arman is a young man struggling with a lot of inner turmoil. He deals with anxiety, depression, and self-loathing among other things. His story starts when he meets Beau, an enigmatic man who offers the sanctity of a compound dedicated to healing. This is Arman’s chance to change… to evolve…Everything begins to unravel around Arman and instead of facing the positive changes he hopes to encounter he comes face to face with a smaller evil within the compound. I honestly have no clue what I just read and this seems to be the case with most readers. I’m not unsatisfied, but befuddled. I honestly didn’t know what was going on and felt just as confused as Arman for the majority of the novel and by the end I spoke the coveted words of the marking of a good psychological novel, “What the fuck?” Make no mistake this novel is incredibly immersed in psychology. In fact, this book has no plot but offers a character study. This review may be spoilery because I’m trying to figure out what I just read and the best way to understand the unexplainable is to write about until it makes sense.

Kuehn is definitely a brilliant writer, maybe more so than some of the big psychological writers that are popping up right now. Her writing is quiet and her characters are frantic, unreliable, and induced with panic that leaves the pace to fill all over the place when there is nothing happening. I love cult novels; I find them incredibly fascinating and I’ve always wondered what drives people into the arms of another individual who offers promise, safety, and acceptance away from our world. Kuehn quietly shows us exactly how this process occurs. The novel opens up with a second (but also switches to third?) person POV- this person feels disjointed, cruel, manipulative, calculating- it’s incredibly unsettling how he targets those around them in continuous chapters to submit to his ideals and sway. It’s creepy and incredibly well done (especially after the last chapter). Speaking of the last chapter- what the actual fuck? How brilliant was that?! Arman being the calculating recruit. It’s incredibly interesting to see his transformation from frantic, unstable child to persuasive leader and recruit of an occult community. Absolutely fascinating and it’s probably why I like this novel so much!

Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.75

Arman is a very overwhelming character to read about. He’s being sucked into this web. We learn only what Arman is aware of and he knows nothing then we know nothing. There’s nothing to like about Arman, he’s an underdog because he essentially ruins situations for himself and it’s incredibly sad to see how much of a lost soul he is. Until the very end, because like what the actual fuck? Biggest character development plot twist and it was happening the whole time.

"It's a philosophical principle that states an immoral act can sometimes be considered moral if the greater good outweighs the smaller evil."
There are also a lot of characters Kira and Dale (two outsiders who Arman travels with into the compound), the cook (whose name we learn at the end) that needs to have sex with Arman all the time, Dr. Gary, Daniel, and Mari (who all play intricate parts to the compound and its secrets, and Beau- who is the leader of the compound and is a presence even when he isn’t around. I also called that Beau was grooming Arman for something!

Character Scale: 4.5

I honestly have no clue exactly what happened in this novel, but I think that’s the strong defining factor of this book. I’m definitely recommending it to anyone who loves psychological thrillers, cults, and crazy characters because this book is jammed with these things.

Plotastic Scale: 4.25

Cover Thoughts: Is this a chameleon? If so, damn this cover is symbolic. Chameleons blend to match those around them and the recruiters of these cults blend in to appeal to everyday people and then transition into their cult presence at the compounds. Awesome cover!

Thank you, First Reads, Penguin, and Dutton for allowing me to read this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Have you read The Smaller Evil? If so what do think about  it or do you plan to read it? Let me know down below in the comments!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Summer Book Haul Part 1

Hello! I haven't been around very much this summer and I'm very sad about that. I'm currently transitioning from high school to college student and I spent all summer working. I actually filmed a video for a May book haul and I've tried to upload it multiple times, but for some reason it just wasn't working out. So, I decided to just scrap it and film a collective summer book haul because lordy have I bought a lot of books.

The Books:
26073150 16101115 17199504 20443235 6381205 12502523 11773757 18584855 
30125907 762103 22609310 
 Wow, eleven books and this is only part one! I'm very happy to own all of these books and feel like they are perfect editions to my shelves. So far, I've read four of these books and I think that's awesome because now these books won't collect dust on my shelf.:)

Have you read any of these books? Are any of these your favorites? Let me know down below in the comments!:D

Short Stories That I Enjoyed in the Last Two Weeks

Hey, everyone! I've been away for a while. I moved into my apartment, started my intern teaching tenth graders at a local high school, d...