Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Series: N/A
Pages: 240 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (May 13, 2014)
Rating: 4.25 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

 

GoodReads Synopsis

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

The novel, We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart describes the summers of Cadence Sinclair Eastman at a secluded family island.

Warning: Review contains spoiler!

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Review: Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord

Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord

Title: Sol of the Coliseum
Author: Adam Gaylord
Series: N/A
Pages: 262 pages
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing (September 17, 2015)
Rating: 4.5 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

 

GoodReads Synopsis

Deep in the bowels of the Coliseum of the mighty Astrolian Empire, the orphan, Sol, is raised by a makeshift family of guards and fellow slaves to become the most famed Gladiator in all the land. Alongside K’nal, his giant Frorian fighting partner, Sol must battle cunning warriors and fantastic beasts to delight the crowd and stay alive. But when an oppressed populace transforms Sol into a revolutionary folk hero, the Empire sends its most ruthless assassin to put an end to the uprising. Sol’s only chance is to do what no slave has ever done: escape from the Coliseum and the only home he’s ever known.

With elegant prose, Adam Gaylord tells a fast-paced gladiator story with layered, multi-dimensional characters. Sol of the Coliseum is not your typical Hollywood gladiator story. It is a story about someone just trying to survive to see the next day with their humanity. Even though he is a famous gladiator, Sol (the main character) kills only for survival, has strong values (despite his circumstances), and tries hard to keep his humanity, which I admired.

The author’s skilled prose made reading great fun (despite the small smart phone screen I read on). When Sol must fight in the Coliseum, the fights are detailed and descriptive with Sol more often than not having a clear strategy in mind for how he and his fighting partner (K’nal) are going to survive.

I am giving Sol of the Coliseum 4.5 stars, but there were just several small things that were preventing me from giving the extra half star. While the majority of the book was very suspenseful and action-packed, the beginning got off to a slightly slow start, so I had to power through for a small stretch before things started to pick up. However this wasn’t too much of a problem because the author took that time to help the reader gain a better understanding of Sol’s world and its inhabitants. Also I would’ve liked to see more character motivations/objectives/goals. Does Sol really want to escape or just live to see another day? Why is Lysik the evil sadistic assassin that he is? Why does he serve the empire and how did he come into its service?–since I don’t see a clear motive for his homicidal streaks other than that he is clearly insane, does he have some secret backstory or history?

On a positive note, I really liked how the author had the main POV’s storyline and then minor POVs’ storylines told and then at the end they all came together and fell into place. Also I liked how there was no love triangle between Sol, K’nal, and Korra and just a friendship, which is a hard phenomenon to come by sometimes. I’m also pleased that there was more than what meets the eye with Slink (a guard who puts up an unfriendly front who is constantly enduring ridicule from the other Colisium guards) instead of just having Slink being the classic nasty guard. Furthermore, Sol was actually mature enough to listen to Occi (his mother figure) and try to be nicer to Slink.

Overall I immensely enjoyed Sol of the Coliseum and am pleased that I got the chance to read it in exchange for an honest review as I do not think that I would’ve picked up this book (much less heard of it) on my own. This book is definitely a hidden gem in gladiator stories and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a unique gladiator story. I’m left with wondering whether there will be a sequel after Sol of the Coliseum‘s ending–what will happen to Sol, K’nal, Korra, and Slink?

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles | Book 1
Pages: 448 pages
Publisher: Square Fish; 2nd edition (January 8, 2013)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

The novel, Cinder, by Marissa Meyer tells the story of Cinder, a cyborg in New Beijing with a mysterious past as her life becomes entangled in an impending war between the Earth unions and the Lunars.

GoodReads Synopsis

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

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Review: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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Title: A Thousand Pieces of You
Author: Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird trilogy | Book 1
Pages: 384 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; Reprint edition (November 3, 2015)
Rating: 4.5 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

 

Book 1 of the Firebird trilogy, A Thousand Pieces of You, by Claudia Gray describes sixteen-year-old Marguerite Caine’s quest for vengeance to kill Paul Markov, her parents’ (two famous scientists) prodigy and lab assistant, after the theft of the Firebird: a device which allows users to leap between different dimensions (realms of different outcomes and possibilities).

GoodReads Synopsis

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her parent’s handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she expected.

Lately, A Thousand Pieces of You is the second book I’ve read with multi-dimensional travel, but I think it is the first book I have ever read that completely delves into what multi-dimensional travel would really look like. In this book, people travel to different dimensions by using the Firebird to transfer their consciousness into a dimension that had another version of them. While in that dimension, they would inhabit and control the body of their other dimensional self.

In different universes, especially the “Russiaverse” (where Marguerite is a grand duchess), this makes for “moral” conflicts, especially when Marguerite makes some big decisions for her other self while she is inside her body. This added an element of character vs. self and made the plot more interesting as Marguerite also grappled with external conflict as she hunted down her father’s suspected killer and the thief of the official Firebird prototype through the dimensions.

Another story aspect I liked were the plot twists. As Margeruite learns more about multi-dimensional travel, she discovers a secret about her travel companion. When the main character discovers not once, but twice, that two things she thought were true weren’t, it makes for some very suspenseful moments.

Like in The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, the author starts the book in the thick of things (Margeruite chasing her father’s killer through the dimensions) and then jumps back in Margeruite’s memory throughout the chapters to give the reader background information on events. I’m not a big fan of this, but it did not make me want to stop reading.

However, Claudia Gray did do an excellent job of developing the characters. Chapter by chapter she reveals a new layer of the characters, which makes them more believable. It also altered my opinion of them for better or for worse.

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Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands | Book 1
Pages: 416 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (January 5, 2016)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

The novel, Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard describes a richly imagined world of witchery.

Hot headed and impulsive domna Safiya (Safi) fon Hasstrel is a Truthwitch and heiress to the Hasstrel lands. Although witchery is prevalent in the Truthlands, Safi must keep her witchery a secret lest she become a political pawn with her ability to discern truth from lie. Despite being a domna, Safi is far from proper and regards her title as a restraint to her freedom.

Isuelt Midenzi, a Threadwitch is scorned by many because of her Nomatsi heritage. After leaving the Midenzi settlement, she and Safi cross paths and become Threadsisters: a bond developed through a shared life-or-death experience.

But with the end of the treaty that keeps the several empires of the Witchlands from fighting approaching, Safi and Iseult’s peaceful lives will dissipate as they are both forced to run to stop Safi from becoming a political pawn.

With the help of Safi’s uncle’s arrangements, Safi and Iseult manage to make a wild escape and ride a ship to Nubrevna captined by Prince Merik, a Windwitch. However with secret political deals and a vengeful Bloodwitch on their trail, their fight for freedom to live their own lives will not end when they reach Nubrevna.

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Review: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

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1year100books.wordpress.com

Title: The Elements of Style
Author: William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
Series: N/A
Pages: 105 pages
Publisher: Longman; 4th edition (August 2, 1999)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

The writer’s reference book, The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White provides writers a handy resource for editorial advice.

True to its description of “manual,” The Elements of Style gave practical editorial advice on writing style and grammar. Everything was definitely good advice and was a good writing book as many reviews said, but I can’t say I was very interested since informational non-fiction isn’t my favorite genre.

However I did like the fact that this reference book was thin and only included good advice, so it was a much more feasible reference book read than The Chicago Manual of Style. I’d recommend The Elements of Style to anyone who wants to become better at writing or editing. In addition to The Elements of Style, I’d also recommend On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott to anyone interested in writing.

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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TitleSix of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows Series | Book 1
Pages: 480
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (September 29, 2015)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

The Grisha novel, Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardguo describes criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker’s perilous quest for wealth.

When Kaz Brekker, deadly criminal prodigy with a mysterious past in the city of Ketterdam is offered a chance to earn gold–a dangerous offer which might get him killed–he accepts. If he can break into the notorious Ice Court of Fjerda and retrieve a hostage harboring secret knowledge that could destroy the world, he will be showered with wealth.

In his quest for wealth, Kaz assembles a cunning group of six dangerous outcasts: Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias, and Wylan.

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Review: On Writing by Stephen King

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TitleOn Writing
Author: Stephen King
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Publisher: Scribner; 10 Anv edition (July 6, 2010)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

 

The part memoir, On Writing by Stephen King delivers advice hand in hand humor stories to aspiring and experienced writers alike.

Two of my favorite sections in this captivating part memoir and part writing book were:

  • C.V.–The hilarious memoir section.
  • On Writing–The instructional and helpful part on writing, as the title suggests.

On Writing, written in first person, is a funny, yet informational read filled with useful pointers for all writers. Throughout the book, King includes personal experiences and how they shaped him as a writer.

Along with Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott, How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card, and The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, On Writing is one of the best books on writing I’ve read.

Review: Chained by Susanne Valenti

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Title: Chained
Author: Susanne Valenti
Series: Cage of Lies Saga | Book 1
Pages: 313
Publisher: Susanne Valenti; 1 edition (October 1, 2015)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

 

The dystopia novel, Chained, by Susanne Valenti, describes a world where fear of Contamination keeps people inside of walled cities through the perspective of Maya Summers.

Like the rest of humanity, Maya lives behind the Wall in the Guardian protected city. But she is also an orphan. She has been for awhile ever since her parents died in a fatal lab accident.

Invited to join a scientific expedition outside the Wall by her best friend, Maya’s life is turned upside down. One simple mistake sentences her and her best friend, Taylor, to a brief SubWar sentence for endangering the population.

Although Maya and Taylor are only supposed to carry messages and not engage in combat, circumstances force them to fight for their very lives. One event leads to another and soon Maya finds herself outside of the SubWar boundaries with Taylor and a mysterious stranger who rescues them along with Laurie.

Now that they’ve left, there’s no going back to the city petrified of the Contamination, which lies outside of the wall, unless, of course, they want to serve a life sentence in SubWar. And Maya will soon discover a terrifying, but releasing truth about the walled city and herself.

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Review: The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

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Title: The Assassin’s Blade
Author: Ransom Riggs
Series: Throne of Glass Series | Book 0
Pages: 464
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; Reprint edition (March 3, 2015)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

The prequel to the Throne of Glass series, The Assassin’s Blade, by Sarah J. Maas describes Celaena’s life as an assassin of the Assassin’s Guild.

The Assassin’s Blade includes five novellas about Celaena’s life:

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord: When Celaena defies Arobbyn Hamel’s business wishes with Sam, she learns how unforgiving her master can be.

The Assassin and the Healer: Traveling on her way to the Red Desert as punishment, Celaena meets an inn maid who dreams of being a maid. Despite her brutal upbringing, Celaena shows the maid kindness when she teaches the maid self defense and gives some of her money to her.

The Assassin and the Desert: Celaena trains with the Silent Assassins of the Red Desert so she can win their Master’s letter of approval, then she can leave. There she befriends Ansel, who has many secrets. In the desert, Celaena learns what pain turned to hate can do to people.

The Assassin and the Underworld: After Celaena returns from the Red Desert, Arobbyn Hamel expresses his regret over what he did, but Celaena realizes that she can never fully trust him again. When Celaena learns about the debt she owes to Sam, her rival in the Guild, her life slowly begins to change.

The Assassin and the Empire: Celaena continues her work as an assassin in the Guild. This novella describes the events that led up to Celaena’s time in Endovier.

Considering how much I love Sarah J. Maas’s writing and Celaena, I am surprised at how long I postponed reading this. As a prequel, this book far surpassed my expectations. This was a book of novellas about Celaena. It is a marvelous book of insight on Celaena’s character and why she acts the way she does in Throne of Glass. Although Celaena still isn’t very nice in this book, you learn about her fellow assassin, Sam Cortland and how Celaena’s master, Arrobyn Hamel played a part in her capture and enslavement in Endovier.

How do you think Celaena was similar before and after Endovier? How do you think Celaena was changed by Endovier? What do you think is the bravest act Celaena has done?