Fate and Ethics in “A Thousand Pieces of You”

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray was a fast-paced book perfect for lovers of both sci-fi and historical fiction, which means it was perfect for me. While it maintains an air of general predictability throughout, there is enough originality and creativity in the setting(s) that I would definitely recommend it.

Claudia Gray is an excellent writer. She makes it so easy to just fall into her stories and to stay there until the very last word. I really enjoyed this book. And while I don’t think it is her best work, or most creative, it is well done, and very very fun.

The premise is this: Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two brilliant scientists who have discovered not only the existence of other dimensions, but also the technology needed to visit these alternate universes. When Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the suspected murderer flees into another dimension, she follows suit in order to find and kill him.

The downfall of this book really is its predictability. By the first chapter I had the general plot pretty much figured out. It did throw in a few fun surprises at the end but nothing too game-changing.

Despite all that, I am planning to read the two sequels in the coming weeks. The characters were appealing, and the science-y adventures were too much fun. I’m still amazed that I just read a book that contained cool futuristic technology and a beautiful historical romance.

The romance was definitely one of the highlights of this book. I am a sucker for a good romance line, and this was a good one.

Gray also brought up some excellent ethical questions about the main character’s actions in other dimensions, and the morality of taking advantage of experiences that should have been taken by someone else.

This book also contains themes of fate and destiny, and whether a person is made up of experiences. Whether a soul can be significantly changed by experiences or if they will be the same person regardless of any changes made to their previous experiences.

It is these kinds of themes and ethical questions that makes this book stand out from other YA fiction. They add depth to the story and help readers learn to think about the story on a deeper level.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it. (4/5)

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I’m in love with Roshani Chokshi’s “A Crown of Wishes”

Almost immediately after I finished The Star-Crossed Queen, I picked up Roshani Chokshi’s sequel A Crown of Wishes and was not disappointed. If anything, I liked it even more than its predecessor. That’s not something I get to say very often.

Starring Maya’s sister, Gauri, this book focused more on how people change through sacrifice, experience, and how life is not necessarily about getting everything you want, but about the stories you make and leave behind.

This book had beautiful characters that changed and developed naturally, but dramatically, from beginning to end. I love a good character-driven story, and this one is a good one.

The romance too was wonderful. Gradual, slowly realized, and full of exquisite wanting and waiting, Chokshi masterfully created a believable and enviable relationship that will keep you on the edge of your seat and a smile on your lips.

Overall, this book left me wanting more in the best possible way. I can’t wait to read whatever Chokshi comes out with next! 5/5

Desire and Indian Folklore in “A Star-Touched Queen”

Roshana Chokshi’s A Star-Touched Queen was a New York Times bestseller for good reason. Steeped in Indian folklore and myth, Chokshi’s YA fantasy novel brings a world of romance, heartbreak, intrigue, and untold secrets to life.

Maya, a princess who has been told from birth that she was cursed to bring death and destruction to those around her, knows she will probably never marry. However, her father’s desire to bring hasty end to a years-old war sets her up to marry a man who not only seems to love her, but who draws out parts of her she didn’t realize she had. As she sets out to untangle her new husband’s mysteries and the mysteries of the seemingly empty kingdom over which he rules, she discovers her own immense power, desire, and a past she didn’t know she had.

Told with vibrant descriptions, I fell in love with the world and the characters almost immediately. The characters drew me into their lives, their dreams, and their desires. I found myself passionately involved in relationships and outcomes of even the smallest characters. Maya in particular, really kept me invested. Her struggle to know who she is, in and out of a relationship is very relatable. It can be so difficult to know where you stop and your partner begins and vice versa, and the fear of losing yourself can be very real.

I loved this story of love, desire, and trust, and would not only recommend it, but I would urge you to read the sequel too. It was AWESOME!

 

“The Crown’s Game” in Imperial Russia

I was surprised when I read the premise of The Crown’s Game at how similar it sounded to a book I read a couple of months ago called The Night Circus (see review here). I loved The Night Circus and I was interested, and a bit worried, to see how The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye would compare.

My verdict is this: The Crown’s Game is much too-familar if you have read The Night Circus, but you will still find an enjoyable story that interweaves new elements into setting, character, and plot. It felt like a younger version of The Night Circus with a heavier emphasis on character relationships.

In The Crown’s Game, two enchanters, Nikolai and Vika, are pitted against each other in a deadly game to see who will be the Tsar’s Imperial Enchanter. As the two young enchanter’s try to outdo the other in magical feats, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other even as they fight to the death.

I loved the premise of course, but I also enjoyed the elements I wasn’t expecting. The setting in particular was something that set it apart as excellent. I loved the idea of placing a magic duel in Imperial Russia. The magic fit perfectly into an alternate and idealized version of such a place. It provided just enough newness to the story that I was held in wonder for the magical place Skye had created that was so new to me.

I loved the magical elements, and the characters too. Unlike Morgenstern’s The Night CircusThe Crown’s Game delved more deeply into helping the reader get to know the main characters. I loved the relationships between said characters and the attention Skye paid to help the reader feel, and not just observe, the love, jealousy, friendship, and disgust between them.

There was no clear villain in this story, something else that I enjoyed. I find that some of the best stories are like life: they are complicated, messy, and have no true villains. Instead, every person has elements of good and bad, and cycle somewhere in-between, often in shades of gray.

While I am disappointed that The Crown’s Game was so similar to something I’d just read (and I do prefer The Night Circus overall), I was pleased with the execution of this story in the YA fantasy genre with a rating of 8/10.

Welcome to “The Night Circus”

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has given me withdrawal. Since finishing it, I find myself pining after a story that has sadly ended. I know I should move on, but instead I spend keep thinking of all the nuances of the story, the characters, the writing.

The Night Circus is a beautifully crafted story of a circus, two magicians, romance, and fate. Written in first, second, and limited third person, The Night Circus brings the circus to life through the written word, with complex characters and a mysterious story line.

I loved the gorgeous prose. Each chapter and section of prose was carefully and purposely placed, bread crumbs that when added together create a beautiful and delicious cake (I know that’s not how it really works, but just roll with it). If you are in a rush to read, then it may seem a bit slow at first. But if you are in the mood to savor each lengthy, yet beautiful description with little thought for plot, this is the book for you. If you aren’t in the mood for a slow book, but you still want to read The Night Circus, then read the first third of it as quickly as you can, and enjoy the wonderfulness that is this book.

A large part of what makes this book so awesome is the characters. Morgenstern has done an excellent job of creating complex and realistic characters, many that we love, some that we hate, but all that we believe. The main characters Marco and Celia have unconventional childhoods, and we see how their upbringing affects the rest of their lives, allowing us to also understand their actions. Each side character is detailed in such a way as to allow us to get a good grasp of who they really are and how they are important in the story. Because each character, no matter how small their role, is incredibly important to the storyline. If a character is included, they are important.

I absolutely loved this book. While I was somewhat disappointed by the ending, the journey was incredible enough that it made up for it, and I can’t say that much for a lot of books. Normally the ending makes or breaks a book for me.

The magic in this story is contagious, it refuses to stay contained within the pages it was written. I find myself thinking about the world of The Night Circus, wishing I could visit. If you are looking for a beautiful work of art with gorgeous descriptions, you will definitely enjoy this book.

**FYI: For those who are more sensitive to language, there is one strong swear word in the first chapter, but after that it is completely clean of swearing.**

 

Jason Bourne meets Twilight in “The Chemist”

Browsing the Overdrive book selection, I was very surprised to discover that there was a new book out by Stephanie Meyer. When a copy finally became available through the digital library, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Any expectations I may have subconsciously held were subsequently blown away when I entered the world of The Chemist, a novel of espionage, murder, attempted murder, torture, romance, and changing identities. While there were some prominent similarities between this novel and Meyer’s other novels, it was also very different from her other books, largely because Meyer decided to break into with the spy-thriller genre.

I was very impressed with Meyer’s extensive research into science, medicine, torture, and other spy-know-how. While I know very little about chemistry and medicine, I completely bought into the main character’s abilities to survive as she is hunted by the government and the thugs the government employs.

But as the main character, Alex, begins to fight back, the pacing of the book seemed off to me. While the gruesome descriptions that characterized the action sequences were hot and fast, and filled with beautiful suspense. But they were broken up by long periods of nothing which seemed to drag on pointlessly. The only purpose I could see for these slow periods was for the romance.

For those who read Stephanie Meyer’s books for the romance, you will not be disappointed. Romance plays a huge part in this book, at times battling with the plot line for the main focus of this book. It was steamy, and engaging, and I enjoyed the originality of the premise. But the romance story line within The Chemist also had its faults.

Personally, I found that the male love interest, Daniel, was unrealistic and stretched my suspension of disbelief too far (those of you who have already read it, you know what I’m talking about). Meyer seemed to fall into the same potholes with Daniel as she did with Edward in Twilight. Daniel is kind to the point where he has absolutely no sense of self-preservation, and he exists solely to complete the main character. His character flaws, that he is too innocent and kind, and good-looking are hardly flaws.

While this book definitely had flaws that will hold it back from being in my top fifty favorite books, it was a really fun read. I loved feeling my adrenaline kick in alongside the main character’s. Meyer did an excellent job stringing the reader along with thick suspense and I had trouble putting it down most of the time. However, the flaws made it hard for me to mentally stay in the story a couple times near the beginning and middle.

If you are a fan of Meyer’s previous work and you love Jason Bourne movies, this may be a good book for you. Personally, I did really enjoy it, but it had enough issues that I won’t be reading this again.

Reading “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore

An emotionally inaccessible young woman with a deadly gift – the ability to kill quickly, easily, and with a single blow – learns the meaning of humanity in this 400+ page fantasy debut novel. Kristin Cashore writes beautifully in the first installment of the Graceling Realm trilogy, Graceling, in which she creates a world where certain people are born with “graces” or special abilities. These people are ostracized from society and such is the world that our protagonist, Katsa, is born into. The niece of a king, Katsa’s deadly abilities lead her to lose herself to rage and fear. The king uses her to do his dirty work, and Katsa, not quite understanding the extent of her power, blindly obeys, hating herself and her uncle for her cruel assignments. However, when a stranger opens Katsa’s eyes to her ability to control her emotions and actions, and choose  for herself what she will and will not do, Katsa becomes a new woman on a quest to redeem her former actions.

This book explores themes of humanity, suggesting that humanity shows itself when we control our base impulses and emotions, and is lost when control is forsaken. I really enjoyed the exploration of this theme through not only Katsa, but also through the villains and some side characters.

The romance within Graceling easily sucks the reader in, loving Katsa and Po throughout as they learn to trust, and to accept what cannot be changed. While the romance was a highlight of this book, it was targeted toward an older audience, containing some suggestive scenes.

The plot, while somewhat straightforward at the beginning, continually surprised me. This was partly due to the pacing of the book, which was unconventional. Cashore portioned out the novel so that an unusual amount of time was spent on specific actions. For example, a longer amount of time was spent on a scene where the main characters are preparing to face the villain, and when the face-off finally happens, it is surprisingly fast, and simple, not the usual climax. Surprisingly, the book does not suffer for this unusual pacing, rather it helps shape the tone of the book. Instead of focusing on the action of the novel, the pacing helps to shift the focus towards the ideology, characters, and relationships within the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The world Cashore created felt fresh and exciting to me, and the storyline always had me guessing. I would recommend this book, with the advisory that there are some suggestive scenes that might influence some people’s decision of whether it.