Tag Archives: 3 stars

OF BEAST AND BEAUTY: Ashley’s Review

of beast and beautyTitle: OF BEAST AND BEAUTY

Author: Stacey Jay

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling

Pages: 400

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Review

I stumbled upon OF BEAST AND BEAUTY while searching for books on Amazon. I guess you can tell by my other review of A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, I love reading BEAUTY AND THE BEAST retellings. Let me say, this really isn’t a retelling of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. It’s more like…a story with elements of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Namely, some beast-like creatures and some enchanted roses.

We start with Isra who is the Princess of Yuna. She’s basically imprisoned and she’s also blind, and believes she has a mutation like many of the Desert People/other people in this world. Honestly, I’m not really sure where we are—I think it’s some planet or something? Basically, Isra lives in a dome that’s all bountiful and beautiful while the world outside the dome is desert and dangerous. There are magical roses that Isra likes to visit because sometimes they let her see…also, she must sacrifice her blood to them at some point if the dome around them starts to fall to pieces.

I liked Isra. She didn’t let blindness disable her and she learned to live with it. In the beginning she seems really childish, which I found strange. She isn’t raised with the intent that she will rule, but to be a sacrifice. Because of this, when it comes to changing things, she’s pretty whiny.

The other main character, Gem, agrees with me but he doesn’t understand the circumstances under which Isra has been raised. All he knows is that he’s a Desert Man and Isra is a Smooth Skin and he’s supposed to hate her. But he doesn’t really hate her, he actually loves her and just keeps fighting the love because it’s supposed to be disgusting for Desert People and Smooth Skins to feel any sort of attraction toward each other.

The Isra/Gem love didn’t bother me. I felt like it was a little fast, but you can tell the author means to imply a lot of time has passed and the two have had several ‘get to know you sessions.’ That being said, I didn’t find Isra capable of anything beyond that teenaged, angst love.

There’s also a third perspective in the book from a guard named Bo. In my opinion, Bo is weak minded and his perspective would have served better had he actually learned something.

My main complaint is probably this—I wanted this story to be Isra learning of her own power and embracing it. I wanted her to actually do something to deserve to rule her people. I wanted her to show us exactly how she can change the world she lives in for the better…but we don’t really get that. Instead, she’s really a pushover. She lets the men have power over her (and FOR REAL if there is one thing I dislike seeing in books, it’s that). In contrast, the author has Gem talk about how the Desert People give power to their women. Maybe an intentional contrast, however, Isra does nothing to rise to the occasion. At the end of the book, she’s building a brick wall—literally—around herself! That’s not helping your people, that’s hiding from problems! I don’t care if your city is coming down on top of your head.

Jay set up a really good foundation for this to be a real female empowerment novel…but…it sort of fell flat. This book also comes to a close very quickly—as if the author just wanted the book to end. The beginning is very detailed and patient, and the end is not so detailed and rushed.

Another thing to note about OF BEAUTY AND BEAST – the writing is really…poetic. It is very pretty. I found it strange at first, but it finally grew on me once the voices of the characters took root in my head.

Overall, I enjoyed OF BEAST AND BEAUTY. It’s not like other retellings for sure. 3 stars

 

3star

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Silver in the Blood: Ashley’s Review

Silver In the BloodTitle: SILVER IN THE BLOOD

Author: Jessica Day George

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Pages: 368

Synopsis: As debutantes in 1890s New York City, cousins Dacia and Lou knew little about about their mysterious Romanian relatives, the Florescus. Now, upon turning seventeen, the girls must journey to Romania–a journey that seems to be both reward and punishment–to meet their cousins and their tyrant of a grandmother and to learn the secrets of their family. Secrets spoken of in whispers. Dangerous secrets known as the Claw, the Wing, and the Smoke.

But as dangerous as those family secrets might be, even more dangerous is the centuries-old bond between the Florescus and the royal Dracula family, and it seems that it’s time for Dacia and Lou to give up their life in New York society and take their place among the servants of the Draculas. When the devilish heir, Mihai Dracula, sets his sights on Dacia as part of his evil, power-hungry plan, the girls must accept or fight against this cruel inheritance. Do they have the courage to break the shackles of their upbringing and set the course of their own destiny?

Review:

I really enjoyed SILVER IN THE BLOOD. We have two cousins who are more like sisters, Dacia and LouLou (sometimes called Lou, real name is Louise). Dacia is the more outspoken and hardheaded of the two, while LouLou is reserve, shy, and almost brittle. I really liked Dacia probably because she wasn’t afraid and she stood up for herself, while I found LouLou to be frustrating, mostly because she seemed so fragile.

The cousins are taken from their home in New York where they were born and raised, and are sent to visit their Florescu family in Romania. We are to understand that Dacia and LouLou are high-society ladies and come from very prominent Romanian and American families. Dacia and LouLou haven’t seen their Romania relations often, and some of them they have never met. I liked some of these relations and I disliked others. Radu is a cousin who pops up now and then, and he can’t seem to figure out where his loyalty lies, same with Aunt Kate, who is a stony presence in the book, but she has no depth, really–aside from her supposed love interest.

The Florescu family is tied up with the Draculas, a family they are supposed to guard. Within the Florescu family, there are different version of these ‘guardians’ I guess you could say–the Wing, the Claw, and the Smoke. These are all derived from powers Dracula could call upon. Dacia and LouLou are brought to their family to discover all of their secrets.

And let me tell you, there are so many secrets.

I didn’t mind how the story unraveled, though sometimes I got tired of reading about how much Dacia and LouLou really needed to talk. There is a point in the book where all the secrets are out on the table and while LouLou rises to the occasion (because she feels ‘light’ all of a sudden…?), Dacia becomes introverted and basically, childish. The two cousins switch rolls. It would have been much more refreshing for them to have both taken responsibility at this point. It was hard for me to imagine the opinionated and hot-headed Dacia suddenly loafing around and crying. I know the justification is that she is traumatized by what she experienced, but really, it came off more as she was just spoiled. In contrast, LouLou’s easy acceptance is very strange and the reasoning is because she suddenly doesn’t feel so heavy–shall we start with what this implies about women and their body image? While LouLou does gain confidence after the secrets are all revealed, she reverts back to, honestly, having little to no role in the actual ending of the book. It was very disappointing.

I will also say that the ending sort of fell apart for me. While a strong one, I could tell the intention was to leave enough room for this book to have a sequel.

Things that I did not like: 

First, LouLou had this obsession with her weight. “But Lou, no matter how many sweets she passed up, always felt a little too plump.” “But now that she’d even had Parisian dressmakers compliment her figure, she suddenly felt light as a bird.” “You struggle to be tall and slender like Dacia, but you aren’t, and that doesn’t matter. Everywhere we have gone today, the young men  haven’t been able to take their eyes off you.”

These things bothered me, mostly because they suggest that feeling good about yourself is all about compliments from strangers and men. I understand LouLou (and Dacia) are young. I understand these feelings, and I know many young girls who can relate, but I don’t think the addition of ‘well, I felt better about myself because other people think I’m beautiful’ is a helpful or healthy compliment.

Secondly, the phrase ‘whoop like a savage’ was used on two occasions. I understand this is supposed to partly be historical fiction, but this is also a fantasy you wrote in 2015. There are other phrases the author could have used, other words she could have chosen to describe Dacia’s behavior.

Thirdly, there is a point in this novel where a man threatens to rape Dacia and LouLou. This is something he does so he can have power. I really hate this sort of thing, and I didn’t feel like the main character had been this villainous before, so when he decided that this was the card he’d play when they wouldn’t listen to him, I felt both that it was out of character, and also uncomfortable.

It is one thing to tackle these issues and create moral lessons, or demonstrate problems in society, but it’s another thing to use them all as plot devices with no purpose or resolution.

Overall, I will read the next book gladly and hope that some of the characters are more developed, and that both Dacia and LouLou rise to the occasion faster than before. 3 stars.

3star

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A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES: Ashley’s Review

acotarTitle: A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: YA/NA Fantasy

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Pages: 432

Synopsis: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

Review:

I have an interesting relationship with books by Sarah J. Maas. I can’t ever seem to decide how I feel about them. This isn’t really bad or good, I think. It is just what it is.

That being said, I really wanted to get my hands on A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES. Why? Because I love BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and I’ll consume retellings like tea (and if you know me at all, you know I drink a lot of tea).

I have to admit, it’s been a few months since I read this book, and I also read it in one day. Yes, all 416 pages. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get started.

First, Feyre.

Okay, Feyre. I don’t really know what to think about you. My initial impression was that I didn’t like you, but I think I could like you so I’m going to give you another chance in the second book.

I think the best way to describe Feyre is bitter. She doesn’t have a good relationship with anyone in her family. When we meet her, she’s freezing in the forest hunting for food. She’s the only one willing to hunt for her family, the others are spoiled and still mourning the loss of their fortune. I did admire Feyre for this. She wasn’t into reclaiming the fortune her family once had, she just wants to paint.

While Feyre is in the forest, she kills a great wolf and later, Tamilin, a High Fey, comes to claim her for his own in exchange for his friends death, and take her to the Fey realm of Prythian where she will live forever (mwahahaha…except it’s not all that bad not because Tamilin lives in a palace and has tons of food and extravagance–exactly what Feyre had before her father went bankrupt).

In Prythian, Feyre learns there is a blight upon the land–a sickness–that’s driving many of the Fey out of the lands, and diminishing powers. All of this is a result of a masquerade (yes, masquerade) that occurred almost 50 years prior.

While in Prythian, Feyre is difficult–I don’t blame her for being difficult, really. She’s heard a lot of bad things about the Fey. Still, I think she trusts really soon and she thinks about escaping a lot, but doesn’t actually try to escape.  Instead, she captures a Suriel in the forest and demands answers from him. The Suriel tells her to stay with the High Lord (Tamilin), but offers no explanation other than she’ll be safe with him (contrary to what all the humans have said about fey, though Tamilin has really given her no reason to believe otherwise). After this encounter, Feyre just seems convinced that she needs to contact her family to warn them of the possible danger that might come to the human realm because of the blight.

Honestly, as far as Feyre is concerned, her character doesn’t become really kickass until the end. The last few chapters of this book are for Feyre, and they’re great…I just wish it hadn’t taken so long.

Now, Tamilin. I like you. I don’t really know why–maybe it’s because you’re sort of mysterious and you disappear for spans of time and come back all bloodied like you’ve been in a battle that we never see (that I really want to see, actually, because that’s more interesting than reading about Feyre painting) and you wear that mask all the time, even if it’s not by choice. You sort of remind me of a Robin Hood or something–the last of the High Lords, holding out against the evil Amarantha. You’re broody and sort of melancholy. I guess I get it. I think you can embrace your power more, so I hope that actually happens in the second book.

Lastly, as far as characters go, I want to say–Rhysand, I don’t know if I like you. I think I’m supposed to like you, like…you’re supposed to have redeeming qualities or something but I just think you’re sorta of creepy. And for God’s Sake, I really hope this isn’t turning into a love triangle between you, Feyre, and Tamilin because *eye roll* no.

The beginning of this book is slow. I felt like Maas was trying too hard, especially since I’ve read the Throne of Glass series and it wasn’t as…annoyingly descriptive. Don’t get me wrong–I love description, but in this book, it was just frustrating. I skipped pages, though I hate to admit it.

I liked the world-building in this book. I like to refer to it as ‘light’ world-building–it’s not overbearing, and it’s not non-existent…sort of like the perfect mix. The world of Prythian is really interesting and the dynamics of the Fey, while typical, are still interesting.

Overall, I liked A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, and I’ll definitely read the second one.

3 stars

3star

Find this book on: AMAZON