Reading Sara Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses AND A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas
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modern romance

Reading Sara Review: I am combining these books because they are the first two in the series (third one coming out in 2017). Like most series, I actually hate it when I can’t just keep reading them – so perhaps should have waited until the third book to begin. Oh well, too late now.

I picked this one up on a whim over a holiday weekend because I had been hearing a lot about it and the second book won the Best Young Adult Fantasy Book on the Goodreads Readers Choice Awards for 2016. I hadn’t read much fantasy this year and thought it would be a fun way to wrap it up. I realize that I am posting this in 2017 – but I finished both books in 2016.

Let me start with: this did not feel like a young adult book to me! Both of these had some pretty darn steamy scenes, so I’m not sure how these books get categorized, but just a warning!

A Court of Thorns and Roses is loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite fairytales. I thought it was creative, fun, and brought my imagination to life. Our heroine, Feyre, kills a wolf in the forest as she is hunting to feed her family. A beast-like creature arrives demanding her life for the life of the wolf, so she is sent to live with him across the wall (parts of this series felt like they were “borrowing” a bit from Game of Thrones, but I’ll let that slide). The beast-creature turns out to be an immortal faerie, who humans were taught to be afraid of. And lucky for Feyre he is a handsome and rich faerie named Tamlin. Tamlin and his people are under a curse, which is revealed throughout the storyline. Her hatred and fear toward the faeries subsides and by the end, she is willing to do anything to save their kind – but especially to save Tamlin from ruin.

There is action, adventure, romance, fighting, a badass female heroine -it has a lot of great pieces for a fantasy story. I definitely enjoyed it.

So, I jumped right into the second because it was a quick read (and I read like I watch movies – I want to know the ending!). It is going to be hard to review the second without any spoilers, so read ahead at your own risk (if you never plan on reading these, it shouldn’t be a problem and perhaps you already stopped reading!).

A Court of Mist and Fury picks up about three months after Feyre has broken the curse on the faerie lands. She is struggling with the guilt of what she had to do, who she had to become, and her new self. Tamlin, unfortunately, is not a calming presence during this time and instead is confining and protecting her rather than letting her breathe and heal. So, lucky for Feyre, she made a deal with the handsome Rhys while Under the Mountain that obligates her to a week with him each month. With Rhys and Tamlin being enemies, this complicates matters in her relationship with both of them.

So, Rhys is dreamy and wonderful – and we quickly discover that he isn’t who everyone thinks that he is. He has wonderful friends and truly helps Feyre heal and learn who she can be with her new powers. My biggest complaint is that it sort of felt like we were supposed to get invested in Feyre and Tamlin in the first book, and then all of sudden hate Tamlin and move on to someone else. The love of Feyre and Rhys was done well, through a deep friendship and connection rather than a classic love triangle, but I still had a difficult time getting on board. I wish that more had been set up in the first book so that I was better prepared. But, by the end, it is impossible not to be on team Rhys.

Beyond the love and friendship, truly why this book was good (and I believe why it got the hype on Goodreads and other outlets) was that Feyre becomes even more badass. She is the female heroine that readers want her to be. She defends herself, her people, her friends and doesn’t rely on a man’s power. She figures out what she believes in, what her destiny is, and follows her heart. In the beginning of the book she is so broken, but Maas does an incredible job of growing the character and letting us see into her mind and soul as she heals. With her flaws, she is an incredibly real character.

I heard rumors of a movie deal for this series – it would be so fun to watch this come alive and see the characters and places of Maas’s imagination (even if they do continue stealing things from GOT, I am ok with that because GOT is awesome). So, if you are in the market for some fantasy (I really don’t know that it is young adult appropriate!), pick this series up. It’s a good one.

 

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Reading Sara Review: The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, by Scott Stambach

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, by Scott Stambach

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Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (August 9, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 5/10

Eligible Rating

Reading Sara Review: The best part of The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko for me is that it is a completely unique book for me to read (so, a bit selfish, yes). If you have been following the blog, you know that I like to read a variety of books including young adult, fantasy, mystery, but mostly fiction (and historical fiction being my favorite). Even though this is fiction, I don’t know exactly how to categorize this one. I have heard references to it being somewhere in between The Fault in Our Stars and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

The book is a diary of sorts, written by Ivan Isaenko, a seventeen-year-old who has spent his entire life at Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus because he was born with severe disabilities due to the Chernobyl disaster. His life is pretty simple, until a beautiful dying girl named Polina arrives at the Mazyr Hospital and changes everything.

Their story is sweet and complicated but gives life and meaning to Ivan.

I have read a lot of complaints about how the children with disabilities are depicted in this book, and many recommendations that if you have someone you love with cognitive disabilities that you will hate this book. I don’t think that Stambach glamorizes the facility in any way. I don’t think that he provides much sympathy either. The story is really about Ivan, who only has physical disabilities. His mind is sharp, clear, and brilliant. This is his story of falling in love.

I know that this review was pretty “meh” which is honestly how I felt about the book. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate. It took me awhile to get through it because it was not particular fast-paced. A lot of people read it and loved it, so you might too!

Reading Sara Review: American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld

American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Paperback: 568 pages
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; First Printing edition (February 10, 2009)
Reading Sara Review: 7/10

modern romance

Reading Sara Review: Ok, I know I am super late to the party on this book. It has been on my radar, but I just hadn’t had a good opportunity to read it. I was pushed over the edge to pick it up based on one of those “40 books you should read before you are 40” lists (luckily, I am a few years away from 40…but still wanted to dive in!).

American Wife deservedly was on that list, and I am glad that I finally read it. It wasn’t the best book I have read in my lifetime or even in the past couple of months, but I enjoyed it. It was a quick book (would make an excellent beach vacation read), with an easy story line to dive into and become invested with.

If you are unaware, American Wife is loosely based on Laura Bush’s story. It is certainly fictionalized, and has some significant discrepancies – it is based in Wisconsin, not Texas – but a lot of what Sittenfeld wrote was from Laura’s history. Whether it was based on the former First Lady or not, it would still be an excellent story – a human story that gives empathy to the characters and is interesting and told in a smart way.

But, because it is based on a former First Lady, the empathy goes deeper. I certainly felt for her in the times that she struggled with her marriage, with the choices that her husband was making for the country, with her decisions as a woman. This book provided me with more compassion for Mrs. Bush and her family. It is such a good reminder that we don’t know these people who live in the spotlight, we make assumptions about them, their lives and their choices – but especially for politicians, they walk a fine line. And this is a woman who loved her husband, even if she disagreed with his politics from the beginning. It gives more context to the complications of love and politics.

My primary problem with the book was the ending. I felt like the beginning was strong, had great detail and was extremely interesting. But it seemed to just start skimming the end of their lives – when things were getting interesting with her husband as Governor and then President. I wished that more of that storyline was explored rather than jumping so much and ending rather abruptly. It did not ruin the book for me, but I felt like it could have gone deeper.