Title: City of Girls
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Page Count: 470
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 4, 2019 by Riverhead
Review: This was a firm 3 star read for me. In other words, I liked it, but I did not love it. This book is billed as a “love story,” however, I would hardly consider it a romance. In fact, I wouldn’t even tag it as romance. In a lot of ways this story reminded me of the TV series How I Met Your Mother. Vivian, our protagonist, is writing the story to Angela, the daughter of her deceased love. Angela has reached out to Vivian to ask about the nature of her relationship with her father and Vivian answers in a very prolonged and roundabout way. She includes many details that are of no relevance to how she met Angela’s father. For the most part, I found Vivian to be a rather unlikeable character, at least for about 60% of the book. Life circumstances make her grow as a character, but I never truly became endeared to her. The last 25% of the book was by far the most enjoyable part of the story, but after all the build up to meeting Vivian’s father, I was a bit disappointed with how little page time he actually got. So as I said, this wasn’t really a love story, but a story about Vivian. This is not to say that the book made no impression on me whatsoever. Gilbert is undeniably a gifted writer and there were enough things I liked about the book to keep reading it. For one thing, I was extremely envious of Vivian’s skill with a sewing machine, and I almost want to take a sewing class as a result. I was fascinated by the way she talked about fabric and clothing and design. This book also had a lot of really good one liners sprinkled throughout and some very memorable characters, such as Aunt Peg. It was enough to keep me moving through the book at a steady pace, and certainly enough to inspire me to finish it. This book certainly has it’s share of scandal, but it’s not particularly graphic, and it really tackles the double standard that men and women are held to when it comes to sexuality.
Title: Queen of Air and Darkness
Author: Cassandra Clare
Performer: James Marsters
Length: 30 hr, 40 min, 56 sec
Series: The Dark Artifices, Book 3
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Simon & Schuster Audio
Review: SO. MUCH. ANGST. I generally enjoy Clare’s books for the most part. They have intricate storylines and complex characters. There are usually clearly defined conflicts and the endings are almost always satisfying. This book checked all those boxes, but it was just so darn long and drawn out. Every. single. relationship. was FILLED with angst. Relationship building can do a lot to drive a story, however, there is a point where it starts to become tedious. Clare loves writing forbidden love stories, as well as love triangles, and this series has that in spades. I listened to this in audiobook format, and sometimes I would find myself tuning out during the more lengthy interactions between will-they-or-won’t-they couples/thruples. There are a lot of characters to follow in this trilogy (including returning characters from past series), and I quickly realized that I needed to read detailed recaps of the previous two installments to get back up to speed on what was going on before the start of this book. I did enjoy the story, but I think the book could have been significantly shorter without losing anything critical to the plot.
This is the first book of Clare’s that I consumed in audiobook format. James Marsters has a voice that is well-suited to storytelling, though his volume fluctuates quite a bit and I had to constantly adjust the sound in my vehicle. This was only a minor annoyance, however, and I found his performance to be appropriately dramatic for the content of the book.
Title: The Night Country
Author: Melissa Albert
Page Count: 331
Series: The Hazel Wood, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 7, 2020 by Flatiron Books
Review: This book had a great start and then…stalled out. I ripped through the first few chapters, and then found myself losing steam as nothing really seemed to happen. The first book in this series, The Hazel Wood, was positively magical. I found myself wrapped up in the numerous fairytales and in the overarching storyline. I was hoping for much of the same in the follow up, and although there were some similarities, it wasn’t nearly as engaging as it’s predecessor. It was still dark and twisted, but there were less stories and it focused on a mystery that dragged on before ending abruptly. In the interim of time that has passed between Alice and Finch’s last meeting, Finch has been traveling between worlds. Sadly the reader sees almost none of that. Similarly, years have passed for Alice, but we still have no idea what she is doing aside from moping around. As with many sequels for books I loved, I just expected more than what I got. I am unclear if this is a duology or a series because the ending seemed to be rather definitive. I can’t imagine where the story would go from here, but maybe Albert will surprise me.
Title: Empire of Storms
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 704
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 5
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 6, 2016 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Review: My opinion of this book is very similar to my opinion of the last few books in this series. The action throughout is thrilling and the ending is particularly strong. Although this book is still categorized as Young Adult fiction like it’s predecessors, I would argue that it would more accurately be categorized as New Adult fiction. Aelin is now 20 years old, and the romances depicted in this series have gotten increasingly steamy with each installment. There is a whole lot of sex in book 5, so young readers be prepared if you are not expecting it!
My biggest gripe with this series in general is that Aelin’s elaborate scheming always seems to pan out just the way she envisions. Of course there is a real wrench thrown in at the end to keep the series going, but overall, things just seem to always work out, no matter how great the odds are stacked against them. A lot of it is rather far-fetched…for example, Aelin calls in a favor with one particular ally without actually communicating what it is she needs. The ally just happens to glean exactly what Aelin wants by receiving cryptic reports from a spy. Ohhhkkayyy. Seems unlikely. But I am going to move past it because I made it this far and I am still enjoying the series enough to finish two more lengthy books.
Title: Queen of Shadows
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 648
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 4
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 1, 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Review: I was so excited to start The Assassin’s Blade that I actually forgot to write a review for this book…oops. I suppose this is a compliment to Maas, who continues to impress me with her epic sagas.
At the conclusion of this book, it seemed like the series had reached it’s climax, only for Maas to throw another curveball that completely changes the game. I really appreciate this about Maas, because while some aspects of her story are predictable and formulaic, she somehow always manages to surprise me with the overall direction of the plot. I would say that reading this book, it was the first time that I really contemplated whether this series takes place in the same world as her A Court of Thorns and Roses series. For some reason I found this prospect to be thrilling, and I look forward to seeing new lands in the next three books.
As with the last book, Maas introduced new characters that I have grown very fond of, and I look forward to seeing how their storylines develop as well.
Also, revenge is sweet, and you get plenty of that in this particular installment.
Title: The Assassin’s Blade
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 448
Series: Throne of Glass, 0.1-0.5
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 4, 2014 by Bloomsbury Childrens
Review: Truly my only regret in picking up this collection of novellas is that I didn’t do so sooner. This collection is broken into five short stories that provide more context for Celaena’s backstory. Maas artfully interweaves storylines and characters that later appear in the Throne of Glass series into heart-pounding and thrilling adventures. The only novella that really had me struggling to get through it was the last one, and that was simply because I knew what devastating outcome awaited Celaena.
Maas is very formulaic in how she builds her romances – two people formerly at odds become passionate lovers – and the romance that ties together these short stories is no different. I found this to be slightly annoying at first, however, Sam was just so lovable as a character that I couldn’t help but fall for him. To be frank, the rest of Celaena’s romantic history really lost some of its sparkle after reading this because, well, I still wanted her to be with Sam. Because he is not actually present in any of the Throne of Glass books, I did not realize how influential he was in shaping Celaena’s later decisions. Celaena’s character has a certain naivety in these stories that no longer exists after the events that transpire in these novellas.
Now that I have picked up back where I left off in the Throne of Glass series, characters and events that are mentioned in passing suddenly make more sense and I am provided subtle clarity as I comb back through my memories of what has happened so far. I look forward to seeing more connections as I continue forward with the series.