Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Review

Nevernight

Rating: 1 star

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life . . . but her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now a sixteen year old, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic – the Red Church . . . If she survives initiation . . . she will be one step closer to the only thing she desires.  

Revenge.

I know that many YA fans like this book, but I am not one of them.  The book should have been called Neverending.  I found myself flipping through so many pages just to get it over with and it couldn’t have ended soon enough for me.

Nevernight refers to the fact that there is literally never a night because of its three suns.  Yet, this book was so dark I kept forgetting this and constantly pictured it taking place in the dark of night.

Mia Corvere is ten years old when her father is hanged as a traitor to the Republic and her mother forces her to watch his execution.  After his death the rest of her family is targeted but she escapes, hell bent on revenge.  She is taken under the wing of Mercurio, a former killer who trains her in the art of murder.

This new life leads her to the Red Church, a school for assassins.  Every student is there seeking revenge on someone who has grievously wronged them.  Not only will students learn how to kill, but they have to learn how to survive their classes.  The faculty puts them through trials where they have to use what they have learned as well as relying on their wits to pass these tests.  If they fail they can lose their life.  It’s the risks one takes to become a trained assassin.

There are some twists and turns as well as a few mysterious deaths that need to be solved but I really didn’t care.  I found most of the characters to be ruthless and heartless with no endearing or redeeming characteristics.  There was too much violence for violence’s sake and I had to keep flipping and skimming the pages just to get to the end.

This book made me think of the Hunger Games, which I really liked and found strangely fascinating.  When reading those books I was surprised to find myself enjoying a story where children are forced to kill other children.  The difference there is that the characters were developed to be likable and heroes that I rooted for because they were forced to kill to survive in a dystopian world that I hoped they would destroy and restore humanity.

In Nevernight there is nothing redeeming or hopeful about a school that trains assassins who are spurred on by avenging personal grudges.  What happened to Mia was unfair, but not enough to make me care.  I was grateful that I read this as a free ebook from the library.  It is a purchase I would have regretted.

 

Winter Garden – Review

Winter GardenRating: 5+ stars

Anya Whitson is a cold and distant mother to her two daughters, Meredith and Nina.  Meredith runs the family’s apple orchard and married while Nina is an award winning photo journalist who has difficulty placing down roots.  The only fond memories Meredith and Nina have of their mother is an unfinished Russian fairy tale she used to tell them at bedtime.

Evan Whitson is a warm and loving father and husband.  Meredith and Nina are closer to their father than their mother, and closer to their father than they are to each other.  When their father falls ill he makes his daughters promise him to make their mother tell the fairy tale in its entirety.  They don’t understand why but their father believes the story is the key to understanding their mother, the woman he truly loves.

Their mother agrees and tells the story in bits and pieces over various nights, and always told in the dark.  As the story unfolds the truth of Anya’s past life in Russia is revealed and the truth will forever change Anya, her daughters, their relationships with each other and their loved ones, as well as their own outlook on life.

Winter Garden is a devastating and haunting story.  It made me want to hug my family tightly and be grateful for my own life’s path.  This is a heart-wrenching and beautifully told story about family secrets, relationships between mothers and daughters, war, of love lost and found and the triumph of the human spirit.

After reading The Nightingale (also heart-wrenching) and now Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah is clearly my new favorite author.  Her writing is beautiful, moving and insightful.  The ending of this book blew me away.  My mouth dropped open and my heart was in my throat.  I was emotionally drained and reaching for the tissues.  I highly recommend this book.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Review

The Lies Of Locke Lamora

Rating: 4.5 stars

Locke Lamora is a liar, hence the title of the book.  He is also an orphan and a thief, a well-trained thief.  We meet him when he is six or seven years old, and follow him through to adulthood amid a fantastical underbelly world of thieves, killers, organized crime and magic.

I had read rave reviews about this book and expected to be sucked in right away, but after reading the first 90 pages I did not understand all the hype.  I found the beginning to be, frankly, not interesting.  I actually thought I might not finish the book.  Then an unexpected event occurred . . . the story picked up and I was finally hooked.

There are twists and turns to the plot that kept me interested in finding out what happens next.  Locke Lamora’s story is told in both the past and present.  Locke’s past history is revealed in various chapters called “Interludes”.  The author takes his time fleshing out Locke’s character and the world around him.  This world has the feel of a very dark and mystical Victorian Venice, Italy.

None of the characters in this book are your typical heroes.  They are crooks and scammers trying to best each other, yet you root for Locke and his family of rogues because they are the main characters and you are expected to.  I was surprised when I found myself rooting for Locke.  Imagine the Artful Dodger was the main character of Oliver Twist.  You would be rooting for him instead of Oliver Twist.  It is a strange feeling but that’s what happened.

I kept expecting a romantic storyline as well but there is only a brief mention of the one female member of Locke’s roguish family and his love interest, but she is off somewhere far away.  Hopefully she is introduced in the sequels.  Scott Lynch did a wonderful job creating and describing the dark fantasy world of this story.  I also loved the ending.  I found it satisfying as well as peaking my curiosity for the second book of this series.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 2

Rating: 4 stars

I found the 8th installment to be a fun and fast read. I enjoyed being immersed in the wizarding world of Harry Potter again. This story focuses on the next generation of wizards, specifically Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. These two sons of famous nemeses form an unlikely friendship during their first year at Hogwarts. The play fast forwards time quickly through their years at Hogwarts while also presenting the reader with each sons’ difficult relationship with their fathers. Harry Potter, the beloved orphan-turned-wizard hero who everyone loves has difficulty bonding with his middle son. What an overwhelming reputation for a son to live up to! Scorpius has to deal with his own problems and devious rumors that make him an outcast as well. The friendship between Albus and Scorpius plays out nicely and leads to a fun and eye opening adventure that causes many problems to be solved.

As much as I liked this book, I felt it was a fast read and left more to be desired. I missed the detailed descriptions of the wizarding world that I loved in the original books. This book/play moves faster and doesn’t have the same attention to detail.  Then again, it is a script and not a novel.   But that shouldn’t stop anyone from reading this book. I loved the way the angst of being a teenager and parenting a teenager was played out. The story still focuses on friendship, courage, and love, which was so much a part of the previous books. I would recommend this story to all Potter fans, who I am sure have already finished it! I do hope to see the play one day.

I do want to point out that although I gave this book and Illuminae both 4 stars, I did so for very different reasons.  Illuminae got 4 stars because of its presentation and ability to evoke such despair, normally something I don’t look for in the books I read.  This book got 4 stars because it was so much fun and I really enjoyed reading it.  I couldn’t put it down and felt good when I was finished reading.

Illuminae book review

Illuminae

Rating: 4 stars

Let me begin by saying I am not much of a Sci Fi fan.  I used to be a fan of horror novels, although as I’ve gotten older I’ve had a harder time stomaching them.  I do love romance novels, especially those that involve time travel and historical fiction.  Illuminae is a YA Sci Fi/Horror/ Romance novel that I discovered on a booktube channel.  The reviewer had mentioned the cool formatting, so when I saw it in the bookstore I flipped through it and immediately understood what they were talking about.  I had to read it.

This is not your typical novel formatting.  The events in the story have already taken place and are told through various documents: files, text messages, interviews, transcripts, maps, etc.  I really loved how they did this because for me this made the story unfold like a real officially documented event and added a technical sci-fi feel that was appropriate to the story.

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are 18 year olds who just broke up.  They are living in 2575 on Kerenza, an illegally settled colony on another planet.  Kerenza is attacked by BeiTech Corporation and many inhabitants escape via three different space ships.  Kady and Ezra wind up on different ships and a lot of the dialogue is of the two communicating with each via messages.  Meanwhile, the three ships are being chased by a BeiTech warship that is trying to destroy them in order to do away with  any evidence of the Kerenza attack.  Also, one of the three escaping ships has an AI, artificial intelligent computer, that has a mind of its own and needs to be dealt with.  Add to this a virus that was released during the Kerenza attack and turns many of the survivors into zombie like killing machines.

Normally I would give this book less than four stars because I found the story line making me quite depressed.  The plot is pretty much about destruction, depression, and death.  While the authors fit in a  young romantic story line between Kady and Ezra, it is still pretty bleak.  But it earned four stars for those very same reasons.  The presentation was so realistic and evoked such depression and despair, that I had to give it some kudos for that.

This is the 1st book in a series.  It is 608 pages but because of its formatting it is a very fast read.  I will continue to read this series to see how it ends, but I hope the next book is more uplifting.