Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mini Reviews: A Thousand Pieces of You - Claudia Gray; Clariel - Garth Nix; Snow Like Ashes - Sara Raasch; and more

Finally! A mini review round-up of three October/November releases. I still have four more review books to go and then maybe I'll have caught up! No more review titles after that until January! AHHHHHHHHHH. Check below the cut for reviews of A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, Clariel by Garth Nix, and Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, fall science fiction and fantasy titles that seem quite popular with a lot of my fellow bloggers. My thoughts on them are a tad more complicated than usual. Also, you can read about the books I'm currently reading, books that I've read and won't review, and book reviews still to come.

A Thousand Pieces of You - Claudia Gray | Goodreads
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Published by: HarperTeen

Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

  • I've been a fan of Claudia Gray's work for a while. I read the entire Evernight series and got to bond with one of my best friends from college over them. I also read her Titantic retelling. Sadly, though, I liked this book less than I liked her other work. Mostly because I felt like I could predict a majority of what was happening/going to happen in this book, with the exception of one plot twist.
  • Firstly, I'd say forget the comparison to Every Day and Cloud Atlas. I haven't read Cloud Atlas, but it seems weird to compare a YA title to an adult one (though everyone seems to do that for Game of Thrones and y'all might know how I feel about that comparison). Also, Every Day seems a lot more literary oriented in the sense that it's concerned more with the questions it's posing than here, where Marguerite is possessing a new version of herself through time as result of moving forward with the plot and plot-based questions (who murdered her father? what is the aim? who trashed her parent's lab? who's interested in their research? what are other people like in different dimensions?). The reason I bring this up is because I think that fans of All Our Yesterdays would enjoy A Thousand Pieces of You and that that comparison fits more.
  • The thing I liked best about this book was the romance. I study cognitive neuroscience. I like scientists. Nerdy, masculine scientists may well be part of my type (well, if there were any like that... mostly I've seen nerdy socially awkward lean or gangly male scientists) and so using this premise for development of the romance = A+ in my books. And boy, Claudia Gray did not skimp in this book for those scenes. The tension is jam packed and beautiful. 
  • Despite liking this less than her other work, I'm still interested in where the series will go. Claudia Gray definitely researched a lot for the establishment of various worlds (an alternate tsarist Russia, a futuristic London, etc.) and that in itself shows a lot of potential. I'm curious to see what she'd come up with next.

Clariel - Garth Nix | Goodreads
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Published by: HarperCollins

Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilp. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her - and it is herself she must question most of all.

  • I was curious about this book since the lovely Jessie from Ageless Pages Reviews bought me Sabriel, the first official book in the trilogy (Clariel, from what I understand, is a prequel of sorts), and I, being a bad friend (sorry!!!!), still haven't read Sabriel. I'm glad that I had the chance to read this. I'm really interested to see how Clariel's story connects to the others in the Abhorsen trilogy (despite being told of the connection) and what other political and world intrigue Garth Nix has established. So huzzah to having Sabriel!
  • At the same time, I'm not sure that I'm reader compatible with Garth Nix's writing. There's nothing wrong with it; the book is well written... just there's too much description for me. It's true that a reader who loves high fantasy novels should want to imagine the high fantasy world and should enjoy such descriptions, but I'm more character focused and I found myself skimming a lot of the descriptions. The world-building was indeed phenomenal though. I highly enjoyed the thoughtful way that Nix had established his magic system and the Abhorsen world. I'm eager to see the Abhorsen powers in full use. As a prequel, Clariel definitely succeeded in making me curious about the other books, characters and the world beyond what I've been exposed to here. These books also definitely have that "epic" fantasy scope that seems to be a hot word in publishing as of late.
  • Clariel is also a great book for teens questioning what they want to do with their futures or who know but feel trapped by other circumstances. All Clariel wants to do is live in the forest, though that is not the future that so many others would wish for her. This book is great at tackling the question of destiny and fate, and the other forces influencing your life and how so many things can change all at once. Clariel is a great heroine to follow, determined despite not always having the power to make her own choices.

Snow Like Ashes - Sara Raasch | Goodreads
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Published by: Balzer + Bray

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

  • First, a serious question: can you like a high fantasy novel without liking its imagined world? I think that I did like this novel, but I do not like the season/rhythm aspect of the world-building. I like the magic system, I like the political intrigue, I like the heroine and some of the characters and character relationships (the romantic ones, the relationship between Sir and Meria). I like Sara Raasch's intuitive grasp of planning out cinematic action scenes (seriously, the battles and action scenes in general are done really, really well). But the seasonal focus, I was less a fan of. I was also less a fan of when the book followed the tropes of high fantasy. I predicted a good bit of this book at those times (I will remain vague so as to not spoil any bits for y'all). The best parts, in my opinion, were when Sara Raasch embraced the differences of her work from other fantasy novels, the heroine suffering and exploring various aspects of the world in believable ways that also allowed for great character development. A romantic interest from an arranged marriage which the heroine actually likes. A romance that seems to very much emphasize that the heroine and romantic interest must be equals. A love triangle that feels authentic in its origin and then in its unraveling (or so I think at this point). A heroine, who, according to the summary, is a heartbroken girl and fierce warrior without either feeling inauthentic, both meshing quite well with one another and adding layers to Meira's character development. Indeed my favorite part of this entire book was Meira as a heroine and her changing feelings. Her character development was done well.
  • This book will appeal to fans of Shadow and Bone. It has a similar mix of romance, focus on plot and character development within the world as well as an almost similar way for how the heroine is tested and comes to her realizations. Both heroines start off ordinary and both develop into beautiful young women who are great role models (and/or just authentically struggling role models) for the target teen audience. The books are not character-focused in the way of Graceling, but the heroines are the stand-outs of both books, in my opinion. (The original Graceling meets Game of Thrones comparison, I disagree with, though this book will have a changing political landscape in the way of Game of Thrones, I guess).

Besides those books I have read and am currently reading some others!

Currently reading:
  • The Darkest Minds - Action-packed, romantic dystopian thriller in which the main character is sent to a rehabilitation camp after surviving a deadly disease that left her (and other children) with psychic powers and then discovers things (vague, I know). I was a part of the promotion team for In the Afterlight, the third and final book in the trilogy, and so I finally decided to read the books. I think my favorite part thus far is Ruby's emotional development, the way Alexandra Bracken explores her sad childhood, how she survived at camp, and how she learns to open up afterwards. I'm about 200 pages in, though bad me has kind of already skimmed ahead o.O (I'll still finish it though!).
  • In a Handful of Dust - Companion sequel to Not a Drop to Drink. A futuristic dystopia in which people fight over the scarce supply of water. Reminiscent of a YA On the Road (Cormac McCarthy). I was a fan of Not a Drop to Drink because of its harshness and the sparse prose, the evocative setting and also how eerily ... possible the future Mindy McGinnis imagined was. I mean, what if deadly diseases and high medicinal costs make water that scarce? A good part of the world already has that experience. Anyway I'm glad to be back in McGinnis's world, with these hardened characters and more to come. I'm about 27% into the book. Maybe I'll have more to update soon?
Books I won't review that I've read:
  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - Oh, God. Book That Made Me Cry. I had no idea what this book was about before reading it. I wouldn't have listened to the audiobook if I had because as y'all know, I'm still grieving over the suicide of one of my best friends. I don't even know *how* I feel about the book and the main character. All I will say is this: raw and painful and definitely recommended. I'm going to read more of Matthew Quick's books.
  • Paper Towns - I liked this more than The Fault in Our Stars, which is the only other John Green book that I've read. I liked this less than I was hoping, but having read it, I do also understand why John Green's books (and this one in particular) are so popular. This one is going to make for a good movie, especially with the road trip and the night of adventure with Margo Roth Spiegelman. Also, if you are interested, the audiobook is really good. (So is the Forgive Me Leonard Peacock one).
  • Linger - I read Shiver so, so long ago. I've had Linger and Forever on my bookshelf for soooo long. I started Linger and then got distracted by something else and gosh, I'm so glad to finally have gotten back to the series. I love Maggie Stiefvater's writing. It's perfect for fall and cold weather. The narrators are perfect. I listened to this while exercising, while walking along the rainy streets of New Jersey and it was wonderful. (Thanks to Jen for the recommendation!)
  • The Book of Imaginary Beings - So, so, so charming and wonderful. I LOVE this book. I bought it a few years back from the Strand and I knew that I would love it when I finally got to it and BAM! I read "The Book of Sand" for one of my English Lit classes in college and I loved Borges's writing and I loved his commentary in this novel just the same. I wish I knew half as much about world mythology and fantastical creatures as Borges did.
  • A Brief History of Time - I would not recommend the audiobook. The sound quality was rather poor. Even with my volume turned all the way up, headphones in, I could barely hear the narrator with all things considered. Sometimes I heard him turning the pages. There was that static noise that comes from when you've got speakers on but aren't listening to anything. It was weird and distracting and so strange because this book has sold over 10 million copies (thank you, The Theory of Everything, for that information) and I'm surprised the audiobook was like this. Anywho, this was my second attempt at listening to a Stephen Hawking audiobook and I've failed again. Astrophysics, alas, is too complicated for me and audiobooks, especially since I don't like to rewind at all, sooooo.... basically I should consider it as if I've skimmed this book (and The Grand Design).
  • Imaginary Girls - This was the first pick for my new NYC/NJ book club and I really liked Nova Ren Suma's writing (yay for her upcoming release, The Walls Around Us). I've been meaning to read this for AGES. I actually liked the way the magical realism was handled too, because I don't like having all the answers when there's such a delicious atmosphere. I liked the way Suma also explored the sisterly bond between Ruby and Chloe. It's strange to say that I liked individual elements of the book and not the book itself, though, huh?
Reviews still to come:
  • The Vanishing Season - I started to read this when I was first moving back in June/July. I can't tell if my lack of enthusiasm to return to the title has to do with that and me not reading the beginning properly or me being unenthusiastic about being behind on review titles or what. Everyone besides me seemed to love Tiger Lily, Jodi Lynn Anderson's previous title, and sometimes I wonder whether I ought to reread that book. That's why I wanted to read this, her latest book. Maybe that's also a contributing factor. I don't like being the black sheep or even thinking about going back to reread a book.
  • The Vault of Dreamers - I loved Caragh O'Brien's Birthmarked trilogy and I'm looking forward to delving into this! It's gotten pushed behind other titles because I don't want to start reading it when I'm in the wrong mood.
  • Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel - When I was in the Strand some months back, I picked up Sara Farizan's If You Could Be Mine. I liked the writing a lot, but I had limited space for books in my bag and couldn't get it. So, now I'm off to try her latest title.
  • The Cure for Dreaming - Everyone raves about Cat Winters. I'm looking forward to reading this one! It's got such an interesting premise and cover.
What do you think? Have you read any of these books? Will you give them a shot if you haven't? Let's discuss!


  1. Yey, I just finished All Our Yesterdays last month and quite enjoyed it and I just bought A Thousand Pieces :D

  2. Yay!!! I hope you enjoy ATPoY :D :D. Let me know how it compares to your experience with AoY!

  3. A Thousand Pieces…I really liked it, but the romance is actually what I'm a bit iffy about. The one happened too fast and then the whole the other one being aware of what was happening when he was in the body…ewwww. That was so weird. I did like the whole soul thing and how similar or different the people were and what your responsibility was when you were in the other person's body…pretty sure she shouldn't have done some of the things she did. Maybe that's where some of the comparisons came from? That can be thought provoking.

    And I also really liked Snow Like Ashes. I actually liked the season thing because it seemed different to me. I'm loving high fantasy right now so it hit all of the right buttons for me.

    The Darkest Minds!!!!! I can't believe you skimmed ahead. Did you read the ending already? It. Broke. My. Heart. How great that you can binge-read the series because having to wait in between books killed me, I have to say. The last book is excellent and a great series ender, by the way. Didn't disappoint at all.

    Great mini-reviews! ~Pam

  4. All our yesterdays sounds like a much better comparison for A thousand pieces of you than the ones they mentioned now (I haven't read them, but that's based on the reviews I've seen) I liked the various worlds and the concept, even when there seem to be some flaws. I'm curious about the sequel (and hopefully it has a gorgeous cover like that one)

    I don't see Graceling in Snow like ashes. It does Graceling injustice in my opinion. While I liked many aspects of Snow like ashes, the book didn't seem to come together and I missed a connection with it.

    I loved In a handful of dust! I still don't know what my favorite book is from the duology, they both provide something else. I lovelovelove Tiger Lily, but the vanishing season disappointed me. The cure for dreaming was GREAT. I hope you like it as much as I did :)

  5. The one that happened too fast -- you mean the one we're told is there from the start? I'd agree, but then I thought that person wasn't right to begin with. Unless you mean the two versions of the same person?

    I don't know that I thought it was weird about him being aware of it happening. She was aware the entire time, so it seems weird to think about him not being aware. The ethical questions are strange there. I guess that is where the Every Day comparison comes from. She probably should not have done some of the things she did either, but seemed pretty realistic to a teen (which sounds degrading, but teen me, while not applicable to all teens, prolly would've done similar things).

    I loooooove high fantasy and I do agree that the season elements are different from most other YA fantasies, but I also thought that that led to some of its predictability, like the whimsical nature of spring and cold winter being warriors, etc. etc.

    Hahahahahah, yeah I skimmed ahead because I didn't want to stay up the entire night reading the book and I was invested already. I don't remember the ending so PHEW (except for it being heart-breaking o.O). I'm really looking forward to binge reading the series! I'm reading it with a friend, so I had to stop and let her catch up to me (because 200 pages when I was supposed to be at like 90, lol, well... yeaaah).

    Thanks, Pam :).

  6. That does seem to be an issue with a lot of comparisons (especially this year, though, with TFIOS and Rainbow Rowell and SO many big time authors and books getting cited everywhere!). Sounds like we agreed on A Thousand Pieces of You too. I also missed a connection with Snow Like Ashes and liked In a Handful of Dust. Both books in that duology did provide different aspects to the story, but were linked rather nicely. Yay!! I'm looking forward to The Cure for Dreaming :).

  7. I've been seeing a lot about CLARIEL. Good to see your input on it.

    You soooo need to get to John Green's other books. When you can, of course. :) AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES is my favorite, but I love them all.

    LINGER is coming up on my list. I checked it out from the library so I have to read it soon. It's been two years since I read SHIVER so I hope I remember what I need to.

    I have also been meaning to read IMAGINARY GIRLS for forever. And TELL ME AGAIN HOW A CRUSH SHOULD FEEL is an interesting title. Can't wait to see your thoughts.

  8. Mmm, yeah. There's a lot of talk about that series because it's one of those old popular fantasies. Even my brother - who rarely "condescends" to read YA - had tried out Sabriel, which I find kinda impressive.

    Haha, I started listening to Looking for Alaska before I left for vacation, but then it was too cold for me to care about listening to books. Katherines is your favorite? I think that's my best friend's favorite too. Why? Subject? Characters?

    I hope you like Linger! That series is still my least favorite of all of Maggie's books, and I feel like there's less plot to remember so you should be good, but if you aren't, here's a summary of Shiver: http://recaptains.blogspot.com/2014/04/shiver-by-maggie-stiefvater.html.

    Ah, yes. Soon I'll be reading that book.... maybe... ha, I'll let you know if you're still interested... Instead of Imaginary Girls, maybe you could check out her most recent title, coming up in March, The Walls Around Us?


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