Princess of Thorns

by Stacey Jay

Cover Beauty Score: 4 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Sleeping Beauty's happily ever after never really came about and she sacrifices herself so her daughter, Aurora, can escape their kingdom which has been taken over by evil soul sucking ogres. Ten years later, Aurora becomes a warrior and a hero in her own right as she travels across the lands, trying to raise an army to save her brother from the evil ogre prophecy. Along the way, she enlists the aid of a Swan Prince that has a few problems of his own, pretending to be a boy to help her win the support of those she meets - because who would follow a woman into war?

My Reaction: This book was fabulous! I fell in love with Jay's writing when I read Of Beast and Beauty (read that review here), and I can't believe I forgot how amazing it is. Seriously, this book blew me out of the water and it was freaking awesome! The beauty of the writing along with a nearly flawless storyline makes it hop right up into my top ten favorite book list quite easily.

The thing I like most about Jay's writing is the dark beauty of it - her ability to create a poetic type of prose that captivates a semantic junkie like myself all while weaving a dark fairy tale style with a modern young adult flair... it is the kind of book I would love to be able to write someday. Just take a look at this:

Beyond the city the feeding hills loom like giants... They are monsters in dusty white hats, dressed in humorless gray robes of evergreen trees.

or this:

"And if you neither care for her nor lust after her... then you'll look straight past her. Like a shadow on the ground."

or this

I remember pulling away to watch the spark to fade from his eyes, sucked away like smoke up a chimney after the fire is put out, leaving nothing but an empty hearth, waiting for me to fill it.

This book is filled with gems of imagery and breathtaking descriptions - so much that the book securely stands out in your mind and the world building is executed perfectly. I've heard that some reviews say this book is slow - although I think that opinion is born from a lack of appreciation of her descriptions.

That's not to say the dialogue isn't superb, because it is! In this book especially, Aurora and Niklaas really bounce off each other perfectly. The speech is witty and bouncy and flows through your mind as eloquently as if you were watching it on screen. The combination of it all makes it one superb example of a great Young Adult novel.

And getting to the plot - I'm usually a pretty harsh judge on this kind of thing, but there was seriously little, if anything, that I would change. The characters were well developed and both changed greatly from beginning to end. I read a review that mentioned Jay went into too much detail of minor characters... um... what? It was pretty much perfect in my mind. The romance between Aurora and Niklaas was freaking fabulous and their characters were perfectly matched - they had chemistry out the roof! I waited in anticipation for each quarrel they would have, eager to see what they would yell at each other about next.

And no one has really ever done a bad job at the whole "I'm a girl pretending to be a boy for my safety (or some other such craziness) and I've fallen in love with a guy that thinks I'm just his best friend." I mean... there's a reason Shakespeare wrote it first - that is an excellent plot to go with! The anticipation of Niklaas discovering the truth gives you a bundle of tension that carries their love story through and gives you a great deal of conflict for the reveal.

That being said, Princess of Thorns has a decidedly open feminist message. And usually I HATE those, because they're always too forceful or angry - but this was beautiful. It was an eye opener and made me think about the subject instead of just getting pissed off at the author for injecting a political undertone in the story. I haven't seen such a graceful approach to the topic of a woman that's a hero without apologizing for it since Buffy. That, Stacey Jay, is a serious compliment. I just compared you to Joss Whedon.

The only tiny wee itty bitty little thing I might suggest could have been different is to have seen the resolution of Ekeeta's story. When things converge at the end and the shit hits the fan, we never are really given a glimpse into her personal resolution of her side of things, which feels a little off kilter since the reader is seeing things through her pov for a portion of the book. I feel like it might have been there at one point, but then was cut? Anyways, it would have helped dramatically in tidying up the loose ends. The theme of forgiveness was powerful, and I feel this would have only made it more so.

All in all, I could write about this book for days on end. It was amazing and a great piece of fiction that I'm so proud to have on my shelves. After talking about it practically nonstop over my Christmas vacation, I'm sure my family will be glad that I finally finished it and can now shut up about it. But you, dear reader... if you haven't read it yet? Go and get a copy now! What are you waiting for?!
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Stitching Snow

by R.C. Lewis

Cover Beauty Score: 10 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Essie is a girl that lives on a frozen mining planet, helping the locals with their productivity by engineering 7 mining drones that have far superior intelligence than any other AI that has been created so far. After a ship crash lands on the planet, Essie must hide her identity from the all too attractive Dane - a guy with his own secrets that came to the frozen mining planet from his own wealthy one in search of something secretive. Essie helps repair the ship, and ultimately starts a chain of events that will force her out of hiding and back into the forefront of a war that has ravaged the neighboring planets for years. Think Snow White in space.

My Reaction: Dang, that cover is beautiful. I mean really. Look at it! The digital format doesn't do it justice... I mean when I picked this puppy up in the book store my eyes were salivating! All that swirly feminine circuit board detailing is embossed and shiny and beautiful. Seriously, the most creative and pretty cover I've seen lately. I think it's my first 10/10 cover beauty score.

I thought I was going to fall in love with this one! I really did!!! After becoming a tad obsessed with the Lunar Chronicles, I thought for sure that I had found another winner. I mean, classic fairy tale reset in space? And it seemed darker and more serious, so I thought I could really get into and enjoy it. Which I did, to a certain point.

First, can we address how closely this plot resembles the Lunar Chronicles? (If you haven't read my reviews on those books, you can do so by clicking here). At first, I thought that this was an older book, and that Cinder had gotten all of its ideas from here. But low and behold, this book JUST came out! Like in Oct 2014 - which of course means that it had to rip off Cinder! I mean. Lost princess. Body hopping. Tomboy girl technician. Space. How close does a book have to get to another to be considered plagiarism? Because this one has to seriously be skirting the line...

Anyways, on to the substance! I really liked Essie's character. I loved her spunk and her gumption - her rough and tough attitude on her frozen planet was awesome. And she held her own in the ring with the big ol' miners. She isn't afraid to take a hit. I like that. So the story gets off the ground and as soon as Dane shows up, it really starts rolling. They have a bit of a dud meeting, but golly, as soon as he flips the tables on her, their chemistry ignites. I can really see how these characters mesh well.

The story was great - I loved the characterization and the plot was well decided upon. But ultimately, this book fell flat because of its inability to tie up its loose ends. There were so many story arches here that were never given enough time or attention. Lewis just wasn't able to follow through with her promises in terms of the emotional grab here. Not to go into too much detail, but to name a couple, Essie's relationship with her father and her coveted ability to program emotional AI were just kind of brought up and dropped. So much more could have been done here! It was one of those books that I wish I could have gotten my hands on. If Lewis had just given herself more room to expand on these plots and themes and characters... it would have been fabulous. Instead, it felt that by the end of the book, she just wanted to throw it all out there and get it over with, leaving the reader with a sinking "that's it?" feeling.

Ultimately this book has a great story to start and hits you with an intriguing bang - only to fizzle out with a sad little hiss by the end. Try it, if you'd like - at least it will look gorgeous sitting on my book shelf. ;-)
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