Malin’s #CBR5 Review #155: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

My penultimate book of the year, and the final book in my 2013 Bingo Card. Louisa “Lou” Clark loses her job as a cafe and has to take a job as a care assistant for a rich playboy adventurer who’s ended up paraplegic in a wheelchair after an accident. He’s absolutely vile to her at first, but they gradually develop a friendship and an understanding. Then Lou realises that he plans to travel to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide at the end of her six month contract, and decides she needs to change his mind.

Full review.

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Malin’s #CBR5 Review #150: Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

Zel lives in a remote cottage in the mountains with Mother. The only time she sees other people is twice a year, when they go to Market in the nearest town, quite some distance away. While Zel finds the people, bustle and excitement of town life exhilarating, Mother insists that they have everything that they need in their little home, and warns her daughter away from strangers. Yet Zel dreams of a different life, of some day having a husband and children and a home of her own. Just before her thirteenth birthday, she meets a beautiful young man with a spirited horse, and she can’t seem to get him out of her mind.

Konrad, the young count, is also unable to forget the young girl he met in the marketplace, and who seemed to almost magically calm his horse. Even when his parents try to arrange suitable marriages for him with lovely young maidens, he refuses, riding around the countryside trying to find out where the mysterious Zel can be found.

Mother grows anxious and worried when Zel mentions the pretty young man, and claims that there are bad people out there who want to harm them. She takes Zel to an abandoned tower, a fair distance from even their remote cottage, and before Zel realises entirely what is going on, she is trapped high above ground, with no way of escaping, with Mother on the ground, saying she will keep the bad people away. Zel’s hair starts growing at a furious rate, until she can pull Mother in and out of the tower with it. Lonely and distressed, the young girl dreams about the young man, and tries to while away the months and years of her imprisonment. She’s fairly sure she’s gone entirely mad, when one day there is a call for her to let down her hair, and count Konrad climbs in instead of Mother.

This is a short read, and an interesting retelling of the story of Rapunzel. Some of the chapters are narrated in third person, and show Zel and Konrad’s point of views. The ones from Mother’s POV are in first person, making her account the most personal of the three, and making the reader empathise more with her, even as she’s the nominal villain of the story. The witch who forced a young couple to give away their child in return for the Rapunzel salad they had stolen from her garden, who locks the girl in a tall tower to keep her away from all others – Mother is more than this here. A frustrated and intelligent woman given a tempting choice, incredible power over all growing things in return for a soul she might not even believe she has, who finds herself barren and alone, willing to do anything to gain a child, and who loves that child so much that she’s determined to do anything to keep her, even if it means making the girl possibly hate her. Mother can’t bear to lose her beloved daughter, but when it becomes clear that she may have caused her more harm than good, she makes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure her daughter’s eventual happiness.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #146: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Disclaimer! Disney Hyperion granted me an ARC of this through NetGalley in return for a fair review.

Much as I love the colours and the lush quality of the cover for this book (my husband disagrees with me, he thinks it’s dreadful), it doesn’t actually give a very realistic portrayal of what the book is about. It’s not really floating about in space in a ball gown (but the gown does exist, and Lilac does spend a substantial amount of the story wearing it), or even Titanic in space, as I saw it described elsewhere (although there are obvious nods to the film). So if you’re hoping for that, you may want to adjust your expectations before going in.

Boy meets girl on board the most expensive intergalactic cruise liner in the known universe. Boy and girl have a connection. The next time boy and girl meet, girl viciously rejects boy in front of her friends. Boy is deeply hurt, but this doesn’t stop him from helping her to an escape pod when something goes horribly wrong and the ship they’re on is wrenched out of hyperspace and needs to be evacuated. Boy and girl crash escape pod on nearby planet, and have to make their way across the deserted and sometimes dangerous planet with hardly any supplies, hoping to be rescued.

Our boy is Tarver Mendenson, an 18-year-old officer heavily decorated in the recent war and given special privileges aboard the Icarus because he’s become a poster boy for the army. He’s from a humble background, and not really comfortable in the opulent surroundings and among the wealthy passengers in the first class areas. Our girl is Lilac LaRoux, daughter of the richest man in the universe. Her father owns the Icarus (as well as much of the known universe), and Lilac has learned the hard way that young men who show any kind of interest in her have a nasty way of disappearing. She finds it charming and amazing that Tarver doesn’t know who she is when they first meet, but has to dissuade him from ever talking to her again, lest he find himself suddenly deployed to the front line of another war zone before he knows what hit him. She can’t tell him this, however, and by the time their escape pod crashes, he thinks she’s a spoiled and callous space princess (while mysteriously adept at mechanics) and just wants to be rid of her as quickly as possible.

More on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #126: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna Oliphant doesn’t want to go to school in Paris. She’s not sure why her father (who basically seems to be a thinly veiled parody of Nicholas Sparks) has enrolled her in a boarding school there. She had perfectly nice life in Atlanta with her mum and little brother, a great best friend, a very promising crush on one of the guys she works with at the local multiplex. Now she’s a continent away from everyone she loves, surrounded by clever and cool teenagers who all know the school really well. She doesn’t even speak French! Then she meets Étienne St. Clair, who is helpful, generous, charming, smart and gorgeous. Of course, he has a girlfriend. And even if he didn’t, her new friend Meredith also obviously has a crush on him. So Anna is unlikely to experience any French kissing from him, right?

Now, at the start of the book, I was torn between wanting to slap some sense into Anna, and give her a hug. Her excessive whining that her pompous, somewhat emotionally unavailable, but very rich father has see fit to send her to a posh boarding school in Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is pretty much what you’d find in the dictionary as an example of first world problem. Yet at the same time, she’s never been away from home before and she’s an insecure teenage girl, and now she’s half a world away from everyone and everything she knows, in a foreign country full of culture and sophistication. It speaks to her dad’s cluelessness that he’d send his daughter to a boarding school in a country where she doesn’t even speak the language. As someone who voluntarily moved to Scotland to go to University when I was eighteen, and had some pretty big culture shocks, I can understand and symphatise, because Anna’s situation is so much scarier.

Full review on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #125: The Native Star by M.K Hobson

In an alternate Civil War America where magic not only exists, but is changing the world. Warlocks train as elite enforcers for the government, and there are all manner of glorious new inventions helped along by magic. Miss Emily Edwards is a witch living in rural Sierra Nevada, trying to compete against the shiny promises of mail order patent magics. Her adopted father, who taught her everything she knows, is now blind, and they’re facing starvation and possibly worse unless Emily comes up with something clever soon. In her desperation, she casts a love spell on the most prosperous settler in town, but it backfires badly, and when she finds herself with a magical stone embedded in her hand, she’s forced to leave town quickly before she’s driven out.

Reluctantly accepting the aid of the pompous and and condescending college-trained New York warlock Dreadnought Stanton (who was sent to Emily’s little town for unknown reasons), Emily finds herself pursued by several different factions of warlocks, all wanting the magical artifact she carries. They travel from San Francisco across the country, with their straits becoming more and more dire and their enemies more ruthless the closer they get to New York.

Full review on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #123: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

This is the third and final book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy, and as such, it’s not where you want to start reading the series. The first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the place to begin. This review will inevitably contain spoilers for the previous two books in the series, and will also, in part, be my review of the series as a whole.

The Bitter Kingdom starts where The Crown of Embers ended, with young queen regent Elisa’s kingdom on the brink of civil war, and her Captain of the Guard (and the man she’d finally admitted that she loved and decided to marry) taken hostage by soldiers from neighbouring Invierno, who want the Godstone in her belly and are using Hector as bait to get her to follow them into their country. Accompanied by only a former freedom fighter/assassin, her lady in waiting and a failed Invierno sorcerer, Elisa needs to catch up with the soldiers, rescue Hector, figure out what is actually going on with the Invierno sorcerers, and find a way to defeat the rebellious nobles who are trying to destabilise her country and usurp her throne.

Full review on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #120: Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

3.5 stars

Carly works the evening shift as a cook at a small cafe, so she can spend her days surfing. She’s estranged from her family, and dropped out of university, and keeps herself mostly to herself. The thing she can’t tell her family is that surfing is the only thing that makes sense to her anymore, and that helps her not to dwell on the incident after her high school graduation two years ago, when she got drunk, separated from her friends, and woke up in a strange apartment having been raped by three strangers. Carly doesn’t want to be a victim, and telling people about rape, always makes them pity and see you in a different light – so she doesn’t talk about it, and she allows no one to get close.

While Carly may want to stay isolated, there are people around her who want to get closer. Hannah, a Dutch woman estranged from her husband,lives upstairs from her (but has to keep using her shower because her plumbing is bad) and tries to take Carly salsa dancing and makes her breakfast. Danny, a persistent kid she meets while surfing has synesthesia and won’t leave her alone, even when the colour he sees her as is occasionally unpleasant. He keeps wanting to hang out and discuss surfing movies, and persuades Carly to get him a part time job at the cafe. Lastly, there is Ryan, who stands out from some of the crowd of macho surfer dudes. He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s just out of jail, and that he’d like a chance to get to know Carly better. He wants to turn his life around into something better, and if Carly will let him, he wants her to be a part of that life. The question is if Carly is ready to let him in?

More on my blog.