Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge [thoughts]

Cruel Beauty coverCruel Beauty by Roasmund Hodge
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Release Date: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe

Goodreads description: Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

I decided to read Cruel Beauty  because I enjoy retellings and it was getting crazy amounts of praise among bloggers I follow. I don’t think I knew about the mythology factor much beforehand, but that would have made me want to read it more.

Nyx is a princess type person (I don’t remember her father’s title) and she has been brought up to marry an evil ruler person who is monstrous. There’s a plan for her to murder him and free the land but things get complicated. The Goodreads summary for this one seems pretty spot on.

I have mixed feelings about this one. I liked a lot of the world building. It was based on a lot of Greek/Roman ideas and I think (I don’t have the book with me right now, I read it on Overdrive) it’s almost like an AU of somewhere in Greece. I loved the house and how it changed, but I wasn’t completely sure about all the seals and magic that was supposed to be used. I loved other magical things, and the use of mythology. I thought it added a lot of depth to the story.

I loved how selfish Nyx was, and that she wasn’t just dying to be the hero. She wanted a life that was her own, and not having a choice really bothered her. She let herself be afraid and she didn’t force herself to be strong at every single moment. I liked that, it was different from some YA heroines. She wasn’t completely hateful and unlikable, she felt guilt and love, but I understood where all her negative feelings were coming from. It’s okay to not be the perfect girl that wants to fall in line and do everything you’re told, well-behaved women and all that. I also liked Nyx and Ignifex’s relationship, it was antagonistic. She was sent in with a mission but it was easily confused. It seemed like it was fun for her to get to know someone that was completely different, and she enjoyed getting to know him and arguing with him, even knowing that he was…evil.

I did not care for how Nyx’s family worked at all. I was on Nyx’s side, and when she started to feel guilty about her selfishness, I wanted to yell at her. Some of the fire in her attitude seemed to fizzle at the first sight of a sprinkle. She was too easily swayed one way or the other, and it annoyed me. There is one big decision in the book that really made me frown and felt disappointing for me. I don’t think it would be as annoying to everyone else, though. The ending was something else I didn’t love, or maybe not what happened but certain circumstances, but again, I’m not sure it would bother anyone else the same way it bothered me.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about Cruel Beauty, but I did enjoy it. It’s a difficult decision whether this gets a 3 or a 3.5 but I think I could possibly want to reread it at some point, so I’m going with 3.5. And I believe, from how the series seems on Goodreads, that there might be more stories in this world but not exactly a series. I’m not completely sure, but I plan to read more by the author. I recommend it if you love retellings, strong girls that don’t just fall into place, and feisty relationships. Goodreads average rating: 3.82.

Roasmund Hodge‘s website and twitter!

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund [thoughts]

Across a Star-Swept Sea coverAcross a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
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Release Date: October 15th 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #2, companion novel that can stand alone

Goodreads description: Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.

Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.

Across a Star-Swept Sea was on my fall TBR (and yes I’m still working on that!) because I liked For Darkness Shows the Stars. I actually have a post drafted for FDStS but my thoughts were messy and it never really evolved into a publishable review. Hopefully this one will be better!

This book is set in the same post-apocalyptic world as For Darkness Shows the Stars, where there have been wars that reset the population. Genetically modified foods (and I think other genetic modifications) altered human development and caused the Reduced, people who are mentally handicapped. People that abstained from the modifications and are unaffected are generally in power.

In Across a Star-Swept Sea, I will completely admit some of the politics kind of confused me. But, the story is based on the Scarlet Pimpernel, so think French Revolution-ish. Persis Blake is a wealthy friend of the Princess of a Albion, and the island of Galatea is in a state of revolution where the oppressed cured Reduced are now lashing out at anyone that had power, or anyone related to anyone that had power, in vicious ways. Persis Blake interferes with this as Wild Poppy. Justen is a medic from Galatea and doesn’t agree with what is happening, even though he’s grown up on the side that is currently in power. He goes to Albion for help/asylum and meets Persis, who purposely appears to be vapid and flaky. They pretend to be in a relationship. There are a whole lot of aspects to this story that are just really difficult for me to summarize quickly.

I liked Persis! She was smart and self-sacrificing. She worked hard to make a difference and help others. She wasn’t perfect, which made her interesting and realistic. She was also snarky and witty. Justen was interesting, but I don’t feel like I got to know him very well as a character. He was nice and wanted to help people, too. I liked their romance and wanted things to work out, but I didn’t feel extremely invested. I think it just needed more of them spending actual time together for me to feel like it was OMG amazing. I did think they were cute, but I needed more depth.

“Love was magma, shooting from the Earth. It had the potential to form pillars of rock that would last for a thousand years or plumes of ash that choked the sky.”

I already mentioned that there was a bit of confusion. I think that maybe some of the terms used might have been slightly confusing. I think the history of the islands and political groups needed more details, or at least details put together differently. But mainly it seemed to boil down to people not in power wanting power, people in power abusing power, and some people trying to fix things.

There was also a lot of medical stuff and genetic stuff going on that was both interesting and sometimes confusing. There’s a cure for the Reduced but the cure sometimes leads to another sickness. The people of Albion have palm ports, which are kind of like smart phones but are a part of the body, and they have to eat certain things to have energy to use them. They also have genetically engineered animals! Creepy but also cool.

There were also some interesting gender issues going on. I think the society and world operates on a patriarchal system, but a lot of people don’t agree with it. Some people seem to just accept it and others kind of go around it. It wasn’t just that that was the issue though, but the characters discussed the issue. I loved the discussion of it, and that the characters were realizing so many problems in their world and that was one of them.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed Across a Star-Swept Sea! It kept me entertained and wanting more. I think it’s one I could probably read again at some point, too! I’m not sure if there are going to be more books set in this world, but I kind of hope so. It’s odd and can be slightly confusing, but I do like it. I do think the characters could use a bit of depth, and I think the romance could use a little bit more. I think you might like Across a Star-Swept Sea if you like dashing lady heroes in disguise and intelligent characters!

Diana Peterfreund‘s website and twitter!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth [book review]

The Miseducation of Cameron Post coverThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: February 7th 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules

I chose The Miseducation of Cameron Post randomly (like I choose so many of my reads) because it was a really hot day and I was tired of looking at the library. I had no clue what it was about.

I am really not sure how to review this book, and I feel like I say that all the time lately, sorry. There were moments in this book that I really enjoyed, and there were moments that were angering and painful. I felt so much for Cameron, and I was extremely invested in her story. I didn’t love the book, but I think it was important.

I liked Cameron Post as a character. She is dealing with the loss of her parents, the introduction of a new family system, the development of her personality and sexuality, and school and friends all at the same time. When her parents die, she’s relieved because they won’t know she likes girls. After that, she lives with her aunt and her grandmother. She kind of gets away with a lot for a while. She hangs out with a group of guys, she swims and she runs track. She watches tons of movies and connects with a girl from out of state who kind of helps her learn about certain things.

Her aunt, her main legal guadian, is extremely religious. She makes Cameron go to church with her, which leads to even more confusion and a lot of guilt. Cameron has to worry about people finding out about how she feels and not knowing if it’s right or wrong. She goes through different stages in dealing with her own acceptance of her sexuality.

Cameron faces some really heartbreaking things, and I just wanted to hug her. She’s already lost her parents, and then she has to face a lot of shit with her family and friends. She definitely gets an ugly glimpse of how awful some Christians can be about anything different, which is really disgusting. Cameron does learn a lot about herself and I liked learning with her. She was such a great character. The book has an open ending, and while I would have loved to know more about Cameron’s life, I think it fit the book pretty well.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a haunting look at how GLBT/LGBT teens can be treated. It is upsetting and uplifting. There were parts I enjoyed and parts that were difficult to push through. It wasn’t exactly an enjoyable read for me overall, but I’m glad I read it! I definitely think it’s a worth a read. I wouldn’t really want to read it again, but I’d happily read anything else by Emily M. Danforth in the future. You should check out The Miseducation of Cameron Post if you like a realistic look of what GLBT (or LGBT?) teens deal with in intolerant families and religions.

Check out Emily M. Danforth‘s website and twitter!