Size Doesn’t Matter: Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger (1)

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter: Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger (1)Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones
on July 15, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Paranormal, Adventure, Thriller
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
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The X-Men meets Ocean's Eleven in this edge-of-your-seat sci-fi adventure about a band of "super" criminals.

When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She's what's known as an illusionist...She's also a thief.

After a robbery goes awry, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow super-powered criminals on another job that most would consider too reckless. The formula for the vaccine that gave them their abilities was supposedly destroyed years ago. But what if it wasn't?

The lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race against the government that could cost them their lives.

When I picked up my ARC of Deceptive, I immediately realized I didn’t remember the characters or plot well enough to go straight into it. Since I had Illusive on hand, I decided to take the time to reread it. Illusive was ever-so-slightly less wonderful the second time, because I was noticing some odd writing quirks I missed then, but I’d still rate it somewhere from 3.5 to 4. It would definitely be a tough choice.

I pretty much stand by everything I said then. The world building is a bit odd but Lloyd-Jones makes it work. The characters have great banter. What I would add is that the third person POV is oddly distancing and jumps around in frustrating ways. After an intense scene with a bit of a cliffhanger, you’ll go to Daniel’s POV or into Ciere’s past, and that’s just so not what you want right then, which really kills momentum. However, the second half of the book doesn’t do this nearly so much and I raced through the ending.

Also, I’m pretty sure I ship Kit and Magnus even more than I did on my first read and I swear if they are not cannon I will be most put out.

Size Doesn’t Matter: Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger (1)Murder on the Disoriented Express by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Series: Adverse Effects #1.5
on June 9, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Pages: 45
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased

He's a survivor. No matter the cost.

Until he met Ciere and her crew of superpowered thieves, Alan Fiacre's life had been singularly focused on safeguarding the vaccine that changed the world. As an eidos, and reluctant heir to his father's legacy, it was his duty to ensure the formula never fell into the wrong hands. So it came as something of a shock to learn the right hands might belong to criminals.

Now Alan and Ciere are conscripted into service with the Gyr Syndicate, notorious mobsters set on taking down all of the other crime families in the United States. Their latest mission: a train heist meant to derail a covert arms deal. It will put Alan--and the formula--in more danger than he's ever faced before. But if he's learned nothing else from Ciere, it's that there's more to life than survival.

Typically, I pretend that these little novellas don’t exist, but I thought I should give them another chance, because I might be missing something. While I did enjoy “Murder on the Disoriented Express,” I don’t know that I’ll be purchasing too many novellas. It’s a cute bridge from Illusive to Deceptive, and I like that it’s setting up for my ship, but it’s also really not plot-necessary. It’s been so long since I read one that I forgot about that and how it frustrates me to spend $2 for them. So yeah, it’s good if you’re a novella person and not a miser like I am.

Size Doesn’t Matter: Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger (1)Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Published by Graphia on October 1, 2008
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 471
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...

Sadly, Graceling wasn’t as strong as I remembered. It’s weird because this is one of those books I compare others to. However, on this read, I wasn’t as impressed with the pacing or the writing as I was when I read this book back in 2009. It just didn’t command my attention as much as some of the other things I was reading, which truly shocked me.

Don’t get me wrong. I still really enjoyed Graceling, and the romance very much still held up. The concept of the graces is still masterful. Graceling will always stand out for because of the sex positivity and the fact that Katsa doesn’t want marriage or children. Graceling challenges a lot of societal norms in a really great and intentional way. There will always be a place on my shelves for Graceling, but I don’t think it’s a top favorite anymore. I’m kinda sad about this tbh, though thankfully I still liked it. It’s a dangerous business, readers, rereading your old favorites.

Size Doesn’t Matter: Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger (1)Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud
Published by Viking Juvenile on July 21, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 254
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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We Were Liars meets Heist Society in a riveting debut!

Seventeen-year-old Violet’s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again.

Violet’s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans’ lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she “reappears”—Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle.

But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor’s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut.

Pretending to Be Erica has a fabulous, vibrant narrative voice, and I really churned right through it. It’s a mystery thriller that’s very much character driven, so it worked for me. It didn’t reach that level where it came alive and I cared so intensely, but it was fun.

Though I did like the ship, I feel like it could have used more establishment. I really liked that Violet was a criminal, not just a good girl in a bad situation or something; she owns her own guilt. The psychological elements of the novel were fabulous too, and I liked how she tried to balance her two selves. Mostly, I feel like this novel was a bit rushed. It’s under 300 pages, and I honestly wish there was more. If there were a sequel about what Erica gets up to next, I would most definitely read it.

Size Doesn’t Matter: Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger (1)Fire by Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #2
Published by Dial BFYR on October 5, 2009
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 461
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there's more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren't afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

Unlike Graceling, Fire completely held up for me on my second reread. In fact, I noticed things that I hadn’t remembered from the first two times I read it.

Everything about Fire really leveled up. The ship is a slow burn so slow that it gets down into every fiber of your shippy heart. It’s a similar vibe to that of Katsa and Po, but it’s a bit less startling, a bit more well-established.

The feminism is still every bit as present, with the use of birth control, sex positivity all around (even to the extent of no one shaming the women who get pregnant from casual sex), and Fire’s bisexuality. I also actually love that Fire, unlike Katsa, wishes she could have children but is still making the decision not to. Fire’s a much more engaging heroine than Katsa, and I think her characterization is a bit stronger. Both are great books but it’s clear how much Cashore’s talent had grown from book one to book two.

Also, I actually reviewed Bitterblue all official-like if you’re curious how the rest of the binge went.


3 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter: Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger (1)”

  1. I bought Graceling recently and am so excited for a reread. I definitely agree with your take on Fire. I remember really enjoying Fire and til this day it ranks higher in my mind. I still would really love to refresh my memory of these books and see what I missed last time. I have to say though, I’m not the biggest fan of Bitterblue.

    • Christina Franke says:

      They’re definitely worth a reread, despite my slight disappointment in Graceling. Maybe you’ll even like Bitterblue more with your revised expectations?

  2. I tried Graceling on audio the first time read and I think I was too new to audiobooks to really appreciate it. I never got around to reading the other installments but think I should give it another shot.

    I love these little mini reviews. Sometimes I think they can be more useful than a traditional review but they’re definitely easier.
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