Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Title: Bitterblue
Author: Kristin Cashore
Pages: 563
Publisher: Dial
Series: Graceling Realm #3
Released: May 1, 2012
From Goodreads: "Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart."
My thoughts:
Oh, bother. Just like with the previous installment, Graceling, I'm struggling with how I feel about this book. I did enjoy it, but there were some problems I had with the book that kept me from loving it.

Some readers may be wondering if you absolutely must read Fire to follow Bitterblue. I didn't read Fire before reading Bitterblue as I wasn't certain if I wanted to invest time into reading it after my mixed feelings with Graceling, and it was merely a companion novel, not the sequel. Bitterblue can easily be read without first reading Fire, and I didn't feel as though I had missed anything.

In this book the story is told from the point of view of Bitterblue instead of Katsa, and she is now twenty and dealing with the aftermath of King Leck's reign. We still get to see characters we were introduced to us in Graceling, such as Katsa, Po, Raffin, Giddon, and Bann. They are involved in the story though they play more minor parts. Out of them, I think Po and then Giddon got the most page time. I really liked the characters, especially some of the new ones like the grouchy librarian Death (pronounced to rhyme with 'teeth'), Saf, and Teddy. But Po is easily my favorite character--he is very likable, kind, vulnerable, and strong.

There were a couple of things I liked better about Bitterblue than Graceling. First, I liked it being told from Bitterblue's perspective better, because Katsa often got on my nerves in Graceling. Second, there were far fewer glaring feminism themes; in Graceling I felt as though I was being pounded over the head with them and being preached a sermon about feminism. However, there were also things that I felt were better in Graceling. For one, the romance between Katsa and Po was MUCH better than the romance between Bitteblue and Saf. I'm so glad we get to still see both Katsa and Po in this book because they make an absolutely adorable couple, I love their romance! Also, I felt that the plot in Graceling was better and had more action.

Which brings me to the main problem I had with this book: the plot. I'm not quite sure how to explain it... First, I think that the book was just too long and it dragged in places. More and more questions kept being raised without others first being answered so that it was difficult to keep track of them all. And by the time one was answered it had been sitting on the back burner for so long that you had already forgotten about that piece of information. The plot to me felt somewhat jumbled and disconjointed, and I often wasn't sure what the main goal of the plot that the characters were working toward was supposed to be.

I was also disappointed in the romance. From the description I thought there would be more of it. In the beginning of the book it Saf and Teddy are constantly present, but then by the end they sort of fell into the background. After Bitterblue and Saf have an argument near the middle of the book, Saf isn't as present and other plot points in the story become more prominent and take up most of the page time, so that there really wasn't much romance. (Furthermore, Saf and Bitterblue's relationship frustrated me, but I can't explain why without spoiling things). Overall, I really liked Saf but I felt that he and Bitterblue were better as friends.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was well-written with likable characters, some nice surprises/twists, and set in a creative world that feels real. I would recommend it to fans of Graceling and Fire, or fans of High Fantasy. However, those who don't like long reads might want to skip this one. After finishing Bitterblue I decided that I do want to read Fire after all, and I will read any future books in this series.

My Rating:

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 3/5
Creativity/Originailty: 5/5
Kept me interested: 4/5

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No Time to Read? Try These 10 Tips For the Time-Pressed College Student (Or Any Busy Reader)

"I would love to read more, but I just don't have the time."

I'm surprised by how often this excuse crops up when I'm discussing books with others. It's true that in our modern-day lives we tend to stay busy, especially those of us in college. But to have no time to read at all? That's just a tragedy. And a misconception.

Think about it. There are 24 hours in the day. The average person spends about 7-9 of these sleeping. That still leave us with 15-17 hours. Now, how much of this time do you spend on your iphone, ipad, facebook, or that addictive time-devourer known as pintrest? And yet we can't find any time to read? Hmm.

The truth is, it's not that you don't have time--it's that you're not using your time wisely. You don't have to read a book a week, you just have to start reading. Even if it's just a few pages a day. In order to squeeze some reading time into your hectic schedule you'll have to get creative. Here are some ideas to help:

1. Read While You Wait

Have a Doctor's appointment? Dentist? Chirtopractor? Instead of flipping through those boring magazines in the waiting room, bring along your book! (You don't want to touch those magazines anyway, some little kid probably snotted on them).

2. Read On Your Break

Take your book to work with you and read during your break. Even if it's just 15 minutes, you'll still be able to squeeze in a few pages. (And it's more productive than spinning around in the chair in the break room).

3. Read While You Workout

Give your body and your brain a workout at the same time. Listen to an audio book on your ipod while walking, running, biking, etc. Some treadmills even have a place where you can set your book and read while you workout. (Just don't fall on your face. People might laugh at you).

4. Read While You Drive (But Not Literally)

Get an audio book to listen to while you drive to work, school, etc. (Because you know the radio is going to be playing the same handful of songs. And you've heard "Call Me Maybe" so much that you now sing it in your nightmares).

5. Read Inbetween Classes

Turn those obnoxious gaps between your classes into an opporunity for some reading time. (Let's be honest, you know you're not really going to use that time to do homework anyway).

6. Read Before Class

Get to class 15 minutes early and bring a book with you. Instead of staring at the clock wishing class was over before it's even started, you can sneak in a few pages. (And your Professor will think you're a dedicated student for coming to class early. Win-win).

7. Read Before Bed

Right before you go to sleep is the perfect time to read. Try getting to bed a little earlier to give yourself more reading time. Set a goal to read 5, 10, or more pages every night before you hit the lights. (Just don't let the late-night-reading-bugs bite or you might find yourself up into the wee hours of the morning).

8. Read While You Clean

Let's face it: No one likes to clean. (Unless they're weird. But we won't judge them). Make the drudgery more enjoyable by popping in your earbuds and listening to an audiobook.

9. Read While You Cook/Bake

Once you have your food throw into the oven, flop down on the couch with your book until your food is ready. (And if you burn your food at least you have a good excuse).

10. Turn Off the Electronics

Yep, you read that right--put away the phone, ipad, laptop, etc. and turn off that T.V. (You'll be alright, I promise. Your friends won't think you died if you don't tweet about those boiled peanuts you had for lunch). Try to use some of the time you spend on facebook, texting, tweeting, etc. to get in some reading. (Your brain will thank you.)

So, there you have it! Now get to it and try out some of these tips for yourself.

Happy Reading!

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